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.
Bennington College is hands down one of the most fascinating, exciting, and strange experiences of my life. Seated at the top of a hill in rural Vermont it is like a wee microcosm of creativity and very rarely fails to surprise. Because of our rather isolated existence the students are forced in many ways to make our own fun and keep things interesting on campus and we do so with great enthusiasm. Although there is no shortage of wonderful things to get involved in outside of the classroom, because of the strenuous work load people sometimes tend to get a little too wrapped up in their studies . However students often manage to intertwine their social life and work life very well, in a way that enhances the both of them. There are no required credits or 101-classes, but instead highly specific, highly engaging and challenging seminars that are designed solely by the students needs and requests and the teachers interests. It is highly unlikely to find yourself in a classroom where neither the teacher nor any students is disengaged with the course. There is an emphasis on learning through experience (hence the introduction of their required 7-week off-campus Field Work Term experience every year) and designing ones education through their own curiosity and exploration. During their four years at the college each student integrates different areas of the curriculum that are of interest to them around central ideas or questions – this ultimately results in their Plan, Bennington’s equivalent to a major. The 8:1 student-teacher ratio and the close-knit nature of the campus means that there is a huge support system and sense of community that is often hard to find. Despite strengths in many different academic fields, many students declare, either with great enthusiasm or resentment, that it is undeniably an art school. There is definitely a very creative, arts-oriented feel to the place (as well as being the birthplace of modern dance) however it is very possible to successfully pursue interests or all fields.
Bennington College is like Hogwarts. The house you live in has a definite personality and relationship to the community and you generally become more familiar with them and when drama insues (it always does) you'll find your house grows to be like a family. You either love here or you hate it here. Even when you love it, it's like an old married couple kind of love, where you're constantly making snide, bitter remarks about the Dining Hall food. Speaking of Dining Hall, this becomes a huge part of your life. You are required to pay for the Dining Hall for all your meals. Breakfast, Lunch Dinner. Its a favorite point of common grievance between students. The food is often exotic, bad, and bland. Our Dining Hall often makes meat-eaters into vegetarians. And yes. There are many meat-eaters at Bennington College. The Adminstration is not well-liked. They have made many decisions recently that have filtered out some of the Bennington stand-bys. The book store guy that used to be a porn-star who was always there for advice had his position terminated. Our own beloved security guards who give how-to-fix-your-car classes on the side and who will take care of you and who are more concerned about you not dying that about busting you are having their positions placed in jeopardy. And while they are firing the people that we love, they are putting in a swimming pool. We don't understand. Nobody understands. Everybody blames and hates the admistration. I say Hogwarts because you are not just signing up for a school here, you are signing up for a world. You learn from everybody, from the sculpture tech, from your fellow students, from your faculty advisors. There's not a lot of university brand school pride. But there is a lot of passion. This is not a place for the weak because the bubble will drive you insane. You have to have passion to survive here.
Bennington is a tiny liberal arts college nestled in the middle of nowhere on an old farm. There are only about 750 students, undergrad and graduate combined, and at times all you want to do is hide in the library than see the same group of faces again. But it's also great that it's small because you are forced to be with people who are interested in similar things as you are. I think the academics are the best thing about Bennington. The teachers at our school are required to do what they teach, as opposed to just going to teaching school and then finding a job at a university. They are so experienced and we truly get to learn from experts, which is really lucky. I spend most of my time on campus, on campus... it's really small so people are usually in their room or someone else's room or in the dining hall where we all eat together at the same time or in the student center. There is no college town. The closest city is Albany, NY which is about 45 minutes away. The town of Bennington consists of a Wal-Mart, a Hannaford, Price Chopper, multiple car dealerships, a bowling alley, and a Taco Bell/KFC joint restaurant. I do have to give "Four Corners" (where main street has an intersection with 3 other streets in the heart of Bennington) more credit than we do because it's very cute and has a coffee shop and a pet store and other places where Bennington college students could hang out but we don't. I'll always remember driving to school for the first time and looking out across the highway and seeing Bennington College sitting on a green hillside all by itself with all the clapboard houses and the big clock on the commons building.
