Gettysburg College Pros and Cons

Hi,

I have heard mixed feedback about Gettysburg College, mostly negative though. Can I get some more feedback about what students and alumni liked or didn’t like about Gettysburg College? Thanks!

I’m not too knowledgeable about Gettysburg, but it has a 90% freshman retention rate, which is pretty good. Clearly most kids are happy to return. They are the arch rivals of Dickinson College, and I get the sense it’s a healthy rivalry. It’s a bit preppy in vibe, not a bad thing if you are preppy or don’t care about that.

I suggest you look at the website Niche, which will provide fairly accurate student reviews which are dated. If you’ve been looking at Unigo, beware, as the reviews are undated and overall, tend to be more negative.

I would also be mindful that what you might have heard about any college and the last academic year is not going to be a true reflection of campus life and the college itself. If my kids were looking for schools right now, unless it was something truly egregious, I wouldn’t hold '20-'21 against any college.

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@londondad, I may be too late responding to this thread but I’m the mother of a current freshman at Gettysburg College and thought I’d offer some feedback. My son loves Gettysburg. He has said to me multiple times, “I’m never transferring.” I think the small community suits him really well but he also likes having easy access to the town. It’s not a big city, but because it’s a popular tourist attraction, there are many restaurant options/shops/ice cream parlors walking distance to campus and more that are accessible by a free bus system. I think he’s getting a very good education, and his teachers are pushing him to work even harder.
Gettysburg was my son’s top choice when taking into consideration what our family could afford. (Gettysburg offered a generous academic merit aid package.) I did have two concerns based on reviews/rankings I’d read. I was afraid Gettysburg might have too strong a fraternity culture and, if my son didn’t rush, he’d feel excluded. I had also read that there were little race/class relations. What I’m hearing from my son is Gettysburg does have a strong Greek system but, so far, my son is enjoying it. He may not pledge but I’m sure he’ll have friends that do. (You can’t rush until your sophomore year.) I’ve also found my son’s class to more diverse than I expected, and, at least in my son’s group of friends, I think there are very positive relationships between students of different backgrounds.
It’s not perfect, but realistically no college is. His dorm this year doesn’t have AC. (I think only 2 of the 5 freshmen dorms do.) Due to staffing shortages, the food options this year have been limited. There are only 3 cafeteria options at Gettysburg. One of them, called the Dive, had to shut down completely in the fall. Also, it’s a lot of work. My son entered thinking he’d be an Environmental Science major and Music minor, but with rehearsals, labs, and their ‘fifth hour requirements,’ he may need to drop the minor. With its strong focus on academics and excellent, caring faculty, I believe Gettysburg College will rise in rankings over time, as my college–Kenyon College–did.
I’m happy to answer any specific questions about the college. I’m so happy my son found a college he loves so much; I hope your child does too!

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Thanks for this. My S22 really connected with Gettysburg when he visited (we added a Gettysburg visit last minute because we were touring schools in the general area, and my S is a history buff). I was genuinely surprised at how much he loved it. He left feeling really excited about it.

What are your thoughts re: political culture?

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Hi - My son was a freshman there and mentioned that there is a definitely that a larger population of students is right leaning…or at least they are more vocal than the middle to liberal students – and they are quite active. He didn’t find that with most of the administration though.

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Thanks for the reply

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I really want my son to consider Gettysburg (and Dickinson - thanks for mentioning the rivalry, I wasn’t aware of that!) but I’m afraid the small, quiet campuses will turn him off after the big, flashy state schools. I understand the focus is academics, but is the campus likely to impress at all?

Both are nice, intimate campuses. Dickinson is somewhat bisected by a busy road, and my personal preference is for the town of Gettysburg vs Carlisle, but we had no reservations about our son considering Dickinson. Honestly, if your son is impressed by the flashy state campus then it will be hard to compete on that basis. On the other hand, we love the small campuses and ability for students to easily walk from one class to the next. Small class sizes and the ability to really build relationships with professors sets the LACs apart from the big Us. The administration is also very approachable. So both environments have their pros.

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Different kids have different reactions to the same campus… That said, my S had a very positive reaction to Gettysburg when we toured this past fall. He went into the tour grumpy, and came out excited about applying. It was a one-on-one tour (due to covid protocols at the time) and very personalized. He also had an interview. The campus/town did not feel sleepy to him, and the tour did not have an overly academic focus. In fact, the plethora of social opportunities in a supportive environment were part of the appeal. My S is a history buff, so the historic location was of interest to him (might not interest others). I suppose it’s worth noting that my S is not drawn to a big D1 sports/party culture, so the flashy big schools have not had as much appeal as Gettysburg…

But every kid is different. The only way you’ll know, is if you visit (time and cost permitting). Good luck!

