Gettysburg College is a private Liberal Arts College in historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which enrolls about 2,600 students. It is a moderately selective institution, with a somewhat competitive acceptance rate of and a fairly high average SAT. 75% of incoming freshman were in the top ten percent of their high school class. With the support of financial aid grants and loans, students at Gettysburg pay an average net price of around $40,000, much less than the published sticker price.
Dickinson College is located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and it enrolls just under 2,400 students. The acceptance rate at Dickinson is 45%, making it slightly less selective than Gettysburg College. More than 50% of incoming Dickinson freshman were in the top ten percent of their high school class, and their average SAT score was 1284, only a smidge lower than the Gettysburg average. Including generous financial aid awards, Dickinson students also pay an average net price of around $40,000.
There are many similarities between these two schools that are only a 45 minute drive from each other, so we looked to actual students in our annual Liberal Arts Colleges Student survey to seek out the nitty gritty details about Gettysburg and Dickinson.
Besides the often-discussed (and controversial) SAT score, there isn’t much information out there that would help families distinguish between Dickinson College and Gettysburg academically. We turned to students, and have come up with quantifiable differences regarding workload and difficulty of these two colleges.
Gettysburg students said that their workload was “difficult” to “extremely difficult” about 50% of the time, whereas only a third of Dickinson students responded this way. This is further supported by the fact that over 80% of Gettysburg students and only 70% of Dickinson students spend at least 3 hours studying each day.
A more challenging academic experience can be viewed as either a plus or minus for Gettysburg. Many students felt they benefited from the academic environment.
“I have the resources here to pursue any and every interest I have. The human resources and connections are incredible, and the opportunities to get involved outside of class are countless,” said a Gettysburg College junior.
Though these findings suggest Dickinson is lower ranked academically, the school perhaps redeems itself with its study abroad program, which is one of the main points advertised to prospective students. Over 65% of the students will study abroad during their time at Dickinson through more than 40 programs in 24 different countries. According to their website, more than 40% of the faculty have led a Dickinson study abroad program.
Said one Dickinson senior, “Dickinson’s ‘international focus’ is the best – so many kids study abroad and it’s a great way to get to know new people and grow and challenge yourself. I really like the students I met and how we can have a good time hanging out and also be able to have intellectual conversations with them casually.”
Gettysburg also has a study abroad program, though it is not as well-known as Dickinson’s. About 50% of Gettysburg students will take advantage of the program before they graduate, studying and conducting field research on six continents.
About half of the students from each school said that their academic environment could be described as “collaborative,” and the other half responded it was “competitive.” We can’t draw any major conclusions from such widely dispersed answers, but we can turn to student comments for clarification.
“One thing I love is that the atmosphere is nurturing rather than competitive. I also love the opportunity to have relationships with professors and staff. The Gettysburg community is what we make it, and students and staff proudly work together daily,” said a Gettysburg junior.
Dickinson receives similar praise.“The campus community is tight knit because it’s small, everyone knows and cares about what their peers are involved with,” said a Dickinson senior.
Neither school comes out clearly on top in this area, as both have specific highlights and faults.
Professors can have a huge impact on students’ college experiences, either in a positive or negative way, so the quality of teaching at any college should be taken into account by all prospective students.
Statistically, students at Dickinson reported that they converse with their professors outside of the classroom slightly more often than Gettysburg students, yet students from both schools have great things to say about their professors.
Said a Dickinson junior, “The professors are passionate about their work, are easily accessible and very accommodating.”
“All of my positive feedback ties back to one key answer: the professors. Each professor that I have had during my time here in not only an excellent classroom instructor, but is very approachable and willing to continue academically enriching discussions outside the classroom. This has made my college experience very fulfilling and has made my time here more enjoyable than if I never engaged in stimulating discourse with professors outside of class,” said a Gettysburg senior.
Students from both schools were happy with guidance they received from their advisers; 75% of both student populations responded they were “satisfied” to “very satisfied.”
At certain prestigious institutions, student relationships with the administration proved to be quite problematic. Such is not the case with Gettysburg and Dickinson. 90% of the students from each school said that the non-teaching staff is “helpful and accessible.”
However, there was a problem pointed out by one Dickinson junior: “The college does not allow for a safe environment for underage drinking (an inevitable aspect of college life) they simply try to condemn it at all possible costs.”
This leads us into discussion of the campus life at these schools, and possibly some underlying problems uncovered in the past.
Aspects like housing accommodations and sense of community are unavoidably integral parts of a college student’s life, especially if that student is living on-campus. Over 90% of students at both Gettysburg and Dickinson live in college-owned, operated, or affiliated housing, so inside information on these categories is indispensable. Luckily, we have all of this (and more).
Nearly 60% of Gettysburg students said they were “very satisfied” with their housing situation, though only 20% of Dickinson students responded in the same way.
Said a Gettysburg junior, “I currently live in theme housing, which is a unique and wonderful option.”
“I have never been dissatisfied with my living situation in college housing,” said a Gettysburg senior.
On the Dickinson side of things, there were more complaints. “There is not enough housing, and it is not up to date,” said a Dickinson senior.
