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The insider's guide to Smith? Ups and downs

MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Posts: 5,821Registered User Senior Member
edited January 12 in Smith College
As I was posting on the "downsides to Smith" thread, it occurred to me that some aspects of Smith are well-known: the quality of the academics, the all-women's environment, the openly gay segment of the community. These issues continue to be discussed every year -- and even then, several times a year. I thought that, since the fall is fast approaching when students must decide where to apply, it might be instructive to supply some details about Smith that perhaps are not as well known as the above broad topics.

Just off the top of my head:

-- A "green" environment. Smith was named one of the top "green universities" a few years ago and may still top that list, for its approach to recycling, energy usage, and general environmental consciousness.

-- Strong support for women in the sciences.

-- Commitment to creating an economically diverse campus. Smith has a comparatively large number of Pell Grant students. The result seems to be less frequent flaunting of wealth from those who have it.

-- Smith consistently ranks high in the number of Fulbright Scholars awarded each year, outstripping and competing with much larger universities.
Post edited by Momwaitingfornew on
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Replies to: The insider's guide to Smith? Ups and downs

  • SubwayMomSubwayMom Posts: 35Registered User Junior Member
    Great idea for a thead! I'm sure we'll have a lot more once D is actually on campus, but some of the things that struck me are:

    ---Stipends for students doing summer internships. As MWFN said, it's an economically diverse population and opportunities like this make a big impact.

    ---I think that the 5 college consortium gets a lot of attention, but not enough people know that Smith has no distribution requirements.
  • minimini Posts: 26,431Registered User Senior Member
    Highest percentage among LACs of students majoring in languages/area studies (slightly higher than Middlebury). As I remember, highest percentage of students spending a full year abroad. Largest LAC library (in number of volumes). Probably largest LAC music library (along with Vassar). Oldest established study abroad programs among the LACs (I think).
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Posts: 5,821Registered User Senior Member
    -- One of the few top LACs (the only top LAC?) to offer merit scholarships.
  • SmithieandProudSmithieandProud Posts: 3,038Registered User Senior Member
    -- downside, there are very, very few merit scholarships offered.
  • CrewDadCrewDad Posts: 769Registered User Member
    One of the few top LACs (the only top LAC?) to offer merit scholarships.

    Unfortunately, merit aid doesn't necessarily equate to a better aid package, as Cygne et al. have discovered. Although she received a STRIDE, her financial aid from Amherst was more substantial.

    MHC and Colgate, despite offering non-need based aid awards, also have been bested by other top colleges.
    It can be frustrating.
  • MeredithBelleMeredithBelle Posts: 37Registered User Junior Member
    I can do a "three best/worst things" sorta thing, which helped me a lot when I applied to college since they were solid summaries:

    Three Best Things (in no particular order)
    1. The housing system
    2. Not only does Smith have so many enriching academic opportunities avaliable, but there's also the Five College Consortium & all its opportunities to take advantage of as well if one so chooses.
    3. The student population is hardly homogenous: there's a niche for everyone.

    Three Worst Things (again, in no particular order)
    1. There are considerable differences between the sizes of different depts & the extent of support they get from the school. Including a small handful you think would be stronger for a LAC.
    2. Registered house parties/the "official Smith parties" are heavily regulated in terms of capacity & alcohol use compared to other schools.
    3. It can be easy to stay within "the Smith bubble" & not venture out if you seek to & don't make an effort to do so.
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Posts: 5,821Registered User Senior Member
    @Crewdad, you're right. The aid package seems to vary greatly from individual to individual, despite the "meeting need" part of the equation.
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Posts: 5,821Registered User Senior Member
    MeredithBelle, maybe you could supply a list of the departments you think are the strongest/weakest. I'm sure others will refute it, but the info may be helpful to prospective students.

    The strangest field at Smith is the multidisciplinary Landscape Studies.

    Smith College: Landscape Studies
  • SmithieandProudSmithieandProud Posts: 3,038Registered User Senior Member
    I completely agree with Meredith's list, and I would add one upside:

    The amazing network of alums and the Career Development Office that helps you get started when it's time for your "freshman year of life."
  • CygneCygne Posts: 147Registered User Junior Member
    One thing I would add to the aid picture: Although Smith ultimately didn't give me as much aid as Amherst, they were much more flexible in terms of allowing me to bring in outside scholarships without reducing my aid.
  • CrewDadCrewDad Posts: 769Registered User Member
    Amherst College only allows outside scholarships to replace self-help. The policy could not be more draconian.

