Bucknell Fit

Just got back from admitted students day. The campus is beautiful, possibly the most beautiful of all the schools we have seen and the facilities are fantastic. I am also very impressed with the mini class we sat in on – the teacher was engaging and the topic were fantastic. I am very comfortable with the quality of the academics. However, I have some concerns about fit for my kid.

First, academic fit. Outside of the engineering kids, the majority the kids that we came across seemed very focused on packaging themselves for finance, law, and other wall-street type jobs – and it is clear to me that, if that’s where you are headed, Bucknell is a really good place to be. However, my kid is not an engineering kid and, while the path is not yet clear, it is extremely unlikely my kid will head in the finance/law/wall street direction. Can anyone speak to what it is like at Bucknell for kids that are more focused on history/social sciences, languages, or other less pre-professional subjects?

Then there is social fit. Before visiting, I had read many times that the school is very rich/preppy, that there is a big party culture, and that is not diverse. I had thought that maybe that aspect of the school was exaggerated and emphasized. However, as my kid and I walked from campus down 7th street to the bookstore on Saturday afternoon, we encountered several loud, raucous house parties in a row. Now, I get it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and it is college, but even taking that into account the partying seemed a little extreme – particularly for admitted students day. (Even my kid agreed). Was this an anomaly or is this just another Saturday afternoon at Bucknell? I know there are probably kids that aren’t like this – but is there a critical mass of non-extreme party-ers (or even non-party-ers?) so that kids aren’t going to feel left out or isolated if they don’t partake?

And the kids really did not seem very diverse, even compared to other east coast LAC’s, which aren’t the most diverse group to begin with. A lot of kids seemed to look alike. Even my kid, who is preppy but in a laid-back outdoorsy kind of way, felt a little out of place.

I’m trying to get a sense of whether we got an skewed impression of the school or if it is reflective of what Bucknell is like, and would appreciate any thoughts. We have been hoping that Bucknell would work out, since on many fronts it is the happy medium of our school choices, but we are afraid that the fit is not good.

We also attended the Bucknell Admitted Students day and walked down 7th Street to the bookstore.Your experience was very similar to ours as far as concerns about fit. We were impressed by the academics and Bucknell has a strong science program that is perfect for my son, but we are worried about the dominant Greek life and partying culture. Like you, we get that it’s college and it was a nice day… but I get a sense, rightly or wrongly, that this is the norm. And I’m sure there are students who aren’t like that, but are there enough? I’d like to think he will find his crew and it will all be fine, but maybe that’s just too optimistic.

Regarding Greek life there, I’ve read some reviews that indicate it’s dominant. Seems like there is a lot of pressure to join because if you don’t, you have no social life. Jill, the young woman on the panel during the parent session mentioned Greek life as the thing she would change. I thought that was pretty telling.

I hope someone who has some experience at Bucknell will post here. We are in a similar place regarding school choices. Don’t have one that has everything, but hoped Bucknell would be the best.

Good luck!!!

The town is pretty small so you don’t have a place to go to off-campus for social activity really; you have to feel comfortable on campus.

Non-Greeks are in the minority among upperclassmen.
The 2019-2020 catalog pegs the number at 52%: https://coursecatalog.bucknell.edu/aboutbucknell/ “An active Greek system involves about 52 percent of the eligible (non-first-year) students.”
About 39% of all students are in Greek life, and once you hit sophomore year non-Greeks are in the minority.

