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Is Barnard full of women who really wish they were at Columbia?

NJSueNJSue Registered User Posts: 2,800 Senior Member
edited April 2012 in Barnard College
My D and I just toured Barnard, which she liked very much. I have some reservations. As a graduate of a women's college myself, I value the traditions and identity of my college and I feel that I was a part of something special. My classmates and I didn't want to be anywhere else. We chose our college for what it was, not for its affiliation with another institution.

Here's my problem. Half the prospective students and parents on the tour today asked more questions about Columbia than about Barnard, to the point where I felt like asking them to go across the street and take a tour over there instead. I don't question Barnard's academic excellence; I just don't want my D to apply to or attend a place where half the students really want to be somewhere else. I would hope that the Barnard admissions committee is pretty good at weeding out these wannabees, but I'm not so sure. So, how do Barnard students feel about their school? Are they proud of it on its own merits as a women's college and a liberal arts institution, or are a substantial portion of them only there because they really wanted Columbia but felt they could not get in? Is this an issue at all?
Post edited by NJSue on

Replies to: Is Barnard full of women who really wish they were at Columbia?

  • mrbc2011mrbc2011 Registered User Posts: 100 Junior Member
    I have to say, I didn't know anybody who wasn't at Barnard because they wanted to be at Barnard. None of my friends ever told people that they went to Columbia - we all went out of our way to avoid wearing Columbia gear because it felt disingenuous. We all loved Barnard, loved its traditions and its professors and its campus and as much time as we spent at Columbia - in class or in the libraries - we were all very conscious and proud of being Barnard students.
    I remember wondering whether people just used Barnard as a backdoor to Columbia before I started, and hearing lots of stories about Barnard women pretending they went to school across the street. But I didn't actually see any of that once I started school - I sure there are women who use Barnard that way, but they're definitely in the minority.
  • mardadmardad Registered User Posts: 1,120 Senior Member
    The relationship often works in Barnard's favor.
    1. A significant number of Barnard students discover Barnard when they come to see Columbia. They don't know much about Columbia either, but at least they have heard of Columbia. Outside of the Northeast Barnard Alumnae tend to be concentrated in urban centers. The college therefor tends to be unfamiliar in many areas of the country. This has greatly improved over the last fifteen years under Shapiro and Spar.
    2. They also get to compare the smaller liberal arts college in general and a women's college in particular with a large research university. The difference is not absolute. Many students on both sides fo Broadway cross to take couses on the other side.

    That being said there are still a few young women who wish they were CC students, and there is a preponderance of students from the Northeast especially the New York metropolitan area. The admission committee has to deal with both issues. The numbers indicate success.

    Both of my daughters went to Barnard from California. Both of them greatly appreciate their experience at Barnard, one immediately the other after a period of adjustment. I greatly fear that they won't move back to California.
  • calmomcalmom Registered User Posts: 18,845 Senior Member
    My daughter is a Barnard grad. She did not apply to Columbia, nor consider applying to Columbia. She would not have wanted Columbia's Core to start with; and once she got to Barnard she pretty quickly figured out that she wouldn't have wanted Columbia's administration. (No one ever thinks about student/administration relations as part of the college application process, but it can have a pretty big impact on the college experience) In hindsight, having experienced classes on both sides of the street and knowing many Columbia students, she believes that Barnard offers a better education.

    That being said... Barnard is part of Columbia. Barnard has a separate administration, separate advising system, different curricular requirements, separate dorms, a handful of Barnard-only activities, and some (but not all) academic departments are wholly contained at Barnard. (The courses in those wholly-contained department are open to Columbia students, and all Barnard faculty are employees of CU.)

    But Barnard students take courses at Columbia & participate in Columbia activities. They will get their news from the Spectator and BWOG. They will socialize with Columbia students. They attend events at Columbia. They hang out on the Columbia campus, and at off campus sites where Columbia students hang out.

    Barnard's affiliation with Columbia is simply a big factor of life at Barnard. My daughter would not have chosen Barnard but for the Columbia affiliation, but not because of wanting to be at Columbia. But my d. wanted a midsize to large university -- she was looking at things like overall resources and the variety and range of courses offered. She also applied to (and was accepted) U. of Chicago, NYU (Gallatin), Berkeley. She did not apply to any LAC's other than Barnard and did not apply to any other women's colleges. (She opted for Barnard in spite of it being a women's college, not because of it. When she visited she was looking around to make sure there were boys on campus).

    I don't know what questions were being asked on the tour, but some could be very relevant. Barnard is not an island unto itself, and depending on student interests, I think the Columbia presence and resources could be very important to the decision.

    In other words -- many of those questions are probably not being asked because the women want to attend Columbia, but because they want full information about the Barnard experience... and Columbia is part of that.

