Impressions Of
Smith College

Academic Experience

Female American Studies Major C/O 2020

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
At Smith we have this thing called the “Stress Olympics”, which I think is super prevalent in academia in general. The students are competitive with each other, but it’s not necessarily a negative thing. It is more people expecting a lot from themselves and each other. I think it’s more of a motivational thing where people want to do their best and motivate others. [In 2017 the Wurtele Center for Work and Life at Smith launched “Failing Well” to help combat the Stress Olympics.]

Do you think people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
I’m actually writing a paper about this right now. I think Smith definitely falls victim to being a liberal echo chamber. I’m a very liberal person politically and a lot of people at Smith are as well, so that does tend to be the dominant thought process in a lot of classrooms. But, I know some people are working to change that.

Female Government and Women's & Gender Studies Double Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s not competitive at all. I think it’s a lot of collaboration and very much a supportive environment. Smith does have a stress culture sometimes, but it’s a lot of encouraging each other and taking care of each other because if you’re stressed you deserve some time to take to yourself. We remind each other to not overdo it and that grades aren’t everything, even though it feels like it.

How accessible have your professors been?
Very accessible. Another good thing about Smith is that the professors encourage us to come to office hours and [openly advertise them]. People are very willing to talk to you. I also think the professors are very accommodating in terms of disability services and needs. If you need something you can ask for it and they’ll be willing to either help you, give you what you need, or find a compromise that will help you work through it.

Female Economics and Statistical & Data Sciences Double Major C/O 2020

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your majors?
For Economics we mostly have problem sets and exams to prepare for. For Statistical & Data Sciences, I’m also taking classes in the Math and Computer Science departments. For Computer Science classes, we have labs and programming homework. Statistics classes have both labs and problem sets.

Is there anything you feel either of majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
What I like about the Economics department is that it’s a pretty flexible program. If you’re interested in a specific topic, for example, environmental economics, you can take classes from the Environmental Science & Policy department and have it count towards your major. Also, if you’re interested in Political Science, you can take Government classes. I like that the program is flexible and our faculty members have pretty diverse interest so you can find someone who shares the same interests as you.

The Statistical & Data Sciences is similar in that we take a lot of classes from other departments. It’s a newer department, which I also think can be a disadvantage because our department doesn’t have too many classes. I appreciate that it exposed me to Computer Science because I probably wouldn’t have taken a class in that if I wasn’t a Statistical & Data Sciences major.

Social Opportunities

Female American Studies Major C/O 2020

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Smith?
I like to go out on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. That’s kind of rare for a Smith student but is definitely doable. When I go out I don’t really participate in campus parties. I do go to the bars in Northampton and I go to the bars in Amherst a lot. I take so many classes at UMass that I’ve been able to make a UMass friend group and now go to the football games and tailgates and that kind of stuff.

Are there certain things you like to do on certain nights?
Tuesday nights we go to a bar in Amherst for karaoke night which is fun and Thursday night is at a different bar in Amherst. Some people go to UMass fraternities on Friday nights and I used to do that, but I don’t do that anymore. A lot of people at Smith like to go to house parties in the Friedman Apartments on Saturday nights.

Female Government and Women's & Gender Studies Double Major C/O 2021

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Smith?
I usually do things with my friends. Even though I don’t go out further and do large, widespread parties, I usually hang out with small groups and do things. Smith does not have much of a party culture, but for people who do want to engage in a large party culture, there are plenty of schools around who do have bigger parties that people can engage in. When there is a party at Smith, people show up and it is fun. Downtown there isn’t much to do for college students unless you’re 21.

How happy are you with the weekend activity options at Smith? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty happy with it. I think my main problem is that Smith from an administrative sense does not like parties and parties are so easily shut down. When people do throw parties, it has to be quieter and it’s easy for them to get canceled by Res-Life. Smith makes it obvious that if there is an obvious party, Res-Life will shut it down, or if there’s a party in a house basement, campus police will shut it down.

Female Undeclared on Major C/O 2022

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Smith?
Mostly just exploring downtown Northampton. It’s a small town with restaurants. Other than that, Northampton is pretty dead. We use the bus system that lets you visit 4 other colleges on the weekend. [The consortium includes Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and UMass.] There are few parties at Smith, but even on the weekends there isn’t much of a party culture. It’s more of a get together in somebody’s room.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Smith? Is there anything you would change if you could?
It’s been a difficult transition, and I’m not that happy with it. I knew Smith prioritized academics but I didn’t realize it was to such a high degree. I don’t know what to do to blow off steam because most people do this by staying at home by themselves.

Campus Culture

Female American Studies Major C/O 2020

How would you describe the student body?
Really motivated, hardworking people. Everyone is open and accepting.

How has going to a traditionally all-women’s college influenced your experience?
I was definitely nervous before going to college. The way it’s affected my experience is that going to class has been so much easier for me because I just roll out of bed and go to class, I don’t feel like I need to worry as much. I definitely am more confident and feel more able to speak up in classes. People are very supportive of each other here and everyone seems to be working towards a similar goal. I also think living in all-women’s housing is nice because our bathrooms are super clean [laughs]. In general, it’s impacted me more positively than negatively.

