Frequently Asked Questions for First-Year Applicants
Our Application Process
The Committee on Admissions selects women of proven academic strength who exhibit intellectual voracity and strong potential for further scholarly growth. In addition to school records, recommendations, writing, and test scores, we carefully consider candidates' talents, abilities, interests, and personal history. While admission is highly selective, it is also holistic; no one criterion or score determines acceptance. We consider each applicant in terms of her personal qualities, her intellectual capacity, and the rigor of the curriculum she has pursued, as well as her potential for achieving at Barnard. We review each applicant in the context of her school, community, and individual story.
To be well-prepared for a college like Barnard, it is important to think about the academic community you are hoping to join. Barnard's general education requirements cover a wide range of subjects: literature, the social sciences, language and the arts, lab sciences, and quantitative areas. For this reason, you should acquire a strong foundation in high school, taking courses from the core academic subjects: math, science, English, history, and foreign language. Do your best to take the most rigorous classes available to you in which you can do your best work. For transfer students, our recommendations are similar. Take courses that are recommended to fulfill general requirements in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. If an area is a relative weakness, continue taking that subject while pursuing advanced coursework in areas of relative strength. Remember, we hope to see how you might contribute to our intellectual community, and your choices tell us what kind of a student you will be.
As you know, Barnard's application process is contextual and holistic, so it can be difficult to answer specific questions like these ones without knowing the broader context of your application and the applicant pool at large. That said, we have observed that our most competitive applicants have taken four years of each of the five core subject areas: English, math, science, foreign language, and social science, during their high school years. There are certainly no guarantees that a student with this kind of curriculum will be admitted to Barnard, and similarly no guarantees that a student who doesn't take this broad curriculum won't be admitted to Barnard. However, this is our best recommendation. Students should discuss all their options with their guidance counselor to ensure they making rigorous choices within the context of their curriculum and course offerings.
First year applications to Barnard are first reviewed by your regional admissions representative. Your regional admissions representative is the most knowledgeable on schools and trends within their territories, and therefore most qualified to conduct the initial evaluation. They will conduct a thorough evaluation of your application, taking into account all of the parts of the application. After their evaluation, it will be passed to a second reader who will do another full evaluation. After these two evaluations, the application will go to a committee for a final decision. All committees are chaired by a senior admissions staff member.
It’s best to ask your guidance counselor to explain any special circumstances in his or her letter. You can also write about personal challenges in your personal statement, or in the additional information section of your application.
An effective essay should explore a specific idea about your personal or intellectual life rather than a chronological rundown of your life so far. This is your opportunity to share something meaningful about yourself—a topic that shows who you are or something important to you—that goes beyond a list of activities and academic achievements. It’s not necessary to come up with an original topic; many of our successful applicants write about their families, service projects, sports, or music. It is also important for you to reflect on your choice of topic and explain its importance, impact, or influence. Remember that you’re limited to 650 words, so be clear and concise. Your grammar and spelling should also be free of errors.
If you are a first-year applicant in your senior year of high school, you can arrange for an interview with a representative of the Barnard community (senior interviewer, staff member, or alumna). These interviews are not required, but they are an opportunity for the Office of Admissions to learn more about you, and for you to learn more about the College. Both informational and evaluative in nature, the interviews will be considered in our application review, but if you do not interview, you will not be penalized in any way. Please note that interviews are not part of the transfer application process.
Barnard does not require portfolios or auditions for any of our artistic programs. If you would like to submit supplementary materials, please only do so if it represents a substantial amount of your time, dedication, and energy. Most applicants who send additional materials do so to demonstrate talent in art (including film, photography, drawing, painting, and sculpture), music, dance, theatre, or creative writing, though we have received materials demonstrating other skills (slam poetry performances, for example). You can submit a supplementary portfolio through Slideroom. Please note: Supplementary material is considered part of the application and will not be returned. In addition, supplementary materials will not be reviewed by Barnard faculty, and there is no guarantee it will be reviewed by the Admissions Committee.
The Early Decision plan is intended for students who passionately believe that Barnard is their first choice college. It is a binding decision plan, meaning that if you are admitted Early Decision, you agree to attend Barnard and promise to withdraw all other applications.
We realize that this is not a decision to be made lightly.
It is expected that students who apply Early Decision will have explored the Barnard literature and website, and will have connected with current students, alumnae, admissions officers, or faculty to learn more. We strongly suggest that you visit campus (if possible). And, we require that students who apply Early Decision sign an Early Decision Agreement, along with a guardian and guidance counselor. You should discuss Early Decision with your family, and should take into consideration all aspects relevant to making your college choice.
Students who will require financial aid to attend Barnard are expected to review the financial aid policies and deadlines and should be comfortable with the financial aid application and prospective financial aid decision when applying Early Decision.
The simple answer is no. Our holistic admissions process is the same for candidates applying for Early and Regular Decision. Our GPA and standardized testing averages for admission are the same for both decision plans. Historically, we have accepted between 35-40% of our first-year class from the Early Decision applicant pool. However, as the majority of our applicants apply through Regular Decision, by applying Early Decision you may have the benefit of standing out in a smaller pool of applicants. Also, by applying early decision, we assume you have done thorough research on Barnard and feel it is your first-choice school; a factor we do not take lightly.
