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28 N College St, Carlisle, PA 17013

(717) 243-5121


Dickinson College

Dickinson College

Dickinson is a premier four-year residential liberal-arts institution chartered in 1783 and widely recognized as a leader in global and sustainability education. We prepare our graduates to face the world’s challenges so they are always equipped and eager to collaborate with others to make an impact.

An Undergraduate Experience Like No Other

We want to know who you are, what you have accomplished and to what you aspire. When you come to Dickinson, we give you the freedom to discover whatever it is you’re passionate about, get hands-on and go with it.

Why Dickinson? Why not? Dickinson is seeking curious, fun, intellectual students to help write the next chapter of our exciting history. We are known for excellent programs in the sciences, humanities, arts, and social sciences. A high percentage of students studying abroad. An excellent liberal-arts education in preparation for engagement with the major issues of our time. And a mermaid.


Dickinson College was created explicitly for high purposes- to prepare young people, by means of a useful education in the liberal arts and sciences, for engaged lives of citizenship and leadership in the service of society. Founded by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the college was chartered in 1783, just days after the conclusion of the American Revolution with the specific purpose of preparing the citizens and leaders who would ensure the success of the new democracy. It was to offer a distinctively original form of American education - one that was rigorously rooted in the traditional liberal arts and was, at the same time, innovative, forward-looking and ultimately useful. It was a revolutionary education designed for a revolutionary age.

As we face the challenges and complexities of the 21st century, Dickinson continues to seek direction from this revolutionary heritage within a contemporary context. A Dickinson education prepares its graduates to become engaged citizens by incorporating a global vision that permeates the entire student experience, creating a community of inquiry that allows students to cross disciplinary boundaries and make new intellectual connections, and encouraging students to be enterprising and active by engaging their communities, the nation and the world.

Dickinson offers a liberal arts education that is distinctive in purpose and approach. Our founders intended Dickinson graduates to use their liberal arts education as a powerful agent of change to advance the lot of humankind. We expect no less today.


SIGNING IN/SIGNING OUT: Each year, new Dickinsonians gather in front of Old West's venerable stone steps. Literally etched with history and scuffed by centuries of students, those steps are part of Dickinson's most important traditions. During Convocation, new students walk up the steps, through the doors into Memorial Hall and sign into the college. The doors of Old West symbolize Dickinson's connection to its past and a gateway to the future. At Commencement, the graduating class walks out the doors and down the steps, symbolically exiting the college and entering the world of alumni.

SEAL: In the summer of 1784, as the college's founders discussed the formation of the college, Benjamin Rush and John Dickinson were asked to create a suitable seal for the institution. The resulting seal consists of an open bible, a telescope and a cap surrounded by the inscription "Pietate et Doctrina Tuta Libertas," a Latin phrase meaning "Freedom is made safe through character and learning." The open bible represents freedom of access to religion. Similarly, the cap, modeled after the liberty cap of the Sons of Liberty, symbolized independence of political activity. The telescope indicates earnestness in intellectual endeavors. Watch your step! Legend has it that if a student treads on the college seal embedded in the middle of Britton Plaza, he or she won't graduate.

GLOBAL STREET SIGN: Instilled with an international spirit by Dickinson's founder Benjamin Rush, the college was destined from the beginning to be a leader in global education. Rush advocated the teaching of modern languages and the integration of an international perspective in the curriculum. By the mid-1960s, Dickinson had alumni living all over the world. With a vast, global network, Dickinson created a truly internationalized campus. The directional sign located in front of Old West shows these global connections by pointing to Dickinson centers around the world.

