Bucknell's future

I think there are top, middle, and below middle colleges and universities in the US. I also think Bucknell is in the top list. Read Forbes, UsNew top 100 top most selective schools in US, , Business Week, etc. Bucknell is consistently one of the top rated schools in the country. Some of it’s engineering majors are ranked in the top 5 for undergraduate schools in US News.

So why can’t Bucknell move higher? Is it because it is considered an LA. school?

WUSL, Chicago U. and even Penn. were always lower ranked schools generally and have really moved up to elite. Can Bucknell do this? It has a top ranked engineering program and its business program recently received AACSB, an elite business school accreditation.

Maybe it is just fine where it is. But I am a bit concerened with the falling college age population and the expansive growth in the Bucknell campus. Can it be sustained!?

I’d ignore selectivity. Simply being selective is not enough; if anything, that is overemphasized, as it makes more common app filers apply to the most selective schools, which makes them even more selective without those schools actually being any better. You have to look at the value of what is actually being generated for the price paid, and that is where schools struggle to differentiate themselves. Where is Bucknell (or any other school) spending its money to improve itself? That’s the question that should be asked during all the visiting student days across the country imo.

I don’t think all of the “lists” I listed, focused on selectivity alone. Actually, I know they did not. Unfortunately, students often select schools to apply to based on selectivity and rank.

Providing the best education to students should be the mission. If a degree from a certain school is highly valued, employers are willing to hire students from the school, grad schools, recognizing the value of the undergraduate degree, are willing to admit the student. ( obviously if they have the GPA, etc).

But you have to have students! Prospective students apply to schools that have high valued degrees. These schools are usually highly ranked. It is cyclical. Rank is important for thriving and, maybe even, survival.

I’d say location is a problem for Bucknell.

It does not help. But Williams, Amherst, Colgate, and even Yale, to name a few, are not in great locations.

As someone who attended Williams and has a daughter who is a sophomore at Bucknell I wonder whether the dominance of Greek life is a hindrance as well. It’s such a small community that to me the exclusivity and segmenting into even tighter social circles seems unnecessary and not helpful in efforts to increase diversity on campus. Although my D loves Bucknell and has taken advantage of many opportunies she is bothered by the lack of diversity and from my perspective it seems like her sorority seems to be more a source of stress rather than support to her. Williams got rid of fraternities in the 1960s prior to going coed and I think it turned out to be a great decision. Somehow Williams is now attracting something like 38% students of color to rural western mass. It is amazing to me.

That’s an interesting point, @momofzag . The “Most students in fraternities” list at USN is interesting.


Bucknell is in the top 10, as is Dartmouth, but they’re “elite outliers” there.

Is Bucknell as known across the country as well as other schools in its tier? Bucknell seems to be mostly known in the northeast region. Maybe west coast kids, especially in California, just don’t know about Bcknell. I think Bucknell tried to get more geographical diversity in the last few years by recruiting more widely which is why I think their # of people applied skyrocketed from 7k to 10k recently. I think a school like BC is in the same tier as Bucknell but BC is much more widely known. This is just speculation on my part though because I’m from PA and everyone here knows about it.

Re #6, 24 and 12. (I happen to not care for the CC emoticons, but consider an appropriately pleasant one as if it is here.)

@momofzag can you say more about the stress of being in a sorority? thanks

Two things stopped my D from applying there…the heavy greek life and location. FWIW, we did fly out there for a visit from Boston as it was a definite possibility.

I also agree that Williams’ location is an issue, but Amherst? Its really in a lovely little town with the 5 school consortium available, much different from both Bucknell and Williams in so many ways.

The dominance of Greek life at Bucknell was definitely a turn-off for my D, who is leaning towards an engineering major. (Same with Dartmouth, actually.) She doesn’t even want to visit.


