Bryn Mawr College Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?


Professors at Bryn Mawr are truly wonderful! Not only are they super knowledgeable about their fields of study but they are more than willing to help you out if you are having trouble. Many departments have TAs available for students who might want extra help on class assignments. The Deans office also employs student tutors in all departments to provide one-on-one help to students on a regular basis. On Princeton Review we're rated as a school where "students never stop studying." We definitely do spend many hours a week studying but that's not all we do! Bryn Mawr's general rule of thumb is that for every hour of class per week, students should expect to spend two hours outside of class. Given that the normal course load is 4 classes at 3 hours per week each, this is 36 hours (give or take) that students are expected to spend on their school week. This rule is rarely accurate. In some classes, much more time is spent per week than the 6 suggested hours and in other classes homework might only take an hour or two. Yet, I think it's safe to say that we do, as Bryn Mawr expects, spend our weeks as full time students with approximately 40 hours of work a week including classes. Education at Bryn Mawr is much more geared toward learning for its own sake than for getting a job. I understand this method of thinking but for me, as a student, its sometimes frustrating when teachers profusely emphasize the importance of understanding the material versus achieving a certain numerical grade. Of course it's important to understand the material, but employers are not as concerned with whether or not you learned the stuff if your GPA is suffering. I wish professors (and this goes for professors at every institution) were more sympathetic with student's grade-driven nature and not solely mastery of the material. Also, with 65{4a082faed443b016e84c6ea63012b481c58f64867aa2dc62fff66e22ad7dff6c} of students going on to get a pursue a higher degree after graduation, grad school is discussed much more regularly than than entering the workforce. We do have a career development office but individual departments tend to steer students in more academic directions. The academic honor code is a really sacred and unique part of Bryn Mawr's academic identity. With regular take home tests, self scheduled exams and an unspoken agreement that speaking of grades is a social taboo, there is a lot of respect for students and their privacy. The professors are very trusting when they give students take home exams with specific instructions to take the exam under certain conditions and students actually follow the instructions. There is an honor board that reviews cases of academic honor code violation and these such violations are taken very seriously. I myself would never dream of violating the honor code. Not only would I not be able to stand the guilt, but I would never abuse something I hold so dear because I don't want this privilege taken away!


Bryn Mawr classes are definitely intense. We are always working, but that's also because we are very diligent students. Professors are generally very accessible, approachable and caring. They genuinely care about their students. Students can also take classes at Haverford, Swarthmore and University of Pennsylvania. Registration at classes within the Tri-Co is pretty easy. There is competition on campus, but not in the context in which most of us think about. Due to the academic honor code, students here don't talk about grades, which is why students generally don't know how they compare to their peers within the class. I'm a fan of the academic honor code, for it promotes self-competition, which serves as motivation for us to meet our own personal academic goals.


The professors for the most part know your name--My Arabic class is the only section for both Haverford and Bryn Mawr and I'm one of five people in the class--perhaps this is because the academics are challenging, but you get much more out of your classes than notes and facts. You get a chance to explore your opinion on WHY something is the way it is.


Academics are the driving force behind Bryn Mawr. When my friend and I were talking about what we thought about being here and what our initial thoughts on what Bryn Mawr would be like were, she described this place in a way that I will never forget. She said to me, "you have to realize that you are surrounded by a group of women who are going to put their school work first". I don't think anything could be truer, which i think is both a great and afrustrating feature of life on this campus. It's inspiring to be surrounded by motivated women, but it is also exhausting. Despite the Honor Code, which prevents us from discussin grades and is supposed to foster a sense of "learning for the sake of learning", Bryn Mawr has an intensely competitive academic environment. More than once I have found myself completely exhausted by the end of a week and not knowing why. I've realised it is the stress of trying to keep up with the work ethic and intelligence of the people I am surrounded by. This stress is self imposed, but it is prevalent throughout the Bryn Mawr community. It is refreshing to be in class with people so invested in their education, but I have found a lot of students to be quite retentious in class. I think a lot of people speak just to hear the brilliance of their own words. I have definitely learned so much just from listening to other students in class, but it is also really intimidating and at times aggravating. I have found my professors to be incredibly intelligent and engaging. They have all made themselves easily accessible, and that's something I cannot even begin to explain the value of. People come to Bryn Mawr for the academics, and they are not dissapointed. The courses are rigorous and demanding, sometimes I feel there is an almost unrealistic amount of work, but you certainly graduate with a great education.


