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Workload at Smith

ShereenistShereenist 25 replies7 threads Junior Member
edited June 2009 in Smith College
Hi everyone! I am hoping to get a picture of what to expect when I arrive at Smith. What is the average amount of time studying? Are students very involved in extracurriculars, etc? I have heard rumors about Smith being 2nd highest in the nation with regards to the intensity of the workload. What do you think?
edited June 2009
23 replies
Post edited by Shereenist on
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Replies to: Workload at Smith

  • minimini 26172 replies259 threads Senior Member
    I doubt that there are any actual such ratings, but I would not be surprised if it was true. (Since my d. is now a TA at a top Ivy, I think she can vouch for the fact that it is indeed more intense than where she is now.) The flipside is that there is a high degree of camaraderie and cooperation, an extraordinary advising system, and a firm commitment on the part of most of the faculty to really help you through.
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  • TheDadTheDad 9905 replies323 threads! Senior Member
    I doubt there are quantified ratings, too, but Mini's picture is pretty accurate. In lieu of ratings, there are reputations and aside from some tech-heavy schools (MIT, CalTech, Carnegie Mellon, etc.) the only schools whose reps for academic intensity are probably higher than Smith are U/Chicago (these days, Mini) and Swarthmore. Wellesley is probably in the same league as Smith and you could argue either way, which would suit many...the arguing, that is. :)
    I get mixed signals on Stanford.

    The academic intensity at Smith is greater than at, say, UCLA or Amherst from what I've pieced together.
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  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew 5611 replies210 threads Senior Member
    "The academic intensity at Smith is greater than at, say, UCLA or Amherst from what I've pieced together."

    Really?

    But then again, I don't really understand how one can characterize "intensity."
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  • TheDadTheDad 9905 replies323 threads! Senior Member
    I can characterize it but I can't quantify it. Attitude and hours spent on academics. Note, this has nothing to do with how bright the students are or anything else. U/Chicago has that "where fun goes to die" rep and the anecdotal workload seems to validate it. Ditto Swat. I think at Smith it's more "We just don't sleep."
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  • minimini 26172 replies259 threads Senior Member
    Again, my d. has evidence of what workload is like at her Ivy in European languages, and music history. It is isn't comparable to Smith.
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  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew 5611 replies210 threads Senior Member
    ^^^Very interesting. I never thought to compare workloads at different colleges. I would say that engineering at ANY school is bad, but beyond that, I can't say. After all, college SHOULD be hard work.

    The expectations that Smith profs have may account for a lot of the respect granted to Smith alums.
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  • jarsilverjarsilver 498 replies13 threads Member
    I'm speaking as a high school student who took two Smith classes (in Gov and Soc), so I have an admittedly very narrow perspective, but I honestly didn't think my classes were that hard. The hardest part of both classes was a final research project, which were both really tough. Despite there being a lot of reading, no one ever did all (or even most) of it; it was pretty much left up to how much of it you wanted to do. so I didn't get the sense that Smithies are slaving all day in the library for five days a week. it's more just that most of the bigger projects/papers/tests fall on the same schedule around midterms and finals, so those periods are stressful and people work very hard then. but for the rest of the year people were definitely not doing work all the time.

    also, one of my profs had a reputation for being a tough grader and I honestly BSd the papers and got enthusiastic As. obviously not representative of Smith as a whole, but I was surprised to find that people thought he was tough.

    workload seems to vary a lot by professor, so take this for what it's worth. I've had a long history with Smith and while it is definitely an academic place and people do work hard, I think how hard it is depends on how much you want to work.
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  • TheDadTheDad 9905 replies323 threads! Senior Member
    Nobody in college can do all the reading. It's learning what and how to read that's one of the tricks.

    Smithies may not be slaving in the library, though there's enough of that (distributed around various venues) but what struck me, time after time, were the academic and intellectually centered conversations that sprung up like mushrooms after a rainstorm.

    Grading, eh. As noted elsewhere, fairly easy to get consistent B's, fairly hard to get consistent A's. (Also depends on hs background; students who were taught to write well in high school made a good transition; for others, it was a shock. Which is why there's the writing lab and other resources.)
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  • Lost in translatLost in translat 361 replies33 threads Member
    The workload at any given school depends partly on the students' abilities and essentially on their organisational skills. I would say that it is impossible to generalize. Moreover, I agree with jarsilver; you can choose to skim over the curriculum, or really dig in and get the most out of the course. First year classes tend to be more forgiving but as you move up in the hundreds, the professor is going to expect much more than a superficial grasp of the subject. As an example, D took a 300 French seminar ,and although she is French and wrote what I thought was a good if not great final paper, she did not get an A.
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  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew 5611 replies210 threads Senior Member
    Nobody in college can do all the reading.

    I hope my daughter doesn't see that! She is so paranoid that she'll be tested on minutiae that she was not only reading, but RE-reading.

    I agree with LiT that it depends on the student, the student's strengths, and the individual courses/profs. My D's two most difficult classes, cell bio and the second half of organic chemistry, required enormous amounts of work and effort, with non-inflated grading. Her stats class, however, was a breeze for her. 200-level Japanese was easy, but 200-level French was much more demanding. Government had a ton of work, but history, not so much. And so on. Still, where she found a subject easy, there were still students who struggled mightily. And I'm sure some students nailed organic chemistry.

    Smith students don't generally choose courses based on whether they are easy or not. They choose based on subject matter and the known quality of the professor. My D has taken classes she wouldn't have otherwise because she heard that the prof was "amazing."

