Getting To Know Lafayette College (PA)–Again
It was appropriate that I re-visited Lafayette College the day after I went to Lehigh. Lafayette has less than half as many undergrads (around 2,600), but these schools are long-time sports rivals. Many of the comments that I made about Lehigh’s location also apply to Lafayette. Like Lehigh, Lafayette is very much a campus-based community on a hill. Athletics might be more important at Lafayette because the 23 varsity scholarship sports encompass a larger share of the student body. The college is named for Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat and military hero of the American Revolutionary War and the French Revolution. Walk through the entrance on your way to admissions and you will see his statue.
Lafayette is a very selective liberal arts college that also offers engineering.
If you are looking for a small school for STEM this is one of the best in terms of resources and history. Other schools that you might want to consider: Trinity (CT), Union (NY) and maybe Patriot League rival Bucknell. It’s not as tough to get into Lafayette College as it is to get into, for example, Amherst or Williams, or Dartmouth, which has a similar academic mix. But this school takes only about a third of all applicants. The average high school GPA has been around a 3.5 or 3.6. That is deceptively low, considering the popularity of STEM programs and the rigor these applicants attempted in high school. The average SAT/ACT are 1350 and 31, about the same as Lehigh.
I have updated my Lafayette College Pinterest page for you. As you will see, this is a really nice campus. Now I will cover some of the things that I really like about Lafayette as well as some you should consider for yourself.
Like: The Gateway Program
Lafayette College has one of the best structured career development programs that I have seen at a liberal arts college. Follow this program and you will find a direction as well as a network for life after you earn your degree. Most liberal arts colleges have some form of jobs database, but Lafayette also runs two large fall and spring career fairs, has private rooms for virtual interviews in the career center, and will lend you business attire when you need it. You will get a very good internship if you set out to get one, even in documentary filmmaking.
The college reports that more than 90 percent of our students utilize the Career Center, and more than 84 percent of first-year classes engage in the Gateway program. Those participation rates are incredibly high for any college of any size. I have been to only one other pure liberal arts school that does as well with career development: Union College (NY). Like Union, Lafayette relies on a long break (six weeks) between the fall and spring for an internship or shadowing opportunity or to study abroad.
Like: The Alumni Network
Lafayette’s alumni network is quite healthy in major Northeastern cities. Over 7,300 alumni registered in LinkedIn.com are based around New York City. There are also nearly 2,700 alumni in the Philadelphia metro area and communities of over 1,000 in and around Boston and Washington DC. Lafayette draws students from practically everywhere. Those who come from or want to remain in the Northeast are most likely to benefit from the alumni network.
The college has 51 majors, but also multiple options within them. Lafayette offers options to earn an A.B. or B.S, in the science majors as well as Psychology. Lafayette also offers unique dual degree in Engineering and International Affairs. It can be completed in four years and one summer. Lafayette also has options in Government and Law, Politics and Policy Studies. The college offers 39 minors, including some that you are not likely to find at other liberal arts colleges. These include Architectural Studies, Biotechnology/Bioengineering, Data Science and Mechanical Engineering.
Lafayette’s Common Core of Study requires 13 courses plus a First-Year seminar. It is possible to double dip courses to fulfill major or minor requirements as well as Core requirements. However, the college is organized around four divisions. Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Engineering. You will need to take courses within each one to earn a degree. If you were looking to avoid your least favorite subjects in college Lafayette might not be your school. However, if you have taken a rigorous course load and done well, it could be.
Aside from first-year students, the student body is divided equally among the four divisions. To me that means half of the students have a STEM major. During my visit I took in the general tour and information session as well as the Engineering Preview. I’ve been a “car guy” since I was six, so I paid special attention to Lafayette Motorsports past and present projects.
Like: Addressing Affordability for Needy Students
Lafayette meets 100 percent of demonstrated need for all students. More important, the college offers a no-loan commitment. Students with a total family income up to $150,000 and with typical family assets for their income levels will have federal loans replaced with grants and work study. About a fifth of the freshmen in the Class of 2025 received merit scholarships that averaged nearly $21,000. Merit-based awards can be as large as four years at full tuition. But while Lafayette is a D-1 school in varsity athletics, less than ten percent of the student body are varsity scholarship athletes. Over 60 percent of 2021 graduates did not need to borrow to cover educational costs. But among those who took out loans, the average loan balance was just under $28,000, about $1,000 more than the maximum they could have borrowed through the Federal Student Loan Program.
Consider for Yourself: Housing Options
Ninety-five percent of the student body lives in college-owned housing, including Greek housing. Juniors can apply to be “released” from college housing for their senior year. Lafayette has many residence life options for sophomores, juniors and seniors. I personally liked the learning communities and the newest options: the McCartney Street apartments and suites, Kamine, and Fisher. But i’m less crazy about older residence halls that look like “dorms.” I was not in love with the first-year housing options that I viewed on YouTube. However, I did like the Watson Hall library as well as the layout of Kamine Hall. The units off McCartney Street also have a really nice diner-style restaurant called The Trolley Stop (below) that has delicious waffles, among other treats.
Consider for Yourself: Greek Social Life
Greek life attracts just over a quarter of the student body . Like most colleges, sororities govern through a Panhellenic Council and fraternities govern through an Inter-Fraternity Council. Collectively, these organizations can be large student interest groups and the small number of houses can have a disproportionate influence on the social life on campus. In some cases that could be for good. These organizations get involved in philanthropy and service projects and provide an attractive living option for over 650 students. However, Lafayette has also closed 12 fraternities and one sorority since 1974, the most recent closing was in 2011. The college also expresses concerns about unrecognized organizations on its Fraternities and Sororities page.
I cannot claim that Greek life is a source of friction at Lafayette based on a campus visit. However, I found an article in The Lafayette, that mentioned that there was a movement to abolish Greek life in 2020. Last fall one sorority, Delta Delta Delta, opted to relinquish their chapter.
Lafayette College students are apparently happy. The freshman retention rate is just under 90 percent and the four-year grad rate is consistently 85 percent or higher. The academics and career services will make a very strong impression on parents and ambitious students. So will the efforts to keep the experience affordable.
However, Lafayette shares some aspects of campus culture with the most similar schools, especially Greek social life. It is possible to avoid them and get a great education. But there are other schools where you can avoid them completely if you don’t want them at all.
Report Card: Lafayette College
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A/A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: A
- Curriculum: A
- Community: B+
- Comforts: B
- Connections: A
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