Bucknell vs Lehigh

hello! i’m trying to find a few more colleges to add to my list and wondering about some differences between the two schools. i’m heading to that area to tour soon but the trip was already planned, so I can probably fit in a tour at one school but not both and i’m trying to figure out which would be a better fit. i’m a rising senior from new england who wants to study some kind of biology/chemistry with the goal of being pre-med and right now eventually doing something in pediatrics (I really like lehighs Maternal and Child Health minor, that sounds super interesting to me). i like the small class sizes and community aspect of liberal arts schools but also love the idea of a school where there’s a lot of school spirit/somewhere where I could attend pretty popular football games. (I like the size of lehigh a little bit more but I’m ok with anything 3,000+ so Bucknell is fine too). I would also run track and field at this schools if I went. If anyone is knowledgable in either of these schools especially in the areas that I’m interested in, i’d love your opinions/feedback. (I’ve eliminated Lafayette for other reasons so thats not an option even though I’ve heard its kind of a middle between the two schools)

My D toured both schools for chemical engineering. She felt that Bucknell was too small, too rural, and had too much emphasis on Greek life. But, it’s a beautiful campus and the students that go there seem to love it so YMMV.

We toured both schools multiple times, and have family who attended both. Quick thoughts:

  • When you mention “heading to the area”, I assume you’re coming from a pretty fair distance. If you’re flying, Lehigh is much easier to get to than Bucknell.

  • Both are pretty big party schools, but Bucknell’s social scene is “more Greek”.

  • The athletic facilities at Bucknell are very nice. They have a few patrons who have built some great buildings/fields. Lehigh is OK.

  • Bucknell’s campus is very nice, especially if you like brick. Lehigh’s is nice, with more stone. The biggest “difference” is that Lehigh is built on a hill. You’ll be in better shape, but everything feels up and down the hill.

  • I’m not sure about the bio/chem at Lehigh, but the Engineering classes were up “on top” of the hill, which required a bus ride or car to get to. Short trip…but not a walk unless you had 30 minutes.

  • Lewisburg is nicer than Bethlehem.

  • I didn’t get this, but the 3 women in my house all got a strange, sort of horror film set feel at Lehigh. The hill and woods and trails…they got an unsettling vibe up the hill near some of the dorms and houses.

They are both great schools, and more similar than different. All of these points are really picky. Good luck.


Yeah, I really like the athletic facilities at Bucknell, especially their indoor track which is gorgeous. I wouldn’t plan on being a part of greek life, so that does worry me a little bit about especially Bucknell but also Lehigh as well which I have also heard is pretty big on greek life.

Richmond is considered somewhat of a peer school to Bucknell. Around 3400 students with Greek Life present but not at the level of either Bucknell or Lehigh. It has become a harder admit than both schools over the last few years—a suburban setting about a 20-minute drive into the city of Richmond.

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I looked into richmond, sadly they’re not a fit athletically for me as they’re a majority distance/xc based track team

This comment is not specific to Bucknell and Lehigh but a general comment about relying on published stats without doing a bit of research.

My kid attends a small, rural school with a large percentage of students participating in Greek life. We found the Greek experience at her school to be much more inclusive and “laid back” than what most would consider the stereotype presented in movies (or the reality at some large Southern unis). It seems Greek life became a big part of the social scene because there were limited options in such a rural setting. But also, most kids who want to participate can. It is not overly exclusive or limiting participation.

I’m not endorsing Greek life at all. It’s not the right fit for everyone and that’s okay. We just found our concerns at my D’s school to be largely unfounded. So on the surface I would not scratch a school solely for that reason without looking into it further.

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Regardless of what rankings or admissions stats say, the academic profile of Lehigh students is a tier above Bucknell’s (middle 50 test-score ranges of 1340-1460 / 30-34 vs 1230-1390 / 26-32, eg).

Bucknell is also among the least racially and socioeconomically diverse colleges in the US: 78% white and 9% Pell Grant recipients vs Lehigh’s 61 and 17%.

Visits will help you decide, but on paper this is not a close call, in my opinion.

