Bennington College is like the death of a phoenix: glorious and intense and fiery and passionate. And it will burn you. For the Bennington Education to work properly, you have to be broken down. You must have every assumption, every desire, every understanding, every love you have ever felt questioned and doubted and stripped away. This insistent questioning will come from your faculty, your peers, your parents (who don't understand the Process you're embroiled in) and yourself. You will have to learn to defend the very foundations of your worldview, and you will have to learn when not to. Bennington is like bootcamp for life: it breaks you down, utterly, and rebuilds you stronger, more able to face the world. Like bootcamp, it is a journey. Many won't make it though (about a third of my class didn't), and few will remain really close friends after. But, like bootcamp, there is camraderie in surviving together; your classmates and fellow graduates will alwas relate to you in a way no one else can. Unlike bootcamp, though, Bennington does not rebuild you in its image; it rebuilds you in your own. One more thing: Don't come into Bennington expecting an honest administration. Bennington lies and spins the truth just as much as any school (maybe more). Because they demand such integrity from us, we expect better. I never got over that, and I don't know anyone who did. But maybe, with advanced warning, you'll be the first.
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.
Bennington is full of flaky people it will make you feel flaky, uncentered, depressed, lonely and unsure of the path you should take. But it sparkles like the underside of a clam shell and once you decide that no, Bennington College, I am a bigger person than you, then you can use it like somebody would use a plow and make your education and begin your life. Your education at Bennington will never be ordinary and unlike classes that force you to cram and follow a textbook, you will be all over the place with all kinds of proffessors (I have taken African Dance, physics, Metalshop and Italian) learn all kinds of things (I know how to stage combat, I know how to roll my hips and weld with acetalyne and I can tell you all about torque, 16th century counterpoint and what an idiolect is). If you do choose Bennington, be fucking prepared. Its a wild, wild place.
Bennington has its tough moments when you want to quit. But they are fleeting and sticking it out through the rough times make you appreciate the good times even more. For me the thing that made me stay when the going got tough was the walk home from VAPA after an all nighter in the costume shop. Campus is quiet and still and I could really appreciate the beauty of the place. If I could do it over again I wouldn't change a thing. I discovered so much about myself and learned so much from Bennington.
My love of Bennington is greater than my qualms with it. But I do have qualms. No where is perfect, but Bennington is just about Perfect for me. I love the plan process. I love my teachers. I have found some form of community. It will build me up and break me down. And sometimes I'll feel alone, and sometimes I'll miss stranger and the anonymous feeling of being surrounded by them, and sometimes I'll wish I could take a break, but I like it, I love it, I do. Oh Bennington I WILL marry you!
Grades aren't required. You can pick your own area of study, not just choose from a list of set majors. Professors are active in their fields and very bright. There is in internship semester to ge experience in your area of interest. The students have a say in waht they learn and how they learn it. The students have a huge impact on what happens in the school, from activities to dinig hall food.
Bennington is not for everyone, but for the people it is for, there is nothing that can come close to it. If you are interested in the school, I suggest contacting a student via admissions, or coming up for a visit. If you do visit, come in the spring when the weather is beautiful, and you won't be able to help but falling in love with the campus.
Bennington is more than an education-- it's an experience. Here you will have all your beliefs, ideals, and concepts about the world you live in challenged, ripped apart, and put back together again. It is truly a place of self-discovery and since your educational trajectory is for you to monitor alone, it is not for the weak of heart.
Definitely our system of Concentrations and graduating. We don't have specific requirements for all students, but instead faculty work with students to develop a "Plan" which combines student interests with the amount of learning that faculty and administration think should be required for graduating with a degree in something.
If you are self driven and want to be immersed in your studies Bennington is great! It is a place that chooses you, so you really have to want it... but if you do there is so much to get out of the Bennington experience. It is a very special, magical place.