Dickinson vs. Denison

My daughter is deciding between two pretty similar LACs, Dickinson College and Denison University. She received the same merit aid offer from both. She has visited both campuses but is still trying to make a decision. If anyone has any insights or experiences with either one of these schools we’d be interested. Thank you.

Can you tell us a little bit about your daughter?

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She’s a very quiet, diligent, hard-working student. Interested in potentially studying psychology. Not at all into partying and although we live in the South (NC) she was not at all interested in the big southern schools, with greek life. She is open minded and leans toward the democratic side politically, but is still fairly moderate. She went to a cliquey high school and wants to get away from that atmosphere. Not sure if that helps.

Seems like a better fit for Dickinson in almost every dimension from what I have researched. I recommend you visit the school-specific boards.

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Based on your description, I think Dickinson seems a better fit.

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I can’t comment on Denison but also believe that Dickinson would be an excellent fit for your daughter.

I’m a known Denison supporter, but also have several very close relatives and friends who had great experiences at Dickinson. Plus, Dickinson would have been a close contender for my Denison kid if the Dickinson coach had given him the nod, so I feel like I can be pretty unbiased.

There’s a reason my Denison kid really liked Dickinson – because there is tremendous overlap between the schools. Overall campus vibe at each school is kind, open, caring kids. Both have greek life, both have strong sports, plus a lot more happening on campus. For Denison, the something more is strong focus on performing and fine arts, whereas for Dickinson, the something more is strong focus on international/global engagement. Sorority involvement at both schools is about the same, from what I understand, so someone who is not interested in it would have a similar experience at each school. Sports at each school is pretty similar – great facilities and strong culture for those interested, pretty much irrelevant for those not interested. Both schools, as best I recall, are the only LACs where 1st year dorms did separate kids by gender – Dickinson by floor and Denison by hallway, different from the more typical “let the kids decide which bathrooms are multi-gender.” As a parent, I’m impressed by Denison’s commitment to career development – really impressive work happening on campus and strong ties to internships, connections with Columbus.

To make a decision, perhaps focus on logistics like ease of travel to campus, majors, gen eds etc. No wrong decision here, congratulations!

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Thanks to you all for the helpful responses. I’ll pass along some of this information to my daughter to assist her in the decision. Interestingly, it looks like both schools received a record number of applications this year. I’m hopeful that this is an indication of a trend recognizing the value of a liberal arts education. Thanks again.

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I think it is a trend recognizing the good work those schools have been doing to beef up their academic offerings/focus and career results, especially in the popular pre-business area.

Is the record number of applications this year at Denison posted someplace. Interested to read more about this? Did they hint where the acceptance rate for 2026 will end up?

The Director of Admission Drew Riley posted on Feb. 1 that Denison received over 12,000 applications this year, topping last year’s record high of 9,500. Their marketing and YouTube videos are very impressive.

Dickinson also had an increase in applications

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Dickinson saw over 8,000 applications, leading to a 35% acceptance rate.

I would believe that both schools had a relatively similar acceptance rate this year, with Denison likely leaning closer to a 30% acceptance rate. Both are great schools.

Have you visited? If you have already, have you visited again (post-decisions)?

I think she would fit in at either. Dickinson is a little more rural and outdoors-focused, but Carlisle is still within a few hours of a significant portion of the Eastern Seaboard—if that’s of any desire. I prefer Dickinson’s location over Denison’s—but the town of Granville (and Denison’s campus) is gorgeous.

Dickinson has a large focus on global issues and education. Renowned study-abroad programs, connections to D.C., and well-established social science programs are some of the standouts at Dickinson. The natural sciences and humanities are strong, too, but both Dickinson and Denison don’t really have any significant “edge” over one another.

Truth be told, I’m a tad biased, since I was admitted to Dickinson’s C/O 2026 (I didn’t apply to Denison). But personally, I would consider visiting both schools before making a final decision.

On a more personal note, I’ll likely be in Carlisle sometime this April for a visit. If you do head up to Carlisle—well, we just might cross paths!

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Leadership at Denison is intentional and coherent – the college understands its strengths and values, and builds on those. I’d say Denison values a cross-cultural college/diverse campus life – students engaging “across difference” rather than staying in their “silos” – and continues to build on the opportunities afforded by being so close to Columbus (take a look at Denison Edge in Columbus). It does a great job communicating that a liberal arts college education prepares students for their adult lives.

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https://blogs.denison.edu/optionalessays/2022/02/01/application-review-at-denison/

Yes, Denison places a high value on applicants’ personal qualities and students who can engage across difference. They also have Global Commerce and Global Health majors.

If Denison has the same yield as last year given the increase in applications their acceptance rate will fall from 28% last year to ~20% for the current year. It will be interesting to see where the final number actually lands.

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We were just at the admitted students day. They didn’t say the exact number but said it was their most competitive year yet. Based on a few things that were said, I got the feeling that the acceptance rate may be in the low 20s or possibly teens.

The weather was truly awful this weekend although they said that is not typical. They did a great job with the program. I wish we had held off and went in later April.

My daughter also got into Dickinson so we will be checking it out soon as well. Unfortunately, we can’t attend their upcoming admitted students day. I wish they had more options.

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You said there is a tremendous overlap between these two schools. What (in your opinion) is the main difference(s)? Would both or one of or neither be a good option for premed student?

We went to an open house at Dickinson several years ago. One aspect that stood out was a program that had just started, Ethics Across Curriculum. Whether it is a Stem Major or Social Science, ethics should guide the work. We found this particularly compelling.

I think both are excellent options for a pre-med student – small classes, good science facilities, summer funded research opportunities on campus. I think both schools recognize the value of developing interdisciplinary academic programs.

One difference may be location/accessibility of opportunities. Denison continues to strengthen its connections with Columbus, which is a booming city with major health care centers, including Nationwide Children’s Hospital. So students can take advantage of a wealth of internship, shadowing and other opportunities. While Carlisle, PA is a bigger community than Granville, Ohio, Harrisburg is the nearest metro area and I don’t think it would offer the same opportunities as Columbus, both in terms of accessibility and depth. Not controlling, but flying in and out of Columbus is very easy, the airport is 25 min from campus.

Another consideration might be that Denison’s national reputation – deservedly – continues to grow, because the senior leadership, starting with Pres. Weinberg has a clear vision and implements it effectively. Denison also has a larger endowment, by about $500 million, with about twice the dollars per capita, than Dickinson, and recently completed a fundraising campaign which raised over $240 million. It very much feels like a school that has not tapped its full potential yet. Acceptance rate last year was around 28%. My Denison-boosterism is showing, so I’ll stop.

As I’ve said, we have family members and good friends who had great experiences at Dickinson, and my kid is a well-launched Denison grad. There is no wrong choice here, just different flavors of excellent.

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