I’ll offer my thoughts. I am a grad and have one child who graduated last year and a current junior. The qualities you see in the school are indeed there, it has much to offer. What you saw is what’s known as “super”; short for Super Saturday. Essentially, Saturday night open parties at fraternities have been replaced by daytime outside parties at off-campus houses/apts. in the section of town where student housing is predominant. While some of these houses are rented by groups of students in the same fraternity/sorority, the parties are generally open to all. I have been to them on many Family Weekends/Homecomings, as have many other parents & alums (and I’m not a “cool” parent, if I saw things I thought were inappropriate on any of those occasions, I wouldn’t return). Since it was a nice day in April after a long winter and the students will start exams in a few weeks, it likely contributed to more activity than normal. There are 3,600 kids in the school, I’d guess for every one you saw there were four or five more either in their rooms, in the library or academic buildings,competing with their athletic teams, off campus somewhere else, etc. As for Greek life, both my children are involved, however they both have close friends/roommates who are not. Just like anywhere else, as long as a person is comfortable with who they are and are willing to make an effort to meet people and pursue things that interest them, there is more than enough to do there that doesn’t involve Greek life or parties. If your child is the outdoor type, there are tons of things to do, some school sponsored; fishing, kayaking, biking, hiking, camping and many state parks nearby. Finally, as for non-engineer, non-pre-professional types, both my kids fall into that category. Each did paid research in areas of interest to them, had close collaboration with professors, who helped them with things outside the classroom such as internships, fellowships, etc; did a semester abroad and had a job or internship in their preferred areas each summer (some paid through the Bucknell Public Interest Partnership) and my older child had a job before graduation and is living independently. As for diversity, the school deserves credit for its continual efforts; considering its size and location.

@Frydaddy : Your impressions formed from the revisit are correct.

What are your son’s other options ?

Glad this thread started. I was also at admitted day with DS. I’m alsoconcerned about prominence of Greek life on Bucknell campus as my DS doesn’t want to rush but wants a robust social life. on the flip side, he is considering Lafayette but is concerned of the lack of social life there.

I think your impression of the dominant culture was pretty accurate. There will be kids at every school who thrive outside of that (and of course, forkids who embrace it, it’s terrific!), but if you aren’t loving it, that’s probably your answer.

I toured Bucknell with two of my kids and will be doing so again with my third. It all boils down to fit and it is in the ballpart for each. One chose Lafayette. It has greek life but not on the same scale as Bucknell. My kid has a robust social life there. For what it is worth (and I’m not saying that I agree), the Fiske Guide gives Laf 5 stars for social over Bucknell’s 4. My feeling is that at most LACs kids can find any level of social life that they’d like wherever they go.

@temperantia Thank you - very helpful comments. Did your Lafayette student decide to go Greek?

I will share with you what my second semester son says about Greek, although at another university, which he deems the reality of his generation.

My son joined a fraternity which was the absolute last thing I thought he would do when I sent him off to college. I just didn’t think it would be “his thing.” As an aside, he loves it, has made amazing friends, done fun off campus outdoorsy activities with his brothers, and just won an award on Founder’s Day.

My son says that the dorms are very strict now as is the entire college experience. He explains to me, “unlike the 1980s when you went.” In fact the said he felt like he had more freedom at home. After a few weeks, this caused him to rush. He says that in his opinion Greek allows you to have a social life/be an adult. For many, the social life they hoped to have in college but the many, many rules have crushed. Is his fraternity animal house? No. But do they have a few parties and/or sit around and drink a few beers being college kids? Yes. They also do a lot more.

I just wanted to share this perspective because high school friends who have gone to other colleges, have reported the same thing. Sadly, he also reports that the strictness of campus housing has also caused more pot smoking because it’s quiet and isn’t as much of a concern to res life.

I don’t mean to barge in on your Bucknell conversation but it reminded me of me a year ago when we were deciding where to go and how I viewed Greek and my assumption that my son would never, ever be a part of it. Good luck deciding!

@empireapple Excellent perspective. Thanks for sharing. I never thought of that and it makes sense. Especially for colleges where you live in dorms for 4 years. Thanks. Your comments really helped me!

