Ursinus Vs. Muhlenberg

We currently have a visit planned to Ursinus as a safety school for my DS early next week. His Guidance Counselor recommended it because of the small size and merit opportunities. DS wants to study Music and possibly CS, but he’s also very interested in Musical Theater. He was in a lead role in the hs school musical last year, and just auditioned and received a lead in the musical this year. He doesn’t necessarily want to major in MT, but would like to have the opportunity to perform in productions while in college. My question is, should we instead visit Muhlenberg, since it seems to have more Musical Theater options than Ursinus, or should we visit both? He will only apply to one, but perhaps a visit to both might help him decide which one to apply to? That said, we are already visiting UPenn and Haverford and I don’t want to add too many college visits on this trip.

I’d probably lean towards Muhlenberg but if you can visit both why not?

We visited both this summer. D has very different interests than your son but liked both schools. Ursinus is in a quiet suburb. Muhlenberg appeared to be a rougher area (but still safe I believe). Muhlenberg definitely stressed the theatre/music side of things. Not sure though if there are so many theatre majors there that it may be difficult to get a part if it is not your major. Both campuses were really pretty. Ursinus especially seemed very well taken care of, there were beautiful flowers everywhere, even in the middle of August. Ursinus guarantees a LOT more merit money at least for my daughter’s stats. I believe they told her $35k automatic scholarship. I think Muhlenberg only came in at $15k on the NPC so if merit is important, you may want to stick with Ursinus. They are only an hour apart so could easily be toured on the same day.

Thank you! Merit is the main reason we are looking at either. He has visited and applied at other need based schools, and wanted to cover his options with merit aid as well. I did notice on the Ursinus web site they are putting on a musical in the spring, so it may have more in terms of musicals than I was expecting.

Muhlenberg is well-known for music theatre, and it’s also a Lutheran school (in origin) that attracts a huge Jewish population (over 30%). Muhlenberg has a wealthier student body: 11% come from the top 1% of wage-earning families (family income over $600K) with the same percentage coming from the lower 60% (family income at or under $60K). At Ursinus, this is flipped: 4.5 % from the top 1% and 21.7% from the lower 60%. You’ll still find plenty of middle-class and above students at both, but Ursinus has double the number of working-class and lower-income students.

Ursinus is also one of the CTCL schools, and a fun fact is that J.D. Salinger briefly attended. It’s a popular choice for students/families who want an East Coast school but A) is not cut-throat to get into, and, B ) offers significant merit money. This is only a guess, but I would assume that Ursinus might have more merit . A quick scan at the websites support this. Muhlenberg’s merit tops out at 30K, while Ursinus awards all incoming students with merit offers between 21 and 30K (and there are higher merit awards of 35K and 40K, though that 40K one is probably super-competitive and will be snagged by very high academic achievers in HS).

Thank you for explaining these differences. We are definitely in the over 600k group, but we also aren’t federal or state grant recipients either. DS has a 4.0 unweighted GPA and a 32 ACT (1420 SAT). We’re hoping for one of the higher merit awards. He will want to contribute to musicals in college and, since Muhlenberg offers a BFA and he isn’t a BFA Major, Ursinus might be the better school for us to concentrate on.

He has an interview scheduled at Ursinus. If we just do the tour, we could easily fit in both schools and do a tour at both. How necessary are the interviews at either school?

I’d visit both - they are very different vibes. My S19 didn’t like anything about Ursinus, except the merit. To us it seemed very sport oriented and that’s not his thing.
With your son’s stats, Ursinus is really going to want him to attend and he will get significant merit, with or without an interview.

Not sure about Ursinus because DD eliminated it from her list early on. She did have 2 interviews with Muhlenberg. One was on campus with a Senior Director of Admissions, second with the local rep when she was in the area. Both were valuable in terms of the conversation, discussing which scholarships she would be considered for based on her specifics, and pointers for how to handle things like supplemental materials for various grants. I’m not sure how “necessary” they were but the rep requested the second one based on the initial report that was filed after the first.

Thank you! DS isn’t sports oriented at all, so fit for Ursinus does concern me. He’s more musical, and will likely want to participate in band, chorus, and college musicals. He’s gotten leads in two school musicals, but that is at a small public school. I’m concerned that if he attends a school that has a BFA major, he will be more limited with performance opportunities. On the other hand, it could be worse for him to sit through an interview at a college he discovers doesn’t interest him shortly after we arrive. Not saying that will happen, but it may.

@nextstopcollege Muhlenburg does not offer a BFA in Musical Theatre.

They are a non-audition BA Theatre program (optional audition for scholarships), where students can minor/double major in Music and/or Dance. Quite a few prospectice students auditioning for audition based BFA and and BA Musical Theatre programs, and are strong students include Muhlenburg on their lists as a non-audition option with solid training and opportunities.

For the size of school, there are many performing arts majors, and from what I understand the mainstage casting is competitive, but I believe there are also quite a few opportunities off the mainstage.

If you go over to the Musical Theatre majors board you may find some current students and/or parents of students who could describe the environment at Muhlenburg, and the opportunities for non-majors.

Seems like both schools are worth a visit if not too much trouble. If he likes them both, and it is not too expensive/time consuming, maybe consider applying to both. A lot can change between now and April, can’t hurt to have a few more opportunities to decide between. :slight_smile:

Visit both! Both are excellent options

Thank you to all who responded. The consensus is we should visit both, so we’re planning to do that; unfortunately, it turns out it will not be next week as originally planned. New York and PA are being hit with a blizzard tomorrow when we planned to travel. We considered leaving today instead, but are concerned that some colleges may shut down entirely on Monday. SUNY Binghamton has already canceled classes for Monday due to the impending storm. We are both disappointed, but ended up driving in a blizzard in VT on our most recent tour of colleges in New England. We really don’t want to repeat that experience. I’m hoping we will be able to reschedule these visits for over the Christmas break, but I’m not sure if they will even be open then? DS is planning to reach out to the schools he had scheduled visits and explain why we must cancel and reschedule.

When we went through PA, they got maybe 4” of snow. One of the colleges was closing for the day after our tour and info session, one cancelled and rescheduled 3 times over 2 days and we had to move on before they reopened, and one had barely cleaned up the sidewalks after the storm the day before. For a kid from Upstate, those things were a big deal and believe it or not, it played into the decision of where to apply. Great idea to not take chances with the weather, especially if there is no one there when you get there!

Thank you! This is reassuring. I was feeling pretty bad for telling DS I felt it best to cancel, but he actually seemed okay with it. He said he didn’t want a repeat of our last trip driving home on treacherous roads in VT. We both agreed 14 hours round trip was just too much of a risk to take when we couldn’t be certain colleges would even remain open. I hope the Admissions offices understand. The intent and interest is still there, but hopefully under better circumstances.