May 15, 2024

Reflecting on my four years at Barnard College: from the application process to post-graduation plans

author image

Anel from Kazakhstan 🇰🇿

Campus Image of Barnard College
Reflecting on my four years at Barnard College: from the application process to post-graduation plans

My name is Anel and it’s been nine months since I graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University.


The relationship between Barnard College and Columbia University

Barnard College is a women's college within Columbia University. The relationship between these two institutions is very interesting. A lot of people don't know that Barnard College is one of the Seven Sisters Colleges in New York City and it’s a liberal arts college. What is different between Barnard and Columbia is that we have different presidents, different financial aid systems and we have our own departments for most subjects. However, as a Barnard student, if you're majoring in computer science or math-related subjects, you'll have to take classes at Columbia and as a Columbia student, if you want to take dance or theater classes, you will go to Barnard’s campus. In conclusion, Barnard is a mix between a liberal women's college and a university because we have full access to Columbia University's resources. I even got my diploma and there I had the signature of both Columbia's and Barnard’s president. At Barnard, we have our own little campus and Columbia’s campus is just across the street. Columbia's campus is obviously bigger because it has just different buildings for all departments. Also, they have 13 libraries and two big dining halls and cafes that all Barnard students have access to.

Barnard College
Barnard College

My application process - stats, essay topics, and my desire to attend a women's college

I applied to Barnard College in the Early Decision, because I did really want to go there and I knew that if I applied ED, it would increase my chances of getting admitted. I remember that in the ninth grade, I wanted to study at Columbia, but then I didn't really think about it seriously. When I started preparing for my college application, I was a bit behind the other students. Usually, students who come from Russian-speaking countries start to prepare for university admissions a year or even two or three years ahead. But I did it four or five months before the applications started, including the SAT and IELTS preparation.

Back then, I really didn't know much about liberal arts colleges. After I started studying, I understood that at LACs, they give more personalized attention since there's less student body and, in comparison to big universities, the professors are mostly there to teach rather than do their own research.

I chose to attend a women's college because I'm a passionate feminist and I wanted to see what a space dedicated only towards women would look like. Although it did feel different, it didn't seem that it was only for women. Since we have a shared campus, you would see people of all genders.

My SAT was pretty low for a university of this caliber - 1330. However, I did send it. My IELTS score was 7.5. I had a perfect GPA of 5/5. In addition to this, I included the first-place award that I got in the National Economics Olympiad in Astana, Kazakhstan, and the bronze medal from the International Economics Olympiad, which took place in Moscow. When I was applying, I mentioned that my desired major is Economics, since I had this background in economics. However, I graduated with a major in Psychology. 

I was part of the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX), and, as a FLEX alumna, I did some volunteering work and attended civic education workshops. At school, I was a class leader for one year, and, for fun, I was part of the basketball team. Also, I volunteered at a preschool library reading books and I worked as a teacher's assistant at the church school.

When I started studying at Barnard, I tried asking the admissions office to give me my application back to see what played a big role. I am pretty sure that it was the GPA because Barnard cares about it, and my personal statement. In my main essay, I wrote about my grandma, specifically about her influence on me. I wrote about how she and I experienced domestic abuse, but at the same time, I tried not to victimize myself in the essay. Instead, this prompted me to be stronger, to become the feminist that I was at the time and I am now. In the end, I mentioned that I want to use my future degree to gain enough resources and knowledge in order to help my grandma and other women who are in the same situation.

Financial aid at Barnard

At Barnard College, I received full financial aid. To be transparent, part of it consisted of loans, and now I have to pay around 20K. I feel like my financial aid would have been different if I applied to Columbia directly because they have more endowment and money. Although Barnard meets 100% of demonstrated needs, they consider loans as part of the financial aid. So, I guess it's up to you if you want to accept that. Obviously, you can negotiate it and maybe I could have gotten a better deal and fewer loans if I just spoke up. You can definitely ask for more money. 

For example, I remember that when I was graduating, I needed some money to rent an apartment and I asked if I could borrow some money from the financial aid office. A lot of this stuff that is related to grants and financial aid will be hidden. Therefore, it's important to just ask. 

