Smith College


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

Fulbright Scholars

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.

Information Summary

Ranks 17th in Massachusetts and 140th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 94.1
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $72,701
Admission Success rate N/A
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 9 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 93% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 2,903


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 departmental honors.

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 cogeneration system.

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 all students.

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


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Smith College :: Smith College


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,, or directly at

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 Midyear Report.

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 admitted.

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 degree.

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.

First-Generation Students

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.

Financial Aid

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

Ranks 6114th for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in Massachusetts.


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 personal lives.

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.

Get Involved

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.

Tea Time

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 soon forget.

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.

Rally Day

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.

Candlelight Dinners

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 women’s athletics.

Commencement Weekend

Ivy Day

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.

Illumination Night

The night before commencement, only colored paper lanterns light the campus, and students reminisce about their time at Smith.

Commencement Weekend

Parents, 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.

Prominent Grads

  • Julia Child, ’34, Magazine Writer, Cookbook Author, Television Personality, Entrepreneur
  • 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 Filmmaker
  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh, ’28, Author
  • Sylvia Plath, ’55, Author
  • Gloria Steinem, ’56, Activist, Author and Politician

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