The unnecessary barnard discourse

just wanted to put it out there that the vast majority of applicants go to barnard FOR barnard. for many girls it’s our dream school since the 9th grade or whatever, and it’s simply reductive to call it a backdoor option because i speak for many when i say i’d turn down columbia for barnard.
i also can’t think of something more inconsequential than fighting over whether a BC student is more valuable than a CC student. why??

the community is great and the education, atmosphere is immaculate. just wanted to say that. barnard women always carry this unmistakeable vibe that makes them really different, it’s not even just because they’re from a womens college or whatever… interacting with tour guides there or students there, you can tell they’re cut from a different flesh. anyway. hope i get in. to the AO seeing this I mean every word i said lol! be kind to our souls!

It is my understanding that the “Barnard College is a back door entry to Columbia University” assertions are the product of comments from Columbia students.

Probably arises from the difference in admission standards, yet Barnard students can enroll in Columbia University classes and receive a Columbia University degree (Barnard College of Columbia University).


By the same token would Columbia College be a “back” door to Columbia U.

Columbia U has no front or back doors. The various undergraduate colleges result in degrees from CU - and each college targets and selects a unique, thus different, type of students.

Haters gonna hate, as they say. And “Barnard is backdoor to CU” reflects the insecurities of the person who utters those words, nothing more.

It could be argued that Columbia is the back door to Barnard’s excellent theater department and dance department, for example, as the university relies on Barnard’s facilities for those areas of study.

Sure, and besides performing arts, there are other departments (such as the English department) that are favored by many Columbia College students, because they value the smaller class sizes and professors at Barnard.

But I think the key factor in this conversation is that the entire “backdoor” argument is based on the false premise that somehow the average SAT/ACT/GPA of admitted students is a valid measure how “easy” it is to get into the different undergraduate schools at Columbia U!

In reality, it’s only an indicator which school’s admission process does more closely track those numeric scores, and which school’s admission process is willing to take a broader look at the application pool!

I don’t know of any comparative statistics that show how many applicants applied to both, were admitted to Columbia College, but were NOT offered admission at Barnard, and vice-versa. However, every year I know of stellar-grade applicants who one might assume are an “automatic acceptance” (including some from our town) and may have been been accepted by another Ivy, but were surprised that they did NOT get into Barnard.

So the fact that the average numeric scores for Columbia College may be higher that Barnard does not by itself imply that one is by whatever percentage point “easier” than the other to gain attendance into Columbia U.

While I agree that many Barnard applicants apply because they genuinely love the school and would love to attend, I know several people who have openly discussed it as a “backdoor” option into an Ivy League school. With videos like “college decision reactions,” many people who apply to Barnard in those videos do not apply to any other LACs or women’s colleges. These are 2 of the most defining factors of Barnard, aside from its location and feel, of course. So, if someone applies to all of the traditional T20s and then throws Barnard in the mix, without considering other LACs or women’s colleges, it appears that Barnard was only applied to because of its affiliation to Columbia.

Genuinely, I believe that the large majority of Barnard applicants apply there because they want to attend Barnard for the institution it is, but as the school has grown in recognition, I think some women have used it as a way into getting a Columbia degree without attending Columbia. And that also is not to say that the education at Barnard alone is not exemplary – I have no doubt that it is. But for those who are attached to a name brand, any chance at getting a Columbia degree is one that they would jump at.

At the end of the day, I think people who truly want to attend Barnard for the institution it is are more likely to be admitted because their passion for the school will come out in their essays and applications. Barnard students love Barnard, though for at least some students, there is truth in the idea that some students apply because of the Columbia brand.

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I think there may be a more nuanced reason.

My daughter did not apply to any other women’s colleges (in fact, I was surprised she did), because no other urban university with a campus had a fully integrated women’s college to offer as the icing on the cake.

Yes - one attraction to Barnard is indeed the integration with Columbia University: its campus, facilities, sports, course catalogue, programs, location (in the city, and within the city), and the social options (ability to make friends) because of the large university setting.

But far from being a “back-door” to Columbia University, it was actually Barnard that was the “added benefit”.

Looking back, I think the key to her enrollment decision (among the various acceptances) was: New York City, the large University campus with all its offerings - making the Barnard vibe the final tipping point. No doubt, by then she certainly had learned of the added benefit of the Columbia University degree.

So I believe there may be a good number of cases where people combine several independent facts, but then interpret them to conveniently suit the “backdoor” argument they are desperate to make: They pick the degree as the only feature of Columbia U that could have possibly attracted Barnard students.

To ignore the term, is ignoring reality. Yes, there are people who look at Barnard as a “backdoor “ to Columbia. So there are people who bloom at the school of General Studies as such. Yes, it’s easier for females to gain admittance to Barnard than to Columbia College; I know a number of those who have applied to both. Not a one got into Columbia College, nearly all of them were accepted to Barnard. They would have gone to Columbia College if accepted there, most turned down Barnard, and went there. The reason cited was they’d feel like second class citizens there.

One young woman I wel know who did end up at Barnard , feels now 10 years out that she has reaped the benefits of a Columbia University degree. She has had great job opportunities that she feels matched her friends and classmates from Columbia College. But she does admit, there is that pause, in her mind, that she went to Barnard to get her Columbia University diploma rather than Columbia College. It is a real issue, a talking point, something that exists regardless of whether there are any true outcome differences or not

most turned down Barnard, and went there. The reason cited was they’d feel like second class citizens there <<


Which sums up the problem: people repeating what others say, who also don’t know first hand (didn’t actually attend – "Not one got into Columbia "), thus perpetuating a perception that’s not anchored in actual current-day experiences.

