Ask Me Anything about Bryn Mawr College

Hi everyone, my name is Emma Hoffman ('20) and I’m a tour guide at Bryn Mawr. I’m a senior Environmental Studies Major and French Minor. I’ve worked as a Hall Advisor, a Peer Mentor, and a TA, studied abroad in Paris, participated in a Bryn Mawr holistic learning experience called a 360 Program, and gotten Civic Engagement Summer Funding, but feel free to ask me anything about academics, traditions, or social life on campus! Anassa Kata!

How do you think your education at Bryn Mawr would compare to an education a good public university?

Hi there! If you’re choosing between Bryn Mawr and a good public university I think you can’t go wrong, but they offer different types of college experiences.

Bryn Mawr’s not only a small liberal arts college, but is also a historically women’s college so it has a pretty unique campus experience. Academically, class sizes are smaller (Probably around 15 students but it varies - my largest class EVER was a 60 person Intro Bio with 18 students in each lab section. I’ve also had upper level french classes with only 4 students), and professors are focused solely on undergraduate students. I can’t speak for everywhere, but from what friends have told me this means you would probably have an easier time getting to participate in research as an undergrad, and would be less likely to be lottery’d out of a course. Also you are given a lot of individual support (an E-sem professor, a Dean, a faculty academic advisor who all meet with you one on one throughout your freshman fall). Because of the academic Honor Code, professors place a lot of trust in their students so we have privileges like self-scheduled finals and take home exams. Of course larger schools also have their advantages!

Socially, it is a close-knit community and a huge majority of us live(d) on campus. You’re guaranteed housing all four years and under our Honor Code, the dorm leadership is all student run. This has probably been my favorite part of going to a small school. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten and the best friendships I’ve made have been though my neighbors. Especially as a first year, my upperclassmen neighbors and their friends helped me pick classes, get around, and just generally navigate a lot of the stress of starting college! You will be given a lot of structural supports like a dean, but I think some of the most valuable guidance I’ve gotten was because of our mixed class housing system. Traditions are also a big part of what makes us unique. We have a few minor ones like our Athena statue offerings or the friendship poles, but there are also four events throughout the year where the whole campus, and sometimes alums, come together. I’m going to be honest we are not a party school. There is always plenty to do, but Bryn Mawr parties are mostly smaller get togethers in friend’s rooms rather than your stereotypical college frat party.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the consortium system. We are a small campus, but we are also a part of the larger BiCo, TriCo, and Quaker consortiums with Haverford, Swarthmore, and UPenn, respectively. This is where I will say I think you can get the best of both worlds - the close community of a small school with the resources of a university. We have free buses between HD and Swat that run pretty late into the night, and you can be reimbursed for taking the 25 min train ride into Philadelphia for a Penn class. If you ever feel like you want a change of scenery, you can take a class/join a club/hear a speaker/go to a party at a partner school. I’ve taken at least one class at all 4 and now I can definitively say BMC’s my favorite - I just feel most at home on my campus :wink:

It depends what you’re looking for but if you want a community with a lot of personality, some quirky but heartwarming traditions, and you’re proud to be a bit of a nerd, Bryn Mawr’s the place for you.

how would you describe the social scene/general vibe? What is the typical student like?

Quick question-what is it like to take a major at Haverford, i.e. art, as a Bryn Mawr student? Are you spending most of your time at H? Are class schedules an issue? How might this mix with a double major, i.e. computer science at BM and Art at H?

Could you give your perspective and experience with the issues presented here?
(My D23 and I attended a virtual Q&A with a current student yesterday which we enjoyed, but then reading the article linked above gave me pause. The Q&A was at Haverford, not Bryn Mawr, but of course part of the appeal is the bi-college relationship, and the article I’ve linked is about both schools).

Hi @libsea , I think you’d find that there is no One Type of student at Bryn Mawr. We pride ourselves on the fact that we are not cookie cutter similar :slight_smile: What I think we all have in common is a desire to learn. When I was going through the college process I was surprised by the students I met when I visited BMC because they were so genuine and funny and kind and it felt like being smart was celebrated. I wanted to have friends like that!

It’s a small community but a tight-knit one. I’d say my friends are a pretty even mix of people I met from class, my dorm, work, and clubs. I like that I can have friends from different parts of my life, and I love how supportive everyone is. We say that our academics are more collaborative than competitive and I think that’s true socially too. Especially as a freshman, everyone was really welcoming. I signed up for waaaay too many clubs and groups and felt bad trying to get off their email lists! There are always events going on - hosted by clubs, departments, Student Activities, hall advisors, or KCass’s (our President) pop up food or craft events - so you’d never be bored.

If you’re looking for a party school, I want to be really clear that that is NOT the Bryn Mawr social scene. We are a pretty chill campus and while there are 3-4 big parties a year where students from other schools come to our campus, most of the “typical college parties” I’ve been to have been at other campuses in the consortium system. I’ve never regretted coming home to my quiet campus! A typical Friday night for me and my friends is a small group of us hanging out in someone’s dorm room. Because we have the Honor Code and our dorms are run by student leadership, you are given a lot of trust. You can sign out any common rooms or lounges so there’s plenty of places to host events, parties, or just hang out on campus.

