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Smith vs. Barnard vs. Mount Holyoke vs. Simmons (Class of 2023)

peyre1peyre1 Registered User Posts: 31 Junior Member
Hello! I am a rising senior interested in applying to a few women's colleges. My grandma went to Smith and loved her experience. I am interested in a science/business related major (like public health, nutrition, public policy, or environmental science). I am also interested in playing soccer if I get accepted. I want a college that would be close to other co-ed colleges which is why I have picked women's colleges near other colleges. I have friends at Mount Holyoke who love it. I have heard different opinions on Smith (many have said that students are weird) and many say that Barnard students are competitive and stressed. Any advice?

Replies to: Smith vs. Barnard vs. Mount Holyoke vs. Simmons (Class of 2023)

  • aquaptaquapt Registered User Posts: 1,974 Senior Member
    edited June 2018
    Also look at Bryn Mawr (very closely affiliated with Haverford and also has cross-reg with Swarthmore and UPenn) and Scripps (in the very closely connected Claremont Consortium with Pomona/CMC/Pitzer/Mudd). Based on the kind of personality and setting you say you would like, Scripps could be a good fit - it's probably closer in personality to MoHo than to Barnard or Smith, but it's also more blended with its other consortium schools than MoHo is.
  • privatebankerprivatebanker Registered User Posts: 4,954 Senior Member
    edited June 2018
    My Holyoke is an awesome school with really smart young women. It’s just as academically challenging as Smith and leans liberal for sure. Not quite the as activist vibe I felt at Smith. Nothhamptons culture and social scene is very tied to the Smith culture imho. But that was 20 years ago.

    Smith is really great too and one of the prettiest campuses you will find. It has produced many successful and super accomplished grads over the years.

    I was part of the five college system in school and didn’t take advantage of it. But had friends at both schools. My Holyoke was, to me, a bit more “chill” But that was as a visitor.
  • CorbettCorbett Registered User Posts: 3,438 Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    I am interested in a science/business related major (like public health, nutrition, public policy, or environmental science).
    Most of the potential majors that you mention above -- including "business", "public health", "nutrition" and "public policy" -- are not offered by most highly ranked liberal arts colleges. This would include highly ranked women's colleges, like Smith, Barnard, Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, or Scripps.

    The top LACs don't generally offer professionally-oriented bachelor's degrees. They would typically recommend that you major in a traditional liberal arts field as an undergraduate, then go to grad school somewhere else for a suitable professional master's degree (like an MBA or MPH).

    Most top LACs will have "environmental science", as well as traditional undergraduate science majors like biology or chemistry. They will typically offer "economics" (which is more theoretical) as opposed to "business".
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 36,885 Senior Member
    I noticed that, too. You should research the majors at each school on your list. I have seen public policy offered at some LACs, for example.
  • CorbettCorbett Registered User Posts: 3,438 Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    Simmons would be more likely to offer professionally-oriented undergraduate programs than the other schools on your list. Simmons is less selective than the others, which often means a greater willingness to offer "applied" programs. In fact, Simmons isn't really a "college" any more; they recently announced a name change to "university".
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,735 Super Moderator
    The top LACs don't generally offer professionally-oriented bachelor's degrees. They would typically recommend that you major in a traditional liberal arts field as an undergraduate, then go to grad school somewhere else for a suitable professional master's degree (like an MBA or MPH).

    I'm super biased (I majored in a traditional liberal arts field as an undergraduate at a women's LAC) but I would agree with that. I would also argue that professional undergraduate degrees in most fields don't necessarily give you a 'leg up' over traditional liberal arts majors; the top LACs continue to offer traditional liberal arts & sciences majors because they know it doesn't and won't impede the career progression of their graduates.

    That said, a lot of LACs are offering academic opportunities - like certificates, minors, off-campus study, etc. - that have a more professional bent to it. Smith has an environmental science and policy major, a public public minor, and a global financial institutions concentration. Mount Holyoke has a minor in entrepreneurship, organizations, and society and Nexus (https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/nexus) programs in the following fields: law, public policy and human rights; development studies; and global business, among others. Both schools also participate in certificate programs co-administered with the other Five Colleges in culture, health, and science; sustainability studies; reproductive health, rights, and justice; peace and world security studies; coastal and marine sciences and several other areas that may be interesting to you. (They also both have majors in environmental sciences or studies).

    Barnard has majors in environmental science and environmental sustainability and a minor/program in human rights. At Barnard, you can also draw upon the strength of Columbia's school of public health - one of the top 5 in the nation and which often offers 4000-level courses open to undergraduates.

    Simmons does offer more professional majors - business; an economics or political science + public policy 3+1 program that allows you to finish with an MPP; health informatics; three nutrition programs (including another BS/MS program); public health; a combined public health + nutrition BS/MS program; and a couple of minors in other related areas (public policy, sustainability, etc.)

