- Class: Junior
- Major: Neuroscience
- Gender: F
- High School: Rye Country Day School
- Transfer Student: N
The first thing anyone will tell you about Barnard (if you ask someone more official than a student) is that it is a college devoted to empowering young women. This is certainly true, but I dont generally find it to be something that gets rubbed in my face the way you think it might be. From a more student-based perspective, some good things: -discounted tickets to movies and broadway shows -midnight breakfast (the night before exams start, in the gym in Barnard Hall, a HUGE* breakfast is served from 11:30 to 1am) -its a good size. I went to a school where there were 90 kids in my grade, and I was slightly nervous about being able to find my own niche here. Because its not an overwhelmingly large school, its relatively easy to settle in. The campus itself is kind of small (especially now because of the construction going on), but the Columbia campus is right across the street which has a lot of open space to relax. There are also a few parks near by if you want to leave campus without having to go too far away. -its in NYC. you'll never be bored. ever. there is always something to do no matter the time of day or year. this also means that Barnard feels less like an all female college, so it kind of takes away from "oh my god, too much estrogen" feeling that I would imagine you get from attending a women's college in the middle of no where. personally, without a big city like this, I would go crazy. -no core curriculum. thank god. if I'm paying an arm, a leg and my first born child just to be here, I had better be able to pick my own classes thank you very much. barnard just has general education requirements (See below). Not-as-good-things: -I feel like the administration (deans, the bursar, housing people, I'm just going to lump everyone together under the heading "administration") oscillates between being very helpful and as inefficient as possible. generally speaking, housing will screw you over fairly regularly, but this applies to any college (anyone who tells you differently is lying to your face). Here I am speaking of the housing PROCESS though, as in how you go about getting a room after freshman year. its never fun and it always sucks. this is a universal rule, I suspect, and really its an every-man-for-himself situation (or woman as the case may be). outside of housing, things can take a while to process, and while I'm not on financial aid, I've heard that the financial aid office has the same sort of polarity going on in terms of how useful they are. -While the food here isnt terrible, the meal plan is kind of annoying. Its definitely better to get as many points as you can, but for whatever reason Barnard points dont work at columbia, where as columbia dining dollars (their equivalent) work here. Basically its designed for maximum confusion and all around annoyance. Get a meal plan your first year because its required, but after that just open a dining dollars account at columbia instead so you can eat wherever you want. -there is construction going on right now on campus because they're building an enormous student center (I suspect this is some sort of "mine-is-bigger-than-yours" competition going on with Columbia), and while I'm sure it'll be nice when its done, for now its just bothersome. Funny anecdote about the student center: The last name of the woman who donated the bulk of the money to build the student center is Vagilos. One of the proposed names for the student center was "The Vag". I wish I was kidding. When they were celebrating her donation and the student center on Spirit Day, they had the name Vagilos constructed on this big wooden frame, and then sparklers and fireworks went off all around it. This has spawned a number of speculations as to whether there were will be libraries devoted to Kant, and if the new cafeteria will be called the Va-John-Jay (john jay being the columbia cafeteria). Talk about perpetuating a stereotype...
Barnard classes will range from being very large to very small. In larger classes, whether or not a professor knows your name will depend on how much you talk to the professor and how thoroughly you go out of your way to make yourself known. Barnard is the type of school where help and attention will be given to you if you want it, but it wont just be offered spontaneously. Professors here expect that you'll ask if you want something and have no intention of babying you. If you dont come to class, no one will care (unless its a smaller class, in which case the professor might get annoyed), its your own decision and its up to you to decide how good of a student you want to be. I think this is true of college in general really. Your grade is determined in large part by how hard you're willing to work. As this is an intellectual campus, you can expect to talk about more than just the weather with your fellow classmates. Columbia and Barnard students really like protesting, so there is plenty of opportunity to discuss current events or things you learned in class in an ouside-of-class setting. On a similar note, class participation is fine for smaller classes, and is encouraged in seminars, but in a big lecture, not quite as much. If you have something intelligent to say, then fine, but if you are going to regale the class with a story about how intuitive your 3 year old cousin is, and how this relates to Freud, I assure you wholeheartedly that no one cares, and you will be generally hated for telling irrelevant anecdotal stories in class (again, this applies to all colleges. shut up in lecture unless you have something intelligent to say or unless you are going to ask a question. those of the not-obvious variety are preferred, but not required). General education requirements: known as "the 9 ways of knowing" (knowing you're educated? knowing you're a barnard graduate? i dont know, but they're 9 ways that you know). Instead of saying "you must take class XXXX", barnard gives you categories and asks you to take a class that fits into that category. no worries, its not a narrow pool to choose from. Example: for those of you that hate math, a class in logic satisfies the quantitative reasoning requirement. there are ways of getting around the stuff you dont like to do. Specific to me: I can really only speak for the science side of Barnard, being premed and a neuroscience major, but I generally find that students are competitive in a more subtle way. Science majors tend to be a bit more... aggressive in terms of work ethic. The neuroscience department isnt a real department, by which I mean it doesnt have its own faculty. As far as I can tell, the Bio and Psych departments had a play-date and the Neuro department was thus created. This creates a bit of difficulty when you're signing up for required classes for your major, because labs have to accommodate more students, but there arent enough lab sections made to do this efficiently. That said, I'm really glad there is a neuroscience department. Psychology wasnt rigorous enough for me, and I got really quickly bored in the upper level classes I took (this is just my craziness, dont think that this should reflect badly on the Psych department), and neuroscience is a really nice balance between the psychology and biology that interests me. Barnard has also recently made a big push to get women as involved in science as possible (largely due to the lack of women in the science community). Needless to say, a lot has been invested in the science labs and classes, so you can expect that the labs and equipment will be of good quality. Work load: A guess a lot by some people's standards, but considering the type of student that goes here, its certainly manageable and by no means unreasonable. There is a lot more work that goes into sciences, but I suppose I'm a bit biased in that regard. I dont considering being asked to read a novel a week or to write a few papers a semester to be exceptionally rigorous. One thing that surprised me a little is that the majority of classes will not have lots of little assignments. I took a class my first semester here in which the grade was based on a midterm and a final, each of which was 50% of the final grade. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but it isnt that bad.
Barnard has a really diverse student body. Again, this is coming from someone who went to a prep school with 90 kids in which I made up one of the 1.5 hispanics in my graduating class, so I'm not sure what other people might think. To me its certainly diverse. People here are from all sorts of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, and while this may not be Lesbian College as many of my male friends like to imagine, there is certainly a prevalent gay community. The downside is that there arent a lot of boys, seeing as there are barnard girls AND columbia girls on campus. Its not too too hard to meet guys though. Just dont expect to meet tons through your classes. You have to join clubs and put a little more effort into it. There are also a good number of international students here, and I've found that a lot of students are from the New York area.
The Best Things
There are so many opportunities here, and I've made some of my closest friends during my time here.
The Worst Things
After a year of eating in the dinning hall, you will never be able to go back.