Is Bucknell University Ivy League? Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

The Ivy League calls forward images of centuries-old buildings full of hallowed halls where generations of the world’s best and brightest students have come together for the sake of knowledge. 

Thousands, if not millions, of high school students each year apply to that select group of universities for the honor of calling them home.

Bucknell University has educated students for more than 170 years and has a reputation for providing high-quality instruction on a picturesque campus. Situated on 450 acres in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Bucknell is a private, co-ed university along the Susquehanna River that offers 65 undergraduate majors. 

But it is best known for its College of Engineering, where students can study several more specific engineering subjects. 

Students come from across the country and from more than 40 countries to study at this quaint but influential central Pennsylvania school. 

Many now-famous faces have earned degrees from Bucknell through the years, such as media executive Leslie Moonves, “Gilmore Girls” actor Edward Herrmann and billionaire Kenneth Langone. And the university is selective when it comes to adding to those ranks.

Thanks to its academic power, beloved campus, and many other positive qualities that have earned it high spots in college rankings, Bucknell can hold its own compared to the Ivies. 

Below, we break down what it means to be Ivy League, where Bucknell fits in, how it ranks, and getting accepted to this small but mighty university.

Is Bucknell an Ivy League School?

Bucknell University
Dbl228, Academic East Bucknell University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Bucknell is not an Ivy League school, although it has many of the hallmarks of one.

The Ivy League – Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, Penn, Cornell, and Princeton – consists of private universities that have been around for centuries in most cases, educating everyone from founding fathers to presidents to award-winning scientists. 

With many famous faces among their alumni and the prestige that comes with a diploma from an Ivy League school, admission to them is much sought-after. 

But students can get an Ivy League-quality education at Bucknell along with a more personal educational experience. 

With more than 3,700 undergraduates, Bucknell has a smaller enrollment than any of the Ivy League schools, and its undergraduate student-faculty ratio is 9:1.

Many of the university’s 350 full-time, tenure-line faculty members have made names for themselves in their respective fields, putting themselves in the same categories of success as many of their Ivy League counterparts. 

Among Bucknell’s full-time faculty members, 99% have a doctorate or equivalent terminal degree, and their superior instruction clearly makes a difference in their students’ lives. 

In the class of 2020, 94% said they had “successful outcomes” – such as being employed or preparing to attend graduate school – within nine months of getting their degrees. And the mean starting salary for that class’ graduates came in at a whopping $61,948.

Why is Bucknell Often Confused as an Ivy League School?

Founded in 1846 – nearly two decades before Cornell University – Bucknell is one of the country’s older schools. 

Despite some notable differences, it’s not unheard of for people to believe Bucknell belongs to the Ivy League. 

The university has so many similarities to the Ivies that it was even identified as one of the “Little Ivies” in a 2016 Bloomberg Businessweek report

The Little Ivies include many smaller colleges, all located in the Northeast, with prestigious reputations rivaling their bigger counterparts.

One glance at Bucknell’s campus and visitors would be forgiven for their confusion about its Ivy status. 

With wrought-iron fences, lush trees, and elegant brick buildings, the Bucknell campus has many of the same features as those illustrious peers. 

The Princeton Review ranked the university #10 on its 2020 list of the most beautiful campuses in the country, and it’s a setting students clearly love – 92% of undergraduates live on campus.

Like many Ivy League alumni, Bucknell graduates have found jobs in some of the world’s best-known companies, even right out of college. 

Members of the class of 2020 are working at such businesses as Amazon, Bloomberg LP, ExxonMobil Corp., and PwC. 

Others have gone on to further their studies at illustrious law schools such as Villanova University, Ohio State, and Penn State, or medical schools including Cornell, Temple, and George Washington University.

And like the Ivies, Bucknell is a Division I school in the NCAA, competing against other top-tier universities from around the country. It attracts some of the country’s best student-athletes for their playing ability and academic achievements. 

In the NCAA, the Bucknell Bison rank fifth for student-athlete graduation rate

Bucknell University – Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More

Bucknell comes out strong in numerous collegiate rankings, often landing in the top 100 of various lists. 

Niche named it the 29th best liberal arts college in America, putting it near or below many of the other “Little Ivies” and the fourth-best liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. 

