What is it Like to Attend Haverford College?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Celine graduated from Haverford College in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in History. She is currently a tutor in Washington D.C. specializing in SAT prep tutoring, Reading tutoring, French tutoring, and more. See what she had to say about her alma mater: 


VT:  Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Celine: Haverford College is located about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia in the residential area of the Main Line. It is surrounded by several colleges, including Villanova University, Rosemont College, and Bryn Mawr College. While the area is residential, there are coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores and a shopping mall within walking distance. One can also walk to the regional train station or to the trolley to go into Philadelphia. The various options of public transportation allow those students who do not have a car or bike to be able to leave campus and get what and where they need. Car sharing programs are also available on campus. 

Safety at Haverford and outside the campus is not a concern. As a student at Haverford, I always felt very safe and felt comfortable walking around campus at night alone. Nevertheless, Haverford has a strong campus security system and students can call for an escort to be accompanied when going to another location on campus at night.

VT:  How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Celine: Professors, academic advisers and teaching assistants are all extremely available. In addition to having office hours, they will work with students to meet at a mutually convenient time. A large portion of the faculty and administration lives on or near campus, which facilitates their availability to meet with students. Some professors will even make their home phone numbers available to students. If the class is small enough, professors may even elect to have the class in their house. 

At Haverford, teaching assistants are only assistants. They neither teach courses nor grade exams. They serve as tutors and sometimes will help professors grade homework. 

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Celine: One of the great things about Haverford is that 98% of students live on campus all four years. This fact makes socialization very easy as you can meet with friends on campus right before class or on the weekend to watch a movie or to go into Philadelphia. However, you don’t have to go off campus to have fun on the weekends. Since the school has over 145 clubs, there is always something to do on campus. 

Students have the option of living in a dorm or in an on-campus apartment. Freshmen live with their Customs group and Customs people, upperclassmen who serve as mentors to the freshmen and support them as they transition into college life.

Freshmen and all students who live on campus (except those who live in the apartments) must be on the meal plan, which provides access to dining services at both Haverford College and Bryn Mawr College. Unlike most universities, neither Haverford nor Bryn Mawr outsources its dining services to outside organizations. All meals are prepared at the respective college. The Bi-College Dining Services goes to great lengths to accommodate students with special dietary needs or allergies. Other food options at Haverford include: Lunt Café (open in the evening), the Coop & Barista’s Nook (open all day) and the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPCG) Café (open in the afternoon). 

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study? 

Celine: As a small liberal arts college, Haverford is very unique in that its students do not have to major at Haverford. They can also major in any program offered by Bryn Mawr or Swarthmore College and take courses at the University of Pennsylvania. This arrangement allows Haverford to offer a wide selection of majors and programs of study while maintaining its small size.    

At Haverford, students can major in various subjects in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. Some students also decide to design their own major if their area of study is not available at Haverford, Bryn Mawr or Swarthmore. During their senior year, all Haverford students, including those who major in the sciences and mathematics, write a thesis.

After considering various majors, I ultimately decided to study History at Haverford because I am interested in public policy and the study of the past is necessary for evaluating current situations and how to best improve them. With support from both the Political Science and History departments, I then wrote my thesis on how former President Bachelet’s election had the possibility of closing historical divides in Chile.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Celine: While Haverford is a very friendly campus, it is easier to meet people and make friends when one joins a club. While I had made acquaintances in my classes, I ultimately joined the Crew team to explore a sport I had always wanted to try and to meet more people. Through the crew team, I not only achieved my goal, but I also was able to meet other people, some of whom I am still friends with today. There is no Greek life at Haverford. 

Haverford is also unique in that it has one of the oldest honor codes in the country. The Honor Code, which guides academic and social life, is based on the principles of trust, respect and concern for each other. These principles are illustrated in several ways. For example, at an academic level, professors expect that students will not cheat and will respect themselves to provide an honest portrayal of what they learned in class. As a result, students take un-proctored exams, have closed book exams, and self-schedule their end-of-course exams. Furthermore, the Code encourages an environment were cutthroat competition is not the norm. At a social level, the Honor Code supports an environment where all students feel comfortable to express their opinions in a respectful manner and will not be judged for having a particular opinion. If a student observes an incident (either social or academic) where the Code is not being followed, that student is expected to confront their peers. Another unique piece of the Code is that students write it. Each year, during Plenary, students discuss and revise the Code and vote on it. Based on the Quaker tradition of consensus, this vote is not a simple majority – 2/3 of the student body must vote to ratify the Code.      

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Celine: Haverford has several student support services that are very supportive and work with students to meet their needs. In addition to the Career Center, students can receive support from the Dean’s Office, the Women’s Center, and Counselling and Psychological Services, amongst other offices. 

The Career Center makes an effort to connect students with alumni who have a career that students are interested in. In addition to having opportunities for on and off campus recruiting, the Career Center hosts an externship program twice a year. In this program, alumni host students for a period of one or two weeks in their current position. The externship gives students an opportunity to see what the “real world” looks like in their area of interest.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges?  Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Celine: Students tend to study in one of two libraries: Magill library and the White Science library. While both libraries are open to all students, easily available, and spacious, they provide opposing studying environments. Magill is very quiet while the Science Library is more social. Magill’s architecture is gothic while the Science Library’s is modern. If a student wants a guaranteed sport for quiet study, he/she can reserve a carrel at Magill. 

Students also study in the Whitehead Campus Center, Lunt Café, and dorm lounges.

In addition to Magill and the Science Library, Haverford has the Astronomy Library, the Union Music Library, the C.C. Morris Cricket Library, and the word-renowned Quaker and Special Collections, which is open to students and researchers alike. All of Haverford’s libraries are part of a larger Tri-College library system shared with Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore Colleges, and Haverford students have full borrowing privileges in all three campuses.  

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus?  

Celine: Haverford College is surrounded by the towns of Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Ardmore. Suburban Square, the United States’ first shopping mall, is located a short walk from campus in Ardmore, and offers various dining options, a Trader Joe’s, an Apple Store and other retail stores. Additional restaurants, coffee shops, grocery and retail stores, and a movie theater are a short distance from campus. King of Prussia, one of the largest malls on the East Coast, is also 20 minutes away. Students can also take the trolley and regional rail, both run by SEPTA, to go into Philadelphia. In addition, students can use their own mode of transportation or use PhillyCarShare to get off campus. 

Students tend to try to get off campus at least once a week. However, where they go and what they do usually depends on the amount of work the student has!

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes? 

Celine: Haverford has about 1,200 students on campus. The largest classes tend to be the introductory classes and have a maximum of 80 students. As a freshman, my largest class, Calculus I, was about 75 people. Despite the large class size, I had an opportunity to develop a relationship with the professor by attending his office hours and group study sessions. Not all my freshman classes were so big. I also took courses my first year that had about 10-15 students. My smallest class at Haverford was made up of five students. 

I was generally pleased with the typical class sizes since professors of even the larger classes made an effort to get to know their students personally.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most. 

Celine: As a sophomore, I took an introductory history class of about 65 people. I met with the professor to discuss his comments from the essay he had just returned. In grading the next essay assignment, the professor commented on how I improved in the areas we discussed and referenced my last essay. I was both touched and taken aback by the fact that after grading 130 essays, the professor could remember my weaknesses on the first essay and how I had improved on them in the second one.

Check out Celine’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.