Friday, June 30, 2017

A Student Perspective on Foundations

As you’re planning courses and trying to figure out what classes to take, it’s good to keep in mind Barnard’s core curriculum, or Foundations. Foundations is a relatively new curriculum and began for students entering the Fall of 2016 or later. Often, you’ll hear that Foundations is designed to give both breadth and depth to the subjects, in addition to helping students explore new areas of study. There’s three main components of Foundations: First Year Experience, Distributional Requirements, and Modes of Thinking.

First Year Experience (FYE):
We’ve talked about your FYE A LOT already, but we’ll briefly go through it again really quick. FYE is made up of three course: P.E., First Year Writing, and First Year Seminar. All these courses must be taken during your first year at Barnard. For more info on First Year Seminar and First Year Writing, check out the blog post here.

Distributional Requirements:
Distributional Requirements are the different areas of study you have to take classes in at Barnard. They’re pretty general and cover a wide variety of subjects, so there’s a lot of classes you can take to fulfill them. There’s 4 areas of Distributional Requirements: Language, Arts/Humanities, Social Sciences, and Science. You need to take at least 2 classes that fall under each of these categories, so 2 semesters of the same language, 2 arts/humanities, 2 social sciences, and 2 science courses (with a lab science).

In my opinion, it should really say that you need 3 science courses, because you take 2 lecture courses and 1 lab course. The lab and lecture usually go together, that is, one of the lecture courses you take must have a lab component. This probably sounds a little confusing so I’ll give you an example of courses you could take to fulfill the science Distributional Requirement. Let’s say fall semester of your first-year you take Introduction to Psychology. Great, you have one lecture done. Then fall semester of your sophomore year you take Biology 1500 - Introduction to Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Lecture and Biology 1501- Introductory Lab to Organismal and Evolutionary Biology. You’ve completed a second science lecture and one science lab. With two science lectures and one science lab under your belt, you’re done with the Science Distributional Requirement. Keep in mind that if you’re majoring in a subject like biology or psychology or on the pre-medical track, you’ll need to complete additional science labs and lectures.

Modes of Thinking:
Modes of Thinking are the lenses through which you view a course’s material. There’s 6 Modes of Thinking: Thinking Locally about New York City, Thinking with Historical Perspective, Thinking through Global Inquiry, Thinking about Social Difference, Thinking Quantitatively and Empirically, and Thinking Technologically and Digitally. You know how your English teacher said something like “a book can have many different interpretations”? That’s how I understand the intention behind the Modes of Thinking. Course materials and reading can be viewed in many different ways, and a Mode of Thinking focuses on material using a specific viewpoint. Often you’ll find that a class will encompass a few Modes of Thinking, but you can only use a class to fulfill one Mode of Thinking, not two.

Speaking of how you use classes to fulfill requirements, let’s talk about double dipping. To graduate from Barnard you need to complete at least 122 credits. Within those 122 credits, you have your FYF, Distributional Requirements, Modes of Thinking, major requirements, and minor/elective credits. That sounds like a lot, but here’s the thing, you can double dip your courses. That means you can take a course and have it count for 2 of the previously listed categories, with the exception of FYF. Did you take European History since 1789? Cool, you can count it for both the Thinking with Historical Perspective Mode of Thinking and a Social Science Distribution Requirement. Are you mathematics major? Feel free to use a calculus course to count for the Thinking Quantitatively and Empirically Mode of Thinking and your major.

Want to see if a class you’re interested in counts for a Foundations Requirement? Use this handy list.

Foundations can seem daunting, but I promise you that it’s actually very manageable and easy to complete. In fact, you’ll fulfill a lot of the requirements naturally just by taking classes to figure out what you want to major in or even from your major itself. Also keep in mind that you don’t need to fulfill all your Foundations requirements before you can begin to take major classes. There’s also no need to complete Foundations all within your first year. Besides the fact that that’s pretty much impossible, you have time to fulfill requirements. My advice is to take classes not just because they fulfill requirements, but because they also genuinely interest you.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Advice from a science prof for students interested in science & health professions

A message for first-year students interested in science and health professions:

Dear First-Years,

Allow me to join the chorus of excited faculty and staff and welcome you to Barnard College! As way of introduction, my name is Dr. Jacob Alexander, and I am the Director of the General Chemistry Laboratory and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry. Over the years, I have done quite a bit of work with students interested in science (not just in chemistry!) and many of these were students interested in exploring a track which prepares them for one of the pre-health professions. This is the subject Dean Grabiner asked me to write about today, and I am happy to do so.

