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What is Sarah Lawrence College?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2016
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Sarah Lawrence College is a small liberal arts institution located in Bronxville, New York, just north of New York City. The college was originally a women’s school, but is now coed. The distribution of students, however, still has a significantly larger female population than male. Sarah Lawrence College is known for its strengths in the arts and humanities. Famous alums of the college include Meredith Monk, Yoko Ono, Barbara Walters, Grace Paley, and Vera Wang.

The academic system at Sarah Lawrence is comprised of a donning system and self-directed study. The term “don” is borrowed from Oxford tradition, and is used to describe the academic advisors on campus. Students are assigned dons in their first year according to the course of study that they plan to pursue. In the first year of college, a student will meet with his or her don bi-weekly and take one course with the instructor. After the first year, students meet with their dons at least once each semester to discuss their course of study and academic progress. If a student finds that he or she connects particularly well with another faculty member, then he or she may request to switch dons.

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The course structure at Sarah Lawrence College is very loose so as to allow for a self-designed academic plan. There are no required courses; Sarah Lawrence College does not offer introductory courses, but does offer courses that are appropriate for beginners to each subject. Although each student must complete a total of 120 credits to graduate, the requirements regarding the distribution of credits over the subjects offered by the college are quite loose.

Sarah Lawrence College does not offer letter grades to students. At the end of each semester, a student is furnished by a written evaluation by each of his or her professors. Such evaluations discuss the student’s course work and progress, as well as the student’s final project, or — in Sarah Lawrence terms — “conference work.” Conference work refers to the work that a student completes in addition to the course work. Near the beginning of each semester, students choose a topic to study that relates to the work they are doing in class. A student in a Victorian Literature course, for example, may study the history of illness in the Bronte family. Students meet regularly with their professors to discuss the progress of their conference work. A completed conference project may result in a lengthy paper, piece of artwork or music, or presentation to the class.

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