Bennington College is really a different place. It’s out of the way – in the southwestern tip of Vermont – and they welcome students who are out-of-the-box thinkers. There’s a very strong creative bent here – students are active in the arts and are musical, creative and strong writers.
The curriculum at Bennington is student-designed and interdisciplinary. Unlike most colleges, Bennington College students are deeply involved in devising their own academic path here. Instead of majors, students work with faculty to create their own Plan, an essay they submit at the end of their sophomore year which describes what they want to study, why, and how they want to study it. For the next two years, students will take courses that bring together their areas of interest, which often touch on different academic disciplines. By default, students are evaluated through narrative evaluations by their teachers (they’re not called professors here, although they are mostly Ph.D.s), but if a student requests a grade, it will be offered (students considering graduate school should make this choice).
Bennington College prioritizes experiential education, and most students do three or more internships throughout their time here. Just because it’s non-traditional doesn’t mean the kids here aren’t smart. They’re intellectual and thinkers, and they want to take control of their educational path. The students we met were extroverted and so so happy to be here. With a small student body, under 800 students, the community is very close-knit and students support each other in the classroom and in their extra-curriculars ventures. You won’t find traditional dorms at Bennington. Students live in houses with about 30-45 people (many of which have fireplaces), which fosters a cozy, homey environment.
Because of its unique structure, Bennington’s applicant pool is a bit self-selecting. Bennington is a good fit for engaged students who prefer an unstructured, non-traditional education with unique and creative classmates! If you’re interested in some quirky and/or interdisciplinary combinations of how to solve the world’s problems, and you’d like to do some hands-on exploration of how you can play a role in fixing them, Bennington College might be a good fit for you! In their application process, they’re looking for some evidence of entrepreneurialism – they want to see that you’ve taken control of your academic experience in some way. The admission team is happy to read your screenplay, or a research paper, or anything you think would help them see how you would fit into this creative community of doers and makers.
This podcast on Bennington’s website features students and professors talking about how their Plan process works – it’s a great way to learn more about how Bennington students self-direct their academic work.
Michelle and Evelyn visited Bennington in September, 2022, and you can scroll through all of our photos below.