Dickinson College: Excellent Academics, Friendly Campus & Very Progressive!

Since so many prospective students & their parents look to the most recent rankings to assess the quality of a particular College or University, I just wanted to share our experience with one of these high-ranking LACs: Dickinson College in Carlisle, Penn. Folks, you can absolutely trust the numerous positive reviews of Dickinson found in Fiske Guide to Colleges 2018, Princeton Review’s Best 382 Colleges 2018, USA Today’s College Rankings (via College Factual) 2018, etc. Our D had high expectations (as did we, her parents) before enrolling there & she has not been disappointed. The academics are equal to the Ivy League and Little Ivies, the campus environment is extremely welcoming and friendly, and the administration is compassionate as well as forward-thinking! They are very much in touch with global events & international studies, not just by lip service (as some other high ranking LAC schools turn out to be…) but true to form.

There are so many activities and events going on at the beautiful limestone campus nestled in the valleys of the nearby Appalachians that our D has never once been bored! If anything, she has a hard time not joining all of the interesting clubs and groups going on throughout the semester.

The students we met on campus are intellectual and engaging, while also being down-to-earth in so many great ways (and definitely NOT pretentious). Your daughter or son is welcomed from the very beginning and has opportunities to not only study from outstanding faculty in various fields and subjects but also do externships and field work in their first year. Our D, for instance, is studying Psychopathology from a Professor that has also done a great deal of research into the field of eating disorders. And our D says the lectures are always engaging and stimulating. And apparently, this isn’t unusual. Students say they are challenged academically, but it is doable & there is a lot of support, if you just ask!

Finally, in terms of costs: Dickinson reports that it meets at least 99% of demonstrated need & that was proven in our specific case! We were very worried about aid packages when our D decided to apply there early, but the College offered her the same package she would’ve received if accepted in the regular decision group. The College expects undergrads to take the reins of their studies and do their best to learn and excel, but there are also support systems when a student is feeling overwhelmed (such as around midterm and final exam times).

The most recent ranking in USNWR dropping the College down from its place in the top 40 or 50 LAC schools surprised a lot of students and parents! But we think after consulting with others, the survey team at US News may have made a mistake in Dickinson’s profile and data. This happens all the time & will likely be resolved in the 2019 USNWR College Rankings!

Okay, I’m a Dickinson parent, and this is a little over the top. It is a strong school academically, but it is also ranked around #50 (give or take, given the year) among LAC colleges. Don’t get me wrong, Dickinson was a great fit for my kid. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dickinson, was challenged academically, and was really happy there. But my kid wasn’t within sniffing distance of an Ivy for acceptance, and your classroom experience at college is a combination of the professors and fellow students. Just… don’t go too crazy. Because it makes the rest of the post less believable.

Intparent: I respectfully disagree, but I’m very glad to hear about how well your D did (and sorry she wasn’t able to get accepted into an Ivy League school, if that was her ambition).

Moreover, have you actually seen or compared real graded work that students have to complete at the college for their coursework along with other schools – even Ivy’s and Little Ivy’s? Well, I HAVE. And not in just a single major or with a single college. This has provided surprising but very, very useful comparison information on educational offerings at the National LACs.

I also teach at the college level and have been lucky enough to gain some insight into what’s expected. So I do stand behind what I wrote & do not feel it is “over the top,” as you argue. Still, you are entitled to your views and experiences as well & I value ALL feedback to my posts … even – and perhaps, especially – those that take a counter-argument.

(p.s.: In terms of rankings, you wrote about a single number from USNWR 2018 and this may not be accurate. In order to assess a college or university, you are better off considering several sources and comparing those over time. In the case of US News, in case you’re interested, Dickinson College rankings as a National LAC have always been strong: Last year it was 41, the year before 40, the year before that 37, the year before that 45, and so on. These are available to everyone & go all the way back to at least the year 2000 in the case of Dickinson, when it once again ranked in the top 40! So you provide one number, while I provide several to explain my views which, I feel, is a major difference in our perspectives and evaluations. Endowments and money matter, especially alumni giving, in some of these rankings so if endowments are down for whatever reason, it is reflected in statistics. Also consider profiles from Barron’s 34th American Colleges 2018, as well as the others I already cited above.)

I also want to add that Colorado College in Colorado Springs has a fantastic Block Plan that is intense but works very well for students who like in depth study and research into an area! The College also has a hugely renovated Library, which it needed badly; and seniors are able to access their own private study correls there. I have heard people criticize the block plan, saying that it’s less well-suited to subjects that need longer intervals for study. However, I would disagree with this statement. When a subject matter warrants a longer period of study, it often is extended into a second block which offers more time and instruction in the materials – not unlike the quarter system. And like Dickinson, Colorado College is deeply committed to its strong academics, to maintaining and respective a vocal, concerned and liberal social environment & to supporting all of its students.