There are many possible paths for students interested in the pre-health professions, but for a First-Year student let’s focus on what to do immediately.

(more after the break)

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Student Perspective on First-Year Writing and First-Year Seminar

There are 3 required courses Barnard first-years must take, two of which are First-Year Writing (FYW) and First-Year Seminar (FYS). You can read all about these two programs on their respective websites, but here's my personal take on the classes as a student.

Let’s break these two courses down.

First-Year Writing is a writing intensive course with four options offered: Writing Workshop (limited to students specifically invited/required to take this class by the department), Legacy of the Mediterranean, Women and Culture, and The Americas. These courses are designed to strengthen your writing and teach you new skills. So in these courses, you’ll do a LOT of reading and a lot of writing.  Depending on the professor, you may have to turn in a few drafts of a paper before the final version is due, writing a short essay every week, or lead a discussion about a reading. By the time you finish this course, your writing will be stronger, clearer, and more concise.


First-Year Seminars are courses designed to help ease students into academic life at Barnard. These classes tend to be more discussion-based and have fewer writing assignments. First Year Seminars fall into two categories: Reacting to the Past and Special Topics. Reacting to the Past (RTTP) is a course designed by Barnard’s very own history professor Mark Carnes. In RTTP you’ll reenact historical events using pertinent texts. In RTTP, you may pose as an ancient Greek philosopher arguing about government, participate in the trial of Anne Hutchinson, or give a speech on labor laws as an activist in early 20th century America. Special topic courses are designed by individual professors and often taken an interdisciplinary approach to ideas like justice, ethics, and liberation. FYS courses are designed to help you think critically and articulate your ideas verbally, skills you’ll definitely need for the rest of your life.

What can be a little confusing is that some FYS and FYW classes have the same name and cover similar topics. For example, there's both a Legacy of the Mediterranean writing course and seminar. These are two separate courses, sometimes taught by the same professor, and when taken together give a "full sweep" of a topic.

So which do you want to take first?


It doesn’t matter which one you take first. Many students who are less confident in their writing find it useful to take FYW first so they can strengthen their writing skills right away. Additionally, the reading list for FYW changes from one semester to the next. For example, In Legacy of the Mediterranean, the fall semester texts focus more on ancient Greece and the spring semester texts are more modern. Some students may find a FYS they love that’s only offered the first semester or want to practice speaking up in class, so they choose to take FYS first.

In both FYW and FYS, you’ll be developing reading, writing, and speaking skills. FYW and FYS just focus on developing different ones. I recommended researching the courses, looking at the reading list, and choosing a course that sounds exciting and interesting to you. Of course, it’s always a good idea to make a ranked list of FYW and FYS courses just in case the one you want fills up during registration. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the courses because you’ll learn a lot from them all!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

FAQ: Picking the right math or statistics course, with or without AP scores

If you're planning to take Calculus, another mathematics class, or a Statistics class please see the advice on pp 34-35 of the First-Year Guide for advice based on your previous experience studying these subjects, reason for taking these classes, and AP or other test scores if applicable.  Please see below if you would like to review this information.  If you have more questions or feel uncertain, fear not!  Barnard Math faculty and Columbia Statistics faculty will hold placement advising hours during NSOP.  

If you wish to take a course in the Mathematics Department in your first semester, consider the following placement information to select the course most appropriate to your level of preparation.

College Algebra and Analytical Geometry is a course for students who intend to take Calculus but need a stronger foundation in mathematics to prepare for it.

