This article in today's New York Times discusses Harvard's efforts "to be more like Amherst" in emphasizing teaching, and notes that Columbia is looking at the same problems: overly large lecture classes, disconnects between faculty and students, lack of contact with professors, etc.
Isn't this yet another reason why Barnard ought to really be considered the best of both worlds? It places such strong emphasis on the liberal arts, small classes, good teachers, etc. in the best small-college tradition, while still exposing its students to the "best minds in the world" across Broadway at Columbia.
My daughter, an incoming first-year, remains really excited about her approaching big adventure, as do I.
Don't want to burst your balloon (we are considering Barnard for D too), but the last 2 Barnard girls I knew (daughter of a friend, and a summer student in my lab) left after 1 year. Not happy they said. Do not know what they were looking for, but the DoF worked for a year then went to NYU. The summer student went to Rutgers Pharm School & graduated. Must be down side somewhere.
Nah, it takes more than that to burst my balloon, as it were. Anecdotal evidence has some validity, I suppose, but two kids who bailed (including one who wanted to go to Pharmacy School) don't really a trend make. Statistically, the Barnard retention rate is pretty high, and I don't see tons of kids fleeing, even back to New Jersey.
My other daughter is an Amherst sophomore and loves it, and I have hopes that this one will enjoy Barnard to the same extent.
Barnard has many small classes, but it also has many large ones. One of my d's classes this semester had 300 students, another well over 50 - the last semester I believe she had a class with around 120. It looks like for fall there are currently about 120 enrollees in one of her classes, another has more than 50. Of course she has small classes too -- the Russian language classes (at Columbia) are limited to 15 per section, and the first year seminars at Barnard were, as expected, small seminars. But if the picture you have of Barnard is a cozy LAC with a bunch of small, intimate seminar-style classes - I don't think that's accurate.
Where Barnard really does differ from Columbia, I think, is the advising, especially from the beginning, as each Barnard is assigned a faculty advisor when they come in. I know that my daughter's adviser is a senior faculty member (department head); that my daughter ended up with the adviser's home telephone number; and that there were several hours of discussion between my d. & the adviser during the first week of school because of some particular issues and concerns my d. had.
Anyway -- all this is fine for my daughter, who really wanted a mid-size college experience, not a LAC. While Barnard technically is a LAC, I think it is too urban and too much intertwined with Columbia to really fit the LAC-mold. I mean -- since there is full cross-registration between the colleges, it really wouldn't make much sense for basic, introductory classes to be huge at Columbia and teensy at Barnard. If you browse through various course listings, you will see that the Colleges do a good job of coordinating and that both colleges have both large and small classes. I think that Columbia probably has more facilities to accommodate larger classes -- that is, my guess would be that the largest lecture halls at Columbia are bigger than the largest lecture halls at Barnard, and that there are more large classrooms at Columbia than at Barnard -- and ultimately, class size is going to be limited by space available.
But the point is -- yes, Barnard has great teachers, yes it has a strong focus on the liberal arts.... but my d's classes at Barnard are generally larger than my son's classes at his CSU.
Not to dismiss the experience of the last 2 girls NJ_mother knew, however in aggregate the stats show the 6-year graduation rate for Barnard students is 89%, which is a quite respectable number. According to US News, Barnard's actual graduation rate significantly outperforms its predicted rate based on stats of incoming class.
College is not a one-size fits-all experience. While Barnard might not be right for everyone for my daughter (rising junior) and her friends Barnard is the ideal situation. The work can be quite demanding, but they feel that the rewards are enormous. Young women willing to immerse themselves in NY's quick pace and plethora of people and opportunities aren't usually looking for the hand holding of a traditional LAC. In contrast my son has just turned down U. Chicago and Brown for Williams so he obviously is looking for the int5macy of a LAC. That said, the advisement system at Barnard is impressive and provide academic (and emotional) support.