The first women’s college in New York City to offer the same liberal arts education men were receiving at nearby Columbia University, Barnard College has continually grown to provide a solid foundation for the intellectual and social development of its students since its inception in 1889.
Whether your interests lie in the humanities, the sciences, or the arts, Barnard offers a fertile training ground for young minds and ideas. Its unique relationship with Columbia University means that students have access to a coed experience at all times, but on their own terms. It also means that the faculty and administration have as their main focus and attention the female student body, not the coed masses across the street. These scholars are experts in their fields and have immeasurable resources that they share with their students.
The college has a unique position as a small independent campus for women closely linked to a first-rate research university and located in one of the world’s major cities offers an extraordinary and unparalleled opportunity for those young women smart and savvy enough to avail themselves of it. The internship possibilities and cultural offerings of New York City are second to none, and the intimacy of the campus and student body provides a perfect home base from which to explore Manhattan.
Graduation requirements ensure that a Barnard degree means something; all students must be competent in writing, quantitative reasoning, and in a foreign language. Beyond the depth provided by a major field (from which there are about sixty to choose, or students may combine or design their own), distribution requirements guarantee exposure to the humanities,social and natural sciences, visual and performing arts as well as to a variety of cultures and
Currently, the college is offering bachelor degrees in:
Students frequently collaborate with faculty as research assistants, so it is not unusual to hear a senior describe her work with an anthropology professor, or a junior discuss her experiences in the biology laboratory. During their first two years, students receive counseling from members of the faculty and the Dean of Studies Office.
Advisors are well versed policies and regulations, working closely with the Deans’ Office and the Registrar to ensure that all students are on the right track for graduation. At the end of the student’s second year, advisors are prepared to assist with the transition into the major. From then on, students are advised by a faculty member in their major department;
a double major will have two advisors.
Partnership with Columbia
The school’s unique partnership with Columbia means that the curricular offerings of one of the country’s top research universities are available for the asking; courses in all departments are available for cross-registration. About equal numbers of Barnard and Columbia students do this, indicating a true academic parity between the two schools.
Senior Theses or Projects
Each student’s academic endeavors are capped off by a significant culminating experience, which comes in the form of a senior thesis, project, or exam in her major. Preparing for and completing this terminal work presents true challenges: The idea is that if a student can succeed in such a project, she can do it in just about any field she chooses.
Other academic attractions include joint programs with the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and various graduate and professional schools of Columbia University such as the School of Engineering, the School of International and Public Affairs, the Law School, and the Dental School. While entrance into
these programs is quite limited and often extremely competitive, the students who participate in them not only benefit themselves, but they contribute an extra degree of depth and diversity to their classrooms.
Exchange and Overseas Programs
About thirty percent of graduates participate in study abroad, whether it was for a semester or two. The official exchange programs in the United States include Spelman College and the Columbia University-Howard University Exchange
Program, while overseas programs are located in more than thirty-five countries. The Dean of Study Abroad meets with students individually and in groups, providing information and guidance before and after the experience.
Most Popular Fields of Study
Dance, theater, and musical productions abound. Two annual events are Acapellooza, an a cappella jamboree hosted by Barnard’s own Bacchantae, which features groups from the university and selected others and results in a professional-quality CD, and Broadway Tonight, a benefit performance of Broadway selections that teams up students with professionals from the Great White Way. Off stage, students provide technical support and packed houses.
Getting into this school is very competitive. The application process is the usual, including personal data, high school transcripts, official copies of standardized test scores (either the ACT or the SAT plus two SAT Subject tests), and three recommendations—one from a principal or counselor and two from teachers (preferably in academic subject
areas). To apply, students must submit the Common Application in addition to the Barnard College supplement. If the college is the student’s first choice, she may apply for Early Decision (ED); the deadline is November 15. Applicants may be deferred to the general application pool if they are denied admission. The regular deadline for application is
The admissions staff works hard to make sure that each student offered admission will thrive in her own way. The ideal applicant has a solid record, pursues diverse interests, and shows promise that she will take advantage of the breadth and depth of experiences the college and New York City will offer her.
The High School Record
The high school record is the single most important part of the application. While overall achievement is important, the admissions staff makes it very clear that they care about a student’s demonstrated effort to challenge herself in the classroom. In addition, course availability is taken into consideration. In addition, because the college expects students to study a broad range of subjects, evidence of that interest—four years of English, social studies, and math and at
least three years of science and foreign language—is very important.
The college takes pride in the amazing collective talent of its actors and athletes, debaters and dancers. Indeed, its strength comes from its unparalleled diversity—students hail from forty-eight states and forty countries. Participation and leadership in extracurricular activities—clubs, teams, youth groups, or community service opportunities—are part of
the admissions picture. Holding down a part-time job is also considered in this category, as some high school students are active contributors to their family’s overall earnings. Multiyear commitment to an activity is always a plus. A liberal arts college wants to educate students to be good citizens, not simply good scholars.