MERMAID: As Benjamin Latrobe designed Old West on Dickinson's campus, he was instructed to include a cupola for a bell. After consulting his text on Greek architecture, Latrobe decided to model the cupola loosely on the Athenian Tower of the Winds. To further this association, Latrobe ordered a likeness of Triton, the fish-tailed mythological god of the sea, to be placed atop the cupola as a weathervane. It was the ensuing confusion of the local coppersmith that provided Dickinson with its most famous icon. The coppersmith crafted instead the only fish-tailed human with which he was familiar—a mermaid. The mermaid quickly captured the heart of Dickinson students and inspired a series of legendary pranks. For more than 100 years, students would steal the mermaid from its perch and, after a time, return it for the benefit of future classes. During this series of friendly heists, Dickinson's president at the time decided to remove this battered but priceless relic from the cupola for its protection. The original mermaid is now on display in Dickinson's library while a replica has taken its place on Old West. Dickinson's theatre troupe, the Mermaid Players, fashioned its name after this famous campus icon.

TAKE A SEAT: There are several spots on campus that are known as gathering places for Dickinsonians. The red Adirondack chairs, a highly visible part of the campus landscape, are never in the same place from one day to the next. Students move them to a quiet place to study alone, classes arrange them in large circles for active discussions and friends put them side-by-side to sit and watch life on campus. Another popular outdoor space is Morgan Rocks, a natural rock formation in the residential quad that is the perfect meeting space. Indoors, the cushies are the plush, comfy couches in the main area of the Holland Union Building. Students can be found there at all hours, in large and small groups, either relaxing, studying, holding a meeting or just watching the passersby.

NOBLE DICKINSONIA!: Alma mater written by Horatio Collins King, Class of 1858, who also wrote, "Dickinson for Aye!" and "Those Lovely Carlisle Girls." The first verse of lyrics, sung at major college events are:

Alma Mater, tried and true
Noble Dickinsonia,
Oft our hearts shall turn to you,
Noble Dickinsonia,
How each ancient classic hall,
Fondest mem'ries will recall,
Sacred is each gray old wall,
Noble Dickinsonia.

HOMECOMING & FAMILY WEEKEND: Homecoming & Family Weekend is an annual event that brings together the Dickinson community for a few days of fall fun. Homecoming also is a time for the current student body to boast their latest advancements in academia and athletics. Festivities include the Red Devil football game, lectures and presentations, tours and receptions and family friendly entertainment.

FOOTBALL FEUDS: The Dickinson Red Devils and the Franklin and Marshall Diplomats began their football rivalry in 1889, when teams traveled by horse-drawn wagons. The Conestoga Wagon is a golden model that has been exchanged between the longstanding rival teams since 1963. Theirs is the longest, most active rivalry in the Centennial Conference. The battle for the Little Brown Bucket, which dates back to 1892, occurs between the Gettysburg College Bullets and the Dickinson College Red Devils. The mahoghany bucket trimmed in sterling silver was donated in 1939 by Gettysburg and Dickinson trustees.

BENJAMIN RUSH: Dr. Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the foremost American physician of the 18th century, is founder of Dickinson College. He called for a Dickinson education to be bold and "forward-thinking" for a resourceful nation. He was passionately revolutionary and fought for important causes. He is considered the founder of battlefield medicine and dentistry in America, and he argued for the humane treatment of the mentally challenged and established the first free mental-health clinic in America. Rush fought against slavery and advanced the education of women. He is considered the father of American psychiatry and was the country's first professor of chemistry. A statue of Benjamin Rush is among the landmarks featured in Dickinson's historic triangle--the cross-section space created by Old West, the Stern Center for Global Education and East College. A reminder of the past, the statue also plays a part in current campus traditions, and students frequently garnish the statue with colorful streamers or apparel to celebrate important events such as Spirit Week or Commencement.

