While a number of women’s colleges have begun admitting men or become absorbed
into coeducational universities, Smith College has grown into the largest independent
women’s college in the country. In 1871, Sophia Smith founded the school to provide women
with a liberal arts education as rigorous as the curricula of esteemed all-male institutions. In
her will, she bequeathed her $400,000 inheritance so that women’s “power for good will be
incalculably enlarged.” Today, Smith is one of the nation’s preeminent liberal arts colleges. Its
roster of more than 60,000 alumnae are leaders in government, film, medicine, and academia, and the
Northampton school counts First Ladies Nancy
Reagan and Barbara Bush among its alumnae.
Smith sits on a 125-acre campus at the center of
a town that enjoys a vibrant cultural scene. Though
Northampton boasts a population of just 30,000, it
offers many of the amenities of a major city like Boston,
which is 90 miles to the east. Moroccan, Thai, Indian,
Spanish, and Italian restaurants line Main Street,
which bustles with activity, especially on warmer days
and nights. Venues like the Pearl Street Night Club and
the Calvin Theatre draw crowds from across the
Commonwealth to sit in a cozy performance space and
hear Bill Cosby’s stories, Ani DiFranco’s candidness, or
Ray Lamontagne’s soul-influenced sound.
Follow Main Street uphill, past the various clothing stores, salons, bookstores, and jew-
elry shops, and you’ll come across the Grecourt Gates, erected in 1924 as a memorial to the
Smith College Relief Unit who rebuilt ruined villages in France during World War I. The women
refused to leave the war-torn country until they completed their mission. Similarly, the gates
symbolize the responsibility of being a Smith College alumna, armed with the breadth of a liberal education and prepared to throw one’s energies into world progress.
But the gates at the top of the hill invite the community to experience Smith, too. The
scenic New England campus changes character with each season. Every fall, when New
England bursts with sharp reds, yellows, and greens, students may hear a bell ringing at the
Helen Hills Chapel signaling one day off from classes to enjoy the peak foliage by apple picking, picnicking, or hiking with housemates. On a cooler day in November, the administration
dismisses afternoon classes to honor Otelia Cromwell, Smith’s first known African-American
graduate. Musical events, films, and workshops commemorate the event, which intends to
address racism in a diverse and multicultural environment. On Election Day 2004, Lani
Guinier, the first female tenured professor at Harvard Law School, delivered the keynote
address titled “Race, Exclusions, and Political Elections.” It was a timely lecture in which
Professor Guinier’s explanation of the political process helped ground the audience with the
weight of another close election.
Between the first and second semesters, students enjoy a six-week-long winter break—
an opportunity to work part-time or try out a new discipline in the classroom, through an internship or as a volunteer. Students may return to campus during the break, called Interterm, to
enroll in extracurricular courses such as savvy socializing or bhangra. Others will opt for stricter
lessons in a foreign language and in topical areas like “Changing Native American
Representations in Film” or “The Unsung Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.” With fewer students on campus, housemates often veg out and drink cider by the fireplaces in common areas.
When students return to campus in January, layers of snow blanket the ground, and the
once Ivy covered buildings are coated in white. Sledding becomes a predominant sport, as does
skating on Paradise Pond, a body of water in center campus surrounded by hiking trails and redwood trees. The shallow pond becomes a center of campus activity in the spring with canoes
and boats floating on its cloudless waters and joggers circling the natural paths. Professors
often eschew the nineteenth-century brick buildings to hold class on green grass outside.
By commencement, a new generation of Smith alumnae leaves the familiar campus
cycle to apply their interdisciplinary skills to new neighborhoods and workplaces. All Smith
students, who fondly call themselves “Smithies,” look forward to this momentous occasion
when they can share Smith with their closest family and friends. Students work hard and cultivate strong friendships with their housemates, professors, and staff. Smith alumnae all share
a bit of regret in having to leave what has been their second home.
A popular bumper sticker reads, “It’s not a girl’s school without men, it’s a women’s college without boys.” It resonates with students less because it’s catchy than because it fits.
The first time I saw Smith was as I was moving into my house, days before I
would begin my first semester. Sitting in the backseat of my family’s minivan, I
watched my father follow the signs to Smith College, driving down exit 18 off
Interstate 91. We arrived at an antique shop, a car wash, and an abundance of trees.
