What is it Like to Attend Smith College?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Molly is a Washington D.C. tutor specializing in ACT prep tutoring, PSAT prep tutoring, Linguistics tutoring, and more. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from Smith College, a women’s liberal arts school, where she graduated from in 2012. 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?

Molly: Smith is located in the cute, quiet town of Northampton, near Springfield and Amherst, Massachusetts. Boston is about 2 hours away by car or bus. There are 4 nearby colleges, part of the 5-college consortium, that are very easy to get to by bus, and all of the local and university buses are free with a college ID! Some people bring a car to school, but parking can be difficult, and for most people, there’s no need for one. Lots of people bike around campus, though campus is small enough to walk anywhere in less than 15 minutes. Except when there’s snow, biking is fun, easy, and safe – and there are beautiful trails that run through campus and into the nearby neighborhoods. Campus is very small and safe and quickly comes to feel like home. The Campus Police officers are easy to reach in case of trouble, very friendly, and quick to respond (even if you’re just locked out of your room). 

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

Molly: There are almost no teaching assistants at Smith. All professors schedule office hours when you can visit them. Most professors are very approachable and respond quickly to emails or drop-by visits. Academic advisers may be harder to keep in touch with – particularly before you’ve chosen a major. Most professors double as academic advisers, and in my experience they take their teaching more seriously than their advising. 

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

Molly: Smith has a very special and unique on-campus housing situation. Most students live on campus all four years, and the ‘houses’ (that’s what we call our dorms) are very mixed with students from all class years. Students live in houses with large communal areas – living rooms with couches, desks, TV’s, games, books, fire places, free boxes, pianos, pool tables, and whatever other items the house acquires over the years. Most first-years and sophomores share doubles (or triples), but almost all juniors and seniors live in single rooms. Students have the option to move to a new house at any time, but many students live in the house they were first placed in for all four years. There is a strong sense of community in the houses, and there are many events and opportunities throughout the year to show your house pride!

There are kitchens in about 10 different houses, and each offers a different menu and slightly different dining hours. For example, there is a vegetarian kitchen, a kosher kitchen, an Asian kitchen, and a healthy options kitchen; and each one offers breakfast, brunch, or lunch and dinner. Dinner ends early, which can be frustrating when you’re up late at night finishing a paper, but the options are very good. 

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? 

Molly: Smith takes special pride in its Engineering program. Other popular majors are Philosophy, English, Art History/Studio Art, and ‘SWAG’ (Studies of Women And Gender). If someone is interested in a major that is not well supported at the school, students have the opportunity to create their own major and incorporate classes from the other 4 colleges in the consortium (Amherst, UMass Amherst, Hampshire, and Mt. Holyoke). In fact that’s how I completed my major in Linguistics, which is not a supported major at Smith… yet!

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?

Molly: There are no sororities on campus – though your first house might start to feel like one! Many people meet their best friends in their houses, but there are also a variety of student orgs and events where you can meet people with similar interests. And of course, you can meet some great, intelligent people in class! Students participate very actively in their House Counsels, and there are many upper-classwomen available to support the new students as they arrive and throughout their first year. The ResLife on campus is also very supportive, and there are regular, organized house activities that anyone can participate in, such as a field trip to the apple orchards, a house game night, a kayaking trip on the pond, or a popcorn and movie night. 

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

Molly: The Career Development Office is very active on campus, and their services are available to all alumna of the college as well. I never took advantage of these services, but maybe I will in the future!

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

Molly: There are many comfortable places to study in all different kinds of environments. The libraries are large and comfortable, and it’s usually easy to find a seat – except during finals. The Campus Center also has couches and study lounges that are a bit brighter and noisier than the libraries, but lots of people have study sessions there. When the weather’s nice, many people choose a quiet lawn as their study spot; and in the winter people can spend time in the botanical gardens (green house) – especially a good spot for reading. There are also a number of computer labs and studios around campus for science and art students. And the common spaces in the houses are also great areas to study.

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? 

Molly: Northampton is a cute, small town that some might call “hippie” and Smith is right on the edge of it. It’s literally a five-minute walk to ‘downtown.’ There are a number of great cafes with alternative food options (gluten-free, vegan, etc.) and open-mic nights. Many people spend time in town to escape the relatively small campus. There is also some good shopping, though it’s a bit expensive. It’s only a twenty-minute bus ride to get to any of the other colleges, so there’s always something to do. There is also one club in town that can be quite popular on Wednesday nights. 

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

Molly: There are about 2,600 students at Smith. Each graduating class is between 600 and 700 people. The student body is big enough that I never felt like there was not anyone new to meet, but small enough that you run into people you know just about everywhere. Class sizes are great – I never had more than 50 students in a class, and most of my classes were between 8 and 20 students. If you know you want to end up at a big school, Smith is not it. For me the size of the school was perfect. 

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

Molly: Throughout my career at Smith, the best class I took was an astronomy class called The Big Bang and Beyond. There are no Gen Ed requirements at Smith, and I took this class completely on a whim, since it had nothing to do with my major. It was a theoretical class about the nature of the universe and different theories that led up to and have followed the Big Bang. While I can’t claim to remember the details of the theories we studied off the top of my head, I find my thoughts still often drift into vast space, wondering whether our universe is expanding, contracting, or situated snugly in scalar field valley, one of many in a series of universe pockets. I am still awed by how this professor presented complex theories in such a way that they were accessible to me and still resonate in my post-college life.

VT: Anything else a prospective student should know?

Molly: If you are hesitating about attending a women's college, Smith or otherwise, my advice is: go for it! My sister and I both attended women's colleges - mine on the East coast, hers on the West. There are so many opportunities to participate in anything and everything in an amazingly positive environment. It's an amazing experience. And I promise you will meet men (...if you want to!)

Check out Molly’s tutoring profile.

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