Brandeis vs. Mount Holyoke

Right now it looks like I’m choosing between Mount Holyoke and Brandeis. I’m interested in pursuing a double major/ major-minor situation with International Relations and Education. I’m not really interested in a huge party scene, and I’ve heard both campuses are pretty chill with relatively friendly and engaged student bodies which is what I’m looking for. I also am much more interested in a cooperative as opposed to a competitive academic environment and I really value having small class sizes and engaged professors. I really, really want to study abroad so the strength of study abroad programs could be a deciding factor for me. I don’t particularly care about location in terms of Brandeis having easier access to cities.

Mount Holyoke:
Pros: It’s a women’s college, which I think would foster a really excellent campus community. It’s also part of a consortium for Amherst, UMass, Smith, and Hampshire so I could take classes or join clubs at any of those schools. The dining and dorms are supposed to be way better than Brandeis, and the campus is certainly more appealing. It also has a varsity riding team, and I really like the idea of continuing to ride seriously in college. I also love the traditions at Mount Holyoke, and the Princeton review gave it the #1 spot for professors which makes me excited about classes there. Based on a quick google search, I also think Mount Holyoke may have a slightly stronger IR program, but I could be totally off.

Cons: It’s a women’s college, and while I’ve been to all girls summer camps, I’ve never really experienced a strong majority female community for any extended period of time. I’m also certainly not going to college to date, but it might be nice to have the option later without having to go to hang out at a different school in the consortium. It also seems to me like Mount Holyoke’s study abroad program is weaker than Brandeis’s, as financial aid won’t transfer for a study abroad semester. You can apply for a Laurel Fellowship to cover costs, but that is only for select programs which could limit my options. They also don’t have an education major, but they have different two minors and a “curriculum to career” education path so I don’t think it would be a huge deal.

Pros: I have heard great things about Brandeis’s campus community in terms of being friendly and not cutthroat. I also think Brandeis might be a slightly better fit for me academically given how popular double majors are on campus (50% of students double major, I believe.) I also believe that Brandeis is generally considered a better school, although I’m not totally sure how accurate that is. Brandeis also does have an education studies major, which sounds like an excellent path for me because I’m interested in education policy. From what I’ve gathered, Brandeis also has a stronger study abroad program than Mount Holyoke.

Cons: I was accepted as a midyear (January start) to Brandeis, and I’m not thrilled with it. I don’t love either of their midyear study abroad programs (London or Florence.) If I’m going to study abroad, I want it to be a program I’m genuinely excited about. I don’t want to use one of my study abroad semesters on something I don’t love. I already have too many dual enrollment SU credits to transfer, so it wouldn’t make sense to take community college classes. With the pandemic I’m kind of limited so I’d really just have to stay at home and work. Brandeis also isn’t known for having the best campus/food/dorms which isn’t a huge deal but something to consider. They also don’t really have a riding team (they have a club, but nothing compared to Mount Holyoke’s program) which again isn’t a huge deal but something to think about.

If anyone has any insight into either school or any advice on deciding, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!

Sounds like MHC is a better fit for you, because the cons at Brandeis are much stronger than for MHC. In particular, being admitted to the midyear program is big because 1) it delays your start 2) you cannot do much during the missing semester and 3) you’re not seeing yourself in their semester abroad options.
The Laurel Fellowship is awarded to all applicants who showed they understood their program and how it fit into their studies (90%). It covers everything so all in all it shouldn’t be a problem.


I answer this because your major is in International Relations.

I live in MA and have friends and family members (own kids and nieces)go to Brandeis, Smith and Wellesley. Know MH well too.
Brandeis was founded as a medical school for Jewish. Today the top majors are econ, bio, and business. Between 26-44% of students identify themselves as Jewish. Debate about Israel policy can be a taboo, as told by my two nieces. My Asian niece received a great bio/medical education there and recently received her MD+phd. My Jewish niece, a math wizard, is pursuing a degree in medicine+data analysis. She also love it there.
My daughter, however, did not like the “vibe” when visiting Brandeis. She never applied.
M Holyoke has a beautiful campus. The school has the highest international (undergrad) student % in MA - 26-30%. Top majors are Psy, CS, and econ(?). My neighbor’s daughter chose this school, however, for the varsity riding.
The 5-college consortium is great, but it takes up a lot time sitting/waiting for the buses. My other daughter actually receive a diploma in IR from the 5-College while majoring in econ at Smith.
Speaking of IR, women colleges in MA all have joint BA/MA (5 years) degree program with Graduate Institute in Geneva located next to UN, WTO, and more. Master of IntEcon, IR (most popular), IntLaw are offered. Students in the program must study in Geneva in the not-so-grand “campus” in the first sem of their senior year. And the $9-10k tuition is great.

At the end, you should choose the school you feel comfortable with. Both are great schools.

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Brandeis is a secular liberal arts university that was founded under Jewish auspices. It is not now, and never was a medical school, and identifying as any particular religion was never a requirement for admission, nor was any religious group ever shown preference in admissions. About a third of the students who currently go there are Jewish, as at many other highly ranked liberal arts colleges and universities in the US, some of which also have as many as 30% student population who identify as Jews.