The systematic study of college-level mathematics begins with one of the following alternative sequences: Calculus I, II, III and IV or Honors Math A and B:
  • Calculus: The calculus sequence is a standard course in differential and integral calculus. 
    • Students who have not previously studied calculus should begin with Calculus I. 
    • Calculus II is not a prerequisite for Calculus III, so students who plan to take only one year of calculus may choose between I + II or I + III. Students with an AP exam score of 4 or higher (AB or BC) may start with Calculus II or III. Students with an AP score of 5 (BC) should start with Calculus III. 
    • Calculus III requires a B or better in Calculus I and is a recommended option for some majors. 
  • Honors Math: Honors Mathematics A-B is for exceptionally well-qualified students who have strong advanced placement scores. It covers second-year Calculus and Linear Algebra, with an emphasis on theory. Students who have an AP exam score of 5 (BC) and who have strong mathematical talent and motivation should start with Honors Mathematics A, whether or not they intend to be mathematics majors. Students who contemplate taking this course should consult with the instructor. If this is not possible ahead of time, they should register and attend the first class.
  • Introduction to Higher Mathematics is a course that can be taken in the first or second year by students with aptitude for mathematics who would like to practice writing and understanding mathematical proofs.
Enrollment in all Mathematics courses is tentative, so you may visit different classes and switch from one to another with relative ease during the first two weeks of the term. Students are encouraged to consult with the Mathematics instructors and the Department adviser during Orientation and the first week of classes for advice about placement. 


The Statistics Department offers several introductory courses:

Students interested in statistical concepts, who plan on consuming, but not creating statistics, should take Introduction to Statistical Reasoning. The course is designed for students who have taken a pre-calculus course, and the focus is on general principles. It is suitable for students seeking to satisfy Barnard quantitative requirements, but it may not count for Barnard majors that require Statistics – check departmental websites to be sure. 

Students seeking an introduction to applied statistics should take Introduction to Statistics. The course is designed for students who have some mathematical maturity, but who may not have taken a course in calculus, and the focus is on the elements of data analysis. It is recommended for pre-med students, and students contemplating the concentration in statistics. 

Students seeking a foundation for further study of probability theory and statistical theory and methods should take Calculus-Based Introduction to Statistics.  The course is designed for students who have taken a semester of college calculus or the equivalent, and the focus is on preparation for a mathematical study of probability and statistics.  It is recommended for students seeking to complete the prerequisite for econometrics, and for students contemplating the major in statistics. 

Students seeking a one-semester calculus-based survey of probability theory and statistical theory and methods should take Introduction to Probability and Statistics. This course is designed for students who have taken calculus, and is meant as a terminal course. It provides a somewhat abridged version of the more demanding sequence Probability Theory and Statistical Inference. While some mathematically mature students take the more demanding sequence as an introduction to the field, it is generally recommended that students prepare for the sequence by taking Calculus-Based Introduction to Statistics.

Monday, June 19, 2017

#BarnardReads List 2017!

Here is the official list for #BarnardReads 2017! Take a look and start to think about which one might interest you the most!

"Woman of Valor" from Proverbs (Bible) "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou, and Barnard Commencement Address 2017 by Joanne Liu

[“Woman of Valor”] is a praise of the good wife, a definition of a perfect wife or "ideal woman" in Judaism. This "Woman of Valor" has been described as the personification of wisdom, or in some sense as a description of a particular class of Women in Israel, Persia, or in Hellenistic society.
(taken from

Angelou was an Afro-American and because of her nationality she experienced discrimination and was aware of the way the society looked at people like her. But Angelou was very proud of herself and wanted the world to see it. She was not afraid of speaking in public, she used to do so to help others that were the victims of discrimination. She was also fighting for the women, she wanted women to have the same rights as men. In her poem „Phenomenal woman” Angelou speaks as a self-confident woman, she wants to show the world what makes her beautiful and she expresses it in a various ways.
(taken from,_%22Phenomenal_Woman%22/Analysis_and_interpretation)

Dr. Joanne Liu, the international president of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and associate professor of medicine at the University of Montreal, delivered the keynote address before an audience of more than 4,000 people, including Barnard’s 614 graduates along with faculty, trustees, staff, family, and friends.
(taken from

