College of the Holy Cross – Acceptance Rate, GPA, and Requirements

Located in Worcester, Massachusetts, the College of the Holy Cross is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges. 

A Jesuit college founded in 1843, Holy Cross is the oldest Catholic school in New England, and one of the oldest such institutions in the entire United States.

In keeping with its religious affiliation, Holy Cross values service and altruism. The school’s mission statement asks, “What is our special responsibility to the world’s poor and powerless?” To that end, the College empowers its students to do good works for the sake of their community.

Not only does the school send more students to the Jesuit Volunteer Corp than any other Catholic school, but it also has received awards for its commitment to service.

Beyond its good works, Holy Cross counts among its alumni several impressive graduates. Former students run the gamut from Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and Doctor Anthony Fauci to counter-culture figure Timothy Leary and sports analyst Bill Simmons.

With such a varied history, it’s no surprise that the College of the Holy Cross has a unique application process.

College of the Holy Cross Acceptance Rate

College of the Holy Cross
George Rypysc III, Fenwick Hall CollegeOfTheHolyCross, CC BY-SA 3.0

For the Class of 2025, only 6,498 hopefuls applied to go to Holy Cross. Out of that group, the school offered admission to 2,786 applicants, for an acceptance rate of 43%.

As a small liberal arts school in the Jesuit tradition, one would think that Holy Cross has a relatively small pool of interested candidates. 

But instead, they receive far more applications than many schools of their caliber and have a much higher acceptance rate.

Without question, that is an unusually high acceptance rate. According to that number, every four out of ten students will be accepted, and a fifth will make it in every three rounds.

That number stands out more when examined in the context of similar schools. The similarly ranked Pitzer College has a far lower acceptance rate of 17%, but they only brought in 262 students in 2021. Scripps College in California has a rate of 35%, but they brought in 936 that same year.

Some might find these numbers discouraging, preferring to go to an exclusive college with a low acceptance rate. But there are definite advantages to attending a school that brings in many of its applicants.

The biggest advantage is the diverse student body that comes from this principle. When a school brings in thousands of new students each year, it creates a more vibrant campus and more opportunities to learn.

GPA for College of the Holy Cross

Like most modern colleges, the College of the Holy Cross does not have a minimum GPA requirement. In fact, they like to boast that they recognize that students are “more than a GPA.”

While there’s certainly value to this information, you should assume that this approach means that the school doesn’t care about academics. 

It is, after all, an academic institution. Furthermore, one glimpse at the student body shows that grades do actually matter.

On average, students at Holy Cross have a GPA of 3.82. To put that in letter terms, they earn mostly A’s, with an occasional B here and there.

Again, it’s important to understand the meaning of that average. 

Although you can certainly get a few B’s and still be accepted, those lower grades shouldn’t be in your major classes. If you’re going to study literature at Holy Cross, your English classes should all be A’s and you can get a B or two in math or science.

That sounds like it might be contrary to the holistic approach Holy Cross uses to evaluate applicants, but only if you think grades are just about intelligence. 

More than the amount of knowledge you have, your GPA reveals your ability to work hard.

To get high grades, you need to be dedicated to your studies and able to overcome difficulties. Every college will have difficult patches, Holy Cross included. So if you have a low GPA, it may suggest that you won’t be able to keep up with college life.

That said, the holistic approach does mean that the school will look at other evidence of your abilities. So if your GPA is a bit low, be sure to use other materials to show that you can handle their workload.

SAT & ACT Requirements

With increasing regularity, institutions do not require applicants to send standardized test scores. 

College of the Holy Cross is following suit, making ACT and SAT scores optional

In fact, only 44% of applicants submitted SAT scores in Fall 2021 and 21% submitted the ACT.

However, many students still choose to take the tests and include them in their applications. 

Standardized tests exist to measure a wide range of knowledge acquired over high school and critical thinking skills. 

For that reason, some students find that they do better on standardized tests than they do in exams for their specific classes.

If your GPA comes in a bit lower than the average at Holy Cross, you might consider submitting your standardized tests grades to make up the difference.

However, if that’s going to work, you must ensure that your scores on these tests match those earned by students accepted into the school

Holy Cross students scored between 28 – 32 on the ACT. That breaks down to a range of 28 – 35 on the English portion and 26 – 30 range on the math portion.

Holy Cross students had a similar performance on the SAT. 

For Fall 2021, they averaged between 1260 – 1430, with scores ranging from 630 to 700 on the reading portion and from 630 to 730 on the math portion.

If your standardized test scores match these numbers, they can only help your application.

Other Requirements and Admission Tips

Without question, grades matter to Holy Cross. But they only partially matter as the school takes a holistic approach to evaluating candidates.

By holistic, Holy Cross means that they look at the whole person, their personal qualities and interests, as well as their academic potential. This approach means that the College values everything that future students can bring to their student body.

Because of this emphasis, applicants should ensure that their additional application materials emphasize these personal elements.

The most basic of these materials is the application and a $60 fee. On the application, you’ll not only provide your contact information, but you’ll also indicate any work and volunteer history that you have. These elements will allow you to show the admissions committee how you spend your time.

But the most important required application elements are the letters of recommendation. A letter of recommendation is a type of introduction the writer makes on your behalf to encourage the recipient to consider you for acceptance. 

The best letters come from someone who can speak with authority about your best qualities.

Holy Cross requires two letters of recommendation, one from a teacher and another from a counselor. You should choose a letter from a teacher in a core subject closest to your major, such as your English or math teacher. 

More importantly, the letter should come from a teacher who has seen you do your best work and knows your attributes as a classroom citizen.

Although they are not required, Holy Cross also allows students to participate in personal interviews with faculty. These interviews are an excellent opportunity for students to demonstrate those non-academic qualities not reflected by test scores and grades.

Whichever materials you decide to include, you should ensure that they all show you in your best light.

Essays for College of the Holy Cross

While all of these materials can make an impression on acceptance counselors, the greatest tool available to students is the application essay.

As part of their application, students must write a short response to a pre-determined prompt. Although they only have a few hundred words to use in their essay, students can use this opportunity to fully describe the unique abilities they can bring to the school.

For the Fall 2021 school year, Holy Cross provided the following prompt to potential students: “Holy Cross College seeks to form scholars, citizens, leaders, and disciples who serve the Common Good. What about this mission or other aspects of Holy Cross College interest you?”

The school recommends that they use 150 to 200 words to answer.

Because the application essay is personal, there is no one right or wrong answer that you can give. The answer will be unique to you.

However, there are techniques a student can use to improve their chances.

With no more than 200 words to work with, you need to make sure that everyone counts. The more concrete details you can provide, the stronger your essay will be.

Furthermore, if you use active voice verbs instead of passive voice verbs, your essay will not only be more concise but will also be more striking. To ensure that you’re using active voice, replace “is” and “are” with more striking verbs.

These tips won’t guarantee that you’ll be accepted into Holy Cross, but they will make sure that you have a great essay.

Is College of the Holy Cross Right for You?

The College of the Holy Cross is a unique liberal arts institution. Thanks to its commitment to service and student-first approach, the school has a curriculum very different from many of its peers.

But if you are interested in a Jesuit education and thrive in a less-structured environment, then Holy Cross may be the school for you.

But if you’re going to apply to Holy Cross, you need to follow their focus on individualism and service. All of your application materials, especially the essay, and the interview, must explain your own unique qualities and desire to help others.

That doesn’t mean that you can ignore your grades. While Holy Cross does not have minimum GPA or test score requirements, its accepted students do tend to have high grades.

If you’re ready to continue your personal growth and learn how to benefit your community, then these requirements are a small hurdle to overcome.

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