Most popular groups: (from my perspective): The student councils, the Asian American Alliance and all the groups under that umbrella, the South Asian social, political and dance groups, Political groups in general, religious groups, esp, Hillel and MSA (which I'm involved in), the Student Councils are very active. In the MSA and the SGA we work very hard to serve student interests by plannign unique events (Big Sub-a day where we have one sub go all the way across campus) Midnight breakfast-night before the first day of finals in fall and spring semester the admnistration, including the President and deans serve the student body breakfast form 11pm-1am in the gym. MSA- we have Ramadan meals every week-night, and many students get together for suhoor. If I am awake at 2AM on Tuesday night I am either answering/writing e-mails for things I'm involved with or doing work and maybe chatting depending on whether it's a stressful time period. Many students go to the library and many don't. I've gone down to the lower east side to study on a monday night. ON the week-end, we eat out, sleep, go out in the city, stay on campus on go to the many on-campus events/dinners/parties/observe religious holidays. I met my closest friends through our commonality in religion and MSA and student involvement. In case you haven't noticecd, students are very involved. IN the first year dorms, people are very friendly, and upper classmen dorms tend to be a little more independent, and often people live with/near their friends after first year.
There are tons of extracurricular activities on campus. Barnard is known big time for Dance. I'm part of a dance team here called Sabor Dance Troupe. It's Columbia's first latin based dance team. There are a bunch of other dance teams like Raw Elementz, Onyx, Bhangra, Orishas (new), Dance team, Taal, etc... Most of the clubs and all the sports are under Columbia University so there is a mixture of Columbia, Barnard, and SEAS (engineering), GS (general studies), and grad students in the clubs. I'll warn you, Columbia is not that great in sports, we have an amazing fencing team, but eveything else not as great :-\ o well atleast we're super smart and will just kick ass in our jobs instead of a field or court. There's always sometihng going on, you're in the city so get out and find something to do. People leave their doors open and there are lounges and kitchens on each floor of the first year residence. Upper classmen have different setups for housing so it varies amongst them. There are fraternities and sororities, they're getting more popular. Some people party a lot, others maybe not so much. Traditions at Barnard are midnight breakfast (administration serves you breakfast and its one huge party in the gym), barnard spirit day, sexhibition, there are many more, but I can't remember/don't know them (I only just completed my freshman year).
Barnard is in and of New York City, providing Barnard students with countless opportunities for culture and nightlife. "Student activities" exist on campus, but for many "student activities" means local bars, performances and other city-specific activities like movies, restaurants, relaxing in any number of parks, etc. For others New York means museums, film festivals, Yankee games, galleries and, of course, shopping. Basically, student activities and social life overflow from campus and into Manhattan. As for campus activities, Barnard students participate equally in all Columbia groups, including athletic teams and all student groups. Dance and a capella groups are popular, as well as religious and political groups. While Columbia competes in the Ivy League, sports are basically a joke-- athletes aren't super stars like they might be at Duke or UNC. Fraternities and sororities are popular in their own circles (Barnard girls an pledge just like Columbia girls) but a small percentage of students actually go Greek, as it really does not dominate the social scene. For the most part no one group or activity dominates the social scene: Barnard and Columbia students tend to be pretty independent and urban-minded, making their weekends look like pretty much whatever they want.
I am involved with a Polish club and many other belong to clubs that involve a certain nationality or race. There are also sports clubs, for example I am in a tennis club and we go up to tennis courts once a week and play. There are also all sorts of professional clubs such as Pre-Med or Pre-Law club, Business, Engineering, Architecture Associations, etc. Athletic events are pretty popular. There are always some plays, concerts and shows on campus as well as off campus, and you can even get discounted tickets for Broadway shows, etc. I met my closest friends though the Transfer Alliance as I was a transfer student and I attended their meetings in the beginning of the year. We also got closer to each other when we were taking the same classes and studying together. I also met some great people in clubs I am involved with and I am still friends with them. Some people party on the weekend, mostly Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, some people party more often, some don't party at all. If you are awake at 2 o'clock in the morning, you are probably writing a paper or studying. Each year there is a show that brings all students and they sort of make fun of happenings on campus. There is also student employment week, career fair, clubs/organizations fair.