It appears that there is a clear winner in the housing debate. Whether or not this is a deal-breaker will be up to the prospective student.
Both of these institutions have demographics dominated by white students. More than eight out of ten Dickinson and Gettysburg students are white, with the remainder of students being international or identifying as people of color.
Interaction with peers and faculty is another important facet of college life. At Gettysburg, 55% of the students rated the sense of community on campus as “strong” to “very strong.” The Dickinson numbers were a little lower: a little over 80% said “average” to “strong,” though nearly 8% said the sense of community was “very weak.”
Much of the way “sense of community” is perceived comes from how much effort the student is willing to put into making his or her college experience great. Said one Dickinson junior, “I love this school and the people. At such a small school, the bonds you form with friends and professors alike are incredible!”
In addition, students at Dickinson reported that they had a closer relationship with the surrounding community than those at Gettysburg.
So, Dickinson housing received a lower rating, and their sense of community isn’t quite as strong as Gettysburg’s. It’s possible they make up for this with a booming social life. Then again, maybe not.
Details about the social life of a certain school are invaluable, and often nearly impossible to find. Until now.
At Gettysburg, the social scene is much more centered on-campus, as almost 80% of the students told us. Not even half of Dickinson students felt this way. In fact, about 20% of Dickinson students said that the balance of social life is “equally on- and off-campus.”
Perhaps these results speak to Dickinson’s convenient location, directly adjacent to the small downtown district of Carlisle. The drive to Gettysburg College, on the other hand, will have you reminiscing of “Little House on the Prarie.”
“I wish we had more dining options or were closer to civilization…everything is pretty far away,” said a Gettysburg junior.
However, this also means that college-planned activities on campus are more well-attended at Gettysburg. Nearly 60% of Gettysburg students said that “many people” attend these events, whereas almost 15% of Dickinson students said “hardly anyone” attends.
Greek life is a major part of the social life on both of these campuses. Possibly even to a fault.
Said a Gettysburg sophomore, “Greek life IS Gettysburg College. The school is academically rigorous and the fraternity life is second to none. Home to some of the oldest fraternities in the world, Gettysburg’s greek life system runs the campus social life and if you’re an independent you aren’t on the same level.”
“[The Greek life] undermines a holistic sense of community, encourages introverted group dynamics, and supports a culture of an irresponsible lifestyle, such as consistent inebriation,” said one Gettysburg junior.
Over 20% of Gettysburg students said that alcohol was a “vital” part of the social life at their school. An additional 66% said it was “somewhat important.”
Dickinson students had similar complaints. Nearly 80% said alcohol was “somewhat important,” but only 5% said it was “vital.”
Said a Dickinson senior, “It can be difficult for those who are not super involved on campus to find their places at Dickinson. With such a small campus it is basically a requirement to be heavily involved in at least one activity just to be exposed to the social scene. This is not to say that you can’t make friends without belonging to a group, it just seems like a huge social boost for those who are involved.”
“The office of campus life is doing everything they can to completely eradicate the campus of Greek life – the only organizations that do anything social and fun on the weekends. Parties are broken up QUICKLY,” said a Dickinson junior.
So, to any prospective students looking at these two schools, it is definitely a good idea to decide what kind of social life you want before you go away to college. And at Dickinson or Gettysburg, that ideal social scene should probably include Greek life.
The best way to find out if a school is making its students happy is to simply ask the students.
Over 85% of students from both Dickinson and Gettysburg said they were “satisfied” to “very satisfied” with their overall college experience. The main consensus we got from the students was: you get out what you put into it.
“I have enjoyed every day of my four years here because I made a point to make the most of my experience. I took advantage of the opportunities that Gettysburg presented, participated in programs held by college departments, and sought out academically enriching conversations with professors. I put in the work to succeed and, I am happy to say, I did. If students come to Gettysburg prepared to work and prepared to use campus resources, I am confident they will feel the same way as I do,” said a Gettysburg senior.
The final question of our survey was meant to draw somewhat of a bottom line for a competition between the two schools: “Would you recommend this college to other students?”
And, like many of the previous questions, we got similar responses from students at these two schools. Nearly 55% of Dickinson students said they would “definitely recommend” their school to others, which is comparable to Gettysburg’s 45%. It really depends on the type of student, and if they were a match for the school they chose.
Said a Gettysburg junior, “I would encourage anyone who wants a rigorous academic environment and great opportunities for career development and academic engagement to come to Gettysburg. Those who do not like Greek life or living in theme housing would be best not to attend since almost all Junior and Seniors either live in a college theme house (Civil War Era Studies, Frisbee Team House, Allies House etc.) or in a fraternity or sorority.”
“[My favorite thing about Dickinson is] the people! And the opportunities for social action. I do feel that I am a smarter, more well-rounded individual now than when I came to Dickinson, I can knowledgeably speak to a plethora of subjects from current events to ancient Greek mythology to trends in economic theory,” said a Dickinson junior.
All in all, it is clear that a prospective student will need more than just a campus visit to find the differences between these two colleges. Similar in location, size, demographics, and academics, it is really the small details that will be able to distinguish one from the other. Details that can only be uncovered by talking to current students.