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What I love most about Bennington is that there seems to be an unspoken rule that everyone must be invested or curious in SOM...
What I love most about Bennington is that there seems to be an unspoken rule that everyone must be invested or curious in SOMETHING. This might be ceramics, this might be dance, this might be feminist literature combined with an interest in chemistry. Whenever I think of my friends who are just in school to get a degree and get it over with, Bennington seems so refreshing, as everyone is interested in learning. However, this can also mean that students tend to be self-focused because they are so caught up in their work. (I was hoping for classmates who were a lot more interested in community service, politics, the environment, etc.) There's something for everyone at Bennington. There are the hipsters from LA and New York, the hippies who NEVER shower, the larper population, and people like me who don't fit into any of those categories, but we all feel at home, spread out in our little houses around Commons Lawn. Because almost every student lives on campus and there's not much going on in the town of Bennington, this means that there is ALWAYS something going on on campus. This might be a visiting band, a gallery opening, a visiting historian, a play, and a hiking trip all going on in the same night... and you can only do three things. We are a small school-- this is good and bad. With only 600 of us, we have close relationships with the people in our houses, (dorms), and our professors. This also means it's hard to avoid people. Bennington has something very special in addition to its unique system of declaring a major. Field Work Term began in the 30's because the school didn't have enough money to heat the houses during the winter; it was decided that all the Bennington girls would go off and get experience in the working world for two months, and the tradition continues, (even though we now can afford heating throughout the winter). Field Work Term is invaluable; every Bennington student completes a seven week internship for every year he is enrolled at the school. This internship usually relates to what the student is studying, but not always. There is a helpful Field Work Term Office on campus, where you can go to look up suggestions in our internship database, get help writing a cover letter or resume, and most recently, get career counseling. Students do all kinds of things: I know people who have taught disabled how to ski, helped young women in Rwanda, worked for production companies, sculptors, greenhouses, museums, architects, schools... It's an amazing feel to graduate from college already armed with an impressive looking resume. Bennington is a magical place-- there is a strong sense of community that unites us all in feeling pride for our little school. No one really can understand what it's like to look up from studying to hear firetrucks come through campus with their sirens going at the end of every term, announcing our biannual Midnight Breakfast, and watching the shadows of your friends move across the lawn towards the Dining Hall, where our professors serve us pancakes and tater tots and eggs. You'd have to be there to understand, watching our history professor move up and down the stairwell, offering doughnuts to students waiting in the long line to get inside. I've had the best and worst times of my life there; every friend I've made is unlike any person I've ever met. I've had great support and advice from my teachers and the staff, and always can't wait to go back as soon as I leave.
I think Bennington students are pretty friendly for the most part. We are a mostly white school, (an issue the Admissions Office has really been thinking about lately), but have a huge range of socioeconomic diversity. While everyone is very open about sexuality, students have seemed hostile towards religion, as well as towards more conservative attitudes. People seem too wrapped up in their work to follow sports, politics, etc. (Not only do we not have sports at Bennington... we only have one or two television sets. For the entire campus. I view this as a good thing.) Bennington students are from all over the place. While a lot come from New York and the New England area, I know tons of students from Oregon, as well as California, the mid-West, and the South. We also have a small international population, which isn't surprising for such a tiny liberal arts school. I think a student who wasn't self-motivated and needed a tremendous of guidance, or on the other hand was looking for a conservatory education would not like Bennington. Students with strong religious beliefs or very conservative views might not feel comfortable, either.
No. Crazy things do still happen at Bennington, (i.e., everyone running out to the lawn banging pots and pans when the power goes out, waging wars against other houses with rotten apples-- just like any other small liberal arts college with creative people), but no more giant orgies, (that I know of), and not everyone has dreadlocks and smokes pot.
