Haverford, PA: During Thanksgiving weekend, I was able to stay overnight at Haverford College. The school is a small (1,100 students) liberal arts college with a tradition of academic excellence located in a suburban town on Philadelphia’s “Main Line.” With a low student-faculty ratio and an honor code stemming from the college’s Quaker origins, Haverford seems to have a strong sense of community as well as being a challenging and fun place to be.
An arboretum spreads across the multi-acre campus, which is right in the middle of the town of Haverford, but hedges and groves of trees make the campus seem somewhat detached. The building plan centers on Founders Hall, the original and most historic structure. With the exception of the ugly metal field house, the college buildings are attractive and livable. Asphalt paths lead across neat lawns and under big, shady trees to connect the various buildings. There is also a duck pond (used for skating in winter) and quaint row of professors’ houses on the north side of campus.
While there were no formal classes in session during my visit, my student host did his best to introduce me to the college. Classes are generally small and all are taught by professors. Haverford has a close relationship with Bryn Mawr College, a prestigious women’s college in the next town, where students may cross-register. Students can also take classes at nearby Swarthmore and the University of Pennsylvania for courses Haverford does not offer. While academics are competitive, the atmosphere is fairly relaxed.
My host assured me that housing at Haverford is good, although he admitted that he lived in one of the less desirable dorms. In this dorm, the students made the most of their situation by creatively decorating the somewhat cramped interior and covering as much of the cinder block walls as possible. The other houses looked appealing from the outside and through the windows. One advantage of housing is that almost everyone gets a single after freshman year. Dorm unity appears to be strong with the relatively small number of people in each hall and the annual “Dorm Olympics,” pitting the each house against others in a variety of competitions. Away from the dorm, students can study at the chapel-cum-library or eat at a central dining hall where the food is reputedly good. You can hang out at the student center if you don’t mind the local kids who frequent the video games.
Since Haverford is a small college, many students have the opportunity to take part in extracurricular activities. The “Fords” or Fighting Quakers are competitive at the Division III level in a variety of sports. Students boast proudly of the cricket team, which is ranked number one among American colleges (Haverford also happens to have the only college cricket team in the U.S.). The college frequently turns out a joint newspaper with Bryn Mawr. There are dramatic and musical programs as well as various clubs.
When life on campus gets stifling, Haverford students can go outside the hedges and stone walls surrounding the school’s perimeter. The town of Haverford is primarily residential and prices in shops are better suited to commuting lawyers and vice-presidents than college students. A quick ride on the SEPTA regional rail line, however, will take students into Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth largest city. While it does have the usual urban problems, the city provides a wealth of history, shopping, entertainment, sports and business attractions. For those with cars, swimming at the Jersey shore and skiing in the Pocono Mountains are not too far away.
Haverford seems to be a school that cares about its students and educates them well. For those who value individualism and personal attention, Haverford is hard to beat. Haverford is a very fine college that should not be overlooked because of its small size. n
Reviewed in 1992