Getting to Know Gettysburg College (PA)-Again
Gettysburg College has been one of my most-visited schools over the past two decades. I came to campus many times on business, to do research for a novel in progress, and to learn more about the school in my role as an independent admissions advisor. You’re welcome to check out my Gettysburg College Pinterest page. I also posted a photo of Penn Hall, the main administration building, up top and Glatfelder Hall, a signature building, below.
The educational experience will be different for future freshman classes.
Gettysburg launched a new direction called The Gettysburg Approach. Prospective students and their parents should click that link, and go further to lean more about Guided Pathways. Future students who take advantage of these pathways may also have the opportunity to receive grants to help them to cover costs for the experience.
Gettysburg has approximately 2,400 students. It is most noted for its ties to former Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Dwight David Eisenhower.
Four months after Confederate soldiers were driven away from the town, alumnus David Wills, class of 1851, prevailed upon President Abraham Lincoln to deliver what later became known as the Gettysburg Address as well as the Emancipation Proclamation. Nearly a century later, former President Dwight Eisenhower retired to Gettysburg and became a Trustee of the College. He wrote his memoirs in what is now Gettysburg’s admissions building, aptly named Eisenhower House. Today, his granddaughter, Susan, maintains an influential role in the Eisenhower Institute, the College’s political think tank based on campus, and in Washington DC. Twenty-six U.S. presidents have visited Gettysburg as candidates or while in office, including Donald Trump and Joe Biden. George Washington was the very first.
The college has produced notable alumni on both sides of the political spectrum.
They include Carol Bellamy, the first Peace Corps volunteer to be named director of the organization and former Libertarian presidential candidate and Republican Congressman Ron Paul. Gettysburg has also produced a Nobel Laureate, J. Michael Bishop, who won the prize in Medicine for his work in cancer research as well as fashion and style expert, Carson Kressley, host of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Gettysburg is justifiably ‘America’s Town’.
Home to arguably the most famous battle of the Civil War, Gettysburg profits greatly from its history. Downtown Gettysburg, while close to campus, feels more like a tourist-oriented town than a college town. The college has tried to counter the perception by acquiring the Majestic Theatre as well qs the Gettysburg Inn downtown. While it’s possible to think of Gettysburg as isolated coming from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, you can make a fast connection from town to the Baltimore-Washington Corridor or the Turnpike via State Highway 15 or the Lincoln Highway (US 30).
I have a special addition to my update. Mary Smith, Associate Director of Admissions, did a Zoom interview with me to discuss conservatory admissions.
Gettysburg is one of the smallest schools to have its own music conservatory. Students at Sunderman Conservatory can earn a music-intensive Bachelor of Music in Performance, a Bachelor of Music Education, or do a BA in Music and tackle a second major or one or more minors within the college. Both majors can be completed in four years. There’s also a music minor. Auditions are required to be admitted to the majors. They are required for the minor after a student is on campus.
Please listen to my conversation with Mary. You won’t find this on another college review site! Mary also gave me some photos of performance spaces at Gettysburg to share below.
Mary also wanted to share a short presentation about the Conservatory by Professor Amanda Heim.who teaches there as well as a video about Bryn Werley, a Chemistry and Music double major, and valedictorian of the Class of 2023. The conservatory, named for a prominent Gettysburg alumnus who studied biochemistry, will celebrate it’s 20th anniversary in 2026.
I would imagine that Gettysburg would be considered versus Oberlin, a slightly larger liberal arts school with more students who are interested in music. However. Oberlin allows student to double major with music through a dual degree program that requires an extra year. I know of only one other school, Lawrence University (WI), that offers a BA option in Music that is based in a conservatory that allows students to graduate in four years, though there might be others.
You’re likely to run into aspiring health care professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and policy makers at Gettysburg.
Just over a fifth of the Class of 2023 majored in either Business, Organizations & Management, Economics or Mathematical Economics. Health Sciences and Biological Sciences ranked second (14%). Political Science ranked third. Gettysburg’s academic offerings outside of the music programs are mainly in the liberal arts. There are also minors that play to the college’s academic strengths including Civil War Era Studies, Data Science, Public History, Public Policy and Neuroscience. The college recently added a Museum Studies track to the Art History major.
Gettysburg is one of the best liberal arts colleges to study politics.
In addition to the academics, Gettysburg offers multiple opportunities to study in the nation’s capital through the Eisenhower Institute and the Lutheran College Washington Semester. Because of these programs Gettysburg is cross-shopped against universities in Washington DC that have strong Political Science and Public Affairs programs. These schools include American University, Georgetown University and The George Washington University.
Unlike most liberal arts schools Gettysburg offers a BA and a BS in Health Sciences.
Those who opt for the BS can take more courses in human biology, specifically Anatomy, Epidemiology and Physiology, all highly desired pre-requisites for graduate and professional study, than they are likely to find at other liberal arts colleges. They also have the opportunity to use two computer-based dissection stations.
Gettysburg plays fair with financial aid.
This is a relatively expensive school with direct charges (tuition, fees., room & board) approaching $80,000 for this academic year. However, the college admits need blind and fulfills, on average, 90 percent of need. It has also expanded its merit scholarship offerings. The largest award, the Eisenhower Scholarship, covers more than half of the cost of attendance. One downside: the average student loan debt among student borrowers exceeded $30,000 for the Class of 2021. Students may borrow a maximum of $27,000 through the Federal Student Loan Program.
The aid apparently helps.
Gettysburg has attracted about 40 percent of its past four freshman classes through Early Decision, high for a school that still accepts a majority of those who apply. The past cycle was the college’s first experience with Early Action. Gettysburg reported a record number of applications this year—over 7,000—and more than 40 percent of those applications were submitted via Early Action.The aid also helps people to stay. Freshman retention rates have averaged 90 percent for those classes. The college typically graduates 80 percent of a class on time.
You are not likely to see large classes at Gettysburg, which helps for retention and graduation rates.
More than two-thirds of all courses at the College had fewer than 20 students; virtually none had more than 40. Over half of the students will pursue some form of research or creative work with the faculty, outside of a required senior capstone or project. Mary told me that 60 percent of the students pursue study abroad as well as study off-campus in the US.
Gettysburg College has a very residential campus community.
More than 90 percent of Gettysburg students live on campus, including those who live in the fraternity houses. This is also one of the few small colleges where you are likely to meet juniors and seniors who have a meal plan! Dining services at “Servo,” the dining hall, are among the best you will find at any college anywhere, especially before Thanksgiving. Faculty and staff, including the college’s president serve the students before ithey go home for the holiday! I dropped a photo of Servo below.
Gettysburg is one of the more proactive liberal arts colleges the country when it comes to supporting its students and alumni through their education and life after college. There are more opportunities for experiential learning, study abroad, leadership development research and independent study offered at Gettysburg than a student would ever have time to complete over four years.
But while Gettysburg is a great school for students who want to make connections in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic states and Washington DC, it will take time for the alumni base to broaden significantly beyond there. While the College has many strengths, this and the costs are its greatest weaknesses. However, if someone told you that Gettysburg is one of America’s best liberal arts colleges, don’t argue.
Report Card: Gettysburg College
- 4 Year/6 Year Graduation Rates: A/A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: B
- Curriculum: A
- Community: B+
- Comforts: A
- Connections: A (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic states and Washington DC)/C (elsewhere)
Want to know more about me?
Check out my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
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