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Thank you for this response! My daughter got accepted and received a significant financial aid package. Your post reassured me about Gettysburg.

This is what scares me the most about sending my daughter there.

Yes, one of the reasons why he transferred. We live in the northeast so it’s very, very different than here. It’s a very big party school with lots of wealthy kids with not much to do other than Greek life unless you find your group (especially for boys). If you belong to one of the groups that go in early, sports, band, scholars, etc. I think those kids settle in and can develop a good core. With that being said, academics are great and rigorous, the campus is beautiful, and the food is like eating at a restaurant every night. If your child is not a partier, I would have some big hesitations.

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@aewlmom, I’m so sorry I didn’t see this earlier! As a professor said to us, the area around Gettysburg leans heavily Right. You will probably see a lot of Trump-2024 lawn signs and there are/have been a number of large anti-Biden and pro-Life billboards on the highways as you drive towards Gettysburg. The student body, and from what I can tell the faculty, is much more politically diverse. If your child is interested in politics, I can tell you my son is taking the entry level Political Science class now and loves it. He may end up being an Environmental Studies major with a Political Science minor.

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I agree with @mwcdss. If your son wants the big school feel, I’m guessing he will not be happy at Gettysburg. We love Gettysburg so much but we also know my son has friends who are very happy at Penn State and Pitt. In terms of the party/Greek life culture, Greek life does play a large role on campus but not everyone drinks or goes to the parties. I think those who don’t go to the parties, spend more time with friends in the dorms hanging out, at least as freshmen. They may go out to eat–there are a lot of restaurants to chose from–but in terms of true night life, I think the options may be limited. Someone else talked about the opportunities to arrive on campus early being a great way to make a network of friends. My son was a Lincoln Scholar and participated in the Lincoln Scholar Orientation program. He definitely had a group of friends early, although his best friends now are people he met later. If your child can arrive early, I highly recommend it!

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Hi!! I know I’m a little late. Actually as I’m writing this I’m a current freshman here. And honestly, this school is only right for you if you’re a party person and you don’t care about diversity. I Currently hate this place. That doesn’t mean that Gettysburg is a bad college. It just doesn’t fit me. For one I’m a first gen low income student from the north east. I grew up in a diverse city, and coming to this college was kind of a culture shock. Food is a hit or a miss, but the cookies are so good!! The athletic center is ok, and the dorms are painfully average. I’ve talked to some juniors and seniors, and if you’re looking to study abroad, Gettysburg is great. If you want to be in the city, do not consider this college.
Unless you know someone with a car or you’re willing to walk a mile and a half to get to a grocery store, you’re not leaving campus. With that, Gettysburg does have some nice resources throughout the campus. I do wish there were more vending mechines lol. Gettysburg’s library is also ok, it’s not the best, but it’s better than your average typical public library. On a positive note, the campus is beautiful and the professors are actually really cool! Or at least mine are. As I am still a freshman, I haven’t experienced much. Currently I am planning to transfer. I might even do it next semester, but that’s my input about this college. It has its positives and negatives. I can definitely expand on the negatives but that’s only because of my own personal issues! Apart from that, the dorms are painfully average, but so is most other colleges. If you’re looking for a place that’s kind of diverse but not really and are really into the party scene, and also want to be in a rural area, Gettysburg isn’t a bad option! It’s just not for everyone!

My oldest D graduated with a chemistry degree from Gettysburg in 2019. She is not a partier. She easily found her peeps freshman year and really enjoyed her time at Gettysburg. She especially appreciated the relationships she forged with her professors. The lab work she performed to complete her capstone project was one of the highlights in her estimation. She also did a study abroad year in England that was fantastic. That being said, Gettysburg definitely has a party side to it. I think a lot of liberal arts schools that are located in smaller areas tend to rely heavily on their Greek life for a good portion of student socializing/entertainment. On the other hand Gettysburg is also a tourist area, so unlike some other smaller LAC‘s there are plenty of restaurants, many of which you can walk to from the school. And there are other activities available in the area such as ghost tours, escape rooms, horseback riding, battlefield tours etc…. In fact Gettysburg has a well run equestrian club. There are also many activities planned for those less interested in partying. However if your preference is an urban school or a big state school with D1 football, for example, Gettysburg and many other small liberal arts schools in more rural settings will be a tough fit. As far as political leanings I’d say Gettysburg is more equally balanced than other NE LACs…there is some activism but it’s not a large part of student life (or it wasn’t when my D attended). If you want a hard left bent it won’t satisfy but my D had a diverse group of friends and the atmosphere on campus was very tolerant.

