The PA College Tour, Leg 2: From Dickinson to Haverford


Carl Sander Socolow '77

Dickinson College aerial shot | Photo credit: Dickinson College

Sam Bisno, Editor-in-Chief

Rise and shine, college-bound youth! We’re off on the second leg of our Pennsylvania college tour! If you missed the first installment, in which we took a look at Allegheny, Bryn Mawr, Bucknell, Carlow, Carnegie Mellon, Chatham, and the Community College of Allegheny County, you can check it out here. That piece also details why in-state colleges and universities make added financial sense for Pittsburgh Public Schools students.

Today, we’ll visit schools 8 through 12 on our list of 30—those beginning with letters “D” through “H.” Let’s get going!

Dickinson College

Dickinson is a traditional small liberal arts college with seriously forward-thinking values. The college is committed to increasing its diversity, especially in the form of international students, and its demographics reflect that: 14 percent of students come from countries other than the United States. In the same vein, academics are globally oriented: a dozen foreign languages are offered, and many majors, such as international business and management, involve overseas opportunities. Fully 62% of students study abroad while at Dickinson. The college is also going increasingly green: freshmen are not allowed to have cars, and an on-campus farm yields enough for the dining halls and a local food bank. A new energy-efficient residence hall was just added. Students must take a First-Year Seminar to prepare them for college-level work. 46% participate in some form of research and 85% complete a capstone project. In addition to international business and foreign languages, popular majors include economics, political science, international studies, biology, neuroscience, and physics; the latter three feature Dickinson’s “workshop” style to science education. Certificates in “softer” subjects such as food studies and social innovation have recently been incorporated into the curriculum. Dickinson is located in Carlisle, which, while suburban, offers proximity to Harrisburg. Three-fourths of students participate in internships. Most students spend all four years within Dickinson’s grey limestone walls, built using rock from the in-house quarry. 16% of men and 27% of women are involved in Greek life, but drinking rules are relatively strict. For nearby recreation, students can hike and ski. Division III football and lacrosse are strong. Learn more here.

  • Acceptance rate: 49%
  • Total enrollment (all undergraduates): 2,325
  • Without financial aid, expect to pay: $73,854 per year
  • Percentage of undergraduates receiving financial aid: 76%
  • Average SAT range: 1230–1420. SAT optional.
  • Average ACT range: 27–32. ACT optional.
  • Application track: Early Decision I and II, Early Action, Regular Decision. Accepts Common Application with Dickinson supplement.


Drexel University

Drexel is a no-nonsense, professionally-oriented technical school in the heart of Philadelphia. Its most notable feature is its co-op program; 92% of students alternate between studying and working in any number of fields (usually related to their majors) throughout the country while at Drexel. Five-year tracks are common; undergraduates study full-time in their freshman and senior years and split time between the classroom and the workforce during the middle three years. Classes specifically dedicated to job training are mandatory. Students say they value the connections and financial incentives the co-op system affords them (the average co-op student earns close to $20,000 per year), but that the variability in schedules it creates makes it hard to maintain friendships or get involved in extracurricular activities. Drexel’s engineering program is excellent, and computer science, finance, biology, physics, nursing, game design, and interior design are also solid. Drexel is not known for its humanities, but freshmen must take English composition. Most students move into nearby apartments after their first year. While the school’s modern campus is crammed into just 20 blocks, the city offers plenty to do on Friday nights. Fraternities and sororities claim just one-seventh of undergraduates. Unlike many other colleges we’ve visited on the tour thus far, Drexel offers athletic scholarships; Division I basketball, crew, and soccer are strong. Less than one-tenth of students study abroad. Learn more here.

  • Acceptance rate: 79%
  • Total enrollment: 17,995
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 13,550
  • Without financial aid, expect to pay: $54,551; additional $14,241 for room and board
  • Percentage of undergraduates receiving financial aid: 94%
  • Average SAT range: 1160–1360
  • Average ACT range: 24–30
  • One of the following required for admittance: SAT, ACT, 2 SAT Subject Tests, 2 AP Exams, 2 IB Higher Level Exams.
  • Application track: Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision. Accepts Common Application. Must apply to specific school or program.