Standardized Tests and the Essay
Standardized tests scores are required as they are the one measure that can be used to compare students no matter where they’re from. Students also need to be prepared to write an essay that lets their interests and personality shine.
Unlike many schools, students are admitted on a need-blind basis, meaning that students are admitted regardless of their ability to pay. Moreover, they are met with a full-need financial aid package in keeping with the federal government’s formulas—once the Financial Aid Office has calculated the amount that a student and her family are able to contribute, it offers a package to make up the difference. Approximately fifty-three percent of the student body receives some form of financial assistance.
While students find campus activities galore, they have never-ending access to the unquantifiable offerings of what is arguably the world’s greatest city; moreover, the college tries to make the city’s offerings affordable for the usually cash-strapped undergrad. Discount vouchers to firstrun films and the performing arts supplement the popular Urban New York program, which takes students to Broadway events, opening day at Yankee Stadium, the New
York Philharmonic, and even the circus, all for the price of the subway ($4.00 round-trip). Each trip is escorted by a member of the college or university faculty or administration, providing an extra opportunity to get to know a key member of the community in a relaxed, sometimes unconventional, setting.
First-year students are clustered together in the quad, a grouping of four halls that are situated on the south end of the main campus and houses a total of about 900 students. The main dining room is located here, in Hewitt Hall, and the Quad Café is open late into the evening for that much-needed burst of energy courtesy of Starbucks Coffee. Beyond the quad, which primarily features the traditional corridor style of dormitory living, upperclass students live in suites of various configurations in seven other residence halls surrounding the main campus.
In every hall, Resident Assistants (RAs) sponsor floor programs and study breaks to foster social connections; movie nights and guest appearances by various peer education groups and speakers offer something for just about everyone. After the first year, students select their own living space through a lottery process. In addition, they may enter the lottery in groups, sometimes with their Columbia friends, for suite living on either campus. Another more competitive
option is to participate in Special Interest Housing, meaning that students come together around a theme such as Community Service, Foreign Language, or Environmental Awareness, and sponsor programs in their residence hall for everyone’s benefit. The Housing Office offers forums early in the spring semester to help explain the various options.
The amount and quality of activity sponsored by and for the college is inspiring. While the faculty and administration present lectures and readings by prominent and emerging scholars and artists, students themselves create and invite a great deal of programming. Thus, you’re likely to find both a classical musical recital and a concert by an alternative
band, with a Barnard Bulletin (a news weekly) reporter on hand to interview the talent and audience as well. The college’s radio station, WBAR, broadcasts a college/alternative format and there are traditional activities such as the yearbook and student government (called SGA), which is responsible for the eighty or so student organizations. Cultural organizations
and various other community groups come under SGA’s umbrella. That said, there are at least as many groups at Columbia, giving Barnard students the opportunity to work on a daily paper (the Spectator) or a jazz-oriented radio station (WKCR),to get involved in religious, volunteer, and political organizations, and clubs galore.
The Greek system, including both sororities and coed fraternities, is open to students who want to experience more “traditional” collegiate life. Those who take part in them tend to rave about their experiences; however, the SGA constitution prohibits groups that limit their membership and therefore does not recognize the Greek system.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
Those who prefer their thrills on a court, arena, or stadium can participate on a number of levels. Varsity athletes compete in Division I archery, basketball, soccer, field hockey, crew, tennis, lacrosse, cross-country, track and field, swimming and diving, softball, fencing, golf, and volleyball as part of the athletic consortium with their counterparts from Columbia College and the School of Engineering.
Club sports such as Ultimate Frisbee, sailing, and rugby offer unique opportunities for intercollegiate competition and
comraderie. Intramurals provide a great way to let loose, either in soccer, basketball, or even bowling at the on-campus alley.
Finally, many students work out on their own or with friends by running in Riverside Park, taking a student-led aerobics class, or swimming a few laps in the pool.
From poetry readings to film screenings, cafés and restaurants to galleries and museums, concert halls to night clubs, this
is the city that never sleeps and always has something to offer. Parades, street fairs, festivals, and impromptu concerts are year-round occurrences. Professional sports teams have crosstown rivals, bookstores have cappuccino, and there’s nothing quite like a trip to Central Park, whether it’s for a visit to the zoo, rollerblading around the Loop, or iceskating
at Wollman Rink.
Barnard women are staunch and loyal supporters of their alma mater, leading to an “oldgirl” network that spans the country and the world. Organized clubs in many regions sponsor faculty lectures and receptions for admitted students, but even more prevalent is the individual connection—the women who make themselves available to assist current students
and fellow alumnae through informational interviews, internships, job contacts, and relocation support.
Helene Gayle, Assistant Surgeon General of the United States
Justine Ventimiglia graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Currently residing in a 1950’s modest ranch in Metro Detroit, she enjoys researching and writing about Mid Century Modern furniture and decor as she works on restoring her home and documenting the process.