I thought I had made a huge mistake. But as we drove closer to campus, more and
more cafes, bookstores, theatres, and restaurants appeared. Main Street bustled
with activity, and I received my first glimpse of Northampton’s lively social scene.
Soon, we were driving along the college campus, whose manicured lawns and aged
brick buildings presented a weighty sense of history and import. This was a community that had much to offer, and I was excited to begin my career there.
It’s difficult to capture Smith through writing;
it’s a place whose nuances, charms, and pleasures
require first-hand experience. The close relationships
with professors are only known through classroom
interactions and office hour visits where confusing
passages or mathematical formulas are explained.
Smith is a place where a particular grade still has
meaning, and students work hard to become successful leaders in their academic and extracurricular lives.
But one’s personal life is cared for too. Not many people can say they practiced the piano in their house living room on weekends, or sipped tea with their housemates in front of the fireplace. At Smith, the entire
person is nurtured, challenged, and encouraged to
Every year, the U.S. Department of
State gives out the Fulbright award, a
scholarship that supports student projects and academic endeavors in foreign
countries. Smith has consistently
ranked among the top liberal arts
schools in the country to turn out
Fulbright Scholars. In 2005–2006, Smith
boasted the best success ratio in the
country and topped the nation’s list of
bachelor’s institutions producing students for the esteemed international
exchange program. Seventeen of
Smith’s thirty-eight applicants taught
English in South Korea, Germany, and
France, while others engaged in academic research in countries including
Italy, Nepal, and Bolivia.
Smith professors and students are often on a
first-name basis. That’s because most classes are
small, allowing professors to take an active interest in
their students’ academic development. The average
size of an introductory lecture, which can include
hundreds of students at a large state university, is just
twenty-four at Smith. These classes are taught by
actual professors, not graduate students. The average
size of a regular class includes sixteen students, and
a laboratory class includes thirteen. In the smaller
learning environment, students receive more personal attention, even when they are just beginning to
explore a discipline.
Smith’s open curriculum allows unlimited
choices. There are literally hundreds of interesting
and challenging courses at Smith, so students navigate their course of study with the help of a faculty
advisor. When a student arrives for her first year,
she is assigned a premajor advisor, who guides her
through her course selection and helps her choose a
balanced and varied curriculum each semester.
Advisors make sure their students meet certain curricular guidelines such as enrolling their first-year
students in a writing-intensive course of their choosing. Once the student has decided upon a major,
sometime during her sophomore year, she chooses a
major advisor within that department to guide her
through her course selection for the rest of her
Smith career. Advisors check that their advisees
complete sixty-four credits outside their major and
between thirty-six and sixty-four credits in their
major. Distribution requirements are necessary for
Latin honors eligibility. Students need 128 credits to
graduate. They must also maintain a minimum of a
2.0 GPA in all academic work including during the
senior year. A thesis is required to be eligible for
Besides keeping their students on track to graduate, advisors are great resources for information on
internships, fellowships, and study abroad. Nearly half
of the junior class studies abroad for at least one
semester in countries including Italy, France,
Germany, Switzerland, India, Japan, Russia, China, South Africa, Peru, Brazil, and Spain. After
being away, students often return to Smith eager to catch up with their friends and share stories of living abroad. Some students opt to study at another university during their junior year,
and may take advantage of cross-registration with the area’s five colleges. Another option is to
spend a semester in Washington, DC, either conducting research at the Smithsonian
Institution through a program administered by the American studies department, or studying
public policy in the Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington Program for government majors and
those with the appropriate social science background. Students also may enter an exchange
program with historically black colleges, other liberal arts colleges, BioSphere2, or an engineering degree program offered with Dartmouth College.
Smith has an outstanding offering of courses in majors including biochemistry, Afro-American studies, and East Asian languages and culture, not to mention the opportunity to
double major or design one’s own major. Typically, the three most popular majors are government, psychology, and art, but with so many disciplines to explore, students are encouraged to
expand their field of knowledge by taking courses in subjects they may know little about. There
is no core curriculum at Smith, and half of a student’s overall credits must come from outside
of her major. Therefore, interdisciplinary education is not only encouraged; it is the essence of
a Smith education.