Bennington currently has no core curriculum; this means no Math 101, Introduction To Literature, etc. The school has just recently incorporated "Design Labs" into its curriculum, classes focused on solving real world problems, and sometimes involving cross-disciplinary work. The expectation is that all freshmen are required to take at least one design lab, choosing one from several options. A Bennington academic "journey" looks something like this: your first year, you are encouraged to explore all your interests, taking various classes. (You're also set up with an academic advisor the day you arrive on campus-- you can always switch advisors later on, which happens frequently and isn't a difficult process.) Your sophomore year, you write what we call a PLAN ESSAY. (This is our way of declaring a major.) Every sophomore writes a plan essay, saying what he wants to focus in on during the remainder of his tiem at Bennington. This essay might include some classes he wishes to take, and suggestions for future field work terms and a senior project. All of these essays go to the dean's office, and the dean sets each student up with a plan committee, three faculty members who specialize in what the student wishes to study. This plan committee meets with you throughout the rest of your time at Bennington to go over how you're doing, making sure you're doing advanced work, and giving you guidance about classes, etc. It's just the right combination: while there's no hand holding, you know that you have the support of your plan committee while being in charge of your own education. Bennington is really for self-motivated students. While there's a healthy sense of competition, I think people are working for themselves, and doing their own personal best. Bennington students are always working, always busy, whether it's choreographing, writing, reading. I very rarely have "tests" like I did in high school: final projects usually come down to creative options, or papers. Discussion is a huge part of almost every single class. The biggest class I've ever had was almost 40; the smallest was 7. Last time I checked, the Bennington teacher to student ratio is currently 8 to 1. Work and play really start to blend at Bennington; people are doing amazing work for classes that you might not be able to do at a more typical school, (i.e. giant puppet shows, documentaries about the Bennington security office, illustrating children's books, etc.)
Always something going on at Bennington. The Campus Activities Board is responsible for bringing in bands and speakers, as well as planning big events like Sunfest, where we have a three day music festival in May. There are movie screenings in Kinoteca, our little movie theater, about three times a week. The houses, (dorms), take turns hosting parties, which usually involve themes, like Astronaut vs. Alien or Supermodel vs. Superhero. The visual art lecture series happens once a week, where visiting artists come to give presentations about their work. Because Bennington's so small, we have special Bennington traditions, like Roll-R-Rama, where the school rents out hundreds of pairs of rollerskates, and we all go rollerskating around Greenwall Auditorium. We have Bowl-R-Rama and Midnight Movies in town, where the school rents out the bowling alley and movie theater for us to go bowl or watch a movie at midnight. Midnight Breakfast is my favorite: on an unannounced night near the end of every term, when people haven't slept in a week because of final projects, they'll hear firetrucks driving through campus with their sirens going at midnight, signalling Midnight Breakfast. We all make our way to the Dining Hall, where our professors serve us food, and our librarian's band plays music. There is no Greek life at Bennington, and only one real sports team: we have a co-ed soccer team that plays area high schools and other nearby small colleges. If you don't drink or don't smoke, I think there's plenty to do on campus during the weekend. (Or if you do.) Students generally leave their doors open, and feel really safe on our little campus. Security comes through every now and then, just to check on us. Dating at Bennington is tricky; people tend to sleep with lots of people, or have a relationship like a married couple. (I believe the school is currently around 65% female.) Housing is the best part: we all live in houses with about 20 other people. Freshmen and sophomores have roommates, and juniors and seniors are guaranteed their own rooms. Each house has its own personality: some are loud and play music all the time, others are more quiet and studious. Every Sunday night at 10 we get together in our house living rooms for coffee hour, where we eat food and talk about what's going on on campus, in addition to any house issues, etc.
I think that a lot of people's parents hear Bennington and still think the school is as out of control as it was in the 80's before the current president of the school came in and re-organized everything. The more college-aged generation, (or even high school students), have associated Bennington College with our alum Bret Easton Ellis's novel Rules of Attraction, (which is based on the college), or the movie version made from it. I also think people associate Bennington with other hippy schools like the University of Vermont and Hampshire, and automatically think everyone has dreadlocks and smokes a lot of pot.
Don't let the fact that Bennington is small deter you. That's the best thing about this place, in my mind. Everyone knows eac...
