If you are free-spirited, liberal-minded, do not have an aversion to body hair or clogs then Bennington could very well be the place for you. Most students tend to hail from the East Coast or California. Exotic hair colors, face paint, dreadlocks, piercings, homemade clothes, or no clothes at all are fairly common sights – however there is also a fair share of hipsters and Vermont farmer types to be seen too. It is often said that Bennington is the place where those that were outcasts or freaks in high school go to become part of the majority...this is fairly accurate. Though for the most part all types of people are able to find their place on this campus you probably wont find many republicans, churchgoers, math-enthusiasts, or fraternity bros. In fact the total lack of Greek life or competitive sports means that most students become involved in more alternative methods of fun, such as tea parties, didgeridoo building, poetry readings, tree-climbing, and interpretive dance. Those on financial aid make up a big part of the student body but it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between those paying full-tuition and those paying nothing – wealth is not something that is obvious at all here. Walking through the dining hall you can sense there are distinct social groups, something that is hard to avoid in such a small community, however it does not feel cliquey and because of the small class sizes and housing environments it’s easy to weave your way through several different circles. There are far less men than women on this campus, which certainly puts an interesting spin on things, and is the source of great frustration and lots of dysfunctional, incestuous dating situations.
I was disappointed that Bennington wasn't more cultural. I grew up on a small island in Washington that was predominantly Caucasian and I was looking forward to going to the East coast where I would find more culture. But even though there are not many different races at Bennington, there are loads of different type of people. I think that most everybody can find a place at Bennington and can feel like they are doing something that they like to do with friends. Lots of different types of people interact all the time since we are in such close quarters. The different houses on our campus tend to have personalities and attitudes that some people get really involved in and others don't. I didn't feel like I wanted to be a part of some of the cult-ish attitudes that the houses had, so I moved to a less conspicuous more neutral house but it didn't change my friends or how people felt about me, so I was happy with my choice. I feel like a lot of the students are from New England, mainly New York, New Jersey, Maine and Connecticut. Bennington is a very expensive school. There are people from all different financial backgrounds at our school, but I feel like the incredibly wealthy kids don't mind if you know it. Our school is so expensive, though, we know that either everybody can get by paying tuition, or they were granted a huge scholarship, or somebody else pays it for them. I think that lots of our student body is politically active, and since Bennington is so liberal I don't think there is one conservative person at our school.
Bennies are a varried lot, though we all pretty much know one when we see one. No, that doesn't mean we all like each other, or necessarily understand each others' reasons for coming here, but for one reason or another, we all spot the Benny qualities in eachother (and in others we know and meet). We tend to be liberal-minded, though not always. We tend to have a strong sense of civic responsibility. But not always. We seek connections between our various disciplines and in our social lives; connections that are deeply forged on common interests and rigorous self-driven learning. Bennington students are active, interested, astute, opinionated, and tend toward the verbose. We tend to be unsatisfied with doing one thing well, and strive, instead, for excellence, creativity, invention, and achievement in many fields of interest. We are explorers, risk-takers, thrill-seekers. Though we all get our kicks via our own idiom, we ceaselessly seek fulfillment and growth through new experiences. Of course, for some, this means casual sex, drugs, and alcohol, while others get their thrills in the rock wall. The common denomonator seems to be the understanding of what we are at Bennington, and perhaps in our lives, here to do. OK, that, and gossip.
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.
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.
Students are very receptive and open minded, though they have high standards and do not suffer fools gladly. Interestingly, the definition of a fool varies considerably. The typical Bennington student is interested in many different areas of culture, and loves to argue about topics about which they are not especially informed. They are very enthusiastic and scorn the notion of following the rules and seeing academia as a series of boxes to be checked. Students here typically hold most social mores at ironic arm's length, including traditional dating practices. They tend to either have enlightened flings or idiosyncratic longterm relationships. There is a sense of humor to any social pattern that can be categorized. Bennington students come from drastically different backgrounds, and come together to live very closely and intimately. Naturally there is the occasional conflict, but for the most part Bennington students are incredibly considerate and respectful. They rarely lock their doors and their mailboxes don't have locks. It is a safe and trusting campus full of honest people.
The student body at Bennington is fairly homogenous: white, upper- middle class or higher, and artsy. It is one of the most accepting student bodies I've ever known, and a recently formed LGBT group only received any criticism because everyone felt that it was redundant on our campus. You're more likely to be prejudiced against if you're an evangelical conservative than an extremely liberal gay Jew. Students think that they are politically active, but for the most part, they are unaware liberals who spew rhetoric over dinner, and have no clue what's really going on. It's the Bennington Bubble: we're only aware of what is going on inside the bubble, which is a strange place to begin with. Most students are from the New England and Northeast regions, primarily New York and Massachusettes. There are a reasonable number of students from California and less from anywhere in the Midwest or the south.
The student body is primarily Caucasian, but ranges vastly in backgrounds and lifestyles. It is truly one of the most accepting places on the planet. There is a large LGBT population, and finding people with piercings, tattoos, radically dyed hair, and dreadlocks are not uncommon. All in all, Bennington students are very friendly and open. There are however some small, elitist cliques, but because they are usually in the minority, they are never taken too seriously. Popularity is not a strong virtue at Bennington by any means. Students are very politically aware and active, but it is often hard to find a staunch Republican on the campus. While this helps everyone get along a little better, it can be frustrating in classes when an entire class is in political agreement, and can make for less heated debate.
We aren't that diverse color-wise or international-wise. Most people start dressing very similar. Most people smoke. Most people don't say "Hallo" or smile and nod when you pass them walking. Most people are wonderful when you get to know them. I think most students are upper-middle class or so, some of us cling onto financial aid with our lives/educations. The majority don't pay attention to politics, or vote, I think, and I've heard so many people say "It doesn't affect me" when talking about politics. Or racism. Or sexism. Or...the list goes on. I think with their education they comes an ignorance. I'm sure I'm ignorant too. There is a lot of gossip.
Bennington is probably one of the most accepting schools in the country. The numbers don't say much for racial diversity, but there has also never been any problems with any race. Very accepting of LGBT individuals. basically, no matter who you are, as long as your a good person on the inside you will be accepted with no questions asked. The residence of the houses usually become very close and the community of every house is very tight. If your placed in the right house for you, as I was, it will become your second home, and you will have another family at school. Most students are from NYC, VT, MA, or CA - but I couldn't tell you why.