“We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The highly acclaimed, provocative New York Times bestseller—a personal, eloquently-argued essay, adapted from the much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah. Here she offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.
(taken from

“A Room of One's Own” by Virginia Woolf and “Many Rivers to Cross” by June Jordan

“A Room of One's Own" is an extended essay by Virginia Woolf. First published in 1929, the essay was based on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women's colleges at Cambridge University in October 1928. While this extended essay in fact employs a fictional narrator and narrative to explore women both as writers of and characters in fiction, the manuscript for the delivery of the series of lectures, titled "Women and Fiction", and hence the essay, are considered non-fiction. The essay is generally seen as a feminist text, and is noted in its argument for both a literal and figural space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by patriarchy.
(taken from

“Many Rivers to Cross” written by June Jordan is autobiographical essay that tells the story of June’s painful past as a single mom with her eight year old son. Jordan herself serves as a narrator and describes the complexities of her own life at home, which include her mother’s sufferings and suicide. She constructs her identity that develops to stand up and guard her self-respect against anything that would seek to undermine it. She does this by telling the story by “I” perspective with resolute tone and presenting female characters that empower her; female characters are starkly juxtaposed with male characters that continue to victimize the narrator over the course of the story
(taken from

“Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley)

With its first great victory in the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the civil rights movement gained the powerful momentum it needed to sweep forward into its crucial decade, the 1960s. As voices of protest and change rose above the din of history and false promises, one voice sounded more urgently, more passionately, than the rest. Malcolm X—once called the most dangerous man in America—challenged the world to listen and learn the truth as he experienced it. And his enduring message is as relevant today as when he first delivered it.
In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement to veteran writer and journalist Alex Haley. In a unique collaboration, Haley worked with Malcolm X for nearly two years, interviewing, listening to, and understanding the most controversial leader of his time.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X defines American culture and the African American struggle for social and economic equality that has now become a battle for survival. Malcolm’s fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time.
(taken from

“The Ohio State Murders” by Adrienne Kennedy

Adrienne Kennedy’s “Ohio State Murders” could almost be mistaken for simple storytelling. A woman rises from a table, and for 55 minutes she recalls a vicious, race-related crime she endured 50 years ago. Ghosts of the past move around her, but she stands in the present, safe and free. Or so it seems. However, then and now fuse together, and the dream-like result is not a mere monologue, but a complex drama. Despite some slips, Theater for a New Audience succeeds in evoking the ongoing threat of the script’s ancient crimes.
(taken from

“The Wretched of the Earth” by Frantz Fanon

A distinguished psychiatrist from Martinique who took part in the Algerian Nationalist Movement, Frantz Fanon was one of the most important theorists of revolutionary struggle, colonialism, and racial difference in history. Fanon’s masterwork is a classic alongside Edward Said’s Orientalism or The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and it is now available in a new translation that updates its language for a new generation of readers. The Wretched of the Earth is a brilliant analysis of the psychology of the colonized and their path to liberation. Bearing singular insight into the rage and frustration of colonized peoples, and the role of violence in effecting historical change, the book incisively attacks the twin perils of postindependence colonial politics: the disenfranchisement of the masses by the elites on the one hand, and intertribal and interfaith animosities on the other. Fanon’s analysis, a veritable handbook of social reorganization for leaders of emerging nations, has been reflected all too clearly in the corruption and violence that has plagued present-day Africa. The Wretched of the Earth has had a major impact on civil rights, anticolonialism, and black consciousness movements around the world, and this bold new translation by Richard Philcox reaffirms it as a landmark.
(taken from

“Gender Stereotypes About Intellectual Ability Emerge Early and Influence Children’s Interests” by Lin Bian, Sarah-Jane Leslie, Andrei Cimpian

Common stereotypes associate high-level intellectual ability (brilliance, genius, etc.) with men more than women. These stereotypes discourage women’s pursuit of many prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance (such as physics and philosophy). Here we show that these stereotypes are endorsed by, and influence the interests of, children as young as 6. Specifically, 6-year-old girls are less likely than boys to believe that members of their gender are “really, really smart.” Also at age 6, girls begin to avoid activities said to be for children who are “really, really smart.” These findings suggest that gendered notions of brilliance are acquired early and have an immediate effect on children’s interests.
(taken from

