Barnard College Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?


Academics is really important at Barnard. Because we have complete cross-registration privileges with Columbia, there are an incredible number of classes to choose from and the faculty are amazing. It's a smaller school, so teachers are very available and happy to speak with students. Students definitely have intellectual discussions outside of class. Every first-year is required to take an English and a Seminar and if you have the opportunity, the most amazing Seminar is one called Reacting to the Past. It's run as a series of games (three) over the course of the semester, in which students act out periods in history. For example, the first game took place in Athens in 403 BCE. We were all members of the Athenian assembly. As Athens had just suffered a crushing defeat to Sparta, it was our job to make laws and determine how bring Athens back to glory. We each had roles and positions and we spent our classes arguing about who should be allowed to vote, about whether we should send military expeditions off to raise money, about what to do concerning education. It was amazing how seriously everyone took their roles. The game is fascinating because you really get to experience periods and time and interact with texts (like Plato's Republic) as if they're real things, not just classic books that some professor forces you to read.


Academics are superb! Barnard professors TRULY CARE about their students! They really are interested in each of their student's emotional, social, and academic well-being. I have never been in any class at Barnard where I didn't feel like my professor wanted each of us to succeed. I love how every one of my professors has always known my name and a bunch of tidbits about my peers and I. Class participation is pretty much the norm. It's wonderful because it adds so much to our overall learning experiences while fostering our public speaking skills and even confidence. I unfortunately don't spend a lot of time with my professors outside of the classroom, but that was my personal decision (due to being so busy with other things on campus). If I every want to, the option is alwayts here, as each of my professors has been incredibly accessible and welcoming. I LOVE Barnard's academic requirements. We have a distribution consiting of our 9 ways of knowing, which are broad categories in which we must take a course in before we graduate. As dull as this may sound, all of the categories have a huge range of interesting courses to choose from, and it's very easy to fulfill the requirements without even trying to! In fulfilling my requirements, I have taken some of my favorite courses so far at Barnard, such as Reacting to the Past II, The Novel and Psychoanalysis, and Dance in New York City. I also feel like our requirements really foster an education of the whole person while allowing each of us to graduate with a great range of knowledge outside of our major areas.


I would venture to say that more Barnard professors take time to learn their students names than Columbia professors whose lectures are much bigger. My favorite class was a historical survey of American religion- the class that made me a religion major. The professor was enthusiastic about the subject, approachable outside of class and probably the most intelligent man on earth. Barnard is definitely a place where at times I feel as if the competitive nature of the school cannot be good for the emotional well-being of the students, but everyone seems to get along fairly well. That being said I would guess that most people have to go see a counselor at some point in their time here.


Academics at Barnard are very strong. Really interesting courses, great teachers who know your name and are generally available for extra help. Students are super studious. You know the saying "work hard, play hard"? Well Barnard students work very hard and play so so. I'm an Urban Studies student which is great because a lot of my class projects involve getting outside of the classroom and doing field research...and what better place to be for Urban Studies research than NYC?


All of my professors this year know who I am and what kind of student I am. The classes that I've chosen to be in are generally 15 people or below, and I might have one class with about 40 students every semester. Because the professors at Barnard are not focused on graduate students, the undergraduates at Barnard are their main focus and professors are generally very available and more than happy to have a conversation with a student outside of class. I'm currently majoring in architecture, and am very happy with the department so far. The program is very intense, but it's a major that is incredibly rewarding and in which you form very close relationships with your classmates. There is also plenty of cross-over between the undergraduate school at Barnard and the graduate school at Columbia, and I am currently taking a graduate seminar at Columbia's architecture school.


My favorite class is Applied Ecology and Evolution. It's a great class, only 7 girls in total, 5 of which are Biology majors, 2 which are just generally interested. It is an upper level class so the course load can be challenging but the professor is wonderful and more than happy to sit with you all night long helping you on a problem set if need be.


Difficult. Just as hard as columbia except the professor's tend to care more about individual students.