Yes, I had one professor for Economics the first semester of my senior year. Even now, as a senior, I will pass him on campus and he will address me by my name. I have friendly relationships with all of the professors in my major department, and I've never had a professor who I couldn't approach with questions or for extra help. My favorite class was coincidently the class I got my lowest grade in (oops, I forgot we don't talk about that at Bryn Mawr). It was Nutritional Anthropology and I learned so much about cultural approaches to food and eating. It was a very practical course as well because we started the first class by asking ourselves where our food and water supply come from. Few of us knew. Now I'm always asking myself that question before I bite into a meal. My least favorite class was an upper-level requirement for my major. It was a writing-based course that only students in my major would ever consider taking. The whole class was based on one 30-page paper and presentation. It was the most boring experience of my life. Students are always studying here. Even when we're not studying, we're thinking about all the studying we should be doing. Class participation is mandatory, no question. At least in the humanities. Bryn Mawr students are intellectual snobs. Even lame conversations are held with an intellectual air. Students are self-driven and self competitive. Because we rarely discuss grades, we don't know how to be competitive with one another. I don't doubt, though, that Bryn Mawr students are competitively frustrated. As in, we would be if we could be. The most unique class I've taken is my Architecture Studio course. It was all about problem solving. The most famous project we did was design and build a cardboard chair that could hold our weight. The catch: no adhesive materials allowed. My major is Growth and Structure of Cities. It's a program, not a department. The Cities Program is an interdisciplinary approach to learning about the world through the lens of the city. I love it because I've taken courses in over 11 departments at Bryn Mawr, almost all of which have counted towards my major. Because it's a program, it requires the most credits: 11 Cities courses and 4 allied courses or a second major or minor. This keeps us focused within the program so that we're not just taking classes all over the place. Bryn Mawr's academic requirements have given me a well-rounded liberal arts education. Sometime around junior year I freaked out about the fact that I was at a liberal arts college, which wouldn't help me learn life skills of any kind. Then I realized that a liberal arts education is all about teaching the most valuable skill of all: the ability to think critically and solve problems.


Everyone takes academics seriously at Bryn Mawr. It is so refreshing to have a student body that really cares about doing the work for classes and learning the material, while at the same time is not competitive. Bryn Mawr has an honor code policy about not sharing grades, which means we're all competing against ourselves only. But that doesn't mean we don't care. On the contrary, Bryn Mawr girls are passionate in their discussions in-class, so that it usaully continues after class, too. My favorite class is probably my 200-level critical issues in education class. It takes a very philosophical view toward education, and includes fieldwork; I go into Philadelphia for observation every week. Despite the class lasting three hours on a tuesday night, I am always engaged in discussion.


I've taken/am taking 8 classes and 1 lab in my time here. My TA knew my name, and at least 4 of my professors know my name. I'm a little too awkward to get to know professors personally. Students are competitive with themselves, and even though there is no discussion of grades, you want to do better than everyone else.


All of my professors know my name and know me personally as well as academically. It can be bad, since they notice if you skip class, but I love the attention and class discussions. Students are only internally competitive, since we don't share grades as part of the Honor Code. Bryn Mawr is definitely geared toward learning for its own sake.


Most professors do get to know your name or try to make an effort to remember everyone if the class is large. However my largest class was 60 students and as long as I sat in the front I never would have been able to tell it was that large. In fact my professor for that class is one of the professors that knows me best. My favorite class was actually my C-Sem Class..(college seminar class) that all freshmen are required to take first semester of their freshmen year. I LOVED the class and the professor. Each of those classes are made small intentionally with no more than fourteen students. The discussoins were amazing and the books we read were great. My professor also made such a huge effort to read over our drafts and then individually meet with everyone and then dot he same after our final drafts. I never had a professor write as much about my paper as I wrote in a paper. That is true dedication! Students study a lot at Bryn Mawr and definately engage in intellectual conversations outside of class. I have heard of many students that have spent time with professors outside of class though I have not yet had the opporutnity to do so. With our academic and social honor code students really are nto competitive at all with one another. It is really that we are competitive within ourselves. I think Bryn Mawr's academic requirments can be a pain at times espeically the langauge requirment BUT I think once I graduate I will thank Bryn Mawr for making me go beyond my comfort level to get a broader education.