Franklin & Marshall College

Franklin & Marshall’s location is attractive for many Pennsylvania students: Lancaster is small and retains much of its Amish roots, but its historic cobblestone streets house plenty of recreational options the modern student, including a movie theater and dozens of boutiques. The school’s campus features Gothic architecture amid a full-fledged arboretum. Franklin & Marshall is known for its pre-professional medical and law programs, but business, economics, government, psychology, and biology are also strong. Freshman must take an array of seminars designed to prepare them for the academic rigor of college, as well as a hefty set of distribution courses. Outside of the classroom, many students are heavily involved in community service. Wrestling is Division I, but everything else is D-III; intramural sports are also popular, especially ultimate frisbee. Roughly a quarter of students participate in Greek life, and the social scene is dominated by off-campus parties and the occasional school-sponsored event, such as the Spring Arts Festival. The political climate is liberal, and students report a general air of acceptance and support. On-campus living is mandatory for all four years. A third of students take advantage of study abroad opportunities in places as far afield as China and South Africa. The percentage of students receiving financial aid is relatively low, but those who do get money usually get a lot. Learn more here.

  • Acceptance rate: 34%
  • Total enrollment (all undergraduates): 2,260
  • Without financial aid, expect to pay: $73,250 per year
  • Percentage of undergraduates receiving financial aid: 56%
  • Average SAT range: 1260–1420. SAT optional.
  • Average ACT range: 28–32. ACT optional.
  • Application track: Early Decision I and II, Regular Decision. Accepts Common Application with Franklin & Marshall supplement.


Gettysburg College

As one might expect from a school located in Gettysburg, the eponymous college is all about history. The annual November 19 Fortenbaugh Lecture honoring the Gettysburg Address is attended by many students, and the history major is extremely strong. Gettysburg even offers a Civil War Era Studies minor, and its Civil War Institute is nationally acclaimed. Other popular subjects include English, biology, psychology, political science, organization and management studies, and economics; students can even design their own majors. Many programs have built-in internship opportunities. Classes are small and discussion-based. Most students do research and all must complete a capstone project in order to graduate. The rural setting sacrifices much in the way of off-campus activities, but if you’re a fan of hills and grass, this might be the place for you. On-campus housing is provided for all for years (very few leave); top students get first dibs. The architecture is eclectic; perhaps most noteworthy are the buildings left over from the Civil War that have been repurposed into dormitories. Drinking is prohibited, but the fact that a third of all students are involved in Greek life is probably an indication that that rule isn’t enforced too strictly; the social scene revolves around parties. 60 percent of students study abroad and a whopping 85 percent are actively involved in community service. The women of Gettysburg College tend to have more success in Division III than do the men. Learn more here.

  • Acceptance rate: 46%
  • Total enrollment (all undergraduates): 2,400
  • Without financial aid, expect to pay: $69,850 per year
  • Percentage of undergraduates receiving financial aid: 75%
  • Average SAT range: 1270–1410. SAT optional.
  • Average ACT range: 26–30. ACT optional.
  • Application track: Early Decision I and II, Regular Decision. Accepts Common Application.

Haverford College

Though not as widely known as some other elite liberal arts colleges on the East Coast, Haverford is up to snuff in all regards. The school’s honor code, rooted in its Quaker heritage, is all about giving students as much autonomy as possible. Exams are self-scheduled and self-monitored and underage drinking is self-regulated. Haverford partners with nearby Bryn Mawr for a variety of things (see Bryn Mawr’s entry in the last installment for more detail). Academics are rigorous; students are so busy taking mandatory classes in the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities and writing senior theses on top of their chosen majors that social life can become stale, especially without any Greek system to speak of. The school’s location just outside of Philadelphia, however, offers what is at times a much-needed escape. Biology, English, psychology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and economics are among the most popular concentrations. Haverford’s advisory system, which provides students with an assortment of mentors, and its famously approachable professors, 60% of which live on campus, help mitigate the stress associated with heavy workloads. The Center for Peace and Global Citizenship provides students with internships and about half study abroad. Political activism is not a large part of Haverford’s culture, and some students say that the honor code’s emphasis on openness actually makes it hard for students to talk about real issues without offending people. The dormitories are some of the best in the country; most are singles and offer plenty of space, and some even sport kitchens and individual bathrooms. The Quaker connectedness to nature is evident within the campus: trees and ponds abound. Sports are also big: six quarters of athletic activity are mandated. Division III men’s cross-country is perennially competitive. Football was outlawed in 1971, and the Haverford varsity cricket team is the only one in the United States. Financial aid extremely generous. Learn more here.

  • Acceptance rate: 20%
  • Total enrollment (all undergraduates): 1,290
  • Without financial aid, expect to pay: $73,468 per year
  • Percentage of students receiving financial aid: 47%
  • Average SAT range: 1390–1530. SAT or ACT required.
  • Average ACT range: 31–34. SAT or ACT required.
  • Application track: Early Decision I and II, Regular Decision. Accepts Common Application with Haverford supplement.

Well, it appears our time today has elapsed. Next up, we’ll tour Pennsylvania colleges beginning with letters “I” through “M.”

This article relied on individual college and university websites, Fiske Guide to Colleges 2020, and a number of national college and university databases for the information presented.