The rankings took into account U.S. Department of Education statistics about academics, admissions, finances, and student life, and reviews from alumni and current students.

Meanwhile, the university’s well-respected undergraduate engineering program came in at #7 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs at schools where doctorates are not offered. 

U.S. News went even further with its praise, naming Bucknell’s biomedical engineering program the best in the nation. The publication based those rankings on student outcomes, expert opinions, faculty resources, and other factors.

Considering these rankings, it’s not surprising that nearly 10,0000 prospective students applied for admission to Bucknell’s class of 2024. But admission is competitive, and Bucknell admitted just 37.5% of those applicants. 

Of that group, 986 first-year students enrolled at the school. And they stick around. With 92% of first-year students returning for their sophomore year, Bucknell far exceeds the national average (73.5%).

Once they get there, students have lots of opportunities for fun as well

The Princeton Review ranked Bucknell third on its “Lots of Greek Life” list and eighth among “Party Schools.” 

With an Olympic-size pool, fitness center, performing arts center, university farm, 18-hole golf course, and instructional golf facility, students have plenty of opportunities to enjoy their downtime on campus. 

But it has other things going for it, too — Bucknell has the 18th most active student government in the country, according to the Princeton Review. 

How to Get Into Bucknell University

Bucknell University
Dbl228, Cherry blossoms on academic quad, CC BY-SA 4.0

Prospective students hoping to get into Bucknell will need strong high school grades and meet other requirements, depending on what they plan to study.

Bucknell has an early decision deadline in November followed by a second early decision and regular decision deadline in January. Applicants can apply online through the Coalition or Common apps, and they must apply to one of Bucknell’s three colleges (Arts & Sciences, Engineering, or the Freeman College of Management). 

If they haven’t picked a major yet, they can select the “undecided” option. Bucknell charges a $40 application fee.

Applicants for the class of 2024 had an average high school GPA of 3.61 (out of 4.0). 

All applicants must have taken at least two years of a foreign language and at least two-and-a-half years of college preparatory math in secondary school. 

Math and science applicants, meanwhile, will need to have taken three years of college-preparatory mathematics. Those interested in the engineering program will need those three years of math plus one year of chemistry or physics and one year of pre-calculus.

Bucknell does not require applicants to take the SAT or ACT, so prospective students decide whether they want to include their scores with their paperwork. It does not require an interview, either, but applicants should expect to submit an essay where the university encourages them to “tell us your story.”

While tuition for the 2021-22 school year costs $59,474 – housing, meal plans, and other fees bring the total cost to over $72,000 – prospective students shouldn’t balk at the price tag, which is the same range as the Ivy League schools. 

Bucknell has many scholarships to help its students reduce their out-of-pocket costs, including work-study opportunities, grants, and merit-based scholarships for incoming freshmen. 

The university awarded undergraduates $67 million worth of grants and scholarships for the 2020-21 school year.

Recap: Bucknell Is Not an Ivy League School. However, It Is a High-Quality Northeast University

While not an Ivy League school, Bucknell’s long history as an outstanding educator and its position as one of the “Little Ivies” make it an appealing alternative.

Like many Ivy League schools, Bucknell embraces traditions developed in its 175-year history, from welcoming new students at a Matriculation Ceremony on their first day on campus to the candle-lighting ceremony held the night before graduation, both of which contribute to the campus’ sense of community.

With intimate class sizes, thriving student life experiences, and academics that set up graduates for success, Bucknell offers everything Ivy League schools do and more. 

Its three colleges offer majors for nearly every interest; 70 minors to further enhance their studies; study abroad opportunities, which half of the student body takes advantage of at some point; Division I athletics; and a strong art, music and theater scene. 

The university has a history of embracing diversity and equality, and that effort continues today. All things considered, graduates can walk away from Bucknell with a well-rounded experience, one that has earned the university top rankings from numerous organizations for academics, student life and more.

Alumni have had positive things to say about their time at Bucknell, too. Seniors surveyed in 2020 pointed to critical thinking, written and oral communications, and teamwork as some of the skills they developed at the university. They make up just a few of the 50,000 living alumni around the world.