Getting To Know: Bucknell University (PA)-Again
I recently attended a virtual counselors briefing for Bucknell University, a school that I visited eight years ago. Bucknell has grown its undergraduate enrollment from 3,500 to 3,700 students. It is still a very selective liberal arts college that takes about a third of all applicants.
Bucknell is in the middle of its commitment to test-optional admissions, though the average for those who submit will be just under 1400 on the SAT and 31 on the ACT. Test scores are considered to be Important, if they are submitted. Those who can demonstrate success in a rigorous academic program, including strong AP or IB results, should not bother submitting below average scores.
Bucknell is a tough school to categorize.
The university considers itself to be a liberal arts college, but it has small schools of business and engineering. In addition, not every school that Bucknell considers to be a peer is a liberal arts college with between 3,000 and 4,000 students. Some of the peer schools are smaller, some larger and three have a religious affiliation. Among the peers Colgate, Davidson, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Middlebury and Trinity are structured as liberal arts colleges. The others have separate schools for business and/or engineering, with Villanova also offering undergraduate programs in Nursing and William & Mary offering them in Education.
What have I liked about Bucknell that I still like today?
- There are 65 majors and minors, more than one would find at most schools this size.
- It’s relatively easy to double-dip on major, minor and general education requirements.
- Undergraduates receive the lions share of attention from the faculty and staff. It is easy for them to be more involved in faculty and independent research.
- Bucknell offers a wide variety of housing options for a small school: traditional residence halls, apartments, special interest houses and theme houses and quiet housing, and guarantees housing for all four years.
- Designed on a 19th century colonial theme, Bucknell has one of the most attractive college campuses in the country. However, people with an aversion to hills might want to seek a school that’s on flatter ground. It is possible to walk across the entire campus in 15 minutes from end to end
- Lewisberg, home to Bucknell since its founding, is a small town with less than 6,000 residents. The downtown is registered as a historic district with the National Register of Historic Places. It is anchored by a Barnes and Noble, which is also the University’s bookstore and the Campus Theatre, a beautifully-restored cinema. I added a few photos of the town to my Bucknell Pinterest page.
- There are over 10,000 Bucknellians in and around the New York metro area registered in LinkedIn.com.. The alumni base helps attract a lot of New Jersey residents to the school.
- If you like this school and have the rigor and numbers, admissions via early Decision are achievable. Over half of those who applied Early Decision for the Class of 2026 got in.
- Freshman get some nice hands-on experiences in business and engineering.
- There are plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities near campus.
What might make prospective students apprehensive about going to Bucknell?
- The campus and community are relatively far from either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh as well as Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania.
- While Lewisburg’s local politics lean Democratic, the politics of the surrounding area in the same county have been strongly Republican. Students with more liberal leanings might feel less comfortable in this community than others that host a very selective liberal arts college.
- Greek social life and athletics are fairly important at Bucknell. Over 30 percent of the men and more than 40 percent of the women are involved in Greek social life. Bucknell competes in 25 NCAA D-1 varsity scholarship sports. Only Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania compete in more among schools in the Keystone State. With so much Greek life and so many sports as well as an isolated location, the social life at Bucknell will be more campus-based.
- Bucknell does offer several merit scholarships and offers ROTC. However, Colgate and Lafayette have been more aggressive at trying to help limit student debt for the neediest families.
- The selection process for housing for rising sophomores, juniors and seniors has drawn complaints.
- This school has had excellent freshman retention (91-92 percent). But I have seen other liberal arts colleges do better,
- Four-year grad rates, while also excellent, have slipped a bit.
- If you have an inkling towards business or engineering, Bucknell asks prospective students to choose a second major which should be in Arts & Sciences, if you really like the school. You can transfer from business or engineering into Arts & Sciences or declare a business or engineering minor while having an Arts & Sciences major. But an Arts & Sciences student cannot transfer into business or engineering. Those who have such uncertainly between business or engineering and the liberal arts might prefer a school like Lafayette, Trinity or Union.
If someone told me that Bucknell was one of the best liberal arts colleges in America, I would not argue. However, I recommend that prospective take an extended visit over a full day or two days to find if the campus life and community for them. There are similar schools that are closer to cities or place less emphasis on spirit and sports. However, those who make friends among others in the Bucknell community are likely to have a strong network for life.
Report Card: Bucknell University
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A/A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: B
- Community: B+
- Curriculum: A
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: A
Want to know more about me?
Buy my new book, The Good College!
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Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
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