In 1999, Smith launched the first engineering program at a women’s college in response
to a dearth of women engineers and the school’s ongoing commitment to providing new opportunities. The engineering major is attracting a growing number of students. In spring 2007,
Smith broke ground on Ford Hall, a 140,000-square-foot science and engineering facility that
will be on the edge of campus. Students, under the tutelage of architects and mechanical and
electrical engineers, designed elements of the facility, such as a unique combined power and
The engineering program attempts to redefine traditional engineering education by
marrying an engineering education with traditional liberal arts. In 2004, the first class of engineers—twenty women who represented thirteen states and two foreign countries—graduated
and entered engineering programs at Harvard, MIT, Michigan, Dartmouth, Cornell, Princeton,
Berkeley, and Norte Dame. Two received highly competitive National Science Foundation fellowships for postgraduate study in engineering at any U.S. university. And several had positions
waiting for them at national firms in fields including information systems, finance, and construction management.
While Smith is a challenging environment, there are supportive services available
such as counseling and tutoring in every subject. There is a reader service for the blind,
and numerous services for students with learning disabilities, including note taking, oral
tests, readers, books on tape, reading software, voice recognition, tape recorders, and
extended-timed tests. Also, free and unrestricted wireless Internet access is available to
Besides the numerous opportunities at Smith, students may also enroll in courses at the
area’s five colleges, a great way to learn more about a particular field, meet professors, and
make friends at the other schools. It’s also a great way to learn more about the community and
gain a different perspective of the Pioneer Valley.
I didn’t realize what a great asset a liberal arts education would be upon
graduating from college. As a journalist, I have to know something about everything. Although completing internships has helped me perfect my writing and
reporting skills and gain professional experience, my interdisciplinary education has occasionally been a competitive advantage against undergraduates
who have studied one vocation.
Most Popular Fields of Study
Smith’s application materials compare with those required of any similarly ranked institution. The college uses the Common Application exclusively and strongly suggests prospective
students submit it on-line, an attractive offer considering the application fee is waived. The
application may be accessed through the college’s Web site, www.smith.edu/admission, or
directly at www.commonapp.org.
Although some schools no longer require standardized test scores, Smith does.
Prospective students should submit scores from either the SAT or ACT. However, the admission
committee reviews a number of qualifying information, and a comparatively low SAT score, for
example, isn’t an obstacle to gaining admittance. The average combined SAT score for the
2005–2006 first-year class was a 1300 (based on 1600), with an average of 660 and 640 on the
verbal and math components, respectively.
Taking a closer look at the standardized test scores of the 2005–2006 entering class
shows just how varied a group they were. On the SAT verbal section, thirty percent of students scored above a 700, thirty-eight percent scored between a 600 and 700, seventeen per-
cent scored between a 500 and 599, and just eight percent scored below a 500. In math, eighteen percent of entering students scored above a 700, forty-three percent scored between a
600 and 700, twenty-five percent scored between a 500 and 599, and just seven percent
scored below a 500. With only twenty-seven percent of the entering class submitting ACT
scores, the scores yielded an arguably smaller range, with fifty-three percent scoring above
a 28, thirty-seven percent scoring between a 21 and 28, and ten percent scoring below a 21.
Besides the Common Application, and test
scores, prospective students are required to submit a
School Report, including a guidance counselor’s recommendation and official high school transcript. The
GED is accepted, too. Prospective students should
also present two Teacher Evaluation Forms and a
Regular applications are due by January 15 for
fall entry, and notification is sent by April 1. Early
Decision applications, which include a commitment
form, should be filed by November 15. The college
sends a notification to those applicants on December 15. The 2005–2006 first-year class
included 164 Early Decision candidates. Of 531 applicants on the 2005 waiting list, 120 were
For transfer students, the admission committee requires similar criteria, except
more emphasis is placed on the student’s college record. Between 2004 and 2005, ninety-one transfer students enrolled at Smith. Once admitted, they were expected to successfully complete at least two years of academic work on the Smith campus for the bachelor’s
Finally, Smith is a diverse community recruiting and enrolling hundreds of international students. In a recent year, some 180 international students enrolled. These applicants must
take and submit their scores from the TOEFL, the Test Of English as a Foreign Language, and
the SAT or the ACT, if their language of instruction is English.