    Here are some other women's colleges to check out, especially since the ones on your list are all very selective:

    Agnes Scott College (has a public health major in partnership with Emory)
    Bryn Mawr College (also competitive, but has a major in health studies)
    Spelman College (my alma mater; has a health sciences major and minors in food studies and public health)

    All of these colleges also have environmental studies/sciences majors.
  • odannyboySFodannyboySF Registered User Posts: 455 Member
    As far as Smith students being weird, it's a big school. (The largest women's college in fact.) I've met Smithies of all types, from pretty straightlaced to very quirky. I think this is the case at most LACs. I wouldn't paint the whole school with the weird brush. Visit all these schools if you can!
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 7,437 Senior Member
    As a male poster my viewpoint on this subject has limited credibility. That being stated, Mount Holyoke women are nice & Barnard offers you NYC & Columbia. Smith should create an instant impression as to whether or not it is the right fit for you. You need to visit. If it fits, you can explore four other schools as desired. Scripps is a great option because of the Claremont Consortium schools & my impression is that it is considered more mainstream than Smith.

    Wellesley College should be considered. I think that there are frequent mixers with MIT students.

    All are high IQ schools.
  • AlmostThere2018AlmostThere2018 Registered User Posts: 1,226 Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    My D was interested in women's colleges and looked closely at Mt. Holyoke, Barnard and Scripps.

    Barnard is very "go go' and the student she hung ut with (the daughter of a family friend) said there's not as much 'hanging out' there and more 'let's have coffee' interactions. Tends to attract 'edgy' kids ready to change the world. Very diverse, but one interesting comment from the student we knew was there were a lot of students from wealth and a lot on full or almost need-based aid -- not so many middle/upper middle class. Of course, that was just her impression. Access to Columbia and being in NYC is a huge part of the experience. They don't offer merit aid.

    Mt. Holyoke is pretty well-balanced student body -- very pretty campus and really cool traditions. Easy to find your niche kind of school. Lots of support from the college to pursue your interests. My D's friend goes there and LOVES it. They have focus on international students too and they offer good merit.

    Scripps has the west coast, chill vibe. Some students skateboard around. The women we met said it didn't feel as much like a women's college -- and they liked that. When we ate at the Scripps dining hall it was about 25% male b/c all the Claremont Colleges students share dining and other facilities. And Scripps students usually take one or two courses (out of 4) each term at one of the other colleges. Very racially/ethnically diverse. Offer some nice merit, but I don't think to that many students. You can take light rail into LA in about an hour which is cool.

    Just our impressions -- good luck!!
  • mathgeek19mathgeek19 Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
    I know this is late but I am a rising senior as well. I attended Barnard's Liberal Arts Intensive last year and my stepmother went to Smith so I might be able to help a bit. Students love Barnard and Smith, with the prestigue of these colleges, there will be stress but I think that it's important for us to learn how to deal with it. For Barnard, I found that they are mainly a school for the arts (visual, performing, etc.) and so if you went there, you would need to take most of your classes at Columbia, which sounds like it may be the perfect balance for you (co-ed during the day and all-women's at night). However, Barnard does not have athletic teams which means you would need to be able to compete at the D1 level to play soccer for Columbia (Columbia allows Barnard students to participate on their teams).
    For Smith, it would take you about 15 minutes to travel to UMass, Amherst, or Hampshire (all co-ed schools) using their free shuttle for students in the Five College Consortium, so they are not as accessible as Columbia is to Barnard (right across the street). However, you can easily walk off campus into Northampton to meet men if that is what you desire. Smith is a D3 school which means playing soccer there would be an easier goal to achieve. Also, since they are a liberal arts school, they would be able to offer you the classes you need without leaving campus (although you'll have the option of taking classes at any of the other four colleges later on).
    Both schools are solid choices and you would probably be happy at either. I found a special love for Smith in particular, so I may be biased, but I think it may be a better fit for you than Barnard in the end. I don't know much about MoHo, but I do know that if you went to Smith or MoHo, you'd be able to take a few classes at the other college you don't end up attending.
  • marvin100marvin100 Registered User Posts: 9,804 Senior Member
    Excellent responses in this thread. Nice. +1 to everything @juillet wrote, in particular.
  • marvin100marvin100 Registered User Posts: 9,804 Senior Member
    @calmom is correct - that characterization of Barnard as "a school for the arts" is preposterously wrong.
  • calmomcalmom Registered User Posts: 20,521 Senior Member
    FWIW, the top 5 majors at Barnard are Psychology (77), Economics (72), Political Science (51), English (49), Art History(30)

    See https://barnard.edu/pressroom/fact-sheet

    The numbers in parenthesis are the totals in each major for the 2017 graduating class, as reported at https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/

    Actually, in 2017 there were also 30 neuroscience majors. (If combined with other life sciences, the total is 60, making biological and biomedical sciences actually the third most popular major, and pushing Art HIstory to 6th place.

    More majors: 28 Urban Studies; 21 math & statistics; 19 history; 18 anthropology; 18 asian studies; 16 computer science; 16 foreign language & literature; 14 sociology; 13 environmental science/studies; 12 architecture

    Visual & performing arts? In 2017, there was1 visual arts major; 1 music, 5 dance, 7 film, 8 drama.

    Not that it matters -- it just illustrates how unreliable a visitor's impressions can be. I think Barnard has very intense academics, with particular strengths in social sciences, humanities, & life sciences. I don't believe that Barnard offers any visual arts courses -- the course directory lists only courses offered via Columbia. (Which of course Barnard students are free to enroll in.... but the point is that among the small fraction of Barnard students who end up taking most of their coursework at Columbia, the visual arts major would be one).
  • VeryapparentVeryapparent Registered User Posts: 856 Member
    Maybe they confused Bard with Barnard?
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