Bryn Mawr is a small, private all-female college in suburban Pennsylvania. Since its inception, Bryn Mawr has been committed to offering a well-rounded liberal arts education with an emphasis on sisterhood, diversity, and an honor code that is taken very seriously.
“Bryn Mawr, founded in 1885 by Joseph W. Taylor, was originally affiliated with the Quakers, though in 1893 it became non-denominational. The school’s name means big hill in Welsh. Women were first offered graduate degrees, even on the doctoral level, at Bryn Mawr. The college is known for its small classes and personal attention from professors, and ironically its first class of 36 undergrads and eight graduate students was far larger than the average class size at Bryn Mawr today.
Bryn Mawr is one of the Seven Sisters, which are said to be the female parallel to the once all men’s Ivy League colleges. As such, Bryn Mawr was considered the sister school of Princeton University. In 1912, Bryn Mawr was the first institution to offer doctorates in social work, and houses the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, which, unlike the undergraduate program, accepts men.
Today, Bryn Mawr offers 60 majors in the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities, although it does not have a business major. All undergraduates are also required to take 2 years of a foreign language. Bryn Mawr is part of the Tri-Co consortium, so students can take classes at neighboring Haverford or Swarthmore Colleges.
Bryn Mawr enrolls just under 1,400 undergraduate women who enjoy one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. The 135-acre campus is an arboretum, with perfectly manicured green lawns, hundreds of ancient trees and blooming flowers. Perhaps even more impressive is the Gothic architecture, with main buildings that look like castles and stone pathways running under mythical archways.
When weather permits, there are always people on benches or laying on the grass on Merion Green. Note: when weather permits. Well into March, the campus is still pretty deserted. However, I can guarantee that once the temperature bumps up a good fifteen to twenty degrees, there are picnic blankets and sunbathing galore.
Both the Lusty Cup and the campus center are bustling past 8 p.m., full of people with laptops and coffee cups, working vigorously into the night. The other rather newly popular place to congregate for work is Guild, the 24/7 work lab, fully equipped with wireless, computers, and printers galore. Though I have yet to pull an all-nighter, my friends insist that Guild is the place to be at 3 in the morning when that paper is due in six hours.
"If you’re just hanging out on campus, you’re most likely in a dorm common room, or in your friends’ rooms. Common rooms are equipped with flat screen TVs, DVD players, satellite TV, and cushy couches. I have spent more than enough time plopped in front of those TVs having movie marathons or procrastinating when it comes to doing my homework with the latest reality TV show.
Bryn Mawr is the total opposite of a college town, with quaint restaurants instead of rowdy bars and clothing stores catering mostly to an older crowd. However, some argue that this suburban stop off the SEPTA train is a welcome break from bustling Philadelphia, which is under 30 minutes away.
Bryn Mawr is surrounded by upper class suburbia. Beyond the rolling hills of mini-mansions are restaurants of assorted cuisine which,unfortunately, cater mostly to the mansions’ inhabitants, leaving little for college students. The main stretch is Lancaster Avenue, where you find all the necessities: a grocery store, a drug store, a few coffee shops, and a movie theater.
Once you get off campus, the pickings are slim. The town of Bryn Mawr leaves a lot to be desired for the average college student - boutiques for older women? Greek restaurants? Really? Luckily, one of the essentials does exist—a movie theater. Bryn Mawr Film Institute is one of those rare commodities that some people adore, and other people can live without. They show indie flicks, or, even better, the type that win Oscars.
If you don’t like movies, you can go to one of the other bangin’ Bryn Mawr locations: Milkboy. This is a café that serves some of the best chai I’ve ever had, and has nightly live musical performances. A lot of people go there to do work during the day or just relax and hang out at night.
Of course, you can always take the R5 train into Philly, but that takes a lot more time and effort than you’d think. True, it’s only an eight dollar roundtrip, and it only takes about twenty-five minutes, but once in Philly, anything you do will cost money. I know a lot of people who like to restaurant-hop, but for those of us who are a little more budget-conscious, there are a few cool coffee shops or thrift stores to dig through. Luckily, most people can find at least something that they like to do in the city (mine happens to be slumping around my friend’s apartment on Broad Street).
"Finally, the tried and true way to get off campus is to, incidentally, go to another campus. Haverford, Swarthmore, UPenn, Drexel, Temple and Villanova are all close by. Philadelphia breeds colleges. So while Bryn Mawr is (very) lacking on the party scene, those girls who can’t spend a Friday night without a beer pong table or a strobe light need not fear. Various buses, shuttles, and trains take you right to another college’s doorstep.”
Bryn Mawr has deep-rooted traditions, some which date back to when the college first opened. Most of these events are designed to make the freshmen as welcome as possible and bring the whole school together, and end in a traditional Step Sing on the steps of Taylor Hall, the main building on campus.
