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College Spotlight-Stetson University


  • Location:Small City
  • Total Enrollment:3,671
  • Undergraduates:2,469
  • Male/Female:44/56
  • SAT Ranges:CR 530–630
    M 525–630
  • ACT Range:23–28
  • Financial Aid:98%
  • Expense:Private $$
  • Student Loans:77%
  • Average Debt:$$$$
  • Phi Beta Kappa:Yes
  • Applicants:4,862
  • Accepted:60%
  • Enrolled:28%
  • Grad in 6 Years:64%
  • Returning Freshmen:79%


Stetson University, named for the maker of the famed 10-gallon hat, draws students from around the Southeast with its small size and emphasis on the liberal arts. Long a bastion of conservatism, students say the school has become more liberal since cutting ties with the Southern Baptists. With top-notch business courses and surprising strengths in music and Russian studies, this Florida university continues to attract students who aren’t afraid to wear a variety of hats during their stay.

Located halfway between Walt Disney World and Daytona Beach, Stetson’s 170-acre campus features mainly brick structures in styles from Gothic to Moorish to Southern colonial. While some modern wood buildings are scattered about, the theme is decidedly old-fashioned, complete with royal palms and oak trees. A $12.6 million renovation brought high-resolution cameras, new computers, and state-of-the-art sound and projection systems to classrooms in the LEED-certified Lynn Business Center, along with a high-tech 144-seat auditorium. The science center is a 22,000-square-foot expansion to the existing science building, Sage Hall. 

Stetson has three undergraduate colleges—music, business administration, and arts and sciences—and its general education requirements apply to all of them. General education requirements are divided into three categories: Foundations, Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Natural World, and Personal and Social Responsibility. All entering students take a First Year Seminar (FSEM), which allows students to work closely with Stetson faculty to ease the transition to college. All freshmen who are undecided on a major participate in the Discovery program, and all students take a Junior seminar that focuses on personal and social responsibility.

Business is Stetson’s most popular program, and would-be money managers benefit from the award-winning Roland George Investments program, where they oversee a cash portfolio worth nearly $3 million. Students who hope to work for themselves can tap into the Prince Entrepreneurial Program, which connects them with successful business owners, while the Family Enterprise Center was one of the first in the nation in educating students for work in family businesses. Education is also popular and has received national acclaim for its research on single-gender classrooms and its impact on performance in public schools. Stetson’s music school is notable for its programs in brass instruments, organ, and voice.

Classes are “challenging but not impossible,” says a senior. Students in the college of arts and sciences benefit from the Sullivan Writing Program and the Lawson Program in Philosophy. They also complete a research project before graduation; those who choose to do so in the summer may get funding from the Stetson Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program. Professors are always willing to help; a management major says many have worked in the field they are teaching before stepping in front of the lectern. “The quality of teaching I have received has been exceptional,” says one senior. “Faculty seem passionate about their areas and coursework and care about individual student success.” Fifty-six percent of classes have 19 or fewer students. Students with wanderlust may study abroad in France, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico, Russia, Spain, and Oxford in the United Kingdom; Stetson’s honors program incorporates international study, community service, and a senior colloquium, and also allows students to create their own majors. In addition, there are internship opportunities in Germany, England, and Latin America, and each year, professors lead study trips to places such as Turkey, Greece, and the Czech Republic.

Three-quarters of Stetson “Hatters” are native Floridians; they tend to be white, wealthy, and friendly, a sociology major says. A junior describes Hatters as “very approachable and ready to have a conversation about anything.” African Americans constitute 7 percent of the student body, Hispanics make up 15 percent, and Asian Americans add 2 percent. Students report little interest in political or social issues such as campus diversity. Ninety-eight percent of Stetson students receive financial aid and scholarships based on academic merit, rather than need, and Stetson also hands out athletic scholarships in baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, tennis, softball, cross-country, and volleyball. 

Sixty-seven percent of Stetson students live in the school’s dorms and many report that housing has gone from terrible to top-notch. “The housing department has done a complete turnaround,” says one senior. “The staff is friendly, helfpul, and constantly working to improve the residential experience of students.” Students say Emily Hall, Chaudoin, Stetson, and Conrad are in the best shape, but they add that more people would probably move off campus if the school didn’t cut financial aid awards for doing so. Stetson’s traditional cafeteria is known as the Commons, and features a made-to-order deli sandwich line, a pizza bar, and a grill serving burgers and fries. There’s also the Hat Rack food court, with a bagel stand, a smoothie shop, and another fast-food grill.  

“There is ample social life on campus, one need only to search for it,” says a student.  Fraternities attract 28 percent of the men and sororities draw 24 percent of the women, but Greek parties don’t get too raucous. The Council for Student Activities brings in big-name acts and music majors also stage concerts. Students look forward to annual events such as Greenfeather, aimed at promoting community service, and Greek Week, when sorority and fraternity chapters compete in a lip-synch contest and other events to raise money for charity. When your birthday rolls around, don’t forget to wear your bathing suit—it’s a tradition for fellow students to toss you into the midcampus Holler Fountain.

As for the “adorable, small Southern town” of DeLand, it boasts “shops, galleries, and cafés,” so students often head to Orlando (40 minutes from campus) or Daytona Beach (20 minutes) to eat out, shop, or dance the night away. In addition to the omnipresent beaches, Blue Spring and DeLeon Springs offer canoeing and nature watching. Popular road trips include Miami, the Keys for camping, and Gainesville, to see the University of Florida Gators play.

Stetson’s teams compete in NCAA Division I, and a football team took the field in August 2013 for the first time in 58 years. The Hatters are a perennial powerhouse in baseball, and the team competes regularly in the NCAA Regionals. Women’s golf and basketball are strong, as are softball and tennis. For those not up to intercollegiate competition, the Hollis Wellness Center includes a field house, outdoor pool, game room, dance studio, and exercise room. In addition, 48 percent of students participate in club and intramural sports, ranging from bowling and flag football to Ping-Pong, inner-tube water polo, and sand volleyball is becoming a popular spectator sport.

Stetson students savor the one-on-one attention freely given at this small Sunshine State university. After four years spent enjoying great weather and forming close friendships with peers and professors, they emerge with solid academic foundations for future work or study.

Deadlines & Requirements

Stetson: Rolling admissions. Application fee: $50. Campus interviews: optional, evaluative. No alumni interviews. SATs or ACTs: optional. No Subject Tests. Accepts the Common Application. Essay question.

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