Don't let the fact that Bennington is small deter you. That's the best thing about this place, in my mind. Everyone knows each other and the entire environment is really welcoming. It's a really, really wonderful community, and we all share a deeper understanding of each other. It's kind of nice to be somewhere where you can be on a first name basis with almost all the students, and with the faculty as well. It felt weird at first, but now I can't imagine calling any of my teachers "Professor [fill in last name here]". I spend a lot of time in my house, because I have a really great house dynamic and love the people who live here. The only problem with Bennington is that people sometimes get a bit negative. There is a tendency to notice problems on campus, or in the world, but often a lack of initiative in dealing with the problems at hand. So sometimes, people will complain a bit. But it's really easy to take action if you want to get something done, at the same time. If you really care about something, people will usually join up with your cause, which is wonderful. Everyone's very supportive.
This is not a diverse campus. That's simply a fact about Bennington. But at the same time, there is a wide diversity of personalities on this campus that I feel make up for it. Everyone here is really passionate about something, and everyone has different things that they're into. So there is a diversity of ideas, I'd say. Bennington isn't racially diverse, or even very socio-economically diverse. But there is a lot to be said for the fact that everyone here is completely and utterly unique; mind-bogglingly so, actually. People here are weird. The good kind of weird, the fascinating kind of weird. And everyone you meet will be intriguing to you in some way. I have not disliked any student on this campus. The only way a Bennington student can feel left out, it seems, is if they feel too normal. I myself haven't experienced this. Everyone dresses however they want to, and its really very diverse and funky. And almost everyone on the campus is creatively inclined one way. I've known students who study computer science who are into composing, and math students who apply their knowledge to art. Bennington embodies the ideal of liberal arts: application of knowledge in all fields of study to the arts.
Bennington isn't for everyone. We have a high transfer out rate, and a high transfer in rate. The thing is that Bennington is a lifestyle. It's a bit of a bubble; we don't always stay connected with the outside world. So coming here, be aware that no matter how awesome you think this place or these people are, you might not end up staying here. It's just that it's a totally unique place and not everyone will fit here. Also, the ratio is a big deal in some ways, because it gets mentioned a lot. And it really alters your perceptions of the opposite gender, your gender and sex in general. But at the same time, there is a lot of camaraderie between girls here. And I have plenty of guy friends who are wonderful. It's not like there are NO men. There are just very few. If you want romance, look elsewhere. Because even if you can get into a relationship here, the dynamic is really weird, and lots of those relationships can't last. You're best looking elsewhere for a relationship.
In some ways. There are a lot of really wealthy people on this campus, yeah. But just because an artist can from a wealthy background, it doesn't lesson his or her merit. Most artists on this campus seem pretentious, but that's because they really know their stuff, most of the time. And the really obnoxiously pretentious people usually aren't wonderful artists anyway. People do dress like hipsters here. Not really a problem, though, if you ask me. Bennington students aren't hippies at all, really. Sometimes people sunbathe naked on the lawn, but not very often. And besides, that's legal in VT. Usually people wear bathing suits, or just go past the end of the world, where its a bit more private. And all Bennington women are NOT lesbians. Trust me. If they were, then the ratio wouldn't make such a vast difference to the way we all act. Strong woman and lesbian are not necessarily synonymous.
All my professors know my name. Everyone talks in class, and not just to the teacher. In fact, usually to each other. There are intellectual conversations going on all the time, everywhere. Sometimes, I'll get out of Philosophy, only to be thrown back into another philosophical conversation and debate during lunch! I have personally loved the music classes on this campus. Right now, I'm in a small jazz ensemble as part of someone's senior project. It's really hard, but its wonderful to get to work with just students and create something, and have that count for credit. The Bennington college academic experience is truly unique. If you want to come here, you NEED to sit in on a class to understand it. You can sit in on an academic course, but since you probably won't have done the reading, that won't help. I would suggest coming to an arts course, particularly a music one. Participation in class is really abundant, and you'll probably get the chance to join in, if you want to!
