Barnard College - Comments and Student Experiences|
I come from a relatively small city, so adjusting to the diversity of the NYC and the college was a major culture shock for me. It has been a great learning experience though and well worth the frequent embarassments. You can find just about any type of person here, from the ridiculously liberal/free-spirited to the ridiculously close-minded/socially ignorant. To be honest, it never ceases to amaze me how many overprivileged students go here. Many people you meet will have more money than any college student should ever have, which can make for a very interesting college experience for a child of mediocrity. When the admissions people say they wanted diversity, boy, did they pull that off. You have just about any type of person in America who goes here -- JAPS, small town/farmland kids, international cosmopolitans, track stars, future politicians, etc.. -- you name it, Barnard's got it. Diversity makes Barnard one of the most interesting colleges in the country. I've met some of the coolest, most brilliant, funniest, most entertaining people here. Everyone I've met has something incredible about them; that's why/how they're here/got in! One thing you can almost always count on is that the students here always friendly, helpful, and open to conversation. It's easy to randomly make friends with someone on campus. The students are ambitious, driven, career-oriented, but not in a feminist way whatsoever. These women just want to enjoy young adulthood, succeed in the professional world, and most of all, have fun! They're not thinking about getting married any time soon or organizing another women's equality march down Broadway. They just want to have fun and kick ass while they're at it.
But just like any other competitive college, you're bound to meet some grade-hungry, uber-competitive students. This is definitely one of the downsides to Barnard. For someone who has never cared much for talking about grades or prying into other people's academic affairs, I found the competition here to be stifling, unnecessary, and just plain annoying. Maybe it's because most students here came from competitive high schools (I didn't), but sometimes I get the feeling that a lot of students here don't feel like they deserve to be here. Let me make that clear. Many students here have a minor to severe case of inferiority complex; they're desperate to find out where they measure academically in relation to their peers. Somehow, they're never satisfied and always think they could be just a little smarter than their next door neighbor. Add this with the fact that you're surrounded by women 24/7 in the residential halls, and you have a formula for a very ugly environment, especially during midterms and finals. My advice to them is to just chill out and relax. There's a reason why you're here; it's obviously because you're smart enough, so who cares what your roommate got on her paper?
Since we're on exams, I'll go on to academics. Two words: BLOWN AWAY. Some people may tell you that academics is "okay", but those people are the type of people who are never satisfied and don't know good education when they see it. Think about it: world-class professors who are mostly ivy-educated (or the equivalent) will probably create amazing coursework and material. One thing to remember when you start at Barnard: Be prepared to work harder than you've ever had to work before. No, my friend, this is not high school anymore, neither is it your local State U. Welcome to the Ivy League. And snap out of Senioritis before it is too late (that was my mistake)!! Basically, Barnard/Columbia pushes you to use your little noggin and to stretch its limits. They don't want you to just memorize people, dates, and events, they want you understand the entire scope of a historical era. Why did the people do what they did? Why did the events happen? What were the major ideas and forces behind them? How do you know this for sure? You really gotta know your stuff. To put the difficulty of coursework in perspective for you, I'll compare my workload with that of my friends who go to state universities. The typical Barnard/Columbia student spends A LOT of time in the library. (You'll come to get to know Butler Library pretty well after the first semester.) If you're taking courses heavy in the liberal arts, you'll have probably 150-200 pages to read each week. Your grade will be based on two papers (ranging from 5-15 pgs, depends), midterm, and final. If you're taking math/science courses, you'll have heavy-duty problem sets due each week. Forget about writing that English paper the night before or the morning of, it just won't cut it. The topics are way too dense and detailed for you to pull that off. You really need to spend time and effort, and lots of it, to pull off an A. Ask anyone if they've ever wrote a paper the night before and gotten an A. You might get a "yes" from one out of 20 people. My friends who go to State U, on the other hand, never go to the library, spend most of their time on the internet or partying, and can't understand the topics that I write for English papers even though they've read the same book. One other thing to consider, what other college (besides the other ivys) has its students in the library on Friday nights? That should give you an idea of the intensity of academics here. But believe me, it's well worth your time and money. It amazes me how much I've learned here and how much more I still need to learn. The academics and professors here make you WANT to learn. Gone are the days when the teachers who are waiting for retirement pass out busy work for you to do.
I have to admit that the Barnard administration has let me down greatly. While the support services, like career development, are terrific, the maintainence and food services are horrible. And if you're trying to consider a college your home, these two factors can make it almost unbearable to live here at times. The facilities workers can be VERY lazy and fail to clean the already disgusting bathrooms. Several times they failed to replace the toilet paper in the bathroom, causing many of us to be stranded in the stalls. And I cannot remember a week that has gone by when the bathroom has been fully installed with paper towels all seven days. Many parts of the buildings are filthy and unsightly and could use some touching up from the maintainence people. To put it frankly, Barnard facilities look like preschool compared to Columbia facilities. Food services is even more ridiculous. BEWARE: Hewitt Dining Hall says it closes at 7:45p, but the food will be almost gone by the time it is 7p!! On the weekends, the food is even more unbearable. I find the state of Hewitt to be completely unacceptable for a college dining hall. If you want better selection, you should try John Jay at Columbia. Furthermore, Mac Food is ridiculously overpriced. And you also can't use your Barnard meal points to purchase the (better) food at Columbia food services, like Ferris Booth or 212. And you can only use your Barnard meals for John Jay dinners, not brunch. Eventually you'll understand how inconvenient and shortchanged you are getting from the Barnard Administration.
But all of the bad things I've mentioned can definitely be overlooked by the fact that Barnard is in the greatest city in the world, New York. There is always SOMETHING to do. If you're bored, then I can't help you, really. Although there isn't much of a campus life, you won't really notice it if you're in love with the city like the rest of the student body. I've found that most students are independent and eager to have fun WITHOUT kegs and the typical college scene. They want to enjoy the MoMA, Central Park, the Village, etc. with their friends. Barnard's location makes for a great place to study and have tons of fun at the same time, so it all evens out. I love the people and the atmosphere here. Although the people can be overly competitive, their driven nature helps keep me focused at the same time. The academics here are mind-blowing and will change the way you look at everything. If you want to meet tons of brilliant and friendly professors and students, want to learn more than you've ever learned before, and have tons of fun at the same time, this is the college for you. This college was the perfect match for me and I expect to live in the city for years to come after graduation. For someone who has lower stats than the average student but has still kicked ass, I definitely feel like Barnard was a real gift from the heavens. And it goes to show that the Admissions people don't just look for grades and scores -- they're looking for personality and drive.