All my professors know my name--hell, they can even recognize my handwriting. My favorite class was Intro to Linguistics. I've become very conscious about how I speak, both the kinds of words and sentence structure I use to how I produce the sounds because of that class. Every topic, from syntax to language acquisition was fascinating. That the teacher was cute was a plus. Class participation is dependent on the class and time of the day. Bryn Mawr students frequently have conversations about classes, current events, and other topics outside of class. "Competitive" is putting it lightly. The most unique class I've taken was "Bioethics of the Natural World." It was about the environmental issues we're faced with now, and was to go about remediating them, if things can still be reversed. My final paper was on Public Transportation and how it could help decrease the use of fossil fuel, and therefore lessen greenhouse emissions. The physics major is...interesting. It's not for the wishy-washy. They're going to make you WORK. However, the physics major's community of students is especially close because there are so few of us, and the professors are VERY supportive. They even insist that we call them by their first names! Anyway, the major itself is very demanding. There will be late nights spent pouring over a problem set that's due the next day, but it will also be offset by general silliness among the students and professors. Even science majors, and especially physics majors, require fun, contrary to popular belief. I do spend time with profs out of class. Office hours, especially for a science major, is not nice, but a necessity. We also have little Physics get-togethers, usually around the beginning and end of the semesters where everyone is invited. Bryn Mawr's academic requirements are okay. They make you take classes that are outside your major area, which is good, but at the same time can be frustrating, since other people who've actually taken a class in the subject before have preference, if the class is over-enrolled. You can make the education at Bryn Mawr what you want. I know I'm doomed to a life of scraping pennies off the sidewalk by being a Physics major, but there are more useful things you can learn, like Comp Sci or Business too.


All professors know your name. Math is my favorite class simply because I love the professor.Students study a lot. If theres nothing to do on the weekends, its probably more productive to just stay in your room and study. Class participation is common. Some students engage intellectual convoersations-some don't. Students are not competitive at all. I woory about how Bryn Mawr students will handle life in a comptetive world after graduation.


One thing any prospective student should know: academics here are everything! People study all the time and when they are not studying they are bitching about how much work they have or silently suffering from stress. It's not a chill environment. If you want to party, don't come here! Seriously, people are in the library on Friday night, Saturday morning, basically all hours. The first weekend after classes my roommate studied all of Friday night and then got up at 7 a.m. Saturday morning and studied again! I was shocked and awed. Relationships with Professors are pretty formal, most people are in awe of the professors, but the students here put them on a pedastal and it makes it difficult to really have a stimulating class room experience. For example, people talk to the prof, they don't engage one another in class. Also, I have noticed that either Bryn Mawr girls are obnoxious and talk non-stop in class either obvious or irrelevant things or they are timid and don't talk at all. Bryn Mawr girls don't take academic risks, they are smart, but tend not to challenge the status quo as far as ideas. They are the type of girl in high-school who did every homework assignment and kissed up to the teacher.


All of my professors know my name. My favorite class is Developmental Psychopathology, which is amazing, challenging, and enriching. Students study here a lot. It's a challenging school. If you can't stand studying, you shouldn't come here because you will be very unhappy. We have intellectual conversations out of class all of the time. Students are not competitive, at least in my experience, because we are unaware of each others grades because of the social honor code. I really like this system because I have come here to learn as much as possible, not to freak out about grades. I did that enough in high school. The psychology department is wonderful. The professors are so nice and helpful and we are so lucky to have the Child Study Institute and the Thorne Kindergarten School right on campus so students can get great hands on experience. I think the academic requirements are demanding. I don't think the language requirement makes sense. The education at Bryn Mawr is geared towards whatever you want it to be geared towards--you take the classes that take you where you want to go. If you want to learn for the sake of learning, you take those kinds of classes. If you want to get a job immediately, you probably won't take the anthropology of art. I think most people here are planning on continuing their educations after Bryn Mawr.


Class size varies widely, but many upper-level classes are small and close-knit. I'm a psychology major and have enjoyed taking a variety of psych classes, such as abnormal psych, social psych, and women's mental health. My women's mental health class even includes a community-based component in which a partner and I visit a center for women recovering from drug and alcohol addictions. I've taken cool sociology classes, such as Black America in sociological perspective, women in society, and marginals and outsiders: the sociology of deviance. Students study hard. Class participation is common, as are intellectual conversations outside of class. The education is geared toward learning for its own sake. Students are not competitive with one another and grades are not discussed, even among friends. I wish that in class we could focus on a smaller amount of material so that I could understand and retain it better.