    As a Barnard mom, I'm a little bit irked at the idea that Barnard should be seen only as a women's college -- or that should be the main draw. My daughter was smart enough and confident enough to attend classes with men, and to get accepted at selective universities that take men - she turned down a spot at a co-ed university that is ranked very closely with Columbia. Yes, I can see the benefits that the woman-only environment offered ... but my point is that not all women attend such colleges for that reason.
  • NJSueNJSue Registered User Posts: 2,800 Senior Member
    I'm not saying that Barnard should be considered "only" as a women's college. My concern is the way its own students view it. I also smile at the idea that the desire to go to classes with men per se is a sign of intelligence and confidence; I guess all those Wellesley and Bryn Mawr grads must be such frail losers!

    You either get the women's college thing or you don't; to each her own. My D is looking at single-sex and co-ed schools. That's not really my concern. What I want to know is whether Barnard students feel like second-rate parts of the Columbia community and whether the college is just an historical anachronism without a justification for its independent existence.

    Thanks for everyone's responses. They are illuminating.
  • naomiiiinaomiiii Registered User Posts: 95 Junior Member
    From the women I've seen, many of them chose Barnard from a list of amazing schools. The more I meet people from CC, the more I realize how right my ED to Barnard was. I feel like they are very detached from their administration, while we at Barnard are given exceptional opportunities. Last wednesday, I had a round table discussion with 6 other (first-year women and Debora Spar, Barnard's President. How many first-years in college can say they've done that? I haven't yet come across anyone who wishes they could transfer from Barnard to Columbia. I chose Barnard because of its positive, encouraging atmosphere, and I'm glad to say that it doesn't look like that is going anywhere.
  • churchmusicmomchurchmusicmom Registered User Posts: 4,059 Senior Member
    My D is also a Barnard alum. I know that neither she nor her friends ever felt like "second-rate parts" of Columbia's community. I get your concern, though. It just was unfounded, at least in my D's experience.

    Calmom is correct that the affiliation with Columbia is indeed part and parcel of the Barnard experience and is, I believe unique in small liberal arts colleges as well as among the "Seven Sisters". There are resources (both academic and certainly social) available to Barnard students through that affiliation....ranging from fantastic course selection to involvement in co-ed clubs/sports, to great internship/lab experiences, etc. My own daughter never, ever considered a "women's college" UNITL she found Barnard. The confident, brilliant and successful young woman she has become tells me she made the correct decision!

    It is such a unique set-up that I totally understand why so many spend so much time asking about the Barnard/Columbia affiliation during tours and info sessions. Even if someone started off at Barnard with the concern of feeling somehow "second class", I can almost promise that they will loose that impression almost immediately.

    Best to you and your daughter in making her choice...
  • calmomcalmom Registered User Posts: 18,845 Senior Member
    I also smile at the idea that the desire to go to classes with men per se is a sign of intelligence and confidence;
    Women's colleges in general are sold largely on the basis of offering a more nurturing environment or offering more leadership opportunities:
    In comparison to students at co-ed colleges, students at women’s colleges participate more often (both in and out of class). They report higher levels of academic challenge and more interaction with faculty. They have more opportunities for leadership and access to female mentors and role models. Their campus environments are more likely to encourage diverse interactions and promote a multifaceted understanding of diversity. And they develop higher degrees of self-understanding and self-confidence.

    From: A Women's College | Barnard College

    I was responding to the comment in the original post about being proud of Barnard "on its own merits as a women's college". My point is that if my daughter had somehow ended up on a campus that was predominantly male, I'm pretty sure she would have been outspoken and actively participating in and out of class, and occupying a leadership role.

    My daughter is proud of Barnard for all that it offers and I see a somewhat political advantage to Barnard to maintain it's character as a women's college, in terms of issues such as faculty hiring and tenure. (Political because of the fact that the President of Columbia makes the ultimate decision on faculty hiring). But again, my d. wasn't looking for sex-segregated education and would not have applied to Barnard if she thought it provided that environment. She commented to me as a first year that she wished there had been more men in her classes, and she mentioned that again in a conversation we had recently, a year and half out from graduation.

    So the answer truly is, yes my d. is proud of Barnard on its own merits -- as an enclave that has stood firm in holding its own identity -- but not because it happens to be all female. Yes, she did experience some benefits that she can articulate because of the women's college environment -- she is not someone who doesn't "get it" -- there are relationships she formed with faculty and administration that she might not have had in another context. I'm not sure that it couldn't exist in a co-ed environment though -- I think it's more a matter of overall campus culture than gender.

    You wrote: "What I want to know is whether Barnard students feel like second-rate parts of the Columbia community". My point is that I don't think that my daughter is capable of feeling like a "second-rate" anything, anywhere. She's very confident, outgoing, pro-active, and ambitious. The best part of Barnard was the close relations with faculty and the respect that they gave their students, something that I don't believe the students at CC are getting, at least not in the same way or the same extent. But much of that stems from Barnard's character as a liberal arts college, not necessarily as a women's college.