By applying to a smaller school, a prospective student can rest assured that the admission committee will review her entire application, and not just focus on the numbers.
Important factors in the admissions decision are Advanced Placement or honor courses, recommendations by school officials and the student’s leadership record. If admitted, the student
will find herself among a group of intelligent, and highly qualified women. Among the
2005–2006 entering class, sixty-one percent of students ranked in the top tenth of their high
school graduating class.
Furthermore, Smith highly recommends students complete four years of English, two
years of history, and three years each of math, science, and a foreign language. SAT Subject
Tests, particularly in writing, are strongly recommended, as are personal interviews either on
campus or with a local alumna, a great way to put a face to the college, especially if a candidate is unable to make the trek to Northampton. If the prospective student can visit Smith,
however, the college offers regularly scheduled orientations, including student-guided tours,
four times a day between Monday and Friday when school is in full session, and on Saturday
mornings between September and January. On-campus interviews may also be scheduled during these times. During most of the year, information sessions are offered twice daily. There are
guided tours available for informal visits, and visitors may sit in on classes and stay overnight.
To schedule a visit, contact the Office of Admission.
As a senior in high school, I had received a number of informational packets from Smith, but I didn’t think that single-sex education was for me. However,
after spending my freshman year at a large state university and becoming disenchanted with the cliques that seemed more appropriate in high school, I decided that I should apply to Smith, and see if an educational environment among
women would be a better fit. I was somewhat nervous about transferring to a
school where my class would have solidified friendships during its first year
together, but the Smith community welcomed me and assured me I made the
right decision. Today, as an alumna, I have no regrets about spending three
rewarding and challenging years at Smith College. I just wish I gave single-sex
education a chance earlier.
Among the students who entered Smith
in the fall of 2006, a record 22 percent
were first-generation students, those
from families in which neither parent
has earned a bachelor’s degree. That
year, Smith received a historic number
of undergraduate applications—3,427—
and enrolled 696 students. Of those,
150 are first-generation college students. Smith guarantees to meet the full
financial need, as determined by the
college, of all the admitted students.
At a celebration the day before commencement exercises, Esi Cleland, a member of the
class of 2006, delivered an address that expressed her gratitude to Smith alumnae for generously contributing to a scholarship that covered her entire Smith education. Cleland, who was
raised in Ghana, said that her parents’ combined total income was less than $13,000. A Smith
education for one year is almost four times their earnings.
“Clearly, without the generous financial aid award, I would not be here now,” Cleland
told nearly 1,000 Smith seniors, alumnae, and members of the campus community.
A Smith education may come with a heavy price tag—$43,200 for combined tuition and
room and board for 2006–2007—but the college offers need-based aid, and most students are
receiving it in some form. Every year, sixty percent of all full-time students receive some form
of financial aid. The average financial aid award in 2006–2007 was big—$32,035. Need-based
scholarships and need-based grants averaged $21,665, the maximum being a full award.
There is available money for students in need, so applicants should not feel priced out of
a Smith education. Cleland, for example, had never braved a New England winter. Funding from
the Smith Student Aid Society enabled her to buy a winter coat. Moreover, a summer travel grant
permitted her to travel to Germany to conduct biophysics research, and a Praxis stipend, offered
to students who elect an internship funded by the college, allowed Cleland to further develop her
interest in physics. Through that internship, Cleland coauthored a paper with a leading physicist
and was invited to deliver an oral presentation at a medical imaging conference in San Diego, a
trip Cleland afforded through a Smith College conference fund.
Students can obtain even more financial assistance through need-based self-help aid,
such as loans and work-study jobs. If a student requires a non-need-based award, Smith has
offered awards and scholarships that averaged $3,460. That generosity has continued. For the
class of 2009, sixty-five percent of students are receiving some form of aid, fifty-five percent of
them receiving need-based aid. The average Smith grant was $21,665.
