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Barnard College Essay Prompt

If you want to get in, the first thing to look at is the acceptance rate. This tells you how competitive the school is and how serious their requirements are.

The acceptance rate at Barnard College is 20%. For every 100 applicants, 20 are admitted.

This means the school is very selective. If you meet Barnard College's requirements for GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and other components of the application, you have a great shot at getting in. But if you fall short on GPA or your SAT/ACT scores, you'll have a very low chance of being admitted, even if you meet the other admissions requirements.

Many schools specify a minimum GPA requirement, but this is often just the bare minimum to submit an application without immediately getting rejected.

The GPA requirement that really matters is the GPA you need for a real chance of getting in. For this, we look at the school's average GPA for its current students.

The average GPA at Barnard College is 3.9.

(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA.

With a GPA of 3.9, Barnard College requires you to be at the top of your class. You'll need nearly straight A's in all your classes to compete with other applicants. Furthermore, you should be taking hard classes - AP or IB courses - to show that college-level academics is a breeze.

If you're currently a junior or senior, your GPA is hard to change in time for college applications. If your GPA is at or below the school average of 3.9, you'll need a higher SAT or ACT score to compensate. This will help you compete effectively against other applicants who have higher GPAs than you.

Each school has different requirements for standardized testing. Most schools require the SAT or ACT, and many also require SAT subject tests.

Barnard College hasn't explicitly named a policy on SAT/ACT requirements, but because it's published average SAT or ACT scores (we'll cover this next), it's likely test flexible. Typically, these schools say, "if you feel your SAT or ACT score represents you well as a student, submit them. Otherwise, don't."

Despite this policy, the truth is that most students still take the SAT or ACT, and most applicants to Barnard College will submit their scores. If you don't submit scores, you'll have one fewer dimension to show that you're worthy of being admitted, compared to other students. We therefore recommend that you consider taking the SAT or ACT, and doing well.

Barnard College SAT Requirements

Many schools say they have no SAT score cutoff, but the truth is that there is a hidden SAT requirement. This is based on the school's average score.

Average SAT: 1440 (Old: 2060)

The average SAT score composite at Barnard College is a 1440 on the 1600 SAT scale.

On the old 2400 SAT, this corresponds to an average SAT score of 2060.

This score makes Barnard College Strongly Competitive for SAT test scores.


Barnard College SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)

The 25th percentile New SAT score is 1350, and the 75th percentile New SAT score is 1510. In other words, a 1350 on the New SAT places you below average, while a 1510 will move you up to above average.

Here's the breakdown of new SAT scores by section:

SectionAverage25th Percentile75th Percentile
Math700640750
Reading373438
Writing373538
Composite144013501510

Barnard College SAT Score Analysis (Old 2400 SAT)

The 25th percentile Old SAT score is 1910, and the 75th percentile SAT score is 2190. In other words, a 1910 on the Old SAT places you below average, while a 2190 puts you well above average.

Here's the breakdown of old SAT scores by section:

SectionAverage25th Percentile75th Percentile
Math670620720
Reading690640730
Writing700650740
Composite206019102190

SAT Score Choice Policy

The Score Choice policy at your school is an important part of your testing strategy.

Barnard College has the Score Choice policy of "All Scores."

This means that Barnard College requires you to send all SAT scores you've ever taken to their office.

This sounds daunting, but most schools don't actually consider all your scores equally. For example, if you scored an 1300 on one test and a 1500 on another, they won't actually average the two tests.

More commonly, the school will take your highest score on a single test date. Even better, some schools form a Superscore - that is, they take your highest section score across all your test dates and combine them.

Some students are still worried about submitting too many test scores. They're afraid that Barnard College will look down on too many attempts to raise your score. But how many is too many?

From our research and talking to admissions officers, we've learned that 4-6 tests is a safe number to submit. The college understands that you want to have the best chance of admission, and retaking the test is a good way to do this. Within a reasonable number of tests, they honestly don't care how many times you've taken it. They'll just focus on your score.

If you take it more than 6 times, colleges start wondering why you're not improving with each test. They'll question your study skills and ability to improve.

But below 6 tests, we strongly encourage retaking the test to maximize your chances. If your SAT score is currently below a 1510, we strongly recommend that you consider prepping for the SAT and retaking it. You don't have much to lose, and you can potentially raise your score and significantly boost your chances of getting in.


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Barnard College ACT Requirements

Just like for the SAT, Barnard College likely doesn't have a hard ACT cutoff, but if you score too low, your application will get tossed in the trash.

Average ACT: 30

The average ACT score at Barnard College is 30. This score makes Barnard College Strongly Competitive for ACT scores.

The 25th percentile ACT score is 29, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 32.

Even though Barnard College likely says they have no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 29 or below, you'll have a very hard time getting in, unless you have something else very impressive in your application. There are so many applicants scoring 30 and above that a 29 will look academically weak.

ACT Score Sending Policy

If you're taking the ACT as opposed to the SAT, you have a huge advantage in how you send scores, and this dramatically affects your testing strategy.

Here it is: when you send ACT scores to colleges, you have absolute control over which tests you send. You could take 10 tests, and only send your highest one. This is unlike the SAT, where many schools require you to send all your tests ever taken.