    You wrote: "You either get the women's college thing or you don't; to each her own." That comment reflects a kind of black-and-white thought process, and I don't think that is what Barnard is about. I actually think that it is the students (and parents) who are uncomfortable with the Barnard/Columbia relationship who should think twice about applying. Barnard really is a hybrid, in several different ways -- and to really appreciate Barnard, I think you have to embrace and understand that idea. A student looking for the experience that comes with attending a traditional women's college won't get that at Barnard, because Barnard doesn't really function as a stand-alone college. A student at Barnard who doesn't also see herself as part of the overall Columbia community is potentially cutting herself off from a lot that the environment has to offer. That doesn't mean that the student would want to be attending Columbia College -- or lack pride in her own school -- it's just that I don't think that it is useful to look for ways to deny the relationship or think that it necessarily entails one school being "second-rate" or one being better than the other.

    You wrote that you wanted to know "whether the college is just an historical anachronism without a justification for its independent existence." I don't see how anyone could ask that question. I'd suggest that as your daughter explores colleges that you should be paying a lot more attention to details such as academic offerings, overall academic philosophy, advising, student/faculty and student/administration relations, etc., -- and of course the quality of offerings within majors and subject areas that she is likely to study -- then the outside labels.
  • NJSueNJSue Registered User Posts: 2,800 Senior Member
    Well, my "black and white thought process" had some concerns about this particular college among the 20 we've looked at. I think I have the answer to my question.

    Thanks to all who responded. I appreciate your candor.
  • SheepGetKilledSheepGetKilled Registered User Posts: 1,103 Senior Member
    The one person at my school who went to Barnard seemed to think it the same as Columbia. On facebook, she joined Columbia University. She wore Columbia sweatshirts to school. Also, I think she was a bit embarrassed that she never was accepted to Columbia since her brother goes there.
  • churchmusicmomchurchmusicmom Registered User Posts: 4,059 Senior Member
    Columbia University FB group is the appropriate (and only official, dating from when you had to have a college e-mail addy to get on FB) group for Barnard students to join. And Columbia University college gear...that is also appropriate since when you graduate from Barnard, your diploma is from Columbia University. And you "think" this girl was embarrassed?? That is your substantiation for your point? umm, ok.

    You are a high school student who has never attended Barnard. I hope everyone keeps that in mind.
  • SheepGetKilledSheepGetKilled Registered User Posts: 1,103 Senior Member
    She also went around the school telling people she was going to Columbia. Everyone thought she was going to an ivy.

    (I removed names for confidentiality)

    My friend came up to me and said, "did you hear, Katy got into Columbia! Thats like a top 10 school!" I responded, "no she got into Barnard... which is still a good school, but is not in the same tier as Columbia."
  • SheepGetKilledSheepGetKilled Registered User Posts: 1,103 Senior Member
    If she really wanted she could have just told people she was going to Barnard, a women's college associated with Columbia, but instead she disingenuously told people she was going to Columbia.

    In fact, the only reason that I know she was going to Barnard, and not Columbia, was because my college counselor told me.
  • churchmusicmomchurchmusicmom Registered User Posts: 4,059 Senior Member
    That girl you describe is, at best, misled. At worst she is being disingenuous. But what difference does it make to you? I assure you and others reading this, that this is not the norm for Barnard students. They are very happy to be BARNARD students rather than Columbia College students.

    I just get frustrated when people (particularly those who have never attended either school) extrapolate and then imply, based on a sample of one person, that the entire Barnard student body consists of Columbia College wannabes. It's just not true.
  • Kiwi_NightsKiwi_Nights Registered User Posts: 243 Junior Member
    They definitely exist, but I can say with confidence that they exist in a minority (noticeable, but still small). If you think about it, Barnard will always attract a number of applicants who view Barnard as a backdoor school, but climbers exist at every school. There are also many girls I've met who tell others that they go to "Columbia" because they more or less view themselves as members of the University, but that can be chalked more up to confusion than disingenuous self-promotion.

    For the most part, most Barnard girls appreciate and love the school for what it is; many are very excited that they came here, and some alternately go out of their way to avoid Barnard stereotypes or proudly flaunt/parody these traits.
  • RovenaRovena Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    I personally know several Barnard girls who outright claim that they go to Columbia, although they really wanted to attend Columbia but were rejected.

    They also list only Columbia as their college on their facebook pages and wear Columbia gear. When they present themselves to strangers, they try to give the impression that they go to an Ivy League school.

    As such, from my experience with dealing with Barnard girls, I would definitely say that a sizable portion of the student body at Barnard are Columbia wannabes.

    I would also point out that this thread has attracted a very biased group of posters who would have in their interest to promote a Barnard-glorifying point of view.
This discussion has been closed.