Some major costs that weren't covered by the university were the visa fee and transportation. Also, living in New York is tough, especially as a student. It does limit you in some ways, but as you are starting to adapt to life here, you'll find affordable ways to hang out with your friends.

Work on-campus and off-campus

As a student, I have worked since my first semester, starting with a job as an assistant in a theater costume workshop. However, my main job during all my undergraduate years was babysitting, because my salary as a babysitter started from $20 per hour, which was very good. 

The summer after the first year, I stayed in the US and I interned in the Alumni Relations and Communications Department. Also, I worked as a teaching assistant in the Pre-College Program.

In my second year, during the semesters, I was a research assistant for the Behavioral Economics Labs, and at Columbia's Medical University, I was doing neuroscience research with the help of a PhD student.

My third year was the point when I was working mainly as a babysitter and as a residential assistant, which means that I was living in the dorm and was responsible for the students who lived in the dorm.

In senior year, I didn't work on campus at all and I started doing mainly babysitting. During all the jobs I have had, my limit of working hours was 20 hours. 

Choosing my major - from Computer Science to Psychology

Although I was an Olympic student in Economics, my major at Barnard ended up being Psychology. I am not sure that I indicated that I wanted to study economics when I applied to college, as Barnard doesn't place you toward your major right away. Your first year is the year for exploring and everyone comes as undecided. All students start their semester with foundations for our program, which means that you have to take a set of subjects within some departments to get a holistic education and explore all departments. There is a foreign language program requirement, a math requirement, a digital science requirement, and a humanities. I took all of these classes, including psychology classes and I thought that sounded great because in high school I was doing a lot of biology and chemistry. By the second semester of your second year, you have to declare a major. So, you have three semesters to explore whatever you want to do and then you can declare.

At first, I studied computer science, but I did not like it and at heart, I felt that I should choose psychology. In my junior year, when I had only three semesters left to graduate from college, I still kept taking psychology classes because they covered some part of my Foundation requirements. But at the same time, in the back of my mind, I was thinking that I wanted to do psychology as a major, even though officially I was studying computer science. I kept taking psychology classes and towards the second semester of my junior year I declared that I would major in Psychology and I graduated with it. I really love psychology and recently I got into a Master's Program in Global Mental Health in Scotland. In general, I am interested in clinical psychology, specifically child development and mental health issues.

As I mentioned before, my first research job was in Behavioral Economics, which was a mix of psychology and economics. Then I did research in Neuroscience, where I was studying sleep and how it affects fear. Additionally, I also got into our senior seminar class, which was called Clinical Field Practicum and I had to go through an application process to take that class. A part of this class required us to intern at a mental health clinic or professional. I chose to intern for a psychoanalyst, who had her private practice, and together, we read transcripts from her students' therapies.

Extracurricular activities in college

Regarding extracurriculars, besides research and internships, I was very involved in MUN events in my first year. So I was helping with organizing National Model UN conferences for high school students. Furthermore, I went to Cornell University to participate in debates. After that, I was part of a club called Athena Digital Design Agency, where we organized free classes for Barnard students who wanted to create websites. We were also holding a bunch of workshops around digital design (for instance in UI/UX design) and managed to build a great collective of women in tech. I practiced sports, but I wasn't part of the athletic teams.

Personal advice for students

My advice for prospective applicants is to use their college experience not only to create quantifiable achievements but also to develop their personal qualities and learn how to network. Honestly, my college experience was filled mostly with working on myself. So again, learn to prioritize! Studying and being part of different clubs is great, but when you graduate, you will need to put yourself out there in the real world. Use this time to learn about yourself and to find out which are your career goals, your values, and how you can align your career and your goals with your values.

In New York
In New York

Borderless logo

Borderless makes Studying Abroad a reality for every student, no matter where they come from.

Applying to College? Contact us to get help ->

author image

from Kazakhstan 🇰🇿

Duration of Study

Sep 2019 — May 2023



Learn more ->
Barnard College

Barnard College

New York City, US🇺🇸


✍️ Interview by


Nicoleta from Moldova 🇲🇩

High School Student studying Exact Sciences

Learn more ->