DEBATE AND HONORS SOCIETIES: The first student organizations at Dickinson College (and among the first in America) were two literary societies, Belles Lettres Society (est. 1786) and Union Philophical Society (est. 1789). The societies served as forums for political debate. Student life in the 19th century revolved around public debate and exhibitions that were hosted by both societies, and the societies regularly challenged each other to debate. The official red and white colors of Dickinson College emerged from the societies' symbols. Belles Lettres adopted a red rose, while Union Philosophical chose a white rose. Today, both societies remain active on campus in addition to 130 clubs and organizations that have emerged during Dickinson's 225 years of history. Honor societies are an important part of the Dickinson experience for some of our most engaged students. The college boasts a connection to prestigious national honors organizations such as Phi Beta Kappa, but also features its own societies including Raven's Claw, founded in 1896 for senior men, Scroll and Key, a local society recognizing service, leadership and personal character, and Wheel and Chain, an organization honoring senior women. Members are tapped each spring through special ceremonies.

JOHN DICKINSON'S LION: John Dickinson, the college's namesake, shed his family's aristocratic past by refusing to have a coat of arms in America. He extracted only one of its icons as a symbol-a lion. A priceless piece of the college's history, the lion, in the form of a marble sculpture, traveled everywhere with John Dickinson and was probably present while he drafted the Articles of Confederation. Today, the lion has watched over several classes of graduating Dickinsonians at Commencement and often appears at the college's signing in ceremony.

Student Life:

As a residential college, Dickinson has a four-year residency requirement, meaning that all full-time enrolled first-year, sophomore, junior, and senior students are required to live in college housing and participate in a college meal plan. As an integral part of the out-of-classroom experience, students living in College residences will increase their cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal development and complexity. 

Dickinson students participate in more than 100 student-run clubs and activities, including music and drama, publications, fraternities and sororities and religious, political, special-interest and community-service organizations.

Intramurals and Recreation at Dickinson offer students the opportunity to participate in activities that promote physical, social and emotional wellness. Students can have fun competing against fellow classmates during intramural sports; be a member of a sport club; stay fit with our fitness offerings; or be part of other exciting recreational opportunities that enhance their student experience.

Dickinson students from all disciplines work at the highest level with distinguished faculty in the arts. They polish a sonata in Rubendall Recital Hall, revise a poem in an East College seminar, exhibit paintings in the Goodyear Studios, curate an exhibition in The Trout Gallery, rehearse a scene at Mathers Theater or choreograph a dance at The Site. The arts are the creative core of the liberal arts at Dickinson.



Red Devil / Green Devil
Dickinson's Red Devil mascot emerged in 1930, when the football team played a tough game against George Washington University. Because of their show of grit and spirit against a superior team, a Washington writer from the Public Ledger dubbed the Dickinson team "the Red Devils." Students took to the name, and a mascot emerged. Many years later, as campus sustainability became a hot topic at Dickinson, another mascot was developed-the Green Devil. One might call him the Red Devil's environmentally conscious cousin.

Dickinson College today:

Dickinson College offers 43 majors plus minors and certificate programs, independent research, internships and Army ROTC. Pre-professional programs and articulation agreements in business, engineering, health and law.


Dickinson College has 2,370 full-time students enrolled, with 44 U.S. states and territories and 46 foreign countries represented.

Famous graduates:

Jennifer Haigh (born in 1968) is the author of FaithThe ConditionBaker Towers and Mrs. Kimble, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. Her short story collection News From Heaven won the Massachusetts Book Award and the PEN New England Award in Fiction. Haigh's short stories have appeared in The AtlanticGrantaThe Best American Short Stories and many other places.

James Buchanan (born April 23, 1791) was the 15th President of the United States. Serving as president during the run-up to the Civil War, Buchanan's inability to halt the southern states' drive toward secession has led most historians to consider his presidency a failure. Buchanan was the only U.S. president from Pennsylvania, and the only one to remain a lifelong bachelor. He died in 1868 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Interesting facts about Dickinson College:

Chartered in 1783 by Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a prominent Philadelphia physician, Dickinson was the first college established in the new United States of America.

To date, 209 student-athletes have been named All-American.

Dickinson offers one of the most respected off-campus study programs, and more than half of the students study in more than 40 programs in 24 countries on six continents.