Female Government and Women's & Gender Studies Double Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the overall social scene?
I think people are really welcoming and really encouraging. I personally try to be a really friendly person and I just find a lot of willing people who are willing to meet new people and accept you into whatever conversation or group they’re in. People are super open-minded here, and I think that’s been good for my personal life.

How has being a person who identifies as LGBT influenced your social experience?
That’s also something that hasn’t highly influenced my experience because there is such a large queer scene on Smith’s campus. There is a lot of people who identify as queer on Smith’s campus, so it’s not abnormal for me. That’s been a definite change for me because I went to a Catholic high school before, so it was abnormal there and I wasn’t out there. The main differences are that I’m in a community where there are a lot of people who identify as queer and queerness aren’t hidden on Smith’s campus and it’s a welcomed thing.

Female Undeclared on Major C/O 2022

How did you meet your closest friends?
Smith is very accommodating for international students. They put on a whole international orientation session where we broke off into groups before general orientation began. This is where I met most of my closest friends.

To what extent do you feel international students and domestic students mix socially?
I see it happening, but for the most part I don’t have many interactions. There was a whole week of getting to know the other international students before regular orientation, so by the end of our session we were all pretty tired out. The domestic students went through the same activities, just a week later which didn’t provide much incentive for the international students to meet people again. Races typically stick together a lot, but this seems natural.

Northampton, MA

Pros of

  • “It’s a very safe place where you don’t have to worry about what you are doing or wearing. You can be whoever you want.”
  • “It’s the epitome of an adorable college town. There are tons of random little shops and things that cater to Smith students.”
  • “As a Smith student, I feel pretty comfortable in the town because Smith is a pretty big part of the town. If I go somewhere and say I’m a student from Smith, they embrace that. I think that’s a really nice thing.”
  • “The town is very welcoming. Walking downtown I feel pretty comfortable. I go into town alone every now and then.”

Cons of

  • “The stores get boring and they are overpriced. There are not as many options as there would be in a city.”
  • “There are only two bars, which can be boring after a while.”
  • “Parking is the absolute worst.”
  • “It’s more of a hassle to get to larger stores if you don’t have a car because you have to take the bus. If I want to go to Walmart I have to take the bus, and you have to plan your time to do it. It’d be nice to have cheaper stores be more accessible on foot.”

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Female Government and Women's & Gender Studies Double Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Smith before entering as a freshman?
I don’t think there is anything I wish I knew because Smith is a school I did a lot of research on. I did the Women of Distinction Program, which is an overnight visit program for students of color, so doing that I met people who gave me information that a lot of other students didn’t have. The student I visited with told me about Bridge and a lot of other things I knew beforehand. I still talk to her now.

Was there anything that the student you visited told you that made you want to come to Smith?
She told me about the Bridge Program and having a community. Also, she told me about the culture of self-care and how people will be there for others and how it’s a welcoming school. I met her friends and got to see her friends and meet all these people who were very friendly to me as a senior in high school.

Female Undeclared on Major C/O 2022

What is something you wish you knew about Smith before entering as a freshman?
I knew it wasn’t a party school but I wish I knew how serious the environment was. Once you arrive you will find your niche, but you have to be on your A-game all the time because it does get competitive and makes you want to be better.

What is something an international student should know that hasn’t been touched on?
It’s a good place for an international student. People want to make sure you are transitioning properly, so they are really focused on you. They don’t just disregard your experiences because you are international. If you come from a big city, it may be weird because Northampton is pretty small [Northampton, MA has a population of 28.554]. I would say the culture is on the liberal side, but once you get here it’s not that noticeable.

Female Economics and Statistical & Data Sciences Double Major C/O 2020

What is something you wish you knew about Smith before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I didn’t put pressure on myself to make a lot of friends because at the beginning of freshman year everyone feared being left out. I’m really happy with my friends and my social situation right now, but my first year I was really worried if people would like me or if people would judge me because of my language barrier or cultural differences. I wish I knew that I shouldn’t feel that way.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I’m not sure if this is an important point, but I do think that the LGBT culture at Smith is pretty distinguished. I work as a campus tour guide and I get a lot of questions about that from students and parents who are curious about it. There is a strong culture of LGBT people here, but I think it might be different than what people expect. People ask, “Are you 90% gay?” but it’s really not. I think sometimes the gay community at Smith still surprises me [because it is so strong].

Reasons to attend and not to attend Smith College

To Attend

  • “Academically, it’s a really great environment. The faculty members are extraordinary and really approachable. It’s a really academically stimulating environment. I, like a lot of students, didn’t expect to be a STEM student when I started, but people are encouraged to take classes outside of their comfort zone and people end up finding their real passion.”
  • “The LGBT environment is great.”
  • “The feminist environment empowers women to become leaders and stand up for themselves.”
  • “If you want a supportive environment where you won’t be judged easily, the environment here is very open and you can be accepted.”

To Not Attend

  • “It’s not in a huge city so it gets boring.”
  • “It’s really cold here.”
  • “It’s a lot of work and people do tend to beat themselves if they don’t do really well. People can get too caught up in that. If you don’t want to work super hard, don’t come here.”
  • “The general opinions and perspectives are pretty skewed to one side of the spectrum.”
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