I will chime in as a parent of a Bucknell grad from 2018 and a current junior son at Lafayette. I think your impressions of Bucknell are accurate but only to a certain degree. Is Greek life dominant, yes, and are there a lot of wealthy students, also yes. The University is really working on becoming more diverse and my D did notice a shift in her 4 years there which she loved. She was a theater major so was very busy with the department and the community involved there. She was also in a sorority, had 2 or 3 on campus jobs, went abroad for a semester and had many awesome funded experiences through university grants. She was s tour guide, she lived in the arts residential college her first year and then stayed on as a junior fellow her sophomore year. That also gave her a community and there were kids with all kinds of majors living there from engineers to business to the stereotypical artsy types. She really recommends the residential colleges as a way to find community the first year. In terms of Greek life, it does seem more intense than at Lafayette but D says sophomores tends to be really into it and then folks mellow out a bit. By junior year when people start turning 21 they go to a couple of bars on Market Street, including the pretty mellow Cider House which had more of a coffee house / board game vibe. My D enjoyed the occasional super Saturday but she was usually too busy with rehearsals or other things to partake. By senior year when students are living in the gorgeous new apartment style dorms social life was more about it going out to eat, hanging with friends at smaller apartment parties, sometimes going to the bar. She did tell people that if they are adamantly opposed to Greek life Bucknell might not be right for them. Several of her friends were not in Greek life but those folks usually had some other group like a singing group to the outing club or a sport that helped build a social life. Overall D’s sorority was a positive experience for her. She lived on the sorority hall when she returned from abroad and ended up living with some new friends from the sorority her senior year rather than in the theater affinity house which was also an option.

My son at Lafayette did join a fraternity. He loves the school and his frat both. He is not a big partier but because he was an officer he always at least showed his face to the events. He would much rather hang out with a few people and drink a few beers. Lafayette does seem a bit more laid back socially than Bucknell. Son started out in engineering and though he was doing fine in the classes he hated it so has switched to history with a math minor. He is currently doing a semester in Berlin and this weekend met up in Prague with some fraternity brothers who are also studying abroad.

I will say that Bucknell has way nicer dorms than Lafayette and a better first year orientation program. Also Bucknell seems to have more options for on campus work whether one is on work study or not. Or maybe my son just hasn’t sought out those opportunities as much as my daughter.

Sorry for the rambling post. I hope it adds another perspective. Bucknell has a lot to offer. My kids went to a diverse public high school in Ohio and both have loved their experiences.

What other options does your son have for Engineering?

My son was also accepted for engineering (last year) but went elsewhere.

It is a beautiful school and has great programs. We really loved the campus, newish rec center and downtown area. I know many successful Bucknell grads.

The OPs son is not engineering at Bucknell. Says he’s social sciences.

Thanks everyone for the feedback so far – this has all been very helpful and I welcome any and all further thoughts. We are considering several other schools which are pretty close academically but vary in culture (which we didn’t fully realize until deep into the process). Bucknell is on the short list because of all the schools it has the best athletic opportunity, which is very important to my kid. I just want to make sure that if DC suddenly becomes unable to participate in the sport (say, b/c of injury), DC would still be happy at Bucknell. We have the last revisits this week so hopefully a decision will come soon.

@kwajmama He did go Greek sophomore year and it’s been great for him however he has a balance of friends who are independent. There seems to be more flexibility with major selection than at many schools that offer engineering. My kid entered Laf as a biochem major and decided that he’d prefer chemical engineering and switched in with no problem. Granted, in order to graduate on time, he had to make that call after first semester freshman year.

If sports are a major consideration in the decision, I think it is right to consider what if it does not work out. A friend’s son went to Bucknell for sports and got injured during his freshman year and felt that he was lost socially without his team and he is transferring.

Hello Frydaddy, let me first say that my son is a freshman at Bucknell right now. He is about to finish his first year at the school. We didn’t think the party atmosphere was going to be a struggle for him we thought he would be able to fit in just fine. I would have to say though he has just reported to us that he is not very encouraged by the social atmosphere at Buchnell. He reports that the pressure to party the pressure to fit in is something he has never seen before. We all know that Bucknell is known for its’s affluent attendees , however he did not anticipate for the entitlement culture to be so pervasive throughout the school. So in the end I believe that anyone could thrive at Bucknell, however they need to go in knowing that this is a work hard play hard school and if you don’t party you’re going to have struggle fitting in unless you carefully look for your niche. Either way it’s an amazing school but the party atmosphere is very prevalent