Hope this gave you a sense of campus!

Hey @Baeitzman Great question! It’s pretty seamless to major at Haverford as a Bryn Mawr student. Yes, you’d probably be spending more of your class time at the campus where you’re majoring, but if you still live and work at BMC, you can choose how/where you spend your time. With art specifically, you might spend your free time in the Maker’s space at HD and also Arncliffe studio at BMC.

The schools try to schedule with the BiCo in mind and offer more options. As an example, I have a Psych major friend who needed to take the required Intro course. It was being offered MWF at Haverford and TTH at Bryn Mawr so she decided to have two longer lectures a week instead of three shorter ones and took it at Bryn Mawr. The blue bus that runs between campuses is usually timed to arrive 10 and then 5 minutes before classes start. Last semester I had an 11:15 am at HD and took the 11:05 bus. (Sometimes I was a couple minutes late but the professor knew it was because a bunch of us were coming from the bus and it was never a problem). It is not hard to double major across campuses. Double majoring is always a lot of work, but studying across the consortium shouldn’t make this any more work than it normally would be!

My major, Environmental Studies, is actually one department housed across both campuses. For students, this meant that required courses like the intro and capstone would be offered on alternating semesters at both campuses. I chose to take my senior capstone in the fall so I could be at Bryn Mawr, but it was also offered in the spring at Haverford.

Hope this helped!

Hi @nichols51 I hadn’t seen this article before you linked it here, and it was an interesting read. It seems to me like it touches on the larger issue of how a school’s legacy affects its students today.

From my perspective as a female student from Bryn Mawr, I’m happy to say I have never felt the kind of animosity described here directed at me from Haverford students of any gender. The tensions written about in the article are certainly a valid experience but they have not been my experience. If you are interested in the BiCo, you will for sure find wonderful friends on both campuses who are mature and secure enough to be your support system, not your competition.

I agree with what Hannah writes in her last paragraph about the need for appreciating and valuing complex identities, but I think we have had nearly opposite experiences where she says: “In my experience, we did not come into the Bi-Co knowing how to value women at either institution.” Bryn Mawr is a historically women’s college. It was built specifically to value women. We, along with the other Seven Sisters schools, were founded at a time when access to a quality education was being denied to young women. This has always been clear to me, that at Bryn Mawr, women and gender minorities were the focus because we could not always expect that kind of consideration or recognition in the outside world.

I’ve also never felt the discomfort Hannah describes in conversations about women and women-oriented spaces where rude comments that “perpetuate an environment that is hostile for women at both institutions, have made me personally uncomfortable in conversations about women and women-oriented spaces, and are just damn mean.” I agree that there is no reason to be mean. But I DO feel comfortable having conversations about how my education (my entire life! All of our lives!) has been shaped by my gender. I enjoy occupying the woman-oriented space that is my home campus, where I am encouraged to think about this and pull apart why people of any gender would make disparaging comments.

Haverford, like the huge majority of higher education institutions in the world today, was not built traditionally and specifically for women. I think Hannah has articulated well what many female students feel at institutions originally founded for only a narrow group of people. Haverford was founded for men to the exclusion of women. Bryn Mawr was founded for white women to the exclusion of women of color. I love my college but I can still be critical of it. I’m glad Hannah Krohn can be, too. Any college that tells you they have no skeletons in their closet is lying. We are doing our part to remember and learn from BMC’s own past mistakes. The name of our second President, a known racist and antisemite, was taken off a building. In addition to general campus tours, we offer a Black at Bryn Mawr tour. We have an annual Community Day of Learning to open conversations about our history, how it is still felt today, and to hear new perspectives. We are not perfect either, but we try to do better. The fact that female students at recently (because the ‘80s was not too long ago) co-ed institutions still feel this lingering sense of exclusion is proof of why women’s colleges are necessary.

I know I’ve said a lot about feeling the impacts today of a school’s legacy, but if you want to hear more about my specific experiences at a traditionally women’s school, ask me more questions!

@EmmaBMC20 thank you for your thoughtful responses in this thread.

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Hi! I was wondering how close Philly really is? I’m looking to transfer from a school in a tiny tiny town, so really anything is better haha. But I’m a real city girl and love to be in a more urban environment, so I was wondering how close is Philly? and how often does a student realistically go into Philly? what the surrounding town of Bryn Mawr is like and is it very car dependant? thanks!

I have received an all women’s education my whole life (from ages 4-18). This has been a positive experience and I am really interested in Bryn Mawr. Because of my academic past, I also want to get some exposure to co-ed education. Can you talk about how men are involved at Bryn Mawr?

My daughter just got assignment of Erdman first floor- hard not to be disappointed and nervous about her experience at BMC this fall which is going to be hard anyway- does anyone like the college who lived in that dorm as a freshman?

What about chicks in there?