Looking for Community, Creativity, and an Open Curriculum? Check out Sarah Lawrence College

It was inevitable that I found myself in Bronxville, New York on this trip. My mother-in-law went to Sarah Lawrence. Her mother went to Sarah Lawrence. And when I took Ben to a college fair a few months ago, admittedly because a rep from Kenyon would be there, he liked what he heard from the Sarah Lawrence rep. So here I was on the SLC campus.

First off, it’s gorgeous. Like drop dead. Think Tudor buildings made from cream-colored stones surrounded by lilacs drooping down from wooden trellises. I know that a college’s looks are totally superficial, but there’s something to be said about how environment can impact your day. There’s nothing wrong with starting it out with pretty things. There’s one large building on campus that’s been recently purchased and used as a freshman dorm; otherwise, the buildings are very much on the human scale.

I walked into the admissions office, giving my spiel that my son couldn’t make it but that I’m also a college counselor so it’s not as weird as it might seem that I’m showing up by myself. And then the admissions director spent nearly an hour sitting down with me. I was the only one scheduled for the tour, but she really didn’t have to do that for me. But she did and that, in a nutshell, is what Sarah Lawrence feels like to me. People who go above and beyond to make you feel welcome. The sense of community here is palpable. There’s the feel of tradition and a sense of belonging that you can find at most liberal arts colleges, but Sarah Lawrence offers a personal connection that is rare at colleges these days. Their academic system is structured around the concept of faculty members, or dons, who help students design their course of study. Every student’s plan is unique and individual. Classes are small seminars and learning is valued as a gift. Students see their studies as interconnected and interdisciplinary.

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Although most colleges have dorms and food that is just okay, Sarah Lawrence has a unique living situation. The campus is surrounded by mostly three-story homes that house groups of students. On campus, there are four eating options and–according to my tour guide–it’s delicious. The rotating gelato options were a personal favorite. Bronxville itself is about a block away and I can testify that the sesame bagel at Park Place Bagels is pretty terrific. NYC is about a 30-minute train ride away.

And have I mentioned the arts programs? Dance, music, film, drawing. They’ve got it. And they’ve got it integrated seamlessly with academics. Creativity is here no matter which field you choose to study.

The stats: The 1400 students at Sarah Lawrence earn BA degrees, enjoy an average class size of 12, and 85% of them live on campus. Their average ACT score is 29 and they have an admit rate of 52%. It was a woman’s college for decades and has about a 65/35% men/women ratio.

SLC reminds me of Kenyon and you all know how much I love Kenyon. Well, this has all of the good things about my alma mater but it’s got the added benefit of being really close to New York City. If you’re looking for a college that has a close sense of community, highly ranked arts programs, and intellectual challenge with the freedom to choose your path, then SLC is the school for you.

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