If you apply Early Decision and you are applying for financial aid, your application for aid will undergo a thorough review for need-based aid, based on the projected income and asset information presented in the CSS Profile, and the tax information from two years prior to the application year. If you apply for financial aid, a financial aid decision will be posted in your application portal with your Early Decision acceptance letter. Methodology used to calculate Early Decision and Regular Decision is the same. In addition, Barnard College will meet 100% of the full demonstrated need for every admitted student.
If you are concerned about finances, we urge you to use our Net Price Calculator to estimate your family contribution and to determine eligibility for a need-based financial aid award. Then, you and your family should contact the Office of Financial Aid with any questions. While our financial aid packages are quite generous, if you would like to compare financial aid packages with other schools, it may be advisable to apply Regular Decision.
Barnard is proud to support students from low-income backgrounds. If you are a first-year applicant and you qualify for a fee waiver, consult with your high school counseling or guidance office. On the Common Application online, choose the Common Application fee waiver option and have your counselor submit your waiver directly to the Office of Admissions. We will gladly accept waivers from the Common Application, NACAC, SAT or ACT. If a form is unavailable, we will also accept a letter from your counselor requesting a fee waiver that explains the financial hardship.
In the spirit of a truly holistic and contextually aware review process, scores are considered in the context of the rest of the application and in conjunction with the application's other parts. A math score will prompt us to look at the relevant math curriculum, grades, and any related teacher comments. A writing score will prompt close evaluation of students’ essays and comments from teachers that may address use of feedback, willingness to tackle difficult subject matter, and even improvement in writing. Standardized test scores are one aspect of the application and never the sole reason for admission or denial.
Yes! Students applying to Barnard can choose to self-report their test scores via the Common Application or Coalition application. We will use the self-reported scores for our application evaluation. If you are admitted to Barnard and choose to apply, we will require that you send your official testing record from the SAT or ACT.
Please keep in mind that we do not participate in score choice. Therefore, you will be required to submit your full SAT or ACT testing record from each taken exam.
We no longer require SAT subject tests as part of our application review. Scores that are sent to Barnard are not included in our evaluation.
Barnard does not recommend or require the optional SAT or ACT Writing exam. Scores that are sent to Barnard are not included in our evaluation.
Barnard strongly recommends that students take all standardized testing prior to the application deadline. This will ensure that scores reach us in time to review your application for admission. Exams taken after the deadline date will be considered if they arrive in time for our review. We are unable to offer admission to a student without official testing on file.
Early Decision students taking exams in November, or Regular Decision students taking exams in January, may self-report their scores by sending a screenshot of their scores to the admissions office. Your name must be visible on the computer screen to verify they are your scores. Please send self-reported scores to email@example.com. While we will use self-reported scores to initiate our admissions review, we will not extend any offers of admission without official scores.
Barnard does not participate in score choice and requires students to send all standardized testing scores. For the SAT, we will use the highest score in each section of each exam sitting. For the ACT, we will use your highest composite; we do not superscore the ACT.
Testing is one part of the application review process, and having a complete testing profile can provide insight into a student's progress. Improvement in scores over a period of time, consistency in scoring, or the knowledge that a student took the test once (as a relatively high scorer or a low scorer) provides information helpful in the review process. We have always practiced the spirit of score choice. However, we do, prefer to see a student's full testing history to have a complete picture.
Barnard students may be granted a maximum 15 degree credits for Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate. Students need to score at least a 4 on the AP exam to earn credit, and some exams may require a 5. Students who have received an International Baccalaureate diploma may receive credit for the number of points indicated on the diploma, up to a maximum of 15 points. For students who have taken IB courses but do not have the diploma, credit is generally awarded for higher level IB scores of 6 or 7 (and some for some exams 5). Students may use the credit for placement or degree progress. Students may not use AP/IB credits for exemptions from Foundations requirements.
Not at all. We are need-blind in our review of applications for first-year admission for applicants who are US Citizens or permanent residents. This means we do not consider your ability to pay for a Barnard education during the admissions process. For non-US citizens, we are need aware in our review for admission. We will fund applicants who are the best matches for Barnard. It is extremely important to apply for financial aid if you have financial need. For all admitted students, we guarantee to meet full demonstrated need.
All institutional financial aid at Barnard is awarded based solely on demonstrated financial need. Barnard does not offer any merit, athletic or talent based scholarships.
No. If you think you will need financial aid to attend Barnard, you MUST apply at the same time you apply for admission to the College and meet the required due date.
Students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents who do not apply by the deadlines for their first year can apply for aid in subsequent years if they meet the published deadline for the next year.
International students must apply for aid at the time of admission in order to be eligible to apply for aid in subsequent years.
A student who is admitted to Barnard with a Barnard College Grant may expect grants in future years, provided that she continues to meet economic and academic eligibility and reapplies each year. Factors that may impact a student's eligibility in subsequent years include: the number of siblings enrolled in college, fluctuation of parent or student income and assets, and family size. Students who are admitted to Barnard without financial aid are not guaranteed College grants for future years. Awards are for the academic year only.
All aid at Barnard is based solely on demonstrated financial need and the methodologies used to calculate Early Decision and Regular Decision eligibility are the same. Students who apply for aid and are eligible for need-based institutional financial aid receive the same financial aid award regardless of whether they apply early or regular decision.