A notable women's liberal arts college under the umbrella of Columbia University, Barnard offers its small, elite population access to stellar faculty, lots of encouragement and attention, and everything New York City has to offer. Although its campus is small — only four square city blocks on Manhattan's Upper West Side — the school's roughly 3,000 students can take advantage of all of Columbia's resources, including classes, libraries, dining halls, sports teams, sororities and student publications, without needing to follow Columbia’s rigid core curriculum. This causes some mutual resentment between the two student bodies, but they share more than they squabble.

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Academics are rigorous: Barnard accepts fewer than 8% of applicants, and to graduate, students must complete specific first-year courses, general education requirements and electives alongside their major. Undergrads are drawn to the school's strong academic departments, like the writing program that produced Edwidge Danticat, Zora Neale Hurston, Ntozake Shange, Jhumpa Lahiri and Patricia Highsmith. Functionally, there's not much "no boys allowed" spirit about Barnard, as students can choose to live in Columbia's co-ed dorms.

Overall, the students who choose Barnard tend to be deliberate about wanting the tight-knit community, smaller classes, access to professors, and sense of history, pride, and tradition their school provides. All that adds up to a college experience that rates highly on Money's measures of quality, with almost 90% of Barnard students graduating within six years.