“I wouldn’t be standing here if I didn’t think that my achievements illustrate to a large
degree what many of us have learned and accomplished because of the generosity of Smith
alumnae,” Cleland told the audience.
“Vince Lombardi once said that luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity,”
she continued. “It seems to me that every time we have been prepared, Smith has met us
halfway by providing us opportunities.
The average financial indebtedness of the 2005 graduate was $25,023. Unlike some private schools, Smith guarantees to meet the full financial need, as calculated by the college, of
all admitted students who meet the published admission and financial aid deadlines.
Prospective students should file for financial aid by February 15 for fall entry. The CSS
PROFILE or the FAFSA are required, as are copies of the student’s and parents’ most recent
tax returns. Once an applicant submits her aid application, she may track it on Smith’s
Banner Web using a PIN number. Check the school Web site, or contact the Office of
Admission directly, for other forms of financial aid and financing options.
Student Financial Aid Details
The range of social options at Smith can be
multiplied by five, said Cristina Jacobs, a 2006
graduate. Web sites such as the Daily Jolt and
Five Colleges post a range of events at the area’s
five schools. Students can attend a football game
at the University of Massachusetts—Amherst, a
popular Halloween party at Hampshire College,
an art exhibit at Mount Holyoke, or a lecture at
Amherst College. A range of cultural, athletic,
and social events awaits students at the other
schools, assuming they can tear themselves away
from campus life at Smith.
There are more than one hundred student organizations on campus including academic, arts, cultural heritage, and language
groups. The Student Government Association,
of which every student is a member, supports
the projects and programs of the numerous
organizations. There are religious groups that
provide transportation to area churches, and
political action groups that attend rallies and
conferences across the state. A capella groups often
perform during Family Weekend in October. The
weekly student newspaper, The Sophian, publishes
the latest news at Smith and in Northampton.
There’s always an event to attend or a group to join.
Students seem to balance rewarding academic and
Smith also offers state-of-the-art facilities,
including a new fitness center, an indoor and outdoor
track and tennis courts, two gyms, a climbing wall, an
indoor swimming pool with one- and three-meter diving boards, two weight-training rooms, squash courts, and field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, and
softball fields. There is a performing arts center, a concert hall, and dozens of practice rooms
with baby grand pianos for music students.
Living in a house, and not a dorm, is an important and delightful aspect of the Smith experience.
Every house, whose communities’ range from 12 to
102 students, unites people from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. There’s housing for non-traditional-age students, and an apartment complex
for a limited number of juniors and seniors. For students with disabilities, seventy-five percent of the
campus is accessible, and there are services such as
on-campus van transportation, an adaptive technology lab, and specially equipped restrooms available.
Most students live on campus, and they are guaranteed housing for four years.
First-year students choose an area of campus
to live, which dictates the type of community they
will enter. For example, the houses on Green Street
and Center Campus are some of the oldest. Between
forty-three and seventy-one students live in each
house, which are in close proximity to center campus. The Quadrangle, which students call “The
Quad,” houses the most students. These houses,
three- and four-story red brick buildings, are about a
ten-minute walk from center campus, and house
between sixty-two and one hundred students. Some
bedrooms provide a view of Paradise Pond, or the
green courtyard where commencement is held every
year. The largest number of Smith houses is on the
edge of campus on Elm Street. These houses, which
are a short walk to center campus and downtown
Northampton, range from former inns and
boardinghouses to large brick buildings created
specifically as Smith residences. They range in size
to accommodate from twelve to eighty students.
Houses often host their own social events for
the campus community, such as parties during Spring
and Winter Weekends, which are designated each
semester, and events for their own community, such as
senior wine and cheese. Every house also holds tea, an
opportunity to unwind at the end of the workweek, eat
delicious treats, and catch up with housemates.
Student organizations represent areas
including art, chess, choir, chorale, chorus, computers, dance, debate, drama,
ethnic connections, film, gay life, honors, international relations, literary
magazine, musical theater, newspaper,
orchestra, photography, politics, professional concerns, radio and TV, religious,
social, community service, student
government, symphony, and yearbook.
Unfortunately, life after Smith does not
include tea every Friday afternoon. I do
have fond memories of gathering in the
living room with my housemates and
watching television talk shows, doing
arts and crafts, listening to a guest
speaker, or just sitting in front of the
fireplace eating pumpkin bread and
sharing the details of our workweeks.
