Inside Colleges: Sarah Lawrence College

Sarah Lawrence College is a unique liberal arts college in Westchester County.


Sarah Lawrence College is a liberal arts college of 1300 students on 44 acres in Westchester County, NY that is unique in several ways:

  • It is among the colleges with the largest percent of classes with fewer than 20 students.
  • Students interview the professors for 30 minutes in order to decide what classes they would like to take.
  • The classes are modeled after the Oxford/Cambridge tutorial. The seminar classes include a round table discussion with a group of 15 or fewer, where the students need to come prepared to reflect on their reading and have a conference with their professor every other week to go over their term research project/paper. 
  • The music, theatre, and dance classes are organized differently. Each class is broken into three-week sessions on a particular skill set. There are theatres, art and performance spaces, and music spaces.
  • There are only 10 lectures courses offered each year and they are capped at 45 students.
  • Professors give students a written evaluation of their work, in addition to grades.
  • Their don (i.e., advisor) is also their teacher for their yearlong first year seminar. With the don, students create their own program of study.
  • Students take three 5-credit courses a semester. 
  • Thirty credits are needed for a concentration (i.e., major). Many students take two or three concentrations.
  • Many buildings contain teacher’s offices, classrooms and student housing. Freshman housing is not separate from upper-class housing.

The college is known for creative writing, visual and performing arts, history and international studies. The student body is 70% women and tends to be politically liberal. Eighty-five per cent of undergraduate students live on campus. There are six study abroad programs, including one in Cuba.

The school is located in an upper middle-class suburban area. There are some stores and restaurants about a 15-minute walk from school. Many students go to New York City, a 30-minute train-ride away, for pleasure, cultural experiences, or internships. A free shuttle to the train station is available after 5:30 PM. Those who stay on campus on weekends participate in dances, poetry readings, concerts, plays, or community service.

The school seems to be a good fit for an outspoken, well-written independent learner, interested in intellectual discussions in multiple disciplines and independent research in the liberal arts. The academic requirements include that students to take a yearlong freshman seminar, take a course in at least three of the four areas of study, and take 2 physical education classes. Students can earn a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in five years in Teaching, Child Development, or Women’s History. There is a 3-2 Engineering program with Columbia University. There is also a pre-med program.

SATs / ACTs are not considered in admission. The college uses the Common App with a Supplement which includes the “Why Sarah Lawrence?” question. Students should submit a graded high school paper as part of their application. An interview is strongly suggested; seniors often conduct the interview.

The college is need-sensitive and uses the FAFSA and CSS/PROFLE for financial aid. Students are automatically considered for merit aid.

What is your experience with Sarah Lawrence College?

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clyde donovan August 20, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Let's face it. Getting the cheapest education possible is the only way in the broken world of Barack Obama, unless you want to pay off loans for the next 20 years. The key to a good life after college is to have as little debt as possible so you can afford to buy a house, have children, buy new cars and take vacations. In addition, don't bankrupt your parents for an expensive four years at a Snootytime University. Your parents are getting older and if you strip them of their assets, they may, at some point, wind up living with you - and that can be a really bad experience. Being successful and making cash is all about connections and your personality. Can you function well in social situations and who do you know who can get you where you can to go? A Penn State degree and its alumni assocation will open more doors for you than a degree from Cornell.
Rana Slosberg August 20, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Students need to find the right school for them. They need to look at academics, social match and cost. Parents need to be frank with their kids about how much money they can afford to spend on college. The lowest price is not always the in- state school. Here's a current article on financial aid that you might find helpful: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/08/18/colleges-boost-financial-aid-offset-rising-tuition-costs/y2Q7srUo1Kqb6yc7V24bsN/story-1.html
John Coxx November 08, 2012 at 09:00 PM
What is the pre-med program like at this college? Is there anything special about it?
Rana Slosberg November 09, 2012 at 03:38 PM
According to the Fiske Guide, "The pre-med program, more structured than other offerings, places nearly all eligible graduates into medical school. Though science majors are few and far between, those who focus on biology, chemistry, and physics have access to a state-of-the-art science center, with 22,500 square feet of classrooms, lab benches, and computer technology." The Sarah Lawrence course catalog says the following regarding their pre-health program, "Students supplement required courses in biology, chemistry, and physics with additional courses offered by the division as part of their preparation for the MCATs and postgraduate education. Conference work provides students with additional opportunities to organize original research projects, pursue independent learning, and critically examine professional literature-skills fundamental to future success in medical and graduate schools. Students in the program have significant contact with the pre-health adviser, as well as other faculty members in the division through conferences, course work and individual research. Therefore, faculty members with a thorough and personal knowledge of the individual student write letters of recommendation. The pre-health adviser and faculty members also serve as resources for information regarding application procedures, research and volunteer opportunities within the community, structuring of class work, MCAT preparation, and practice interviews."


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