Probably like most other colleges: freshman-year English professors (usually a class of 14-16) definitely knew our names/strengths/weaknesses...freshman-year Bio professors (usually a class of 200) definitely didn't know anyone's names. We definitely have intellectual discussions outside of class--especially regarding the Presidential primaries, going "Green" on campus, and quality of life/gentrification of Manhattan and Brooklyn (not just Morningside Heights).
Academics here are good and so are academics at Columbia. I spent one year at Tufts university and I can say that the teachers are definitely friendlier and warmer there but with a little effort, professors here are happy to speak with motivated, intelligent students. Furthermore, there is a very pressured academic environment here - there isn't really competition between students, but everyone participates and is looking to get a good grade.
Many classes are very small-- my largest (academic) class at Barnard this semester had nine students!-- and the professors are excellent. However, classes are easy, expectations are low and good grades are often undeserved. There's little emphasis on learning and analysis and applying knowledge to the world. I say this particularly in comparison to my first two years at a different liberal arts college.
Of course professors know my name, it's a small school. Where else can you hear the echoes of your name 10 miles away in another class? Barnard studnet do have intellectual conversations outside of class. And, at times, I find it funny because I do the same thing. Barnard classes and subjects surrounds our life and thought.
nothing a girl who got in couldn't handle. great professors, but also great resources available if you're intimidated. nine ways of knowing kinda sucks, but it also gives us a chance to figure out what the hell we want to do with the rest of our lives.
Yes, professors know my name. And i've only had one bad professor. I've learned so much and evolved in more than one ways because of my classes. Culpa helps.
some classes are more rewarding and stimulating than others
Barnard prides itself on being a school that hires professors who are not only great scholars but also dedicated to their students. In my experience this is 100% true, and really a key factor in making my experience so positive. My friends and I have sat in wonder, talking about how we can't believe how brilliant our professors are and yet how much they seem to care about us! I would equate it to the coolest, most popular person in middle school paying attention to you, and you sort of wonder, "why are you paying attention to me!?" That's pretty much the deal. Because the professors are so invested, students feel comfortable participating in class- it's encouraged. Of course, like at any school, there are lectures and seminars. In many seminars you will find the professors relinquishing varying degrees of control to class discussions, more often than not leading/shaping the conversation to the interest and direction of the class. A lot of professors here have a knack for spinning student comments into really interesting ideas for everyone to chew on. In lectures, students aren't technically supposed to participate, but many professors in my experience try to devote as much time as they can to questions and comments. Most don't like to feel that they are just talking "at" a room full of students; they want to make sure everyone is engaged. The biggest class I ever took was an Intro Bio course that had 300 people, and the smallest class was a really terrific women's studies class with 5 students. Most of my classes are generally 10 - 25 people, and the 25-person classes are usually the lectures that luckily end up small. Barnard has its general education requirement, the Nine Ways of Knowing. It is very flexible in what courses fulfill the requirements. I enjoy these requirements because they give me an excuse to take many of the classes I'm interested in and to try out a lot of different disciplines. Additionally, freshmen have to take First Year English and First Year Seminar- one each semester. This guarantees that first year students get to have the small seminar experience. I'm going to be an English major, and Barnard's English department pretty much has a 100% approval rating from anyone who has ever had anything to do with it. People love it. I came to school thinking, "I don't want to be an English major, you just sit around talking about books. What a redonkulous way to spend your time." I wanted to do something gritty, in the trenches. I was also turned off by what a popular major it was; I thought I wanted to do something sort of "different." But you can't go wrong being an English major here, and ultimately I just wanted to take all the required classes. Barnard students are motivated and highly intelligent, but by no means competitive. There is a really strong sense of comradery and support- people work together when they can, and don't compare grades. One great thing Barnard has to offer is its Writing Center (shameless plug, I work there), which is a place where Barnard students can come to have a peer read a paper they are working on and discuss it with them. The class that I took to train to be a Writing Fellow is one of the best classes I ever took at Barnard, and pretty much everyone I took it with agrees. It is the ideal Barnard class- amazing professor, students who work their butts off and really want to be there, and great readings and assignments that change the way you think. This in mind, a Barnard education definitely focuses on learning for its own sake... all the better to prepare you for a satisfying, meaningful kind of career in my opnion. Of course, as for acquiring some of the more commonly known marketable skills, i.e. computery-ish kind of stuff and... I don't even know what other skills are, but the kind that will pay for your plumbing, electricity, and food someday, you're on your own. This is a liberal arts school to the core. But we do have the Office of Career Development to counteract that, and being in New York City, there are opportunities up the wazzoo to get job experience- and being in the city all year, you have an edge over everyone else getting internships during the school year.