    So, in a roundabout answer to your question, Shereenist, the students work as hard as they want. My D happens to be one of the hard workers; however, she still finds time to do a few extracurriculars, attend concerts, work in a lab, and hang out.
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  • PlantMomPlantMom 1569 replies4 threads Senior Member
    MWFN wrote "the students work as hard as they want. My D happens to be one of the hard workers; however, she still finds time to do a few extracurriculars, attend concerts, work in a lab, and hang out. "

    This has been our D's experience too. She also re-read and re-wrote her notes for bio each night. First year classes included two chems, two bios, two 200 level French classes, a poetry class, and a composition class. She worked pretty late most nights, good chunks of weekends, and during the day when she wasn't in class. She did do fun stuff too--dinners, parties, window shopping, walking, even working out in the gym much to my surprise. Her house had a few TV shows they watched together, and they liked to rent/borrow movies on the weekend. She didn't have time to do any free reading, though; it's her one regret since she's a book-a-day kind of reader. She did binge on summer reads while she was home this past month, and is looking forward to no homework while she's there doing research this summer. She thought that the course material was not too difficult, but just lots of work--very time consuming--more than she has ever done (and she was the AP queen in HS).

    MWFN, our D will be taking cell bio, stats, organic II, and French (200 or 300?) along with some art history next year. She's getting a bit psyched out about the upper level cell bio class already! And she has told me that the French is difficult but rewarding. Her accent, as best as I can discern, is beautiful.
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  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew 5611 replies210 threads Senior Member
    PlantMom, are you sure you aren't talking about MY daughter? :)

    My D took cell bio and orgo II in the same semester -- both had monster workloads. It was the only semester out of six that my daughter couldn't wait to end. If your D gets a good stats prof, that should be her easy course.

    The reading a book a day reminds me of my D's first semester. By the end of the first month, she had read five novels in addition to doing her coursework. That didn't last long, however, since the work stepped up as the semester wore on.
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  • TheDadTheDad 9905 replies323 threads! Senior Member
    The intermediate French courses were sneaky-tough in D's opinion.
    I forget which one she took but there were a wide range of novels. The prof was crestfallen that almost nobody liked the one about a French woman who had a crush on some American actor...not Schwarzenegger but someone like him. Stallone? Anyway, some icon.

    Btw, as far as workload and attitude, D is taking an intermediate Econ course at American U. right now. *NO* comparison, in her opinion. One other serious student in the class and quite a few grade grubbers who have no interest in the material. And the non-majors who are taking it as adjunct to their majors are seriously undergunned in terms of their capabilities...D broke down the differences it made to the teaching style.
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  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew 5611 replies210 threads Senior Member
    Shhh. Don't let Mini hear you. :)
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  • CygneCygne 138 replies9 threads Junior Member
    I am curious as to how students fit in "performance" courses such as dance technique classes--would one typically take the usual four 4-credit courses in addition to any of the 2-credit offerings? I understand that many choose to audit these courses since only so many credits may be counted toward the degree. What would be an appropriate set-up for a first year student who would like to take, say, a contemporary class and a ballet class?
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  • borginborgin 608 replies8 threads Member
    TheDad, I didn't take intermediate French but had friends who did - and the book was definitely about Stallone.

    Cygne, when I took dance classes it was usually in addition to four 4-credit classes. Most dance classes have some sort of written component to them - either a research paper or response papers to performances, and most require you to attend a certain number of dance performances OR be in a dance performance that semester. The workload isn't that much, but writing response papers to performances you didn't necessarily enjoy can be tedious. (In my experience, the ballet classes taught by grad students had more response papers, the intermediate ballet classes taught by a professor had a research paper, and I heard - but don't have first-hand experience - that the same professor didn't require a paper for the advanced ballet classes, which required an audition.)

    I didn't take enough dance classes to have to audit any of them, but I certainly thought about asking if I could one semester (I didn't want to write the paper).

    The same goes for ESS classes - they're usually taken in addition to the regular course load, and usually have some sort of written component in addition to attending class, but they're generally not as work-intensive as taking a four-credit class. (I'm not saying this, but I think that yes, two 2-credit dance classes is probably not as work-intensive as one 4-credit class, but you can only count so many dance classes to the degree and half your classes still need to be outside your major. And writing a lot of response papers can be annoying.)
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  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew 5611 replies210 threads Senior Member
    My daughter treated the performance 2 credit classes as graded extracurriculars. She said that was the general attitude -- you add them to your regular course load.
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  • TheDadTheDad 9905 replies323 threads! Senior Member
    @#$%&*! grade she got the semester before. As it turns out, one short !@#$%^&*! paper less to do was greatly appreciated. That last semester of hers reminded me of my days running cross-country: the coach's theory was that in a perfectly run race, you would expend your energy such that you died ten feet short of the finish line but momentum would carry you over.

    Borgin, thanks for confirming it was Stallone. Doesn't really matter but one likes to get one's details right.

    I agree that two 2-unit courses isn't the equivalent of a 4-unit course...quite. The actual course time was worse than the homework/papers time. X-posted..."graded extracurriculars" captures the flavor well, I think. Not superdemanding but not to be slacked off on, either...which made being dinged for missing a couple of classes due to other rehearsals very...annoying.
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  • MomwaitingfornewMomwaitingfornew 5611 replies210 threads Senior Member
    In my D's case, it was private instrumental lessons that cost us a bundle on top of tuition.

    On that topic, I was incredulous to discover added lab fees to every science course she took. Isn't $50,000 a year enough to cover labs????!!!!
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  • borginborgin 608 replies8 threads Member
    And taking a few performance classes is a great way to up your credit count, so if you do end up using a free drop or you take a class somewhere and the credits don't transfer, you won't be as far in the hole as you would be otherwise.

    (It was great to know that I only needed 11 credits spring semester senior year - I still took 18 credits and six classes [including a dance and an ESS], but I didn't have to!).
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