FAQ: science laboratory courses

Every Barnard student will take at least two science classes during your years at Barnard, at least one of which must be accompanied by a laboratory. These courses do not need to be in the same science.  Whether you decide to include a science laboratory course in your first semester will depend on why you plan to take a science course:
  • You may be interested in pursuing a science and want to start the foundational work right away.
  • You may be interested in preparing for graduate work in a health profession, which will require you to take several different science laboratory classes.
  • You want to get started on fulfilling the Science requirement (a distributional requirement for all students).
If you plan to take science courses only to fulfill the Science requirement, you could choose to do so earlier or later in your Barnard career.

If you plan to pursue a pre-med or other pre-health professional track, then you could start with Biology, Chemistry or Physics. You can learn more about the introductory sequence of courses in each department on their websites:

Note: Students sometimes ask about science laboratory courses offered at Columbia. In general, we strongly encourage Barnard students to consider Barnard classes for their laboratory science requirements. Barnard science classes are often somewhat smaller than Columbia classes, Barnard science professors are very accessible, and Barnard science departments offer a great deal of support through help rooms, tutoring, office hours, etc. Columbia science courses are open to Barnard students, but typically the support for these classes is more limited. Also, in some cases, the sequence of the introductory courses is different from that offered at Barnard. If you are interested in pursuing science classes at Columbia, you are encouraged to discuss them during Orientation with your academic adviser and with faculty from the relevant Barnard department to make sure that you understand the options available to you.

Welcome & some advice from the Dean for Health Professions Advising

Dear First Year Students,

I am thrilled to welcome you to Barnard. My name is Melinda Cohen, and I am the Dean for Health Professions Advising. At Barnard, we encourage students to explore and pursue all health professional fields, including medicine, dentistry, physician assistant, nursing, physical therapy, etc. We use the term "pre-health" to encompass all health professions, which includes "pre-med."

I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to guide and support you on your journey as you explore and prepare for a career in the health professions. I know it can be overwhelming to select your courses for your first semester, and even more daunting to consider what might be the "right" courses to take as a pre-med student. The good news is that is no "right" answer, and there are many options out there!  I hope you will take advantage of the information we have available for you on our Barnard Pre-Health website, our Pre-Health Blog, and on pp 17-19 of the First-Year Guide.

During their first year at Barnard, pre-med students typically take a laboratory science course. It's common for new students to start either with Biology (with laboratory) or with Chemistry (with laboratory). Students who have recently taken AP Biology may choose to begin with Biology for continuity, while students who have recently taken Chemistry and/or who feel comfortable with their quantitative (i.e. problem-solving) skills may choose to begin with Chemistry in order to begin the 5-semester Chemistry sequence. Either choice will work for you, so base your decision on your background and your interest. You should also consult the Biology and Chemistry department websites to determine the class most appropriate for you. 

During her first semester at Barnard, a pre-health student's academic program will likely include:

  • A First-Year Experience course (first year seminar or first year writing) 
  • An introductory science course with laboratory
  • Two courses that allow you to explore your academic interests and also count for at least one Foundations General Education Requirement
Note: Students may choose to explore a math course (e.g. Calculus I), but this is not required for your first semester. If appropriate, see information about using AP mathematics credit on our pre-health website.

For more information and guidance related to selecting courses, we encourage you to visit our pre-health website's 'Academic Preparation page

During Orientation week, I will hold Pre-Health Orientation session. Any student who may be interested in exploring and preparing for a career in the health professions is strongly encouraged to attend. I will also be available to meet individually with students during orientation and throughout the school year. 

I wish you all the best!
Dean Cohen 

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Student Side Class Registration

So you’re about to register for your first official semester of college classes!


Here are some friendly tips on getting through class registration smoothly and calmly.