Science education is strong there, as are many other academic areas. Its overall political “vibe” tends to be liberal, matching the overall “vibe” of many other liberal arts colleges in the US.

Please read the above link for correct information about Brandeis, how it was founded, by whom, for whom, and for what areas of education.


I second parentologist’s factual correction, and I also add this:

  1. Brandeis is the only fully secular, non-religiously-affiliated college in the United States not to have a Christian majority. (Note: it does not have a majority- i.e., over 50%- in any religion.)

  2. In a beautiful symbol of Brandeis’s approach to religious freedom and equality, it has three chapels of three different faiths deliberately built so that the shadow of one never falls over the shadow of the other two. Brandeis is all about tolerance and acceptance.

That is why it was founded, at a time when Jews were subject to a quota system at other top colleges. Though young (1948), Brandeis has quickly become a Tier 1 research institution attracting high-achieving students. Two science professors recently won a Nobel prize. It has a wide range of famous and infamous professors, including Anita Hill. Class sizes are relatively small, too, at this small university, allowing undergraduates to interact closely with these stellar professors.

We visited it twice during son’s college search, although he ended up getting into Williams early decision. It’s funny to hear a disparagement of the food at Brandeis, because we thought it had among the best food of the 21 or so colleges we visited! It was a very friendly campus, too. We loved the students. As we saw it, the worst negative was its crowding. There is not much space for the campus to grow, the forced triples in the dorms looked pretty tiny for three people, and many upperclassmen are forced to live off-campus because there just isn’t space.

I can’t comment on MHC in comparison. A big question, though, may be whether you feel at home in a women’s college or would prefer a co-ed experience. And I also think that the mid-year start should be a seriously considered factor. Starting at the same time as your peers helps with social bonding.


The first few weeks in the fall at college are a time of very intense social activity. I would have felt totally adrift arriving in January. However, I bet that the January arrivals quickly make friends with each other, and the rest of the students.

On the other hand, I would most definitely NOT have wanted to be at a women’s college. I’m not the kind of person who is intimidated by the presence of men. I would not have been silenced by even the most outspoken men. Nowadays, women have the vocabulary to speak up for themselves in these situations, if they dare, so I think that coeducation is even less of an issue for women of average assertiveness. And the fact is, the world is not unisex.

Are there any other options for you? We don’t know if college will be normal this fall, what with variants which may evade the vaccine. Maybe it’s a good year to take a gap year and study abroad, especially with your interest in IR? Become fluent both linguistically and culturally in another part of the world? Then apply again, while holding a deferred application at Brandeis?


I’ve been accepted into a handful of other schools, but they’ve been eliminated for a variety of reasons. Notably, SUNY Binghamton, Dickinson, and a joint degree between St. Andrews and William & Mary. SUNY Binghamton doesn’t seem particularly strong in either IR or Education (it doesn’t actually have a designated major for either, although you can major in polisci with a global focus and there is an education minor), St. Andrews was much too expensive (Roughly an extra 20-30k/year in loans), and Dickinson just didn’t have anything that really pulled me to it, and I feel that the academics at Brandeis and Moho are stronger.

My fear with a gap year would be not being able to travel due to COVID. I also already studied abroad during my sophomore year of high school, and plan on taking a year abroad as a junior in college.

I’ve heard that midyears at Brandeis do integrate fairly well into the rest of the class, as Brandeis reruns all of its fall orientation events in the spring for midyears. Midyears are also housed together, so they form friendships fairly easily amongst themselves.

I certainty don’t feel intimidated by men, I would’ve applied to Mount Holyoke regardless of if it was coed or a women’s school. I feel like the pros and cons of it being a HWC balance out to the point that it doesn’t really impact my decision.

Thanks for your input! I’m thinking I’m leaning MHC’s direction. I wish I could put Brandeis’s academics, which I feel are a slightly better fir for me, into MHC’s everything else hahah.


Be careful not to under-regard Holyoke’s long-established international relations program:


Women who choose women’s colleges do NOT do so because they are intimidated by men. I know this first hand, I graduated from Mt. Holyoke. No one I know from my undergrad years was in any way intimidated by men.

IMO, Mt. Holyoke is the better choice for you. You will have the opportunity for a top-notch classroom experience and to ride at what is arguably the best college equestrian center in the country. I am a rider as well. I spent many hours at the barn working (my work-study job was there) and riding.


I agree. I’ve gone to coed schools my whole life and certainly feel I could “hold my own” in a discussion, regardless of sex. That being said, I applied to Moho because of other factors. It being a women’s college really didn’t sway me either direction.

It’s great to hear you had a positive experience both academically and athletically. I would certainly be interested in holding a work study position in the barn, depending on how competitive they are to get.


Entering college during the Fall is an almost magical experience that should not be missed in my opinion.

Being able to pursue your passion for horse riding should yield a strong group of friends as well as to ensure a well rounded, balanced college experience.

The consortium should give you access to dating opportunities if you take just one class per semester at Amherst or UMass.