It does meet 100% of demonstrated need, as it says in its publications, with some merit aid options. Colorado Springs is not as safe as some other college towns & cities – like Carlisle, PA – but it is still within walking distance of the gorgeous campus nestled in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado & offers many interesting places for undergraduates to visit (for dining, shopping, even reading and sipping coffee)!

Rankings aren’t the whole picture, either! Too many parents pressure their kids to go to colleges and universities based on rankings, which I think is very unwise. They also belittle other schools because they erroneously think rankings determine whether a school is “good” or “bad.”

I am an alumna from a highly ranked university (Northwestern University in Evanston, IL) and while I loved my experiences there, I KNOW my D is getting as strong an education as if she were at NU. She is challenged in her first year studies as well as getting opportunities for field work in the community right away! The expectations of her professors is just as high as at NU & she cannot hide in the back row because it’s not a 300-plus lecture hall.

Try to be a little more grateful, “intparent,” for what your D was able to achieve in the States in higher education! Not everyone gets those opportunities, even if you and she wanted something more.

Wow… defensive much? No school is perfect. My kid didn’t “want more” – in fact, Dickinson was her safety. She attended with good merit aid and had a great experience.

I’m truly not trying to be defensive, “intparent.” But I hear a lot of people “poisoning the well” on a specific school just because it wasn’t their dream school or their child’s. That’s what I’m saying. Hope this clarifies better!!

Anyone who has been out here for long knows my kid was happy and successful at Dickinson. I often recommend it, and answer threads and PMs from students and parents with questions about it. Dickinson was the lowest ranked school my D got into, and she picked it because she liked it as well as the higher ranked schools she got into, and got great merit aid. So “poisoning the well” really isn’t a valid accusation. Trying to give people a realistic view of the school – that is a role I’ll happily claim.

Wow - did you really mean that @lovesoldbooks? If you’re trying to make a point about how lovely and friendly Dickinson is, throwing out a zinger like that isn’t going to help your cause.
I’m going to agree with @intparent here and to quote a famous play “the lady doth protest too much”

@wisteria100 That quote came to my mind as well LOL!

And I have to agree with @intparent that Dickinson is a great LAC and a wonderful choice for a person who finds it to be the right fit That does not make it an Ivy equivalent. IMO it demeans the post to feel a need to compare Dickinson to other universities-- it is more meaningful to simply appreciate the school for what it is.

For full disclosure my D went to a different LAC and had an equally wonderful experience. I do think that fit is hugely important in choosing the right LAC – each one we visited (including Dickinson which we did like) seemed to have a distinct vibe, distinct strengths etc.

Wisteria100, happy1 and intparent: Please, please don’t misunderstand or misinterpret my posts!! I don’t think rankings matter one iota, wisteria100!! Maybe you do, but I don’t. I went to Northwestern University many years ago & enjoyed it. But I have many friends who went to public universities that were not as highly ranked (like Northern Illinois) and they received as strong an education as I did at NU. What gets on my nerves is when people like “intparent” have a great opportunity at a school in the States – something many students would LOVE to have but who can’t afford an expensive school like Dickinson – and then she turns around and PUTS IT DOWN because it isn’t ranked higher now. Her D is already out of college and many other young people will be considering these LACs. Why poison the well, folks, for others! Two or three of you here are making a colossal case out of a really nice, good post I put up & I am getting very offended by that!!!

All I can say is that I like A LOT of liberal arts colleges and universities! I have friends who have gone to all different places and we’ve ALL had opportunities to get great educations – even if I got to attend a “higher ranked” university than they did. It doesn’t matter! You get out what you put into it, regardless of external rankings. It sounds to me and to others here like “wisteria100” and “happy1” that “intparent” has been posting A LOT here about her D’s experiences but instead of celebrating all her good fortunes at Dickinson, she puts down my post praising them.

The OP may just be saying that people worldwide would love the chance to attend a school like Dickinson. And I agree with that.

@lovesoldbooks If you read @intparent post there is nothing but praise for Dickinson. It is completely inappropriate to be name calling. And IMO it is a disservice to compare Dickinson to an Ivy League school (which it is not) and I’d suggest that instead of creating these types of comparisons that it would be better to focus on bringing Dickinson’s many excellent qualities to light. Nobody disagrees with your opinion that Dickinson is a fine LAC.

This seems to have just turned into a circular discussion. College Confidential is not a debate society, and nobody is not saying that Dickinson is a fine school, so I see no valid reason to keep open.