This is the link to the Columbia Directory of Classes which has all of the courses offered for the fall. Reaching out to current students about their experiences with professors or specific classes is a good way to gauge general interest. Keep in mind, however, that each person's experience is their own. You may hear totally conflicting opinions about a professor from different students. Take in the information and weigh all of the given factors, but ultimately, make the final decision yourself (this is good practice for larger life decisions too!)

Alright let’s get to it. As most of you know, during July 24th-28th you’re only planning for classes. You don’t officially sign up for your classes other than your First Year Writing/Seminar and PE class until September 1st so you’re not tied to any of the decisions, outside of the FYW/FYS courses, that you make. In fact, even after you register on September 1st there’s room for making changes. That’s where shopping week comes in.

Shopping week(s) goes from when classes start on September 5th through the 15th, which is the last day you have to finalize your schedule. That means you have TEN DAYS to try out as many different courses as you’d like before you commit.

A word of caution: if there are any classes you’re seriously considering make sure to attend the first class. Many professors won’t allow students who don’t attend the first meeting to enroll --  EVEN IF you’re registered for the course online -- as you often obtain the syllabus, introduction to the material, course expectations, and in some cases, a brief statement of interest in the course (if it’s over-enrolled) to finalize the roster. This means that on occasion, especially as underclassmen, you might not always get into your top pick classes on the first try. It can be a hard loss. But remember. Most of you have at least seven semesters left to try again.

All that being said, your schedule can go through some wild changes during shopping week or it can stay exactly the same. That’s up to you. I highly recommend staying open to options and not being married to your schedule before you even get to campus.

It’s easy to get super attached to the incredible-sounding classes you read about in anticipation for your first semester, but remember to keep an open-mind and at least attend the first class before you put a ring on it. You may meet new students during NSOP who mention a new class you’d never even heard of that you now want to add into your schedule. GREAT! Or you get the syllabus to a class you were really excited about and its focus is in a direction which doesn’t interest you as much as you thought it would. ALSO OK! Or maybe you go to a class just as a back-up and the professor is so inspiring and passionate about the material that it makes you feel all warm and excited inside (can you tell this exact thing has happened to me?) which is DOPE.

If a class seems too intense for your first-semester, or doesn’t interest you as much as you thought, don’t be afraid to drop it and try again another semester! On the other hand, if you’re really intrigued by a class but don’t think it’ll be “useful” for your future career or fulfill any requirements, try it out anyway. Follow your gut and don’t let any preconceived notions of what courses you were planning to take over the summer hold you back from following your dreeeaaaaams.

ON THAT NOTE! Keep in mind that you do not have to take classes in the same fields, departments, or areas of study that you did in high school. Your first semester, and college in general, is your chance to study completely new concepts! Try to find a balance between fulfilling some basic requirements and taking the classes that you want to take. You definitely don’t want to get stuck junior year with all of your Foundations general education requirements still unfinished, but taking classes across several disciplines can often fulfill some of those requirements and help you figure out your future major(s)/minor(s) along the way!

Remember to challenge yourself with your courses but don’t overwhelm yourself. Taking a few intro classes to get your feet wet in new/less familiar subjects alongside a little more advanced course in a subject you might want to major in or feel confident in. As tempting as it may be to sign up for 500 classes, keep in mind you’ll also be adjusting to college workloads, trying to find new groups of friends, exploring extracurricular options, applying for jobs, trying out/practicing for sports, auditioning/rehearsing for plays, and any other of the wonderful things you’ll be doing. Taking 18+ credits your first semester is unadvised for a reason: you won’t have as much time for other first-year experiences and could get very quickly overwhelmed.

Remember that this is your first of many semesters ahead. It is not the end all be all so try to take a deep breath, figure out what’s going to be most productive for YOU to learn your first semester and go from there. Many have come before you and many have gotten through it. You are Barnard students now. You GOT this!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

FAQ: foreign language classes

On pp. 32-33 of the First-Year Guide, you will find information about starting or continuing your foreign language study at Barnard. It is natural for new students to have questions about where to begin their studies, particularly if they already have some background in a language. Here is some additional information that may be helpful in thinking about how to estimate your level in a Barnard language department:

To fulfill the foreign language requirement at Barnard, all students must complete two semesters of language study (both in the same language) at Barnard or Columbia, regardless of previous language study or proficiency. In most language departments at Barnard and Columbia, the course sequence typically goes by the following course titles: Elementary I, Elementary II, Intermediate I, Intermediate II.  Beyond Intermediate II, there are a variety of advanced grammar, conversation, and content-based courses offered.