My D found the dorms varied from nice/typical freshman year (traditional double in a great location), to better with a “motel” room (sophomore year) that was a double with a private bath to great senior year with a 5 man suite with private bath and kitchenette.

A car can be a plus but chances are good you’ll know someone with a car if you don’t have one yourself and there aren’t many reasons to go off campus regularly as few students live off campus (seniors must apply for permission). The town of Gettysburg has buses that go to places like Walmart and the outlets and are free with a student ID.

For those students interested in LACs but concerned about the small towns they tend to inhabit I strongly recommend a year (or semester) abroad. It provides a nice change of scenery and culture at just about the time the town might be feeling a bit small and various campus activities a bit stale.

My D ended up deciding between Gettysburg and Dickinson and in the end the students, the beauty of the campus and the couple of professors she connected with were the deciding factors for her.

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From a parent’s perspective - my son is a Gettysburg graduate. He had a good experience.

ACADEMICS:
From an educational perspective, I felt the academics were strong in his chosen major. Can’t speak for all majors. The professors were knowledgeable, considerate and CARING. They were very approachable and available. BUT the student had to go to them. Profs did not babysit. Also lots of academic support (peer tutoring. writing center, academic coaching if needed). BUT the student had to seek it. So much better than my undergrad state flagship experience which had an impersonal mass lecture environment, unapproachable professors, and disinterested TA’s doing the smaller breakout sessions.

SETTING:
Yep, it’s rural. We toured the campus before admission. It was rural then, and rural when we returned. An untouched National Park nearby before and after he left. He loved hiking that park. As pointed out, as a tourist destination there are many restaurants and shops within walking distance of the campus. We enjoyed visiting our son and taking him out to dinner. We stayed at lovely B&B’s for Parents Weekend. Gettysburg is in rural Pennsylvania. The campus environment is very liberal but you’ll pass Trump signs on the way to it.

HOUSING:
Dorms are nothing special but very well located on campus. We toured the freshman dorms before admission. They were the same dorms when he arrived. Nothing was over-promised. Housing options got better each year as he became an upperclassman. Sophomore year he lived in an upgraded converted hotel with a shared bathroom for just him and his roommate. As an undergrad I would have loved that but I received a cinderblock over-crowded dorm at Big U. His Jr and sr year he had a single room. Guaranteed housing all four years at Gettysburg made it easy as a parent. That contrasts to my other kids at LACs who had to scramble to secure off-campus housing and the “joys” of dealing with landlords and contracts. I will say that you can make the argument that off campus housing teaches some adult lessons earlier, if you need that. The athletic center I thought was nice (even has a climbing wall) but it’s not D1 caliber and shouldn’t be.

FOOD:
Food at Servo had loads of options IMO. Again, not sure when this arms race broke out but it’s different these days. Not sure why an undergrad needs to go to a grocery store but I agree that’s not nearby if necessary. My kid never had a car, but had no problems getting a ride to Walmart for dorm stuff when necessary.

DIVERSITY: (Cultural and SES)
Gettysburg seems quirky to me in terms of diversity. Perhaps attempting too diverse a spectrum for such a small student body, and seemingly going to extremes to create such an environment. You had wildly rich kids from elite private schools and first gen poor kids from publics. Full pay students subsidizing the no/low-pay because the endowment is not unlimited. Politically you had conservative YAF Republicans and leftists socialists, and a student senate trying to deal with both bodies. My kid found friends in both camps. My kid was probably a partier (didnt ask, didnt tell) but had a close friend in the substance-free housing all years and they did plenty together. My kid did not go Greek (my other kids did), but attended Greek parties. Rich kids are going to have a better experience, same as at my other kids’ LACs. I think that’s true pretty much anywhere. The administration seems very committed to diversity but they could do better there perhaps by trying to walk before they run? Just seems like only the elite LACs with huge endowments have smooth sailing in these areas as we grapple as a society to deal with generational wealth/inequality. I will say that rich kids are exposed to poor kids and vice versa. I guess that’s the goal; and admirable. Gettysburg has a “Student Emergency Fund” to help with expenses. There were complaints it didn’t distribute enough. There is a pantry of free goods for those in need; and shared streaming logins. Gettysburg supports DACA students: Resources for students who have DACA or undocumented status - Diversity & Inclusion - Gettysburg.edu

TL;DR
Academics/professors/teaching - excellent in my kid’s major (IMO).
Location - rural but with a real nice town.
Housing - fine, functional, well-located.
Food - good. Broad offerings.
Diversity - whole spectrum represented so there’s a push/pull dynamic. Rich kids have it better.

Edit: fixed typos

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