Barnard College is a small, highly rated liberal arts college for women, founded in 1889. Although most of its classes are coed, only women are permitted to register for the school. Male students attend because of an agreement enacted in the year 1900, creating a partnership between the all-male Columbia University (located across the street) and the all-female Barnard College. The agreement allows both student bodies to take classes from either school, and also integrates their sports teams and student organizations.
Since that time, Columbia University has admitted women to its student body, but Barnard has remained an all female school and the women like it that way.
Barnard is a private, undergraduate institution with a small college feel. Its campus consists of four acres of attractively landscaped land, upon which 15 structures sit that combine old architecture with new LEED Gold-certified buildings.
The campus is located in a quiet neighborhood in the middle of New York City. It carries a feeling of peace and safety, and students are well protected at night. During the day, they are highly competitive and ambitious, with expectations of becoming the world’s next female leaders.
Across the street is the much bigger Columbia University. Traffic between the two campuses is so active that they almost seem like the same school. Students study together, party together and explore the city, where there are a myriad of restaurants, entertainment clubs, public events, and great shopping. A subway near the college’s entrance makes it easy for students to escape.
Barnard College has at least 80 student organizations, including cultural clubs, dance groups, and theater groups. There are no Greek sororities on campus, but there are plenty of them at Columbia, which Barnard students are welcome to join. Memberships in all clubs are open to students from both schools.
Although it can be intimidating for new students to learn the informal social procedures of the schools, there is help. The student organization, Columbia Urban Experience (CUE), introduces ways for Barnard students to meet students at Columbia, and many new students have found its services to be invaluable.
For housing, Barnard has four student dorms on campus, which surround a large square patio called The Quad. The dorms provide enough on-campus housing for 83% of its students. Most dorm rooms are fairly big, but old. The college provides a Guide to Living that describes in detail the ins and outs of living on campus. For upper level students, the college also manages several newer off-campus apartment buildings, located within two blocks of the college.
The biggest complaint of students about Barnard is that the intense competition can make other students seem unfriendly and too ambitious or self-absorbed. Some students complain that the curriculum focuses too much on liberal arts and that there are very few “hard science” or math courses, but . . . it is a liberal arts school. Students who primarily want to party complain about the hard work required, which creates a stressful, demanding environment. This is acknowledged, as well, by students who like that kind of environment. They suggest that new students learn how to balance work vs. play to reduce stress, and be sure to ask for help when needed.
Most students like it that the college aims to develop strong female leaders, encouraging independence, while still providing security. One student affectionately described peers as “high caliber over-achievers” in her review online.
Many students also like that during the first two years they are required to take subjects outside of their comfort zone. This enables them to explore topics they would not normally have considered, so when they declare a major they can really commit to it.
Freshman students take advantage of the college’s outstanding Urban New York program that introduces 600 Columbia and Barnard students, selected by lottery, to New York’s free cultural events. The program also provides sharply discounted tickets to stage shows, sporting events, and concerts in the city.
There are over 30,000 alumni in Barnard’s network. Included are the following women:
Author Anna Quindlen – Former columnist for Newsweek and the New York Times, who won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1992.
Judge Judith Kaye – Chief Judge of New York State, who recently retired (required by law) at age 70.
Digital Journalist Cyndi Styvers – recently hired as new editor-in-chief for AOL.com.
Entrepreneur Martha Stewart – Involved in the Wall Street insider trading scandal. Convicted in 2004, she recovered to again lead her Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia company in 2007.
Most Barnard students take classes at Barnard, rather than Columbia, although they could register for either. Classes are comparatively small – less than 20 students in 73 percent of the classes. This enables students to get attention easily, but carries a higher performance demand, which makes it crucial for them to keep up with assignments.
Class schedules do not differentiate between Bernard and Columbia, so students from both schools sign up for classes from both, making them coed. Barnard has a great dance department and a small, but active theater department. Political Science is one of its most popular majors.
Barnard also offers students numerous services and campus events. There is a women’s center, a health office, and late-night escort services. The Barnard Center for Research on Women is renowned for its production of conferences and panels about gender issues, feminism, and women’s rights. The school even provides political training, with hands-on student involvement in local election campaigns.
Some of the college’s annual festivals include Cinco de Mayo, the Peace by PEACE Festival, and a fun Midnight Breakfast served to students by college officials the night before finals. Then there’s Spirit Day, where students celebrate the school with a campus barbeque and projects like making a mascot bear or tie-dying a T-shirt.
Barnard College is a member of the NCAA I athletic conference. The campus has a mascot – Milly the dancing bear – and good sports facilities, but most of the sports emphasis is at Columbia University, with which Barnard’s teams are integrated. Sports embrace all types of weather – summers in New York are warm and green; in the winter, it snows. The events provide opportunities for group fun and dating year round.
Barnard is an all female campus, but women from Barnard are not limited to dating other women, although that’s always an option. Columbia men are as likely to want to date Barnard women as they are Columbia women. Options for meeting potential partners from either campus abound, with all of the exchange activities and coed classes, and the city is a great place to go for entertainment and romance.
Like any college, Barnard has a grapevine of gossip, complaints, and off-the-wall stereotypes. An unusually high number of students there refuse to eat in public, for example – they would rather eat privately in their dorm rooms. Some say that it’s harder to find students to attend theater events than it is to find girls to party with. Some have commented that Barnard has an unusually high Jewish population, and the whole campus was totally jazzed when its commencement address was presented by President Barack Obama in 2012.