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UG_Great AcademicValue

A Great Academic Value


If you’re like other applicants to Saint Mary’s, you’ve found a match between your academic interests and our programs, discovered a community where you expect to fit in, and look forward to a set of values that mesh with your own. Despite all the research you’ve done to this point, you’re not alone if you’re still questioning the real differences among your top college choices. And, a far more important question: Even if there are differences, do those differences really mean anything in the long run? Will you end up in a different place in your career and your life because of the college choice you make now?

The following brief articles will help you and your family consider those questions. The final college decision, of course, is YOURS … and we hope this information helps you make the decision that is best for you.


Over the past 10 years, more than 10,000 graduates of colleges and universities across the country, from large public universities to smaller private colleges, have participated in a study that examined both their college experiences and their current careers and lives. Two years ago, the graduates of Catholic colleges and universities joined this study. (Comparative Alumni Research Program — Hardwick-Day.)

Of more than 120 questions in the study, those relating to three areas of the college experience were the most strongly linked with a positive set of career and life outcomes.

  • Interaction between students and faculty, and active engagement in the learning process
  • Participation in the campus community
  • Integration of values and ethics in the college experience

Here is a sample of the research findings that compares the group of Catholic colleges with larger public universities.

Interaction between students and faculty, and active engagement in the learning process


How much did you benefit from your college offering small classes with fewer than 20 students?

  • Catholic colleges - 52%
  • Larger public universities - 13%

How much did you benefit from a majority of classes taught by professors?

  • Catholic colleges - 81%
  • Larger public universities - 38%

How often did your college experience include professors who challenged you but also personally helped you meet those challenges?

  • Catholic colleges - 77%
  • Larger public universities - 47%

How often did your college experience include extensive classroom discussions?

  • Catholic colleges - 74%
  • Larger public universities - 48%

Do these differences matter?

As you can see above, graduates of public universities and Catholic colleges report very different academic experiences. More important, however, are the differences that show up in their current lives and careers. In comparison to the graduates of large public universities, Catholic college graduates are more likely to say:

  • they were well-prepared for their first job
  • their college helped them develop effective writing skills
  • their college helped them develop effective speaking skills
  • their college helped them develop skills to solve problems and make effective decisions
  • their college experience helped them become politically and socially aware
  • their college experience helped them develop an appreciation of fine arts
  • they graduated in four years
  • they were completely satisfied with their college experience


Saint Mary’s participates in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) which compares colleges by asking current students about their college experiences. In November, USA Today cited SMU for high NSSE scores in the areas of active and supportive faculty, student engagement, and learning environment. NSSE scores give you a measure of current students’ perception of and satisfaction with their college experience. Here are just a few of the findings.

In comparison to students at other colleges, SMU students were more likely to:

  • say the college provides the support they need to succeed
  • discuss ideas from readings with a professor outside the class
  • work with professors on activities other than coursework
  • say the quality of academic advising is excellent or good
  • work with classmates outside of class to prepare assignments
  • report a high level of academic challenge
  • talk about career plans with a professor or advisor
  • say courses emphasize applying theories and concepts to practical problems and new situations
  • rate their college experience as excellent or good