Bard College at Simon’s Rock Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?


I honestly believe there is nowhere in this world that could provide a more academically stimulating, challenging, rewarding, or supportive experience. Classes are small, usually no more than 15 students. The largest classes are Intro to Life Sciences and Intro to Psychology which both have 30 students at the very most--an absurdly small intro class by most colleges standards. So the professors know all the students name quickly. Students are on a first name basis with all members of campus, including our provost, deans, professors, library staff, and Student Life. In the classroom, it makes the professor seem less like the authority figure who adjudicates about the quality of your ideas and more like just another participant. Almost all classes are discussion based. Math and science classes are more lecture based, but involve a lot more exchange between students and professors than is usually required in lecture classes. But most social science, literature, language, and art classes are based around discussion. So students do reading before class and talk about the readings and a variety of related topics in class. Class participation is not only common, it is required in pretty much every class. Students talk a lot about class discussions outside of class. For the first three semesters, students take the Seminar sequence: First Year Sem 1 and 2 and then Sophomore Seminar. All students read the same 16 books over these 3 semesters, generally in the same order. This gives everyone a common intellectual experience to draw upon, and it's not uncommon for people to talk about Sem books especially outside of class. Another thing people talk about outside of class is the homework, usually in the form of complaints. There is certainly a lot of it. Most classes assign about 50 pages of reading per class for 100-level classes, and it only increases as you get into higher level classes. There's also a lot of writing. Papers are usually 5 pages and there's usually about 4 per class a semester (or comparable page amounts, such as 2 5-pg papers and a 10-page paper). We really focus on critical thinking and writing skills here, so a lot of thought and effort really goes into each paper. The professors are probably the best thing about the entire school. All of them have PhDs or the highest terminal degree in their degrees (the figure really is 98{4a082faed443b016e84c6ea63012b481c58f64867aa2dc62fff66e22ad7dff6c} or something equally ridiculously high), and are incredibly intelligent and committed to their subject area(s). Since you call all of them by their first name, you really develop stronger bonds with your professors. They have parties at the end of the semester, or have classes over for dinner. They're always super available; office hours really are a time to stop by and chat, or get help, or have them read a draft of your paper. Some professors even put their home phone numbers on their syllabus; many of them answer emails at alarming times of the night. The professors are always available as a resource, but I've always regarded their job in the classroom as less about teaching and more about facilitating learning, which probably sounds cheesy. But, the point of Simon's Rock is not to leave knowing useless minutia and having interpretations carved into your brain, but to have the skills to evaluate the information you find in the world and communicate about it effectively. So, most of the learning that takes place is just for learning's sake. But I feel as though the education I've received here make me more qualified and more well prepared than the vast majority of college graduates.


Your professors will know your name. There's 10-15 students per class. I had a class with only five students in it. This can be really great if you're a writer, scientist, philosopher...if you're into any profession that is solo. For theatre, IT SUCKS. I tried starting a ten minute play festival, but no one showed up to auditions. Unless you're into a generic major, like english, math, or science, company can be scarce. It's hard to unite students to do anything except party. And the partying is fucked up, since there's no place to really hold a party. Many students just go off into the woods and get stoned alone. Anyway, about the academic life. There is a lot of work. You have to be dedicated and you have to be intelligent. However, it all really does depend on your professor. The basic English class all freshman are required to take, First Year Seminar, widely varies from class to class. Why? The professors. You can't really describe a class because it really depends on what professor teaches it. If you get Wesley Brown, you'll be bored out of your mind. If you get Mark Vecchio, you'll be working your ass off and feel like god if he compliments your paper. When you're signing up for classes, REALLY ASK AROUND ABOUT THE PROFESSORS. Simon's Rock can be rather retarded when it comes to signing up for classes. During my spring semester registration day, they packed 400 students into two tiny buildings and had them run around trying to sign up for classes. Classes will fill quick- since most classes don't take more than 15-20 students. Being a freshman, even a sophomore- signing up for classes sucks. You will leave registration feeling raped of all your energy.