All professors have known my name. I especially loved being able to take courses at Haverford (I majored there) and my favorite Prof by far was Leslie Dwyer. One can also take courses at the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore. Also, Joshua Dubler was a really great professor. I think we study all of the time, but with friends. We all have something to say in class, which can get annoying. I think that some of our requirements aren't always great--I hated all of my math/science requirements. But they have made me a more rounded person. I have spent time with professors outside of class and they have been invaluable to my educational experience. I especially enjoyed the Anthropology department at Haverford. While we are learning for learning's sake, some of that learning really comes in handy in the job search.


Most of my professors know my name and try to get to know me a little, some through meetings with each student at the beginning of the semester and others by talking about the class or specific assignments. I appreciate the classes most with a lot of discussion and interaction. So far that has mostly been the English classes I've taken and political science. I'm part of the group of students who is chronically sleep deprived, but I think that it's worth it and I don't mind that much. I frequently talk about my classes and what I'm reading, especially with my roommate and she does too. The atmosphere is not competetive at all, which is great, but at the same time everyone cares so much about their studies that it's like a ripple effect and in itself is a motivation to do well and work as hard as possible. I feel that both the administration and the faculty encourage learning not for GPA but for learning itself, and it is evident in the students as well.


Yes. Favorite class was definitely Urban Theory with Juan Arbona. Least favorite--paleobiology with Bruce Saunders. Every waking second (that they aren't blazing). Class participation is annoyingly common. Bryn Mawr students don't know how to talk about anything that does not qualify as intellectual. Students are not competitive (in humanities/social science). Modern architecture with a visiting prof was so amazing. Growth and Structure of Cities is unique to the college and is basically the only reason I don't regret going to Bryn Mawr. I spend time with some professors after class and even have their cell phone numbers but I think I'm an exception. BMC's academic requirements blow (specifically the language credits). The education is geared towards getting into graduate school.


Classes are small and the professors are great. I love the close interactions between the students and the professor.


By the end of the semester, all of my professors know my name. It's not hard to have a relationship with your professors, either. I mean, obviously if you sit in the back of the classroom and never partake in discussions or ask questions, you can go through the semester unacknowledged. Professors make it easy to meet with them, which I've started to take advantage of. It really depends on the workload that someone is taking, because some people seem to be studying all the time, and others have a lot of free time. Bryn Mawr women do have intellectual conversations outside of class, but in my experience, most of them are driven by current events (at the moment, the 2008 Election is a hot topic). More often, students talk about popular culture. The academic requirements aren't difficult at all. If you come into the school with an AP credit or two under your belt, it's especially easy to get through all the division requirements and still have plenty of room for credits toward your major. I was worried about PE credits coming in, but they're so easy to fill. Every freshman is required to take a wellness class, which is pretty much the equivalent to high school health class. After wellness, you can fill PE credits with a huge variety of classes, from pilates to kickboxing to rowing. A lot of people fill PE credits simply by playing a school sport.


All of the professors in my major know me by name. I think that's a significant advantage to going to a school of this size.


Bryn Mawr is one of the most unique academic environments I've ever encountered. To be fair, it's not for the faint of heart; this is not a college you attend if you're interested in partying every single night and not doing the reading. You put in the work and your professors acknowledge you for it. I think the level of intensity really varies, but I walked in to the bio department passionate about being involved, and I got a response. Every professor I had first semester freshman year, even in large seminar classes, knew my name and at least a little about my personality. It's hard work, it's intense, and there's an incredible amount of pressure, but the sheer amount of faith professors place in their students is astounding. Partially because of the Honor Code and partially because of a system of mutual respect, we're expected to meet our full potential. If you don't do the reading, no one is going to chastise you for it, but if you do, it will open doors that you can barely imagine. Professors routinely walk out while students are taking tests, we're allowed to schedule our own exams, and I was offered research positions off the bat freshman year with a professor I'd never met because my lab instructor noticed how hard I'd been working and how important the department was to me. You do have to put yourself out there, raise your hand, and participate, but the rewards and completely worth it. Some classes are better than others, and yes, I've had a few I really disliked, but overall, professors are committed to being a part of students' lives and educations, and the academics here are like nowhere else.