There aren't so many organizations on campus. There is enough going on with classes. There are open mic nights every so often throughout the term, and there are bands who come to play in the student center a lot. There aren't athletics, for the most part. But people tend to play volleyball or badminton on the lawn, sometimes. The theatre department is wonderful, and for the second half of term there is usually some sort of performance every weekend. I leave the door to my room open at least 70% of the time. The dating scene on this campus is pretty lame. It's not the type of place you go for dating. The ratio throws off the campus-wide dynamic, and guys tend to acquire a bit of a god complex; women tend to get a either fed up with the dating scene or to get far too desperate. But in a way, I'm glad that I don't have to deal with dating right now; college is hard enough without it. I met half of my friends because I was placed in a house with them. The other half I met through a class last term, in which we put on an opera. A bunch of my friends were in the opera, and they all live in the same house now, so I go there a lot. I'm almost always awake at 2 AM, and you'd think it was because of work. But usually I'm just chilling in the common room, hanging out with people or writing on my laptop or whatever. One of the campus traditions is Pigstock, in which a pig is roasted over a pit for dinner, and a band is invited to campus. This year we had an awesome Balkan brass band called Slavic Soul Party! play. They basically rocked, and everyone was dancing the whole time. The picnic was great, too, and they got the pig from a local farm. it was even organic! Also, every spring term, we have sunfest. Sunfest is when a shit ton of bands come to Bennington and play all day. And it consistently rains on sunfest, but they refuse to change the name. It's a sort of traditional irony. I have yet to experience a sunfest, but it sounds like it's going to be amazing. This is a campus where you don't have to drink. I came here straight-edge. And I had a lot of friends and still went to parties and had a good time. When I started drinking, it was a personal choice, and it had not positive or negative effects on my social life. The dance parties are fun without drinking, and a lot of people have room parties. You don't have to drink to have a good time. And you don't have to do drugs either. This is a campus where a lot of people smoke both cigarettes and marijuana. I've never had any interest in either, and haven't had any trouble with my choice to stay away from it. People will be accepting of your choices as long as you are accepting of theirs. On a Saturday night, I sometimes sing at open mic night, and there's almost always a house dance party. Our dance parties are amazing. Basically, the house gets to borrow huge speakers and clears out their common room. Then everyone crams in there in the dark and dances to blaring music. It's sweaty and kind of disgusting, and always really hot; but the music is loud, and its really easy to have a good time just dancing with your friends, or a guy, or girl or whatever.
Well, there's the affected, snobby visual artist stereotype; the idea is that all visual artists are really pretentious know-it-alls, and they're all rebellious, grungy heiresses. Then there's the typical hipster stereotype, and then we also get labeled as hippies on top of that. Also there's the stereotype that all Bennington women are lesbians until graduation.
Bennington has a great atmosphere, you form great relationships with your professors and meet a ton of amazing people. There ...
Bennington has a great atmosphere, you form great relationships with your professors and meet a ton of amazing people. There is so much freedom here, you can even "design" your own concentration. The school is pretty small which has its advantages and disadvantages. The administration has been pretty good in my time here, but I have heard some horror stories. People here(ESPECIALLY) administration don't have a concept of time or deadlines, and also have a nasty habit of informing you about something even mere hours before it's supposed to happen.
Most Bennington students are either from the Northeast or the SouthWest. There aren't really any cliques.
I've had my ups and downs with Bennington, as much as I love this school there are times when I can't wait to get out of here. I've been very lucky with the faculty I've worked with and I've met some of the most amazing people.
To some extent.
I have a really good relationship with all of my teachers. Classes are generally pretty small so the teachers know everyone pretty well. Class participation is common, but every class has shy students. I think one of the goals of Bennington is to encourage students to NOT be so competitive, which is why we don't have grades, unless you ask for them. I think people either love the Plan process or hate it, it depends on what you are studying and who is on your committee. I would say the education at Bennington is geared more towards learning for learning's sake.
I don't know a lot of people on campus who lock their doors, there's just a feeling of safety around on campus. I would not encourage people to date here, a lot of relationships work out and a lot of them don't and end in dramatic disaster. A lot of people here have issues. I met my closest friends the first few days of school and have hung out with them ever since. House parties happen once a week and then there are the little parties people have in their rooms. We don't have fraternities or sororities and most weekends are spent hanging around on campus. There is stuff to do in town but not a lot. The movies, bowling, and going out to dinner are usually what people do.
Everyone here is a freak and dresses weird. Everyone does their own thing. The school is basically like a summer camp.
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