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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lexih August 15, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Good article--lots of info on Sarah Lawrence that I didn't know. I'm going into my second year of college at a different school , but almost wish I had applied there to see if I would have received merit aid. That being said, I think any article about colleges should include the fact that Sarah Lawrence has for several years held the "honor" of being the most expensive college in the country.
Gary August 15, 2012 at 06:50 PM
It is hard to take the author seriously by them omitting that last little tid-bit, even though average financial aid packages meet 50% or so of the cost.
Rana Slosberg August 15, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Sarah Lawrence is a college with one of the highest, if not highest sticker price. I left this out of the blog because people tend to jump to conclusions that they can't afford a college based on the sticker price. Each student's net price (after need-based and merit-based aid), not the sticker price is what people should be concerned with. According to the College Board: -- The Cost of Attendance at Sarah Lawrence for a student living on campus is about $63K per year. -- Sarah Lawrence meets 90% of need -- Typically, 85% of the financial aid is in scholarships/grants and 15% is in loans/jobs.
clyde donovan August 16, 2012 at 01:02 AM
The cost of Sarah Lawrence, with a room and without a meal plan, is about $58,000 for a 30-credit program. http://mobile.slc.edu/offices-services/student-accounts/tuition/Undergraduate_Tuition_and_Costs.html I suggest you kiddies go there and major in Women's History. Borrow most of the 58 grand. Then see if you can get a job when you get out. Good luck paying off your $232,000 in loans!
Rana Slosberg August 16, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Students, generally shouldn't borrow more for college than they are likely to make in the first year after they graduate. Parents, borrowing for their children's college education, should not put their retirement into jeopardy.
LVMom August 17, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Tabor, why do you assume the 'kiddies' will major in woman's history? my daughter considered Sara Lawrence and is looking to go major economics, political science, and either environmental science or journalism (self designed) allowing her a solid background to go into politics. Many woman don't study woman's history. -- as for the price MOST schools are over 55K today. sara lawrance still offers merit scholarships - which many top schools do not. unfortunately very few of the schools my daughter likes offers merit scholarships as "all their students are top students". -- Rana, I do think you missed a few things about sara lawrance on both the positive and negative side ... while you brushed over the self designed course of study i doubt that most people would take that to mean each student has a major that is designed for them individually by their don (dean) and that this is a VERY hands on school. the reason it is costly is the amazing one on one time with professors. :)
clyde donovan August 17, 2012 at 08:06 PM
According to "Audry," a student at Sarah L, " The stereotypical SLC student is said to be the coked-out, artsy hipster-type. It's really unfortunate. We're also supposed to be a bunch of angry lesbians." http://www.unigo.com/Colleges/userReviews.aspx?UserId=181352&CollegeId=158 Audry went on to write, "While we have our fair share of druggies and lesbians, it's completely innacurate to think that they make up the majority of our population. What school doesn't have people like this? I think students tend to lean more towards the arts, but that doesn't mean we don't have pre-med and science students."
Rana Slosberg August 19, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Thanks for clarifying that "creating their own program of study" is akin to developing thier own major(s) at other colleges. Indiana University conducts a National Survey on Student Engagement reflecting how much you are likely to learn at college. Sarah Lawrence College results are strong and are posted on http://www.slc.edu/news-events/news/2011-11-18-slc-students-surpass-peer-benchmarks-in-national-survey-of-student-engagement-nr.html
Rana Slosberg August 19, 2012 at 02:47 PM
There are many comments from Sarah Lawrence students on www.unigo.com. Students and parents may want to read these to get a subjective feel for the school and whether the school is a good match for them.
lexih August 19, 2012 at 11:55 PM
LVMom, not to plug my own school, but has your daughter looked at the College of William and Mary at all? We're very solid in the liberal arts, especially in our Government department (and I've heard great things about Economics too), at 48K for estimated cost for out-of-state students we're a bit less pricy than any private schools your daughter may be looking at, and we do offer a few merit scholarships, although they are very competitive. Additionally, I found the "need-based aid" I received to more than meet my need compared to other schools I had applied to.
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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