Transition from a Co-Ed High School

Transition from a Co-Ed High School

Question: I only realized a few months ago that New York possessed an incredible women's college and have been falling in love with Barnard ever since! I am the only daughter in my family and I have been brought up in a coeducational environment; I'm curious to learn about the transition to Barnard for students with situations similar to mine. What is it like going from co-education to an exclusively women-centered environment? What makes the experience at Barnard different (and/or better) than another college?

Answer: This sentiment sounds so familiar - I immediately fell in love with Barnard when I found it! I can also relate to being an only child and being brought up in a co-ed educational environment prior to coming to Barnard. I have to say it really wasn't a big transition coming to Barnard, for several reasons.

Firstly, I think it's important to know that Barnard's identity as a women's college is not about excluding those who do not identify as women from the classroom/discussion, nor is it about reinforcing rigid separation, delineation, or organization of students based on gender. Because we can take courses at Columbia and Columbia students take courses at Barnard, there is often a co-ed environment in class. There is also a lot of social crossover and collaboration in extracurricular groups, so it is incredibly easy to make friends who go to both Barnard and Columbia, of various gender identities. I would not say Barnard is exclusively a women's environment, rather, it is a women-focused institution that provides people who identify and live/have lived as women with the resources and community to counter the historical obstacles and disadvantages that exist for non-male individuals within academia.

I have never once felt like I'm missing out on something I used to have at my co-ed high school; I feel like I've gained perspective on how my identities (both gender and otherwise, and whether they be self-designated or assigned) affect my relationship to my fields of study, and my position in social, academic, and professional spheres. This has been the most "different" feature about Barnard to me. I have written more about Barnard as a women's college in another post in our blog, if you want to check it out!

- Aydan Shahd '20 

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