If you are starting a foreign language that is new to you, you should start with Elementary I. No placement exam is necessary to enroll in an Elementary I language course.

If you have a background in a foreign language and do not need to start from the basics, you may determine your placement using one of the following means:
  • For Spanish only: take the online Spanish placement test available through myBarnard this summer
  • For Hebrew only: you may use SAT II or Jerusalem Examination scores as outlined on p. 33 of the First-Year Guide. If you have not taken either of these exams or believe they are not an accurate representation of your abilities, you may take a placement test as outlined below.
  • For all other languages, take a placement test during NSOP -- the placement exam schedule will be included in the NSOP schedule.
If your language level won't be confirmed until NSOP, you can still plan this summer based on your best guess:  One way to understand the levels is:
  • Elementary I as "no comfort with the language at all," 
  • Elementary II as "somewhat comfortable with the basics of the language," 
  • Intermediate I as "fairly comfortable with the basics and somewhat comfortable with some advanced grammar and vocabulary" and
  • Intermediate II as "fairly comfortable with advanced grammar and vocabulary." 
In all probability, this index won't completely clarify the matter for you, but it may give you a bit more confidence in estimating a level for now.

If you take the placement exam during Orientation and receive a different result from the level you estimated during the summer, the language department and your adviser will work with you to find a place in an appropriate course. But students often do a good job in estimating their level in advance, so can be helpful to plan your schedule around a class at what may well be the correct level.

Note for students considering study abroad: Many study abroad programs require students to demonstrate proficiency equivalent to four semesters of college language study.  Unlike the college language requirement, this does not necessarily mean that you will have to take four semesters of language in college -- you simply have to reach the proficiency level required.  Check the Barnard Study Abroad website for specific programs and requirements, but in general, if you are beginning a language from scratch and want to study abroad in a country where that language is spoken, we recommend that you begin studying that language in your first semester

There is a lot of adding, dropping, and section changing in foreign language classes during the first week of classes, as students work with instructors to make sure they are in the class most suited for their level or move to other levels or section times. So make your best choice for now, knowing that you can  revisit the question when you get to campus and have lots of people to help you finalize your placement.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Work Study FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Work Study

What is work study?
As a part of your financial aid package, you may have received a Federal Work Study (FWS) award or Barnard College Job (BCJ) award. This means there are funds set aside to help pay you for work during the academic year.

What office handles work study?
Work study is handled by two offices at Barnard – the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment Services. The Office of Financial Aid is in charge of the funds for work study. Student Employment Services helps students find jobs, submit paper work, and is in charge of payment.

Where can I work?
If you have FWS, you can work on Barnard's campus, Columbia's campus, or at a variety of off-campus not-for-profit agencies and institutions. With BCJ, you may only use these funds for an on-campus job.

How do I find a work study job?
You can search for both on- and off- campus jobs through BarnardWorks and NACElink. You can start applying for jobs as soon as you arrive on campus. The first few weeks of hiring on campus is known as the Priority Hiring Period. During this time, there is a policy of only hiring financial aid recipients for on-campus jobs. After this time period, anyone may apply for on-campus jobs, regardless of whether or not they were awarded FWS or BCJ.

Can I have more than one work study job?
You can have more than 1 job, but keep in mind that the amount awarded in your BCJ and FWS is intended to last through the whole academic year (September through May).

Can I earn more than I was awarded through FWS or BCJ?
You cannot work beyond your work awards. When your FWS and/or BCJ funds run low, you’ll receive a notification. You may request more funds to be added to your award from the Office of Financial Aid, but they cannot guarantee that additional funds will be added. If your FWS or BCJ funds run out, you must stop working immediately.

For more information on work study and financial aid, please visit the Office of Financial Aid's website and Student Employment Services's website.