The women of Bryn Mawr live on one of the most beautiful suburban campuses in the nation, take their education very seriously and, contrary to popular belief, do party on weekends.
The ornate Gothic architecture and lush green fields of Bryn Mawr are breathtaking even in the worst of Pennsylvania weather. Famous for its superb academics, caring faculty and very diverse female student body, Bryn Mawr is a haven for those who truly value learning over the college hook up culture. This tight-knit community of just 1,378 views the school as a giant sorority, where respect stems from adhering to the honor code and freshmen are mentored by the upper classes. Students paint murals on their stained glass doors and socialize at themed tea parties. Wild bar crawls are replaced with deep-rooted campus traditions such as hell week and lantern night. If the Bryn Mawr bubble gets too stifling, the women hop on the bus to nearby Haverford or Swarthmore Colleges to mingle with the opposite sex. The classes are small and the student-faculty ratio is 8 to 1. While professors have very high standards, they never hesitate to reach out to students on a personal level. Although the curriculum is particularly demanding, there is an absence of the competitive vibe and discussing grades is considered discourteous.
The women of Bryn Mawr College call themselves “Mawrters,” but the nickname doesn’t carry a negative connotation. Undergrads choose this extremely small, prestigious all-female college for its stellar academics, accepting environment, and learning for the sake of learning attitude. The castle-like dorms don’t hurt either. However, the sorority feel and lack of social activities can feel stifling at times. “Bryn Mawr is small. Within a few weeks, it can feel like home, but it can also become incredibly awkward between people quickly, as you're likely to see any given person at least once a day somewhere on campus,” says a freshman.Students can venture out of the Bryn Mawr bubble by hopping on a bus to neighboring Haverford and Swarthmore colleges, and bustling Philadelphia is a 20-minute train ride away. Although the college enrolls just 1,300 women, it is one of the most racially diverse liberal arts colleges on the East Coast, with Caucasian students making up only 47% of the undergraduate body. " About 80% of students come from out of state and 10% are international students! How often do you get to meet someone from Greenland or Lichtenstein!" says a junior. During breaks from their hectic study schedule, students can be heard talking about politics and world issues, and most are involved in at least two organizations. "I was engaged in a two-hour long debate about the social merit and detriment of Sex and the City. Intense discussions about everything and anything are spontaneous," says an English major.
Academics at Bryn Mawr are no joke, and students pore over textbooks in the library even on the weekends. While overt competition is absent due to the Honor Code that prohibits initializing discussions about grades, no one slacks off. “We're given power, independence, and respect in a way that I can't imagine getting at other colleges, but at the same time, there's tremendous pressure, both on an academic and social front,” says a freshman. Classes are small – the largest freshman course may have 40 students, but most classes average under 15, with the smallest having five people. Most students plan on going to graduate school after receiving their degree. Bryn Mawr offers over 60 majors, with classes at Haverford and Swarthmore also available to undergrads. The professor-student ratio is 8:1, and help is always available outside of class. “There are many excellent, eccentric professors, and many fall all over themselves to be available whenever we need/want them,” says a junior. According to a chemistry major, “Even in large lecture classes, my professors have made an effort to learn all of the students. One unique academic experience offered at Bryn Mawr College (BMC) is the chance to participate in undergrad laboratory work with professors in almost any science or social science.” The Honor Code is taken extremely seriously at Bryn Mawr, which is evident in the exam policies some professors implement. “You pick it up in an envelope at the beginning of the week, turn it in at the end of the week, and sign a statement that said you only spent, say, 2 hours on it and didn't use any materials not provided in the envelope. It shows what a great academic community this is that this is so common place,” says a pre-med student.
One of the most common stereotypes about the student body, according to students, is that they are all gay. “Bi and large, bryn mawr girls are bi and large,” says one student. However, most agree that this perception is downright silly and inaccurate. “Although the gay population seems large, it is really not very different from any other school, it is just a smaller campus and the gay population is very vocal,” says a senior. A freshman agrees, "A huge number have boyfriends at other schools, and there are always guys on campus, especially in classes and at parties, because of Bryn Mawr's close relationship with Haverford and Swarthmore.” In addition to being very racially diverse, undergrads here come from a spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds, as the college works hard to offer competitive financial aid packages. “I had a roommate who'd never worked a vacuum because she had a live-in housekeeper, and another who, like me, had worked as a housekeeper, and we all get along just fine,” says a junior. As for the picture of a typical undergrad wearing a cape and Shrek-like headgear, this is true of certain groups, but by no means applies to the whole college. “Every Bryn Mawr girl has a certain style--sporty, indie, preppy, boho--everyone stands out just a little bit,” says a freshman. However, some say that contrary to popular belief, it’s not always easy to fit into these groups. “You have the rugby girls, who are more often than not partiers that date at least two of their teammates. You have the capies, who play Quidditch and spend their meals discussing anime. There are a lot of groups, and, for me at least, it's hard to really relate to any of them.” The campus leans overwhelmingly left, but students aren’t uber-active when it comes to politics. As for someone who wouldn’t be comfortable here, “Conservative, upper-class, White, religious women will have a hard time conforming to the Bryn Mawr of present day,” says a senior.
Besides the four campus-wide traditions designed to welcome freshmen and bring the whole community together (Parade Night, Lantern Night, Hell Week, and May Day) , students say that social activities are lacking on campus. “There are not many parties on campus. If you're going to drink, it'll normally happen with a few friends in a dorm room. People do take the bus to other schools to go to frat parties, but it takes a lot of time and effort, and while a lot of people do it in the fall, it cools down by winter and people just don't want to go out anymore,” says a freshman. Mawrters are faced with tough competition when they do venture out to off-campus parties. “Haverford and Swarthmore boys have Haverford and Swarthmore girls that they are involved with and the Havergirls and the female Swatties definitely resent Bryn Mawr girls and their desperation for male contact,” says a freshman. School spirit is evident, although not displayed in traditional ways. “There is a lot of school pride, but it's manifested in unusual ways: for instance, athletics at Bryn Mawr are pretty ignored, but if you attend an acapella concert or a meeting of the Student Government Association, school pride abounds,” says a senior. Freshmen feel right at home with a Customs Week orientation, and dorm life ranges from constantly open doors to a hermit-like atmosphere. “ Dorms really have personalities that never seem to change throughout the years--but there seems to be a dorm for every kind of personality,” says a freshman.