Bryn Athyn College

Bryn Athyn College

Bryn Athyn is a small, private, coeducational, Christian liberal arts college dedicated to helping students prepare for lives of meaningful service. Experiential education is integral to the Bryn Athyn academic experience. Since it is a required part of the Core Program, all students at Bryn Athyn will have at least one service learning or internship experience based on their field of interest during their time on campus.

Local service opportunities include coaching, choir, volunteering at the campus museum, editing the student newspaper, community clean-ups, and longer service trips over weekends or breaks. Many students choose to participate in multiple experiential learning opportunities, which may also include study abroad. In the past, students have studied, served, and worked in England, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, South Africa, Nepal, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ghana, and more.

Bryn Athyn students are inquisitive and engaged learners. The academic programs at Bryn Athyn can be easily tailored to meet students’ needs since the school’s educational methods are personal, focused on each student’s unique learning style and special talents. All courses are taught by professors, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1 and an average class size of 9 students. The College values homeschooled applicants because their diverse backgrounds and individualized approach to learning is a perfect fit for Bryn Athyn.

Bryn Athyn’s Core Program has a strong emphasis on skills and perspectives. Skills courses include instruction in information literacy; language, mathematics, or programming; public presentation; quantitative analysis; service learning and internships; and writing. Perspectives-focused courses address spiritual, moral, and civil issues including instruction in aesthetics, history and the social sciences, physical health, sciences, and world views.

The College offers majors in Biology, Education, English, History, Religion, and Interdisciplinary Studies. The Interdisciplinary Studies program allows students to combine two curricular areas into a single area of study. Interdisciplinary areas of study include: Art/Art History, Biology, Business Management, English, History, Mathematics, Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion.

Bryn Athyn is affiliated with the General Church of the New Jerusalem, also known as the New Church, a branch of Christianity based on the Bible and the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Bryn Athyn’s global perspective reflects the service-oriented Christianity taught in Swedenborg’s theological writings. Education at Bryn Athyn emphasizes the practical application of truth to life and encourages students to connect their spiritual beliefs to both their studies and their daily lives. The ultimate purpose of this education is to contribute to human welfare.

Bryn Athyn College has been educating undergraduates since its incorporation under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1877. Then known as the Academy of the New Church, its original purpose was (like most institutions of higher learning in those days) to train ministers. In 1890 the Academy established a separate organization: the General Church of the New Jerusalem. A generous endowment from John Pitcairn and others enabled the Academy of the New Church to expand from a seminary into a high school and a two-year college. In 1914 it became a four-year college and by 1922, the College was conferring both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. In 1997, the Academy of the New Church College adopted a new name: Bryn Athyn College.

The Bryn Athyn campus is located 20 miles northeast of downtown Philadelphia in the borough of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, a National Historic Landmark District. The College’s original campus and surrounding community of Bryn Athyn were designed in 1893 by Charles Eliot of the firm Olmstead, Olmstead, and Eliot – the renowned architects responsible for the design of Central Park in New York City. Historic buildings on campus include the Glencairn Museum, which houses the school’s medieval and religious art; Cairnwood Mansion, now used as a special events facility; and Bryn Athyn Cathedral.

Bryn Athyn Cathedral is the center of an active New Church community and serves as a religious center for Bryn Athyn College students. Construction on the Gothic revivalist architecture began in 1913, and continued until the late 1920s. Bryn Athyn Cathedral is unique in that there are no right angles or straight lines. The walls of the building are skewed against each other, bowing out in the middle only to return at the opposite wall. The medieval-style stained glass windows of Bryn Athyn Cathedral are also worthy of note. Bryn Athyn students regularly attend Sunday worship services, stroll through the gardens, and attend the student-organized vespers services on Sunday evenings.

Today, Bryn Athyn College is growing rapidly. In August 2008 the College opened several new family-style student residence cottages. Recent constructions on campus include a state-of-the-art LEED certified science building / research center and a new admissions / student life building, both of which were completed in September 2009.

Much of the College’s 130-acre campus is undeveloped open land, and the nearby Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust supplements the natural surroundings with eight miles of trails following a creek through woods and fields. In conjunction with the nearby Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, the College is conducting a Deer Study to track white-tailed deer in the area. Beginning in 2006, the team has been following deer tagged with GPS/GSM radio collars to investigate deer management strategies, habitat restoration, and genetics.

Extracurricular arts opportunities at Bryn Athyn College include studio arts (painting, ceramics, metals, photography), music, and theater. Students with any level of experience can participate in the College’s annual winter production, a main-stage play or musical with students serving as cast and crew members, costume and set designers. Performances take place at the Mitchell Performing Arts Center, a newly renovated theater on campus.

The Bryn Athyn Orchestra and College Chorale are the primary opportunities for student musicians. Students can audition to be a part of the Orchestra, and anyone can sing in the chorus. Some students join other community members in the Bryn Athyn Cathedral Choir. In addition, special choirs are formed to present the Bach Magnificat at Christmastime and Faure Requiem on Good Friday.

Bryn Athyn’s sports teams participate in several Northeast athletic leagues. Intercollegiate and club teams at Bryn Athyn include: Softball, Volleyball, Soccer, Lacrosse, Ice Hockey, Badminton, Ultimate Frisbee Club, Dance Ensemble, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Bryn Athyn student life is largely student-run. Student Government and an active Social Committee plan regular activities both on and off campus. Student conduct policies are guided by moral principles, with a particular emphasis on acting honestly, respectfully, charitably, and living a life of useful service.

Bryn Athyn College operates on a trimester system. Fall Term begins in late August and continues until Thanksgiving break. Winter Term runs from after Thanksgiving until March (with a break over the Christmas holiday). Spring Term runs from late March until the end of May. Bryn Athyn College has a rolling admissions policy, in which applications are accepted throughout the year.

The academic standards expected of applicants for admission are: 4 years of English (including Composition and Literature); 3 years of Mathematics (including Algebra I & II and Geometry); 3 years of History/Social Science; 3 years of Natural Science; and 2 years of a Foreign Language (all one language); TOEFL score of at least: 520 (paper), 190 (computer-based), 70 (internet-based); and minimum IELTS score: 5.5.

The Admissions Committee selects those candidates for admission who it feels are best suited for personal and academic success at Bryn Athyn College, while taking a holistic approach to evaluating applications. In addition to secondary school transcripts and standardized test scores, they use essays, recommendations, and personal interviews to determine if applicants are qualified and would be a good fit for the College. Candidates for admission not only need to have solid academic backgrounds but will also have to contribute positively to the moral and religious life of the College.

Application requirements for homeschooled applicants include: completed application form or completed online application; homeschool transcript(s) with course descriptions; SAT and/or ACT scores; as well as a Teacher Recommendation as available. (A teacher will state how long he or she has known the student, which courses he or she has taught the student, and rate the student in regard to creativity/original thought, motivation, independence/initiative, intellect, written communication, work ethic, and character.) For more information, visit

Updated: March 1, 2010 — 7:01 pm

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