Edmit Hidden Gems: Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT

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Fairfield University offers robust career services and Jesuit education, and a 97 percent job placement rate.

“Our approach to career preparation is really comprehensive,” says Karen Pellegrino, vice president of enrollment management at Fairfield University, a Jesuit four-year university on the Connecticut coast, about an hour from New York City. “We don’t expect students just to show up second semester of their junior year to work on their resume. We start with students as early as their freshman year.”

Because of its strong career services offerings, job placement rates, and robust financial aid packages, Fairfield University is an Edmit Hidden Gem college.

“We’re a relatively young institution,” adds Pellegrino. “We just celebrated our 75th anniversary--but we have the background of this 450-year Jesuit education experience which values a solid liberal arts education, service to others, and educates the whole person.”

Studying at Fairfield University

At Fairfield, classes are taught by full faculty members, not graduate students, and tend to be small, according to Pellegrino. “The vast majority of our classes have fewer than 50 students...our average class size is about 22,” she says. Four different colleges focusing on arts and sciences, business, engineering, and nursing round out the university’s degree-granting programs.

In the Jesuit tradition, community is a major focus of campus life and culture. “Community is very important to [Fairfield students],” says Pellegrino, as well as spiritual life. “It’s not necessarily that they’re all Catholic, but certainly their spiritual life is important to them. Whether that’s manifested in attending religious services or taking part in service-related activities in our community, those things are important to our students.”

If students want to head to New York City, a commuter train station is in downtown Fairfield, about five minutes from campus. “We’re just over an hour outside of New York City, two and a half hours from Boston, so we’re right on this incredible business corridor,” says Pellegrino. “Our students have very easy access to New York, so they can get in for all of the cultural and professional opportunities that New York offers...as well as here in our backyard in Connecticut, in areas like Stanford and New Haven.”

Fairfield University Affordability

The average net price for the 2016-17 year at Fairfield University was $35,983--but according to Pellegrino, 85 percent of students receive some form of financial aid, typically a mix of both need-based aid and merit scholarships, and the typical graduate has less than $28,000 in student loan debt.

“When we package our need-based aid, we don’t package an excessive amount of loans,” she says. “We don’t package students with alternative loans or parents with PLUS loans. Our packages are based on what we’re able to offer students from university resources, as well as the federal resources.”

Overall, Pellegino says, Fairfield wants its students “to come here, and then be in a position when they graduate that their choices are not going to be limited by the amount of debt that they have.”

Fairfield University Career Prep

Fairfield’s career services offerings are integrated with the school’s Academic Support and Retention unit, and career prep can start as early as a student chooses.

“Within that unit, they’re working with students to help them figure out what it is they might be interested in,” says Pellegrino. “Half our students come here undecided about their major. Even students who are in our business school don’t know what it is they want to do in business.

“So we help students hone in on what it is they want to do: doing a lot of interest inventories to give them a sense of what is possible, then talking to them about how possible majors relate to jobs after graduation. Those paths might not be as clear as ‘you major in accounting, you become an accountant.’ There are a lot of jobs out there that students don’t know exist, and quite frankly there are jobs that don’t exist right now that our freshmen are going to have after they graduate, so [we’re] talking to them about how to best prepare for that.”

Whether undecided or on a clear career trajectory, Fairfield students can also take advantage of leadership development opportunities that focus both on professional and community development. Activities can be on campus or off, paid or volunteer-based, and include initiatives such as serving as an ambassador to international students, running campus retreat programs, or even traveling to Disney World for Disney Youth Education workshops to build collaboration, leadership, and problem-solving skills.  

All told, Fairfield has a 97 percent job placement rate--meaning 97 percent of graduates have either a job lined up or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduating.

“We have a really robust internship program,” says Pellegrino, “so students can get practical, job-related experience that is going to oftentimes give them that foot in the door to that first job after graduation.”



Photo by Sandy Alonzo on Flickr.


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