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I also went to admitted students day as a committed incoming freshman. To you, I would have just been another preppy face in the crowd because my mom and I’m sure many other moms in the crowd made their kids put their best foot forward that day. However, I encourage you not to judge all the books by their covers on a day when as a group of people we are trying to make the best impression and spent a lot of our time just looking at everyone in the crowd to see what our class is going to look like, too anxious to walk up to each other and say hello. If you dig deeper, you would have seen that I’m a kid who prefers clever shirts and jeans. I’m a science major who got into Bucknell based on my merit, not my mom’s bank account. I don’t think it is a good idea to assume that you can judge a bunch of kids on a day like that and sort them into boxes. You would likely be wrong more than you are right.
I also enjoyed the class we sat in on but I see you did not mention the activities fair. I am not actively looking to join a fraternity myself so I actively looked for clubs where I could find people like myself. I found a theatre club, a singing group whose members I was drawn to, the CALVIN and HOBBES club (late night nerf gun wars for example, what’s not to love), the Japan club, and a Pokémon club just to name a few options for making connections for myself. As the last person said, I think social success is about finding people who are interested in what you are interested in and if you put in the effort, you can find a lot of starting points for friendships. Does your son want 50 or more “friends” or a solid group of 10 true brothers from another mother friends? I am interested in the latter myself and would feel a social success leaving with just 10 lifelong, true friends.
I also am very excited about all the paid and unpaid research opportunities I will be engaging in as a part of during my time at Bucknell. I am looking forward to studying abroad and being a part of their residential college. If you are worried about socialization, definitely have your son sign up for a residential college. They support students spending time together and it is a great program to easily make friends who share your interests. I personally think your son needs to focus on what is best for him academically. The point of college is not to leave as the most popular person. It is to come out as the best trained and ready version of yourself so you can be successful doing what you love well for the rest of your life.


Hello Frydaddy! Any decision yet? We are coming down to the wire and son is still not quite sure. Have seen a lot of good feedback on this thread, some of which eases my concerns while other confirms them. Mizenev, can you give more details about the pressure to party and the entitlement? How is that manifesting itself for a freshman? I really think my son can handle the general peer pressure, but this sounds like more than that. And the entitlement sounds like it could make finding friends a little tough. My son is looking for some down to earth, regular kids. Bisonorbust, you made many good points. My son was not wearing his standard sweats, t-shirt and baseball hat that day, so might have appeared more preppy than he is. I keep coming back to the fact that Bucknell is by far the best academic fit for him. But can he be successful if he is not happy there? That’s the real question…

My son is a freshman Engineering major. He played sports in high school (private, Catholic high school in NYS) and was social but not a big partier. He is a strong student and considered Bucknell a target school, so when he did not get into his favorite (a reach for anyone), he was satisfied (as were we with the merit money he was offered) when we dropped him off at Bucknell last August. Bucknell does a great job with orientation and he met a great group of friends right away - most from his hall. He plans to pledge a frat next year. It is a “must” he says for the type of social life he wants. Again, NOT because he is a huge partier, but because he likes to decompress from the rigors of the engineering curriculum, drink some beer and hang out with friends. Neither my husband nor I attended colleges with Greek life, so I get the concern. From my son’s experience, it is more about having a close community of friends. Like several prior posters noted, unlike at many other schools, at Bucknell there is ZERO tolerance for drinking beer in the dorms. Also, unlike many other schools, there are no bars in Lewisburg that serve underaged kids with fake IDs. My freshman will turn 20 over the summer. I don’t think it is unreasonable to assume that he wants to be able to drink beer and hang out with his friends on a beautiful Saturday in the Spring.

It is the right school for everyone? No. From our perspective, it is a great school on every level. I don’t agree with the perception that Bucknell is full of entitled students. My son wears sweats to class and he while his “style” if he has one trend toward “preppy” I guess…he has a navy blue 1/4 zip pullover that he lives in, he and his buddies are nice, grounded kids. We are confident that he will have a great four years and land a good job when he graduates. Happy to answer any questions.

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