In my recent visit of liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania, Elizabethtown College (E-Town) was the first stop. It is a campus with just under 2000 students, 85% of which live on campus. Elizabethtown (the actual town) has about 12,000 residents and a nice college-town feel with shops, bookstores, restaurants, and coffee houses. The campus is close to Harrisburg and Hershey and with an Amtrak station nearby students are just a few hours from New York or Washington DC.
E-town is just down the road from the Mars Chocolate manufacturing facility. Many days the sweet smell of cocoa permeates campus. Students call these “chocolate days.” Unfortunately, the wind from the other direction can bring smells from area farms, so “chocolate days” can be alternated with “cow days”!
Our group of counselors was invited to a reception at the college president’s home. He lives a block or two from campus and students are frequently invited to dinner at his home. Lots of professors live in the town and as my student guide shared, it is common for professors to meet students outside of class or office hours to talk.
I spoke with a science professor who said he chose to come to Elizabethtown College because he gets to make an impact with his students. He had previously worked at a more prestigious university, but felt there was more pressure to research and publish than to teach. At Elizabethtown he found a better balance and feels the campus is really dedicated to learning and teaching. Throughout my visit, I found students and faculty who said teaching, learning, and doing are actual priorities not just marketing ideas designed to draw students to campus.
Elizabethtown College Campus Focus:
- Personalized attention and relationship-centered learning. The student to faculty ratio is 12:1 and the average class has 16 students. Students feel their professors know them and their goals and really push them to succeed. This is the type of school were a good student can become a great student.
- Graduation. The university is looking to enroll graduates not just first year students. Admissions and financial aid seek to help enroll students who are prepared and able to finish four years. Once students enroll, academic programs are in place to encourage success.
- Real world learning. 86% of graduates had an internship, study abroad, or research experience at E-town. This is not a campus where these things are talked about to impress potential applicants but not actually promoted among the student body.
- Employment. You may wonder if liberal arts graduates are competitive in the market. Elizabethtown grads are doing well in this economy. The survey of the last graduating class found 74% were employed full time and 26% were in graduate school. They attribute a lot of their success to the real world experiences students have.
Elizabethtown College Academic Programs:
No matter what programs students enter at Elizabethtown College, they will learn how to think, communicate, write, and adapt to the demands of their field. Freshmen all participate in a First-Year Seminar (FYS). Each FYS has a specific theme and involves interactive activities such as field trips, guest lectures, plays, and films; students are exposed to opportunities in the area. FYS professors serve as first-year advisors, so students receive regular guidance and help with their academic goals from a professor who knows them well.
Instead of fulfilling a long list of required “basics”, E-town students select course from 8 areas of understanding:
- Power of Language – 2 classes
- Mathematics – 1 class
- Creative Expression – 1 class
- Western Cultural Heritage – 1 class
- Non-Western Cultural Heritage – 1 class
- Natural and Physical Sciences – 2 classes
- Social Sciences – 1 class
- Humanities – 1 class
Students could fulfill these eight areas in one year and quickly get into advanced classes in their major.
Because all freshmen will take the seminar and courses in these eight areas, it is fine for students to enter E-town as “undecided”. The reality is that many students change their majors multiple times from senior year of high school when they apply until they ultimately graduate. The way Elizabethtown College structures its academic programs and advising makes it easy for students to experience different fields and receive informed guidance in selecting the major that is right for them.
Elizabethtown College Admissions:
Admission to E-town is on a rolling basis. Application review begins in mid-October and the goal is to send a decision three weeks after a student applies. There are some competitive programs with a December 15 deadline, so check for your particular major.
In general, well-rounded students do well at Elizabethtown College. The admissions office is looking for a good match in
- Co-curricular activities
- Social and personal style (integrity, work ethic, interest in school, persistence, etc.)
Ideal students will match E-town’s campus climate and will have the ability to think on their feet and effectively communicate with strong writing skills.
- In 2012– 3,732 students applied; 2,598 were accepted.
- 32% of admitted students were in the top 10% of their high school class. (This means that there is still room for you at E-town if you are a good student, but not in the top 10%!)
- Average SAT scores are 1030 – 1230 (reading + math)
- 88% of freshmen return for their sophomore year – a good retention rate!
- 21 of the applicants were valedictorian or salutatorian
- Over 50% of first year students are offered merit scholarships
- The financial aid budget is $28 million
- Students in the top 10% or with a 3.5/4.0 from a non-ranking school do NOT need to send SAT scores for admission (but they can help for merit scholarships)
Who would like E-Town:
Elizabethtown College is right for good students who are looking for a school where they will receive personalized attention and opportunities for real world learning. Students who earned A’s and B’s in high school and want to be involved in college will find opportunities here. (The largest student organization on campus is E-Motion a dance group, that performs all styles of dance and is open to all students, regardless of dance training or talent.)
Students looking for undergraduate programs in Occupational or Physical Therapy will like E-town’s strong programs and opportunities for early admission to graduate programs. It is one of the few schools where students take their first Occupational Therapy classes freshmen year. The 3-3 Physical Therapy Program allows students to study Biology for three years at Elizabethtown then continue for three years at Thomas Jefferson University and receive a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.
I got a good feeling from the campus. Students I met were happy. They felt there was a good balance between academics, activities, and social life. I said this before, but Elizabethtown is one of those colleges that will take a good student and turn him or her into a GREAT student. I only wish it were closer to me, so I could get more students to visit.