Parade Night happens near the entrance to the school by Taylor hall on the first night of classes to welcome freshmen. The whole school gathers on both sides of the pathway to "greet" the freshmen, who run through the middle. The sophomores throw water balloons at them, and when they get to the juniors, get pelted with candy. Each year, freshmen have to write a Parade Night song to be performed on the steps of Taylor Hall after they finish their run. It’s tradition that someone from the sophomore class tries to steal a copy of the song so they can make a parody version of it.
Every February, freshmen are hazed by the sophomores during Hell Week – but not in the traditional sense of the word. The rituals freshmen have to perform are fun and silly, and nowhere close to mean-spirited. They have to serenade sophomores with poetry, perform impromptu plays in the dining hall, or act silly in class on purpose. During this week, juniors serve as the heroes, providing shelter from "evil sophomores" and giving freshmen gifts and candy. The tradition’s purpose is to create a special bond between the freshman and the sophomore class, as many sophomores continue to mentor their “victims” throughout the year.
Lantern Night is a right of passage for freshmen, occurring at the end of the school year. Freshmen dress in black academic robes and are presented with lanterns of the same color as the previous class by sophomores, as the upperclassmen sing Greek college hymns.
On the first Sunday after the end of classes, during the stress of finals, students gather with faculty to engage in a day-long celebration known as May Day to take the edge off. Students dress in all-white outfits, reminiscent of togas, and start the day by eating strawberries and cream. This is followed by traditional Scottish dances and frolicking around the Maypole. The day ends with a screening of The Philadelphia Story, starring alumna Katharine Hepburn.
Jane Calvin (1959) is a famous photographer and artist.
Drew Gilpin Faust (1968) is Harvard’s first female and current president.
Katharine Hepburn (1928) was a famous American actress.
Jacqueline Mars (1961) is the heiress to Mars candy fortune.
Alice Rivlin (1952) was the former Governor of the Federal Reserve.
The Bryn Mawr Owls have 12 NCAA Division III teams with Predator the Owl serving as mascot. The most obvious team on campus is the rugby team, if only because they are always incredibly loud and enthusiastic. The team recently won nationals and moved up to NCAA Division II. Other teams on campus include rowing, lacrosse, basketball, and field hockey, among others.
For women who want to participate in sports but don’t have the time to commit to daily practice, Bryn Mawr has a wide variety of club sports, including the equestrian and squash clubs. There is even an “Exam Stress Busters” program, where students participate in evening sporting events and activities.
Katherine Hepburn used to skinny dip in the Cloisters fountain and Bryn Mawr and got in trouble for smoking while she attended the college.
Bryn Mawr has the oldest student government in the country.
Bryn Mawr doesn’t have a business major.
Bryn Mawr some of the best-ranked college food in the country.
In the 3-2 Program in Engineering and Applied Science, a Bryn Mawr woman can transfer to CalTech after 3 years and complete 2 years of work there, thereby graduating with AB degree from Bryn Mawr and a bachelor of science degree by Cal Tech.
Dorming at Bryn Mawr is expensive - $11,024 a year, but with rooms as nice as these, it’s no wonder the cost of living here is higher than at most East cost schools. Freshmen get randomly placed in dorms via a lottery system, but some write the name of their desired dorm on the margins of their application, hoping for the best. Dorm tours available at: http://www.brynmawr.edu/residentiallife/tours/
Bryn Mawr is well known for dorms that, 'feel like palaces.' Honestly, it’s hard to deny. I am a freshman, yet my room still has bay windows, a full-length window seat, a fireplace, and a stained-glass window. And I’m not alone. Bryn Mawr has ten dorm buildings, seven of which are built in the 'collegiate Gothic' style, complete with towers, turrets, and arches. All seven maintain their original architecture, though they have obviously gone through renovation to keep up with the times.
The interesting thing about Bryn Mawr dorms is that every single one has a very specific personality, and more often than not, its inhabitants fit the personality perfectly. It follows the nature-versus-nurture argument perfectly—do people come into the dorm fitting in, or does the dorm change them? Radnor is the party dorm, Merion is the quiet dorm, Rockefeller is the awkward-but-meaning-well dorm, Pem East is the uber-loud freshman dorm, Brecon is the capie-dorm (note: a capie is a girl who literally wears a cape around campus, and partakes in various pagan activities), and so on. None of the personalities are negative, but generally, groups of friends congregate around one or two dorms. For example, I, a Rock girl, have a group of friends mostly from Rock and Rhoads—the social, loud dorm. Rock also has a “Hot Wall” – the entire hall is plastered with magazine cutouts of celebrities and other eye candy. The doors of the rooms have glass on the top half where students paint murals.
There are a few dorms that no one really likes, but it’s more because of their architecture than anything. Unlike the beautiful castle-like buildings of the main campus dorms, Erdman and Haffner have awkward modern architecture. Built in the late 60s and early 70s, these dorms both house dining halls and singles for freshmen, which are really the height of their appeal. When it comes to room draw, these two are normally picked last.