Tea was a luxury, and an element of
my college experience that I won’t
Food and Dining
No matter where a student lives, she
can dine in any of fifteen dining rooms
on campus. Students can choose
between Indian, Thai, and Mexican food
on some nights. There’s a vegan and
vegetarian dining room as well as one
serving kosher and halal meals to meet
students dietary needs. All meals are
prepared on-site, and residential students are on a full board plan, which
entitles students to eat breakfast, lunch,
and dinner six days a week. On Sunday,
brunch and dinner are available. All
meals are served buffet-style to accommodate busy student schedules. The
exception may be Thursday dinner,
when some dining rooms offer a family-style meal to which students can invite
faculty or staff members.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
Smith is an NCAA III Division school
with one of the largest athletic programs for women in the country. Smith
offers fourteen intercollegiate sports:
basketball, crew, cross country, equestrian, field hockey, lacrosse, skiing,
soccer, softball, squash, swimming and
diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball; twelve club sports, intramural
activities, and individual instruction in
more than twenty activities.
The evening before the first
semester’s classes begin, all members of
the Smith community, including the faculty,
dressed in caps and gowns, gather in John
M. Greene Hall to listen to an opening
address and a performance by the Glee Club.
Students have a day off
from classes to honor distinguished alumnae
who are awarded Smith College Medals by
the president. The day also marks the first
time the seniors publicly wear their graduation caps and gowns. In recent years, however, the caps have been replaced by inventive
hats of the students’ choosing, and often of
their own creation.
On Thursdays, students enjoy a
candlelit dinner, a delightful tradition
where students often invite faculty
guests to enjoy family-style dining.
The Smith Mascot
The first women’s collegiate basketball
game was played at Smith in 1893,
which pitted the classes of 1895 against
1896. The score: 5 to 4, class of 1896.
Today, the name of the school’s athletic
teams—the Pioneers—attempts to
express the same spirit of leadership in
On the day before commencement, alumnae escort the seniors in a
parade around campus. Then the
seniors plant and ivy vine for the class,
a visible symbol of the connection
between the college and its graduates.
The night before
commencement, only colored paper
lanterns light the campus, and students
reminisce about their time at Smith.
friends, and seniors gather in the Quad
to hear a distinguished speaker—in
2006, it was U.S. Representative Jane
Lakes Harman—and observe the awarding of diplomas.
Smith instills a sense of purpose and social engagement that encourages each graduate to make a difference in her profession and community. Smith students enter numerous
fields such as engineering, journalism, nonprofit work, and government. Over the years, Smith
women have earned distinction as Pulitzer Prize winners, attorneys, political columnists,
environmental researchers, film directors, physicians, venture capitalists, and more.
To help students as they enter the workforce,
the Smith Student Aid Society offers seniors one time
grants of up to $200 to assist with the expenses associated with interview travel and clothing, graduate
and professional school applications, required
entrance exams, and Fine Arts portfolios.
The Career Development Office (CDO) serves
as a vital resource for all students in navigating their
job search, learning successful interview strategies,
and keeping abreast of career fairs and other opportunities. It’s never too early to visit the CDO, and stu-
dents are encouraged to drop by their first year. The
office’s services include individualized appointments,
drop-in sessions, internship and summer planning,
and graduate/professional school planning. Before
graduating, students may even send their recommendation letters to the CDO, which will keep the letters
on file until the student requests a copy.
- Julia Child, ’34, Magazine Writer,
Cookbook Author, Television
- Harriet Doerr, ’31, Writer
- Margaret Edson, ’83, Playwright
- Betty Friedan, ’42, Writer.
- Thelma Golden, ’87, Curator
- Meg Greenfield, ’52, Journalist
- Molly Ivins, ’66, Columnist
- Ann Kaplan, ’67, Businesswoman
- Yolanda King, ’76, Actress, Producer-
Director, and Lecturer
- Lauren Lazin, ’82, MTV Producer and
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh, ’28, Author
- Sylvia Plath, ’55, Author
- Gloria Steinem, ’56, Activist, Author