College Visit: Barnard College

As we navigated our way through the picturesque enclosed upper Manhattan campus, students began emerging from class. Instead of looking at their phones, everyone was engaged and smiling as they spoke about what had just transpired in the classroom. It felt like a true community of learners, and the excitement and curiosity was contagious. This is Barnard.

Barnard college banner hung on front of building


Barnard, home to about 3,000 undergraduate students, is an all women’s school and one of Columbia University’s four undergraduate colleges. It has a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and 72% of classes have 19 or fewer students.

Students from Barnard and Columbia can take classes at either campus and also share a course catalog. Additionally, Barnard students can pursue a joint degree program in coordination with Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Something unique about Barnard is that only professors teach courses–never TAs (teaching assistants) as opposed to Columbia. Also, the classes at Barnard tend to be more intimate and dedicated to women. Some subjects are only offered on one or the other campus, e.g computer science is only offered at Columbia and architecture is only offered at Barnard. Many agree it’s hard to tell the difference among students, however, Barnard students typically have a Barnard sticker on their laptops or bag.

Barnard’s curriculum is based on satisfying something called Foundations, which encourages flexibility and interdisciplinary studies. It starts freshmen year with two semesters of all-women seminar classes: “Critical Conversations” followed by a special topic (such as “The Enchanted Imagination” or “Women of Color in Speculative Literature”) or “Reacting to the Past.” This is rounded out by a Physical Education course like Yoga, Pilates, or Health Coaching.

Students also must fulfill general education requirements that sometimes coincide with classes needed to complete a major. The goal of these courses is to explore new curiosities that might end up leading to a new interest or major or a different intended major. For distribution requirements, students will take two courses in languages, arts and humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

Finally, all Barnard seniors are required to complete a senior project (research, creative projects, etc.) or thesis, which will be reviewed by the full-time faculty of the department.

Academics are rigorous, and although most students flourished academically in high school, they can find the adjustment overwhelming and challenging. Still, our tour guide touted that it rarely feels competitive because of the strong sense of collaboration between students. She shared that many of her friends and professors have helped supported her when she found specific classes or requirements difficult.

Despite the demanding academics, students ultimately thrive at Barnard: 95% are employed or attending graduate/professional school six months after graduation.

students sitting at table on computers

Social Life + Surrounding Area

Barnard is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. There is a subway station right on campus at 116th Street and Broadway and many bus stops, making it easy to get to anywhere in the city. Specifically, the neighborhood that houses Barnard is called Morningside Heights. It is filled with distinct neighborhood staples and shops, diverse restaurants, popular chains, and 300 acres of parkland. It is a great blend of a neighborhood, college-town, and urban feel. Although much of this is within walking distance, some of the surrounding areas are less safe.

While there are plenty of clubs and on-campus activities, much of the social life takes place in and around New York. In fact, our client at Columbia said many students head downtown to the Village or other younger neighborhoods on the weekends. That surprised some students who were not from the area. They didn’t realize they would be taking a subway for their social life. 

On a typical weekday or weekend night, students can be found at bars, eateries, clubs, campus or local performances (Broadway is a quick subway ride away), apartment parties, staying in, or participating in student-run organization events both close to campus and in other neighborhoods throughout Manhattan. To most, the city is their playground.

Housing is guaranteed for all freshmen, and although not required, it is highly encouraged. Most first-year students live in campus housing, along with about 70% of upper-class students who can opt to live in one of the many college-owned apartments in the area and can even live with Columbia students.

Barnard offers 15 different sports teams for students who compete with Columbia undergraduates in NCAA Division I Athletics and the Ivy League. Additionally, one can choose from a list of nearly 600 clubs to be a part of and can also lead and join organizations at Columbia. On that same note, our tour guide shared that when she’s at a social gathering, and besides familiar faces, she can’t discern between Barnard and Columbia students. Although they are separate colleges, if desired, there are ample opportunities to be fully immersed in Columbia both in and out of the classroom.

Student Body

The students we met were diverse, passionate, energetic, happy, collaborative, engaged, smart, and urban. 

woman standing on brick with trees and buildings in background

Our tour guide, who is studying Environmental Science, is from Kansas City, MO, and she lit up sharing her enthusiasm for Barnard. She had participated in an environmental justice internship and also did research with a professor on the reforestation of trees and the carbon in trees in Upstate, New York. She talked about how supportive the students and professors are: while describing how hard her chemistry class was, she said all of her friends were invested in helping her pass the course. The professor even reached out to make sure she had the support she needed. 

She had not considered a women’s college before visiting Barnard but was impressed with the collaborative and supportive environment of smart, accomplished women. She also saw the leadership opportunities in this type of atmosphere.

There is a real love for learning that permeates the campus and for many, being in an all-women environment is empowering. The more proactive you are about finding opportunities in all facets of college life, the more successful you will be here.

Ultimately, what resonated the most was the strong sense of community fostered by professors, staff, and students alike.

Finally, Barnard also speaks a lot about its strong diversity. Almost 50% of recent classes are students of color, 14% are the first in their families to attend college, and 16% are Pell grant recipients.


Barnard offers two options for the application process: Early Decision and Regular Decision. They read each part of every application in order to review each student contextually and holistically. They are looking for passionate, curious, driven, and empathetic leaders who will make an impact in the world and have strong potential to further evolve during their time at Barnard.

Here is a link to the application profile from the Barnard website for their most recent incoming class.

Financial Aid

Barnard adheres to need-blind admissions for domestic first-year applications. All financial aid at Barnard is awarded based on demonstrated need. Barnard will meet 100% of a family’s demonstrated need in the form of grants, loans, and job opportunities. The average Barnard grant is $53,269, and 46% of students are Barnard Need-Based Grant Recipients.


Barnard is for the curious student who craves stimulating conversations and endless learning opportunities in a small yet mighty community grounded in the comfort of an all-woman’s college. These same students take advantage of being across the street and associated with Columbia so get to enjoy the benefits of both colleges. Although there is plenty of green space, students ultimately embrace the city setting as it remains a constant classroom for all.


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