    Smith's policy is a bit more complicated, requires a CPA to compute, but is fairer in many respects.
    For students whose federally calculated Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is lower than the Smith calculated EFC, outside merit-based aid will first reduce the EFC to the federally calculated level. Additional merit aid will reduce or eliminate the self-help portion (Federal Work Study and Subsidized Federal Loan) of a student's award. Additional merit-based aid will reduce the Smith Grant dollar for dollar. For students whose Smith calculated EFC is already lower than the federally calculated EFC, outside merit-based aid will reduce the family contribution up to the amount of the self-help (campus work and subsidized or unsubsidized loan) in the award. For amounts greater than this, outside merit-based aid will reduce the Smith Grant dollar for dollar.

    Aside from outside scholarships, my point was; a college with no merit aid will sometimes offer a more beneficial aid package than one with $80,000 (in Smith's case) in merit money included as part of the financial aid. Your experience isn't isolated.

    String Theory and how anyone could enjoy pink Zinfandel is easier to understand than how aid is calculated.
  • muffmuff Posts: 10Registered User New Member
    Hello. I've been at Smith for two years now (I'm going abroad next year).

    Pros:
    - I've had a great experience with most of my professors. They care about their students, passionate about their subjects, and are terrific teachers. I've taken a wide range of classes in both the hard sciences and the humanities, and I think Smith is academically strong in both areas. As a hard science major with interests in the humanities, I LOVE this aspect of Smith.
    - I have found that the academic rigor and overall amount of work at Smith is about right. I'm sure this varies between people depending on their majors and high school backgrounds.
    - There's a very interesting mix of people. As Meredith has said, you'll find your niche. I've also learned quite a bit from talking to students from so many different backgrounds/locations --- there's a lot of geographic diversity.
    - Related to the above, I've had so many interesting conversations with people here. Deep, intelligent conversations with other people my age. It's great.
    - Easy to navigate campus. You can easily walk anywhere, and it won't take more than 10 minutes or so.
    - Beautiful location and campus.
    - A relatively safe campus.
    - great JYA program. I didn't think I would do JYA when I originally came, but I've since changed my mind. The JYA office is very helpful and the professors are very willing to accept abroad credits. This is a huge contrast to many other schools, where only a few percent of students travel abroad and must navigate a much thicker and less friendly web of bureaucracy to do so.
    - Extremely gay friendly.
    - It's very easy to get involved in student government.

    Cons:
    - I think the social options can be rather lacking at times. Much of the social scene involves quad parties, which aren't usually that amusing. I also sometimes feel trapped in a rather isolated pioneer valley bubble. You just have to keep in mind before you come here that A) Smith is NOT a party school and B) Smith is NOT convenient to a big city. It's pleasant to be in a semi-rural, small town setting for a while, but it can get boring after some time for many. This is my biggest complaint about the school, and it's one reason why I'm going abroad to a big city next year.
    - I've noticed that the school can be rather cliquy; this may vary from house to house. My house has definitely become cliquy.
    - Speaking of houses, some of them are in dire need of renovations, and I don't see that happening with the budget situation.
    - Budget cuts due to the financial crisis have caused some tension between the students and the administration. This is probably (hopefully) temporary. However, I'm sure most other schools are facing similar issues, possible even to a greater extent than Smith.
    - Employment options are extremely limited if you're not on financial aid.
    - A bit too PC. Related to that, I think most students don't have their liberal political viewpoints challenged enough.

    In terms of strong vs. week departments, here's what I can say:
    - I'm a neuroscience major. I think this is a very strong department. I think psyc is strong, too, as is bio.
    - Chemistry is very much a weeder major. By that, I mean that many initial chem majors switch out somewhere along the chem sequence. Orgo chem 2 kicked a lot of peoples' butts when I took it (including my own!). Many switched out after general chem 2. Chemistry is not for the faint-hearted.
    - I've heard that art history is very good, but that studio art is somewhat lacking. Apparently it's very difficult to get into required studio art classes. I know one studio art major who was complaining that she needed to take summer classes to get the necessary credits to graduate.
    - I haven't taken any languages, but I've heard that they are very good. JYA helps tremendously on this point, too.
    - I've taken some classes at the religion department; I'm rather under the impression that Smith is strong in Judaic studies, but there appears to be a big hole for Christianity (I think they get their Christian studies professors from the 5 colleges).
    - I've heard that English is quite good and quite rigorous.
    - However, there's really no creative writing department to speak of; the creative writing options are quite poor.
    - I've heard lots of good things about the math department. My only experience with math at Smith was quite positive.

    I really could say more, but I think my post is long enough for now. Feel free to ask me any questions.
  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew Posts: 5,821Registered User Senior Member
    Muff, let me guess . . . You took Orgo 2 last year.
  • upbeatupbeat Posts: 76Registered User Junior Member
    "Chemistry is very much a weeder major." Are the Chem requirements for a Biochem major subject to the 'weeder' strategy? Did you consider a biochem major?
  • QuasiProfoundQuasiProfound Posts: 7,623Registered User Senior Member
    I'm wondering about the social interaction between Smith and the others in the Five College Consortium. Can anyone fill me in?
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