Per example, my “second class” citizen got Columbia funding for a Columbia summer semester in Europe, got an internship at Columbia’s Law Library, etc.

The “reality” for someone actually ATTENDING the colleges at Columbia U is: when you are in the gyms, libraries, dining halls, lectures on either side of Broadway - you can’t tell which person is enrolled in which school, making it hard to treat anyone differently, if anyone wanted to (with the glaring exception of male students using Barnard facilities).

@DigitalDad , I know how it works. Believe me, I do. And Ive recommended Barnard to many students and shall do so soon to someone close to me. I’m not denying the benefits of Barnard and that once in the classroom, there is really no Barnard. But there is that thing—about Barnard that does exist in talk, belief and feeling, and to deny it is unrealistic.

Heck, I’d go to Barnard. But if accepted to both Columbia College AND Barnard, I’d accept Columbia College’s offer. If faced with a Barnard vs Penn choice, I’d pick Penn. Columbia College vs Penn, I’d pick Columbia College. Barnard does exist separately in major rankings and categories, unlike Radcliffe and Pembroke, Kirkland, Jackson all now integrated under the male colleges .

I know a number of student who have gone to Hobart William Smith. The men often just say a Hobart. The women never ever have just said William Smith. Even in NY, even among college seeking parents, William Smith alone gets no name recognition that I’ve seen, and I know a dozen alums from the school, and it’s one I highly recommend

Rejecting perception where it doesn’t match experienced reality, is actually being realistic.

Restating perceptions that don’t match real-life experience fits the “unrealistic” attribute.

And if those perceptions can only be backed up by third parties who didn’t attend, or by hypothetical decisions for/against colleges not having been admitted to at all, is about as detached from reality as one can get – that’s before the topic drifted to complete different universities and colleges. At this point, I feel like I’m talking to White House staff :wink:

My D21 is applying to Barnard ED and not interested in applying to Columbia. She wants a liberal arts education and loved the supportive atmosphere at Barnard during a summer program there. It wouldn’t surprise me if some people apply to Barnard as a back door but I would hope the admission reps can see through that.

That said my D is not applying to any other women’s colleges even though we looked at nearly all of them. She liked the social aspects of having a co-ed university across the street, not to mention the urban setting. (She is applying to several other LACs, assuming her ED is not an acceptance.)

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Whoa. If I’m reading your post correctly #9, I need to say that’s your personal view and it’s a view not shared by many. Most women who choose to attend women’s colleges do so precisely because of the attitude on display in that post. Precisely because of that mindset. I don’t know if you’re male or female, but the attitude of the post is “males are superior.” If you perhaps could re-read what you wrote you might see the bias that inherently says that women are inferior or get their value from association with men.

If I was accepted into Barnard and Columbia–I’d choose Barnard. In a heartbeat. I love that it 1) has no core and 2) is a place that is unapologetically female positive and 3) a top intellectual institution in its own right; 4) that attracts fierce women who take on the world; 5) and has a history of positive cultural change; And so much more.

The entire reason for a Barnard, a William Smith, a Bryn Mawr, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, Simmons, Agnes Scott etc – is precisely the attitude on display in your post. And that attitude is historic and that attitude persists , as your post deftly indicates

The women who choose women’s colleges understand the value of those schools. Women are choosing those schools more if you notice, not less. And the value of those schools is borne out in the jobs marketplace. Women who graduate from women’s colleges tend to over-perform in their fields compared with women who graduate from co-ed schools. Women who attend women’s colleges tend also to go into fields that are historically dominated by men: STEM fields, business, politics, and they achieve more often leadership positions in those fields.

The idea that H&WS is somehow more valuable with “Hobart” as its nickname and not William Smith is false on its surface. Any statistician will explain that the first name on a ballot tends to get more votes. That’s one reason why how the ballot is printed is hotly debated each election. Anyone else will tell you that the beginning sound of names tends to lead to the nickname.

But your assertion basically is that women’s colleges are somehow given more value or more prestige by association with men’s colleges or men at all. That is simply false as per evidence of how women from those schools perform in the job market historically through the present. Women from those schools BTW value the sisterhood and network within it. There’s a reason why there’s a group of schools called The Seven Sisters–now it’s often called “Five sisters and two cousins.” Women support women and are stronger for it.

I will not comment further on this issue in order to abide by the rules of not arguing.



Your daughter might want to consider Bryn Mawr as it also has many men on campus. BMC practically shares campuses with Haverford. They coordinate schedules, coordinate buses between campuses (only 1 mile apart) and activities. They even coordinated the COVID response. There are also grad students on the BMC campus–meaning men are present. Men are allowed in dorms. I’m pretty sure that the two colleges even share a co-ed dorm. You might want to look that up. The bi-co colleges (Haverford and BMC) are 11 miles from Philly and it’s easy to get there on the SEPTA trains. If she wants to branch out further from the bi-co she can also take classes at UPenn in Philly (transportation paid for) and at Swarthmore (frequent buses between campuses). They are all part of the same consortium. BMC and H have very different architectural styles–both gorgeous. One is more stark simple Quaker (Haverford) and BMC is renowned for being basically a Scottish castle.

What if she is not Fierce? What if she is smart, shy, studious, a nice girl?