I am admittedly working with a small sample size, but I know two kids from our high school that went to Bucknell in the past few years and both of them hated it and specifically said they wished they had gone elsewhere. Both were white girls, top 5% of class but not the kind of superstars I read about here. The first came from an economically struggling family and attended Bucknell because they basically gave her a free ride. The second came from a fairly well off upper middle class background (dad made big money at a large tech company but attended public school, lived in a normal 3 bedroom house in a normal development, etc - economically comfortable but not lavish.). Both girls said they never felt like they fit in Bucknell at all. According to them, the kids there aren’t just well off, most are flat out rich and pretty judge-y about having things like the right clothes or the right purse. The first one said her friends would think nothing of spending thousands of dollars each on a ski weekend in Vermont…they would invite her but of course she was barely paying for school and couldn’t spend that kind of money. Same with going out, ordering food, etc. She had friends but somehow always felt left out anyway. She stuck it out because her financial aid package was so good but I know her mom said that even right up to the end she wished she had chosen differently. The second girl whose family has more money said she felt similar. She had spending money but nowhere near on the level as these other kids and even if she had had it, she was too sensible to blow through cash the way they did. She said everyone just partied all the time because there wasn’t anything else to do there and as you’d expect from kids with too much money and no adult judgment, there was a lot of the more expensive designer drugs - it wasn’t just alcohol and pot. The second girl ended up having a very hard time finding friends and ultimately joined a sorority out of desperation even though she swore going into college that she would never be a Greek life person. But she continued to struggle - she said everyone felt very fake and two faced and she had no real friends. She would have lost a lot of credits if she had tried to transfer so instead she ended up buckling down and graduating early because she hated it so much. She’s now in grad school at a different (much larger) university and loves it there. From talking to both girls’ moms, I got the sense that with a school as small and homogenous as Bucknell, if you don’t find your crowd right away, there really aren’t any other options, whereas in a larger school, there are lots of different crowds. Again my sample size is small so take it for what’s worth. Good luck!


Overall, I have heard similar things to your detailed response.

I am however not sure about larger schools being easier to find your crowd. Whether there are 1,000 students or 50,000 on campus, most people get close with 10 or fewer over 4 years. In smaller schools, it’s a matter of finding a school where the kids match your sensibilities. LAC’s tend to be a bit more laid back vs. the “pre-professional” vibe you get from a place like Bucknell or Lehigh. When people attend a school for reputation or perception, they run the risk of it being populated by people who are there for the very same reason. Reputation seeking and the right purse would seem very similar pursuits to me.

I think your assessment of Bucknell is accurate, and neither of our kids applied out of a similar sense of the environment. My uncle is in the sports hall of fame. If we had applied, a person with a building named after them on campus was going to write a recommendation… but it just didn’t feel like a good fit. That said, it’s a great school for those who “fit in”.

My daughter in law was an athlete at Bucknell. At her wedding this year, 5 of her bridesmaids were from Bucknell. She loved her time there . Like any school, however, it is not a good fit for everyone.

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Are these the only 2 schools on your list?

I am following along, as my daughter has both schools on her list. We head out to look at U Del, Villanova, Lehigh, Bucknell and Lafayette next week. She is a bit all over the map in terms of what she is looking for, but does know that she wants a collaborative, not competitive environment.

I have more patriot league/nescac but i wanted to add a few more since recruiting is very unpredictable so I was looking at these two.

She may find more of what she is looking for at Lafayette. Also, look at Dickinson and possibly Franklin and Marshall.

Franklin and Marshall has a beautiful indoor track facility but team is not as strong as Dickinson. Dickinson doesn’t have as nice facilities but both their men’s and women’s track teams are among the best in the conference. Both schools are Centennial Conference. Check TFRRS and compare your times and see where you fit in, if you haven’t already.

I understand the recruiting issues. You’ve gotten good feedback on these 2 schools which offer excellent academics but which both have also had issues over the years with drugs, alcohol, and Greek life. So, a mixed bag. But the track team will be your sorority and offers a healthy alternative to drugs and alcohol. Running is a positive addiction. So, both could be good choices. Like @EyeVeee , I too was turned off by how hilly Lehigh is and found nothing inspiring about the surrounding area. Maybe climbing the hills will give your legs a good workout. I personally prefer the Bucknell campus. The Patriot League certainly offers lots of good choices.

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I visited Lehigh and Lafayette with my daughter. I loved both schools, to be honest. Lehigh’s campus was really nice, in my opinion, despite the hills. Lafayette’s is nice too- much flatter, with a modern beautiful library. Both schools seemed to have happy and mainstream students- my kid and I both preferred the vibe at Lehigh just because it had more students so just felt more active.

As a parent I definitely was concerned about Lehigh’s party reputation. I get the sense that the school is putting the brakes on this and starting to clamp down on Greek life- not sure this is a good thing, since that aspect might actually be what attracts some kids to Lehigh over it’s rivals. But I get it.
It also bothers me how Lehigh seems to be falling in the rankings somewhat and isn’t maybe as hard to get in as it once was. I still think it’s a very good school and will right the ship over coming years. It does suffer from location, with Bethlehem being less than ideal to most people (Univ of Rochester prob has the same problem- should be a more popular school).

I know someone who was miserable at Lafayette because she didn’t want to be part of a sorority and it was a very dominant culture on campus (I know you said you have ruled out Lafayette). But you need to consider the social scene at Lehigh and Bucknell very carefully if you’re not into Greek life. A track team at a smaller D3 school will give you a tight knit group to train and socialize with and may suit you better

It’s not that im against Greek like necessarily, i just don’t think it would be necessary for me if i have track as that would be a community. it’s funny you say that about D3 because a lot of the D3 schools im looking at actually have a very large teams, bigger than most of the D1 schools im looking at