Barnard College - Comments and Student Experiences|
Good things about the school: some of the classes. If you want to study something liberal artsy, this is a good school for it because you can be in small, seminar type classes where you can really learn! I had a couple awesome English profs. HOWEVER, there is a ton of cheating, so it's kind of hard to feel like the learning is real when everyone is legitimately cheating on everything. On one hand, there is a very rigorous environment in the classes, but on the other, everyone knows that no one is actually learning. So it creates an environment where everyone is competing to do well, but not to actually do well honestly. Basically, most people do not care about school, they just care about winning. So there are lots of people walking around competing for how well the did by trying the least and partying the most and sleeping the least, etc. Also, a lot of the professors, especially if you take classes at Columbia, gave off elitist, sexist, and racist vibes. White (or jewish) men run the show. If you are not one, you may feel your voice is not listened to or valued.
On a similar note, the social environment felt toxic to me. Maybe I am just dumb for going there since I am just a regular girl and it should be expected, but if you ever watched gossip girl or the social network, the way the Ivy League social environment is portrayed is REAL. And if you are not from that class/world, you will probably feel extremely alienated. The other big community there is social justice and lgbtq, which is great, but I personally felt alienated from those communities as well, because they functioned as a lifestyle and were not super welcoming, and coming into college I had really no idea what I believed yet.
Either way, if you are stressed about paying for college like I was, even if you get financial aid and have a job outside of class, like I did, the entire social life is based on paying for expensive things and going fancy places. If you want to have friends, you have to be able to go to the bars and out to eat and pay for clubs or pay to be in greek life. I was constantly stressed about money every single day I was at this school, and the people around me literally were a level of rich I did not even know existed. It was seriously a culture shock. I definitely made a few good friends, but I truly found like maybe 2 people the ENTIRE time I was there that came from a similar (working/middle class, rural or small town) background like I did. And it really showed! Everyone knows you are not one of them, even if you don't. And very few other people I knew had jobs, so I felt alone in that too. There are definitely other girls like me there, but it was NOT the majority. Basically, I would say if you are a regular person, you will feel extremely stressed out and subtly isolated at this school.
Also, if you want to have a social life that includes seeing men, everyone goes to Columbia parties. And in my experience, the guys there are the most entitled people ever. I grew up in a college town and experienced college parties and hook up culture in high school, and was definitely a party girl, and STILL I would say the hook up culture at Columbia university if SCARY AF. Like very very entitled and sexist attitudes all the way around. There is also this weird competition between Barnard girls and Columbia girls, where they say that Columbia girls are nerdy and Barnard girls are hot, and Columbia girls say Barnard girls are stupid because they couldn't get into Columbia. so that is just a lovely little addition to the vibes there. Overall, the environment is very competitive: who has the best grades by trying the least, who is the most well connected, who has the most money, who is the coolest, who has the best clothes, who is invited to the best parties. Also LOTS fo slut shaming, from girls and guys. Like if you dress like you go to PSU or ASU or another state school, people will slut shame you for sure. People are really ruthless and will literally walk all over each other to get to the top. Like I witnessed very few real friendships between the girls there but SO MANY fake friendships. They were all being super fake nice and hanging out all the time, but then yelling and screaming and crying in their rooms because they screwed each other over constantly. Also, in my first semester there 4 people that I know of committed or attempted suicide. Basically, unless you are rich and went to a private boarding school in new England or are so committed to social justice that you want to take on a world like that and change it (and are actually committed to doing that and suffering for that cause) I would stay away. You will probably be stressed and feel like you're trying to keep up with a world that wasn't made for you and quite honestly doesn't want you to be part of it. It's sad because I want people who that world wasn't made for to break into it, but I do not know if it's worth all of the sh*t you will have to go through to do it, and the absolutely entitled and rude and ruthless but fake af ~individuals~ you will meet there.
The social life on campus is NONEXISTENT- I remember hearing this and taking it with a grain of salt and I regret that. All socializing occurs at Columbia but in order to enter into a Columbia dorm you need a Columbia student to sign you in- this is a small detail that affects the socializing culture STRONGLY. Additionally, the social life in Barnard dorms is truly truly non-existent (I have never heard of a party in a Barnard dorm). If you want a social life you NEED a fake I.D. and enough cash to regularly attend bars and events. I'm not a huge party person by any means and I felt like the social situation wasn't enough for me. Just like Columbia, Barnard is a fairly serious place. This is not a particularly laid-back school - you won't see people playing frisbee or hanging out on the lawn (I only saw this once during my time there). There isn't much community in the dorm- you dont just "pop" into people's rooms to say hello and there is no socializing in the halls. It is also definitely worth mentioning that stress culture is a problem at Barnard/Columbia. During my time there, there were 6+ suicides (and I believe there might have been more than that but some deaths were ruled more of a grey area.) The environment is highly competitive and talking about stress is easily the most common form of socializing.
Academically, I thought Barnard was great. My professors were engaging and I loved my seminars. It was engaging without being backbreaking (that said, my course load was never unruly). The students are mostly passionate and everything about the classroom setting (even some lectures) was intimate. There are a lot of career resources available to both Barnard and Columbia students which is a major plus as well.
I'm not going to lie, the facilities are super depressing. With Columbia across the street, you really have to fight not feeling like a second class citizen. The gym and the dining hall are underground in a sort of damp cement basement. The pool has been "under construction" for ages. The dorms are pretty OK- a little sterile but they get the job done.
I chose to transfer from Barnard my sophomore year. I don't think Barnard is a bad school- it just isn't for a lot of people. I also think it is NOT a very flexible school- in that, if it isn't for you, it's not an easy place to "make it work." Furthermore, I felt like a lot of people weren't quite happy with it, I was constantly coming into contact with people who were planning on transferring or juniors and seniors who regretted not transferring.
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