I recently got an anonymous message on my tumblr. Because it is a query that I expect lots of people are having right now, I thought I’d share the question (edited very slightly for discretion) and my answer.
How would you describe Bryn Mawr and what has been your experience there? I’m looking into both Bryn Mawr and another college so I’m trying to learn more about the schools from those attending. Thank you for your time. (:
I have had a really fantastic experience with Bryn Mawr overall. I’ll try to refrain from gushing, but let me just say that choosing Bryn Mawr is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.
Of course it’s not for everyone, but here are some things that you can expect:
- a lot of really cool people whose day planners are bursting with interesting things that they care about a lot. Lots of students who care about everything, which might be a reflection of the liberal arts vibe. Each of the classes I’m taking this semester is in a different department. I’m also involved in the leadership of three different clubs and have five jobs (all with scant hours, though, so the amount of time I spend at work is pretty reasonable). I’m not trying to paint myself as especially busy/involved— this is pretty normal for a Mawrtyr
- people talking about school all the time. The workload tends to be pretty serious and on top of that, most people really care both about what they’re studying out of intellectual curiosity and because people tend to take high academic performance pretty seriously
- that said, it’s not necessarily an environment I would call competitive. It’s pretty taboo to share grades, and there’s no sense of other students as threats— most people push themselves pretty hard but not against anyone else
- professors who want to be teaching. You might find this at Hollins (Google tells me it’s also a small liberal arts college), but for Bryn Mawr professors the undergraduate students are definitely not an afterthought like they might be at a university that’s more research/graduate school focused
- smaller classes with more focus on discussion. I’ve never taken a class where you can skip class and get the same information from studying the textbook or slides that the professor posts online
- a lot of people who want to talk about feminism and other issues of gender and sexuality all the time, though we could definitely stand to have more dialogue on other issues such as race, ability and especially class. Being an elite liberal arts institution, it’s assumed (and is often the case) that students are pretty privileged educationally and economically. People are always up for a discussion, but if it’s about something other than feminism you might have to bring it up.
- you might feel like you’re in a cult sometimes. There are traditions that have been accused of having illuminati ties and the community feels like being wrapped in a huge blanket: mostly warm, snuggly, and comforting, but occasionally a tiny bit suffocating. If you are hoping to be invisible/aloof from most of campus and just do your own thing, that might be harder at Bryn Mawr.
- the years are well-integrated but also have a strong sense of identity. You’ll have a class color (I assume you’re going to be a frosh in the fall, which means your class color will be red), a class song, et cetera, and there are some things only seniors are allowed to do. There aren’t any frosh-only dorms and most people live on campus all four years so you’ll get lots of interaction with upperclasspeople
- everyone LOVES frosh. Expect older classes to be, like, cooing and pinching your cheeks
- it’s pretty common for people to be a little obsessed with Bryn Mawr, probably because it’s such an intense/distinctive community.
Like I said, I LOVE it here, good luck on your decision!
And on that note, I hope that anyone who is thinking of attending Bryn Mawr feels free to contact me with questions about my experiences. Best wishes to anyone and everyone making that big scary fun decision.