This means that you have more chances than you think to improve your ACT score. To try to aim for the school's ACT requirement of 32 and above, you should try to take the ACT as many times as you can. When you have the final score that you're happy with, you can then send only that score to all your schools.

ACT Superscore Policy

By and large, most colleges do not superscore the ACT. (Superscore means that the school takes your best section scores from all the test dates you submit, and then combines them into the best possible composite score). Thus, most schools will just take your highest ACT score from a single sitting.

We weren't able to find the school's exact ACT policy, which most likely means that it does not Superscore. Regardless, you can choose your single best ACT score to send in to Barnard College, so you should prep until you reach our recommended target ACT score of 32.


Studying for the ACT instead? Want to learn how to improve your ACT score by 4 points?

Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and ACT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you'll study smarter and make huge score improvements.


SAT/ACT Writing Section Requirements

Both the SAT and ACT have a Writing section that includes an essay.

Barnard College requires you to take the SAT/ACT Writing section. They'll use this as another factor in their admissions consideration.


SAT Subject Test Requirements

Schools vary in their SAT subject test requirements. Typically, selective schools tend to require them, while most schools in the country do not.

We did not find information that Barnard College requires SAT subject tests, and so most likely it does not. At least 6 months before applying, you should still doublecheck just to make sure, so you have enough time to take the test.



Many schools ask for supplemental essays in addition to the personal statement; the most common supplement, which we call “Why College X?,” is a variation on the question, “Why us?”

This prompt can be one of the most challenging for students. The questions often look like these, which are taken from current and past years’ applications:

New York University: NYU’s global network provides students with hundreds of academic areas of interest for students to cultivate their intellectual curiosity and to help achieve their career goals. Whether you are entirely undecided about your academic plans or you have a definitive program of study in mind, what are your own academic interests? Feel free to share any thoughts on any particular programs or how you might explore those interests at NYU on any of our campuses.

Cornell University College of Engineering: Tell us about an engineering idea you have, or about your interest in engineering. Describe how your ideas and interests may be realized by — and linked to — specific resources within the College of Engineering. Finally, explain what a Cornell Engineering education will enable you to accomplish.

University of Michigan: Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?

Barnard College: What factors influenced your decision to apply to Barnard College, and why do you think the College would be a good match for you?

In every case, a student’s answer should address three important areas:

  • The School: What attracts me to this college or program?
  • The Student: What do I want readers to know about me?
  • The Stories: How does what I know about the program mesh with what I want readers to know about me? How can I illustrate this intersection?

This time of year, we receive many essays from students who want a professional review before they submit their applications to colleges. More often than not, these essays are not quite ready.

I just read a beautiful piece from a student answering the “Why College X?” prompt for a Big 10 university. Immediately, I noticed something was wrong.

Full of descriptive details about the school’s location and football stadium, the story painted a vivid picture of the long drive to and from the school in the family car with his dad, an alumnus. This young man was clear he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps; he was comfortable inside the stadium; he was certain he would feel at home at this university.

Unfortunately, the essay did not answer the prompt. The prompt asked students to discuss the “unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School.” He didn’t say a word about classes, learning communities or other aspects of the undergraduate experience.

Many students have very little idea what a school offers academically, socially or culturally. Sometimes students choose a college because of its location or its status. Each year, we meet many high schoolers who insist that a school is perfect because the student bleeds the university’s colors, feels at home inside the football stadium and loves listening to stories around the Thanksgiving dinner table from Dad, Aunt Lisa and cousin Diana, all enthusiastic and accomplished alumni.

Students, this is not what colleges want to know! While it is okay for you to tell them you will be comfortable on campus, they are more interested in their school and what the college or program has to offer. Do you have the chops to succeed academically? Are there any clubs and activities to support your outside interests? Why do these factors matter to you?

Tips from Inside the Admissions Office

No matter which college you choose, the decisions makers are looking for the same thing from this supplemental prompt. It really is: Why do you want to be at a particular school? What makes you a good fit? Is it a match?

Look at the prompt. Is it asking about the school in general, or a particular program that interests you? As always, make sure you answer the prompt.

Barnard’s Director of Admissions Christina Lopez suggests students ask themselves a series of questions before answering the “Why College X?” essay prompt: Do you prefer small classes with a lot of interaction with professors or large lecture classes? What type of community appeals to you? Are you looking for a diverse environment? Do you prefer to be close to home? Do you want to study abroad, conduct research, do an internship or study in a rigorous academic environment?

“The supplements separate a good applicant from a great applicant,” Lopez said. “The more you can espouse why you are a match in the short answer question genuinely (without regurgitating our website to us because we wrote it!), the more you will stand out to us. It is a great place to let a college know if we are the first choice, and why you love us.”

At Wow, we talk all the time to high school counselors, parents and admissions representatives like Lopez. We write and speak at college industry conferences with senior managers from admissions offices at the nation’s most selective colleges. That’s how we know that at its core, any college essay is about reflection. And that’s how we also know that colleges – no matter how selective – all want the same thing in a personal statement or supplemental essay: They want students to respond to the prompts in a meaningful way that shows insight into the student’s character.

About Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a leading expert on the college application essay. Kim is a former journalist who has made it her mission to know EVERYTHING about college admissions. She speaks with senior admissions officers from the nation’s most selective colleges almost every day. Wow works directly with students, and trains school counselors, English teachers and independent educational consultants who want to improve their essay-coaching skills.


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