School Profile: Barnard College

Barnard College – Excellence in Education

Barnard College was founded in 1889 in New York City as a college for women after a long campaign by the 10th President of Columbia College (now Columbia University), Frederick A. P. Barnard and the student activist and writer, Annie Nathan Meyer. Frederick Barnard had been arguing for the admittance of female students to the all-male Columbia College since 1879, but the school’s board of trustees would not permit it. The only allowance the school permitted for women was the granting of a degree only if the woman passed an examination based on the Columbia syllabus. Annie Meyer, was the first student to be granted a degree this way. Attending classes, however, was not permitted. Both Meyer and Barnard believed that women should be allowed to have a prestigious and rigorous education equal to the education of males. Annie Meyer formed a committee that commissioned for the formation of a female college affiliated with Columbia College. In 1889, Barnard opened its doors at 343 Madison Avenue. It had a faculty of six and a student body of 40. By the 1890’s, the classes were moved to an acre of land on Broadway between 119th and 120th street, largely due to the fundraising efforts of Meyer. Elizabeth Milbank Anderson, Martha Fiske and Mary Brinckerhoff donated money for the purchase of the land for Barnard.

The college quickly adopted its own faculty, curriculum, admissions administration and board of trustees. It also maintained its own operating budget. However, in 1983, Columbia began to allow admittance to female students, and many thought it would not belong before Barnard and Columbia merged. However, the Barnard president Ellen Futter fought to maintain Barnard’s independence.

Over the years, Barnard and Columbia have maintained an affiliation. However, Barnard is still considered independent, which means that it still maintains it own board of trustees, admission process, faculty and budget. Despite this independence Barnard and Columbia are closely linked and maintain a complex relationship. For instance, both presidents, the President of Columbia and the President of Barnard, sign the Barnard student’s diplomas. Students also may take classes at either college, and frequently, Barnard students are members of Columbia’s student clubs and sports teams. Alumnae of Barnard are also encouraged to include Barnard College of Columbia on their resumes. Barnard has become one of the most prestigious sister schools of the Ivy league, similar to other sister schools: Mount Holyoke, Smith, Wellesley and Bryn Mawr.


According to the U.S. News and World Report, Barnard is ranked 26th in the country. However, this ranking does not take into account its affiliation with Columbia. Nevertheless, Barnard has one of the lowest acceptance rates of the schools in the country and is the most selective of all the sister schools. Several Barnard officials want to dispute the ranking because they believe that it is too low.


In 2011, Barnard’s acceptance rate was 28.7 percent. In 2012, the acceptance rate was 22.5 percent of the 5,440 applicants. Each year the number of applicants seems to rise, while the acceptance rate drops. Still, according to Barnard, although their admission process is selective, “no one criterion or score determines acceptance.” Each student’s academic background, personal qualities and intellectual ability are considered along with how the student might fit at Barnard. Nevertheless, SAT and ACT scores for entering freshmen are relatively high. In 2011, for example, the median SAT score was 2100, and the median ACT score was 30.

Application requirements for Barnard include the submission of the following documents:

  • the common application
  • the Barnard supplement for first-year students
  • an application fee
  • ACT or SAT scores
  • high school transcripts
  • teacher evaluations
  • supplementary artwork or music (optional)

Academic Departments

Barnard’s academic departments include:

  • Anthropology
  • Architecture
  • Art History
  • Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Classics and Ancient Studies
  • Computer Science
  • Dance
  • Economics
  • English
  • Environmental Science
  • French
  • History
  • Mathematics
  • Philosophy
  • Physical Education
  • Psychology
  • Religion
  • Slavic
  • Sociology
  • Spanish and Latin American Cultures
  • Statistics
  • Theatre
  • Women’s Studies


Barnard is one of the few female colleges that allows women to conduct research for and about women and promotes lectures and dissertations for the advancement of women. As such, Barnard has several centers for research including the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, Barnard Center for Research on Women, Barnard Center for Toddler Development and Center for Translation Studies.


Barnard offers three different tiers of athletic programs to accommodate the various athletic abilities. Students are also able to participate in athletic programs at both Barnard and Columbia. Students that compete at Barnard, however, are apart of the Division 1 athletic program, while those that choose to participate via Columbia’s programs play as part of the Ivy League Conference. Fifteen varsity sports are currently available through the Columbia University Athletic Program and the Barnard/Columbia Athletic consortium. These include: archery, basketball, cross country, fencing, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field.

Tuition and Financial Aid

The estimated costs to attend Barnard and live on campus with a meal plan is approximately $50,000 a year. The cost of tuition for the 2010-2011 school year was  approximately $39,000, and the cost of campus housing varies depending on the accommodations. Barnard does offer merit-based and need-based scholarships. Generally, to be considered for these scholarships applicants must submit a scholarship application within one week of submitting their admission application.

To help students and parents determine financial need, there is a financial aid calculator located on the Barnard website.


Barnard College in New York City.

(Image provided courtesy of Her Campus.)