Ironically, the reason Amherst exists at all is because of the desirability of the location relative to Williams. A disagreement about that led to Amherst’s founding (the story goes, in the middle of the night, with half of Williams’ library and professors…)

@citymama9 For my D, being in a sorority was something that she was really looking forward to as the “sisterhood” concept really appealed to her. The way Bucknell’s sorority recruitment appears to work is that you apparently can only get one bid and I believe pretty much everyone who rushes ends up somewhere (which is a good thing) and my D indicates that there really is a place for all types. The stress for her involved several factors: 1) rush did not go the way she expected so she ended up not in the particular group that she initially saw herself in (and that’s OK, and had more to do with self-image/concept, but it was a blow to her confidence). Ultimately, she likes many of the women in the sorority and it has ended up being a decent fit. 2) she is an incredibly busy person involved heavily with theatre, dance productions, has two on campus jobs, etc. and finds it stressful that she can’t attend many/most of the sorority activities due to her schedule. So not only can she not participate as much as she would like, she also gets hassled by the sorority leadership for not being involved enough/getting enough “points” for sorority activities and there was talk of her not being able to go to formals (turned out she was able to go, but still), and 3) she has to pay for her own sorority dues so spending $800 of her own money for the year when much of the time she can’t participate in the activities anyway is kind of a bummer (but important life lesson in prioritization). So in many ways, the stress is really about her rather than the Greek system per se. She also wanted to be part of the mainstream social scene at Bucknell and that’s Greek life.

@momofzag Thank you so much!!

I think Bucknell can move up, but I don’t think it will be in that elite top 20 group . . .but not sure that’s even desirable so long as they are thriving financially. I think the location is definitely a barrier to attracting some students. The transportation situation could be pretty brutal if you have to fly.

Bucknell really has a unique market positioning having a strong business program and an excellent engineering program in the context of a small liberal arts college. The business school is going to be a College of Business shortly which will raise the profile. It’s hard to find smaller institutions (with all that means for students) that do business/liberal arts or engineering/liberal arts hand in hand (believe me, I looked for both sons - - it’s definitely not prevalent). I think this unique market position will keep them well situated for years to come.

Personally, I think the Greek life is as much a draw as it is a detriment . . .a lot of mid-Atlantic privates and NYC/NJ privates are feeders for Bucknell, and a lot of those kids are interested in Greek life. The remote location really is a hindrance to easy access to other types of off campus social activities, so I think getting rid of fraternities and sororities would be a huge mistake for them. Colgate is similarly situated I believe with a very active Greek life (and also quite rural). I guess Williams is a successful exception, but I think their reputation (which takes years of branding to build and maintain) is completely different and has been very selective and more intellectual.

It seems to me that the overall vibe and marketing of a school draws certain types of kids to it, and different schools can stake their claim amongst different types of kids and still all be successful. To me, Bucknell seems to target smart (but not necessarily brilliant), energetic, happy/fun-loving kids with leadership potential who want to work hard, play hard . . .obviously there are some students who will fit other descriptions, but every time I visit, I’m struck by the warmth of the student body and the confidence of the young adults who go there. Not sure that’s a bad niche to have. I do think they could work on building their reputation further afield . . .which it sounds like they are doing. That’s probably a key step.

But the schools that really move up in the rankings are gaming them in some way. Northeastern. Tulane. I mean “gaming” in the best possible sense . . .they see what drives the rankings, they make strategic plans that will help move them up the list, and because students select based on rankings/selectivity, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. That seems smart to me. But not sure it is necessary to be in the top of the rankings heap to be financially successful. My sense is that Bucknell has a very loyal and committed alumni base which may be equally important.

Very interesting discussion here. It’s not until my S actually started college that some of the more subtle differences among schools became clear to me. I was really first gen to go to school, so my parents (and I) thought ANY 4 year school was a stupendous achievement to attend. And I loved Bucknell.

My S is there now and I think he is getting a terrific education. I do wonder if he’d have enjoyed a school with a different vibe more, but when he was choosing schools, he (correctly) ruled out big institutions and urban schools - they were not at all a fit for him at 17. He also didn’t think he wanted to go more than a certain number of miles away. Of the schools he considered (Lafayette, Lehigh, F&M, etc) I do think they are similar to Bucknell in that they are “work hard play hard” and Bucknell seemed the more rigorous for his academic choices.

I love the current president and I think he is doing great things. I can also vouch for the alumni base being extremely devoted and that has been influential in my life more than one time.