Barnard College Visit Report by donutdad
Information Session: Yes - Well done. Polished, efficient presentation. Helpful suggestions for successful essays.
Campus Tour: Yes - Bizzare. See visit description.
Campus Visit Notes for Barnard College
We arrived at Barnard at 9:30 on a Wednesday morning and took a look around the campus, which is a prettyish sort of wilderness in the middle of Morningside Heights. Gated entryways lead to a set of connected small outside spaces--a luxury in Manhattan--with a lot of potential, but completely uninspired landscaping. It's a pleasant collection of buildings blending old and new, from the outside. A professor directed us to the admissions office, which was closed. Few people were around, as you might expect in August. We set out to search for decent coffee and bagels and circled the outside of the campus, but ended up three blocks away before we found it, a trek which I found surprising, and there seems to be little in the way of bookstores, movie houses, and the usual college venues. But it's New York, hop on the subway and you're at The Strand bookstore in minutes, etc.
By 10:30 a large group of families had gathered in the welcome center, which is not anywhere near the admissions office. (?) This turned out to be the most impressive stop on the tour. We were surrounded by impressive stories on the walls of accomplished graduates. It was all downhill from there.
Our tour guide took us out to a small grassy quad situated between the freshman dorms and went over to ask the groundskeeper to take a break from mowing while she showed us around. He refused. So we headed over to another small gathering place. As it turns out, the tour was little more than a series of visits to small gathering places around campus. There aren't many, as you might expect in a school located in Manhattan, and I think we saw them all. Aside from the inside of one musty dorm room, that was all we saw of Barnard. Let that sink in for a minute. Library? Not open. Science building? Locked. Computer lab? Could take you down there but we're running out of time. Highlights of each building we walked by were described for us by the tour guide as we passed. "Gender studies is in that building..." etc. Have to say, from what little we saw of the interiors of these buildings, I'm left to believe the admissions office decided they're better off leaving things to our imagination.
We fought our way up and around 95, which was closed at Newark (!), for hours, for this? We drove to New Jersey, got some outstanding Greek falafel, crossed the GW Bridge and yadda-yadda-yadda, we drove home. (Skipped the best part? Nope. I mentioned the falafel.) Can't complain, though. One family flew in from Singapore and another was from South Africa, to see nothing, really.
The tour guide's most passionate pitch for Barnard was that students get to use the Columbia gym and cafeteria, and that they can take Columbia classes. She also noted that for her, as an only child, she valued the chance to experience living with a roommate. [Later, the admissions office employee who told us about financial aid (there isn't any) introduced herself as the tourguide's sister. Huh?] In response to my daughter's question about LGBTQ life on campus, the tourguide offered that there is a club for that. That's a pretty low bar to clear.
Campus safety is an issue they seem to be in denial about. We were assured there are guards at the gates and at the entrance to the dorms. Yet, there is a sign up in the dorm we visited warning that someone recently broke in through a fire escape and burglarized the dorm. Is there a blue light system for campus safety, a prospective parent asked? "I never thought about that. Maybe we should, but everything here is very close together," said the tour guide. Not sure I see how it being a small campus obviates the need. According to the Clery Report for Barnard, 4 sexual assaults occured from 2011-2013, or about 1.6 per thousand students. For comparison, at Penn State, University Park, a sprawling campus, that figure is about 1.8.
My daughter loves NYC and is no shrinking violet. She can make it there, but as the song goes, that means she can make it anywhere. So why pick Barnard? No one on our visit made a compelling case.
Hotel/Lodging Recommendations or Comments:
Hampton Inn, Fort Lee, NJ is excellent.
Dining/Restaurant Recommendations or Comments:
Greek food delivered to the hotel.
Other Comments (Transportation, local attractions, parking, etc.):
Park at Mt. Sinai Hospital