Classes vary greatly in size and difficulty. I've had a class of 200 and a class of 4. My hardest and easiest classes have both been at Barnard (you also can take classes at the other Columbia schools). All in all college is easier than I expected, although certainly not normally easy. Studying is a pretty normal pastime; I'm not sure how it is at other schools, but here you generally spend a lot of time in the library (Columbia's library, that is...the Barnard library is drab, doesn't have a lot of the books you'll need, and is generally a really depressing place in which to study, at least for me). Of course this is an individual choice: I'm sure there are some people who've never seen the inside of the library. Students are competitive, but the environment remains encouraging, especially in Barnard seminars, colloquiums, or first-year classes, which are usually made up of groups of 10-15 women. A great thing about Barnard is the Reacting to the Past classes - they're all over the country now, but they started here - where you embody a character from a certain time period and try to complete your "victory objectives" while interacting with the other's a little hard to explain, but you basically live in another place and time period for a while. I cannot say enough good things about this program. It is incredibly well-done and so interesting (you will definitely remember that time in were THERE).


I love my friends from high school. They are fun and great and always ready for a good time, but I have never had a conversation with them about my favorite book or the merits of Shakespeare's tragedies over his comedies. That was by far the most refreshing change of coming to Barnard, that students were not only well-read, but well versed in talking about literature or current events or history or anything really, and had opinions and thoughts that they wanted other people to share. Barnard really fosters this sense of the importance of sharing your opinions.


If you want your professor to know your name, he or she will. Our largest lectures are for the intro to sciences, and those are only 160 or so people, a lot of them Columbia students. If you walk up to your professor and tell them your name in the course of a conversation, chances are they will know it the next time you see them. My least favorite class was a statistics class. The professor was new and not very good at explaining things. I had to drop out. It was terrible. I love my history classes, though. I took one called Merchants, Pirates, Slaves and the Making of Atlantic Capitalism--the class was so popular that the late students always sat on the floor. The readings were interesting and the professor was knowledgeable about his subject. It was a fun class. The students at Barnard are competitive, but not in the backstabbing sort of way. We might ask how you did on a paper to see how we measure up, but we will also answer "all right" and "really well" instead of discussing actual grades.


students at barnard work really, really hard. REALLY hard. academics are probably 70-90{4a082faed443b016e84c6ea63012b481c58f64867aa2dc62fff66e22ad7dff6c} of any students life during the duration of their time here. most of the classes are really rewarding, especially after you get into the higher up classes within your major, and even the largest lectures are around 60-70 people. there is also the option to take any columbia classes, although i never even attempted to because many think the classes and professors are better on this side of the street. i have a few favorite professors that i love to go in and talk to in my free time - they are really good about being there for their students. the typical barnard professor really cares about their students. there are 9 "ways of knowing" which are our general education requirements, most of which are not hard to get out of the way. my advice is to take an AP math class in high school so you can skip the quantitative reasoning requirement, and get your full year of lab credit out of the way early.


Professors know your name, I had a professor even call me when I had mono freshman year, professors take a real interest in your personal, academic and professional development. Barnard education is based on the system called "9 Ways of Knowing" - we are based on a liberal arts education, but ultimately Barnard wants you to put your education to good use, to take what you have learned in the classroom and apply it in the real world. I'm in the Political Science department, I think that Political Science is among the top departments at this whole university, I'm perpetually impressed by my professors, an excellent set of course offerings each semester and all sorts of relevant internship opportunities offered to students each year. Students are competitive and clearly driven to do well, but not cutthroat.


All of my classes this semester are small seminars; the biggest is 25 students and the smallest is 6. Some students study a lot, but I don't study that much. If I studied more, I would be much less stressed out though. It's definitely a very, very intense academic environment. More reading than you could ever imagine. Barnard students definitely have intellectual conversations outside of class- that's one big thing I notice whenever I hang out with my friends from home, the complete lack of intellectual stimulation compared to the conversations here at school. The best class I've taken is Women and Leadership, taught by Liz Abzug (whose mother was a famous feminist). The professors here are all very distinguished and accomplished and most of them are great teachers. Don't worry about picking up any actual skills... this is a liberal arts college, we're here to learn and read, not to figure out anything practical.


The relationship between students and administration is amazing. Barnard has an extremely low student/faculty ratio, and it shows. Classes are small, and learning is optimal. As a student at Barnard, academics are your life. It is rare to eavesdrop on a conversation on campus at any given time without hearing sophisticated academic jargon. Unfortunately, the course registration process can be quite frustrating. Also, there is an implicit sense of cut-throat competition that pervades every academic department at Barnard. I assume, though, that these qualities are prevalent on the majority of American campuses.


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{4a082faed443b016e84c6ea63012b481c58f64867aa2dc62fff66e22ad7dff6c} 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{4a082faed443b016e84c6ea63012b481c58f64867aa2dc62fff66e22ad7dff6c} 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.