Theater groups are really big on campus. There are seemingly dozens of them, all for different purposes (straight theater, Shakespeare, student-written, musical). And so there are a lot of performances as well, which appear to be a bit more popular than athletic events. Because it's a big city and the dorm rooms aren't very exciting, campus empties out on the weekends which is fine because New York City is amazing! There are frats and sororities on campus and plenty of people join them but it isn't a big deal. Many Barnard students also babysit on weekends. There is a Barnard Babysitting Agency that allows parents to post jobs and students to call about them. So often my friends and I don't begin to hang out on a weekend night until midnight when we're all back uptown. If you're looking for something on-campus to do that doesn't involve drinking on the weekend you'll be hard-pressed to find something interesting, but if you're willing to go somewhere, New York is full of options. There are so many amazing spots; I know two friends that went to the top of the Empire State Building at midnight a few weeks ago.
The dating scene...well, I thought, as a straight girl, coming to an all-girls school wouldn't matter in terms of dating because of Columbia across the street. I was wrong, as were most of my friends. Few girls find their boyfriends across the street, and I know many girls who never dated anyone from Columbia. However, some people do date a lot. It just seems like there is slim pickings, especially because of the male:female ratio. There are always student events going on, and some are really popular, and others have an empty audience. Groups and clubs are not for everyone, but for those who want to join, options abound. There is no Greek like, and Barnard feels like one big sorority anyway. If one really wants to join a frat/sorority, there are a few options, but it's not necessary to make friends or have fun. I usually go to local bars on the weekends, but going downtown is always fun and a more exciting option. Campus parties happen, but are usually broken up. If you don't want to drink, you can go anywhere in the city, like the movies or restaurants, or even a play. Or you can just hang out with friends.
There are lots of options for socializing at Barnard. Lots of students go out to bars on the weekends, sometimes in the neighborhood around campus, sometimes in other parts of the city. If you want do this, it is vital to get a fake ID. If not, you're in New York, and there is, of course, a lot of other stuff to do. It's important to remember, though, that it takes a good deal of effort and exploration and trial-and-error to find YOUR New York, to discover the scene that appeals the most to you. There are also a lot of fun events happening on campus, like student shows and guest speakers. Fraternities and sororities exist, but they're not that popular. I met my closest friends on my freshman year floor. Before going to Barnard, I read in some college guide that the dating scene was competitive, because there are so many more girls than guys. As it turns out, this really is the case. Making friends with guys and finding boyfriends--especially in a casual, sober setting--is not the easiest task, but it can be done.
Activities... Arts is huge on this campus. Dance, theater, music, singing, there are over 50 clubs dedicate to the arts, each with it's own speciality. You can find your niche here. I ended up joining a dance team thats specific to the folk dance of Northwest india. If i can find that, you can find anything. Religious, cultural, politically active groups on campus are huge. As are pro-environment ones. Student government is good. They do a lot of good work, but are still somewhat detached from the students. Social Life.. It's nyc. Enough said. If you dont have a social life here, you wont be able to have one anywhere. I typically go out/downtown 1-2 nights a week, I would stay around campus for parties another 1-2 nights a week. We definitely live the work hard, play harder mentality. If you are worried about meeting boys and dating life at an all-women's college, just stop. Not only is columbia literally right across the street, but it's Manhattan. 3 million men in a 10 mile radius.
I'm in the Alpha Delta Phi Literary Society and it has saved my life at college. I absolutely love it and spend most of my time at the house. Greek life is important here, but I think the percentage of students actually involved in a Fraternity or Sorority is pretty low. There are lots of guest speakers, events, panels, etc. and the speaker list is generally impressive. So far... the dating scene sucks. I mean, it's a women's college, but I haven't met any especially appealing Columbia males either. If I'm awake at 2am on a Tuesday, which I usually am, I'm probably procrastinating. Or doing work. Everyone's party schedule is different. Some students party a lot, others never leave the library. I usually spend the whole night out at least once a week; I roll in between 6am and 8am. Then I might go out one or two more times that week. But I study a lot less than most people, I think. There is so much to do off-campus! You're in New York City!
There are a lot of activities on campus, although no one really attends major campus student events (sadly). I think because it is in such a big city, everyone goes downtown to a comedy club or to see a broadway show. Campus life is very scattered. There are always guest speakers for the Earth Institute and there is always one luncheon after another. Traditions have been somewhat stomped upon by administration over the years, but there was 40s on 40 on Low steps for the seniors (40 days before graduation), there is Orgo Night (the marching band disrupts studying in the library the day before the organic chemistry final) and Midnight Breakfast. Majority of activities and all of the social life is over at Columbia, perhaps because Barnard housing is in apartment buildings with actual tenants. If you're not a person to go out to bars, there are some parties on campus but a small amount in comparison to other schools.