At Barnard, I think academics are as competitive as you choose to make them. Everyone wants to do well, but they know that their success does not depend on someone else's failure. So I really have not experienced any cutthroat types here. Even my friends who are studying science and math say that people tend to work together and help each other succeed. I'm a comparative literature major and a psychology minor. The comparative literature department is quite small here, so it shares most of its professors with faculty from other departments (such as languages, film, or history). Thus, if I had known I wanted to do comparative literature before I came here, I might have looked at other schools to find one with a more established. However, both comparative literature classes that I've taken have been useful and enjoyable. And although having a small department can make class offerings erratic (for example, the intro course is only offered once per year) and sometimes limited, there are advantages as well, such as being able to get to know your professors, small classes, and lots of individual attention. The psychology department is supposed to be one of Barnard's strongest, and there are tons of psych majors here. However, I don't know if this is because the program is truly great, or that girls just tend to like psychology. Of the courses I've taken, I haven't found any to be extraordinary. However, I've heard great things about the neuroscience course taught by Russel D. Romeo and the drug use and abuse course. I'm sure that the non-survey, specialty courses are better than the big labs and lectures. For me, I feel that Barnard's academic requirements may as well not exist, because I ended up fulfilling them just by taking a varied course load in different areas that I'm interested in. However, lots of people hate the 2 semesters of lab science requirement. As a liberal arts college, Barnard does not offer strict pre-professional tracts such as business, journalism, or pre-law. However, there are plenty of people who do want to become doctors, lawyers or investment bankers, and there is also an architecture program. Because of this, some people find Barnard way too pre-professional. Also, many students intern or hold jobs at off campus organizations. So sometimes it feels like if you aren't doing an internship, you're being lazy. If you can't imagine attending college with so many "go-getters," and would prefer to be surrounded by people who are not worried about their careers and wish they could live in the ivory tower of academia forever, you might not enjoy Barnard.
Professor almost always know your name. Classes at Barnard tend to be smaller and more intimate than classes at Columbia (which can run up to 250 people). My favorite class was Intermediate Macroeconomics with Xavier Sala-i-Martin (taught at Columbia) or Money and Banking with PErry Mehrlin (at Barnard). Also, I have loved my Italian classes (with Paola Nastri and Seth Fabian). Severin Fowles is a great professor- he taught Origins of Human Society which fulfilled my cultures of comparison requirement. My least favorite classes were Econometrics (Dennis Kristensen- do not take it if avoidable- difficult and you learn absolutely nothing) and Intermediate Microeconomics (Rama Vasudevan- spelling?- easy but boring and you learn nothing). I am an economics major. To be honest, I think Columbia offers better economics classes and has a better econ department in general, but I have enjoyed most of my econ classes as a whole. One of my favorites, actually, was Economics of Education with Randall Reback. He was a great teacher who cared a lot about his students. Barnard's requirements are wonderful. With the 9 ways of knowing you can basically take anything. Over the course of 4 years, you must take a history class (I took American Civilization since the Civil War), a lit class (Harlem Renaissance literature), cultures of comparison (Origins of Human Society), quantitative reasoning class (basically all my econ classes fulfilled this, but Calc 1 worked), 2 semester science and 2 semester lab (i took astronomy), 4 semester language (italian), visual arts (i took women and film), frosh year seminar, frosh year literature (i took women and culture)...preetty sure that is all, but pretty much you will fulfill these requirements without even trying. Oh, and your major requirements and distributional ones can overlap! Academically, Barnard is wonderful.