The best thing about Bennington in my opinion is the other students. I've come to the realization that Bennington is as much of a college as it is a collection of some of my generations most out-of-the-box thinkers. Being there affords me the possibility to truly learn whatever I want (and not through the faculty, necessarily) because anything I want to learn someone else has probably already mastered somewhere on campus. The question of Bennington's size is completely relative, sometimes on a day to day basis. There are times where more people would bring me down and there would be far too much to deal with and there are other times that the fact that the school is so small and news can sometimes travel too fast becomes a problem for me. One experience of Bennington that I will always remember was part of my tour before I was a student. The tour had actually finished and I still hadn't seen the music building so I asked where it was and my guide gave me directions. I drove up to see it and as soon as it came into view about a quarter mile up the hill all I could say was "no way". The building is literally a mansion, given to the school when the owners died, that sits on a hill overlooking the school. Trust me, it's an incredible sight still after two years. But the thing I remember most was the first time I walked into the building. The lobby has been left almost completely intact except for a few fire alarm panels on one wall. The fireplace is enormous and has two iron lion's head ornaments like you would see in the movies.
Bennington is a great place for focused and self-motivated students. Depending on who your academic advisor is, you can either have a lot of willing and useful help and discussion about your studies, or, like my case, you can see your advisor twice a term and get almost no guidance at all. Bennington is a very small school (only 600 undergraduates) which is a gift and a curse. By the end of your time there, you'll probably recognize everyone, but it can be a little claustrophobic. Generally when I tell people from home where I go to college, the response is "Where?" because it seems the vast majority of people have never heard of Bennington. When people actually have heard of the place, they are usually impressed. Every person should be able to have a Bennington free-form, do-it-yourself, do-what-you-love education, but I think that the price tag is a deterrent for a lot of people, since it was just increased to $48,000 a year. One unique aspect to the Bennington education is the Field Work Term, where students go out into the real world for eight weeks and work internships or jobs related to their fields of study. It is a great experience and a way to network as well as graduate with real-life work experience.
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.
The best thing about Bennington? The list would go on for days. I guess it's important to highlight just the people that surround you everyday. You will be inspired not only by your professors but by your peers. Everyone is always excited about some new project they are working on and someone is always available to help. PROFESSORS KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT! and they want you to be just as excited as they are all the time. I think it's good that prospective students (AND THEIR PARENTS) know that they are getting all that they are paying for education wise. Campus is beautiful- there is nothing else I can say, you just have to see it. Every house really does have it's own personality, and if you are not placed in the right house upon arrival, you WILL eventually find the place that you belong, there is a place for everyone. Bennington is a crazy collection of the most driven and inspired people in the country. If you have chosen to attend or are contemplating, just know that you will be surrounded by people who WANT to work, and if you are not driven... you WILL stick out like a soar thumb.
Nice small size, very close knit community. Everyone knows everyone else. People either don't know about Bennington, think it's a good school, or say "Hey, isn't that the school where everyone is naked all the time?" I spent most of my time in my house Booth, VAPA, or Dickenson. Not really much of a college-town relationship but everyone I met in the town was really nice, I had a few townie friends. The administration was ok, didn't really bother me much, kind of suck-ups. The new student center was a big controversy. Too modern, not like Bennington at all. No school pride of any sports sort of sense, no teams. But I believe we are proud of our community, as much as we bitch about it. EVERYTHING is unusual about Benn. I'll always remember nights spend in Dickenson. People most often complain about the food (which isn't all that bad just gets old after four years), the student center, and having too much work (but we'd all be bored and sad if we didn't have our work).
Bennington sports a student body of less than 700, and an impressive student/faculty ratio, so one has to one wonder: What's the catch? Situated miles from town on acres of idyllic Vermont hills, the campus is self contained and self maintaining (kind of like a well designed fishtank). Life at Bennington is rarely dull, with performances starting within a few weeks of the start of term, projects to work on, official themed House parties nearly every weekend, and events sponsored in various locations around campus. In fact, with everything available to students, it's hard to determine just why students are so focused on one another's lives and dramas. The easiest way to steer clear of this is, of course, not to date anyone and not to sleep with anyone. But let's get real. This is college, and you came for the sex as much as you came for the classes. As my favorite teacher once told me, "You're living in a fishbowl, kid." Welcome to Bennington.