the abc’s of evaluations at bennington

So at Bennington we have the option of requesting traditional letter grades for any and/or all courses, or to take our classes on a pass/fail basis. What accompanies both of these options are extensive narrative evaluations from our teachers which include strengths, weaknesses, progress, things to keep in mind looking forward, in class performance, etc. These evaluations are personal and encapsulate your performance in a way that is forward thinking, building on your time in class as a way to talk about your work as a whole and what to keep in mind as it progresses. Over half of us (54% to be exact) take letter grades each term. So really the decision is just about what works for you as a student.

This past term was my first requesting letter grades. I found the evaluations I received from faculty to be so fair and on-point, that I couldn’t see the use of a letter grade in their presence. But as I look towards the end of my four years here graduate school is certainly on the table, and while the evaluations I’ve received are an essential part of my transcript, a GPA is something that the schools I’m looking at ask for.

While my experience has only been with a term of grades so far, I have friends who’ve been requesting them from the get-go and friends who haven’t felt the need to request them at all. So once again, it’s all about what meets your needs as a student.

- Sarah ‘15

I’ve always taken grades and I find that incredibly fulfilling to get a letter grade and an evaluation which helps me understand why I got what I did and how I could improve in the future. 


I just got my ACT scores back- 26 composite. Am I doomed for admission to Bennington? In my defense, I was bit by a spider before taking the test so I didn't feel that well during it! lol! — Asked by Anonymous

You know who else had some difficulty after a spider bite? This guy!imageAnd Bennington would totally consider Spiderman as an applicant — just think of the interdisciplinary options! I mean, physics, public action, biology, journalism, costume design, urban planning, it’s all there. Really, numbers don’t count for much with us unless they count for much with you. We don’t even require your scores. We try instead to look at the person you are — your interests, passion, growth, questions, and anything else you want to send our way.

The bottom line is: If you feel that this number 26 reflects who you are as a person, then feel free to send it in. If you do not feel that it reflects who you are as a person, feel no pressure to send it in. 

( Also, if you experience side-effects of: an undeniable urge to wear Lycra and practice parkour, a surge of intuition you might call “spider senses,” and the inability to let evil go un-fought in your city, you might want to speak with your doctor, and tell him you’re Spiderman.)

All the best,

Sylvia M. ‘16

Looking for a new summer jam?
Well look no further; here is Sylvan Esso (featuring Bennington’s own Amelia Meath ‘10) on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
I first discovered this song when my neighbor kept playing it on repeat and I could hear it through our wall. I have never been more grateful to her for playing music at slightly excessive volumes.
- Sarah ‘15

Alan Tries to Save the World By Recommending a Book #1

After a last minute course change, last term I found myself in “Human Natures” a half biology, half psychology class. The psych half was why I considered it at all. I have respect for the natural sciences, don’t get me wrong. They just drive me insane, but now I know why: scientists misuse their own jargon and make it seem more absolute than it is. Check this out. Scientists are also pretty guilty of misusing these terms; my brother and his wife — both have PhDs in the science — told me they heard these ideas misused regularly. The result is an absolutism that I find off-putting. More importantly, it is misleading. And today, we orient ourselves toward the natural sciences more than any other field. They hold the trump card in political debates.

Evolution’s Rainbow by Joan Roughgarden has become my best friend this summer; she questions the absolutes on behalf of, well, everyone: feminists, queers, humans, lizards. She uses evolution to argue against a model which sees beings as heterosexual males and females, with everyone else being treated as an anomaly. She reworks things once thought of as absolute. In their place, she creates a more accurate frame, which just happens to affirm the value of diversity.


Predictably, I ended up falling in love with biology after understanding it better. Thanks Betsy. And I’m jazzed to have a new angle to approach queer theory from.

Alan ‘15

On HONY I saw this man who said the worst time of his life was when his college friends came into his room, "kidnapped him" and took him somewhere. Does any sort of these rascally activities happen at Bennington ever? — Asked by Anonymous

Sadly, stupid people exist everywhere. I don’t think you should worry, though because it was his friends that did this. That is not to say that it wasn’t traumatic, but it is in some ways preventable. Don’t hang out with idiots! I bet this gentleman chooses his friends differently now. Learning the hard way is hard.

I also recommend making it clear that you don’t have a sense of humor (I do not mean this as an insult, I am describing myself). This can be difficult because often it encourages people to pull pranks on you, because it is even more cute somehow. Think of Sam the Eagle from the Muppets (my spirit animal). He does not have a sense of humor, yet pulling a prank on him would still be very funny:

The trick is whining. Say someone hides something important to you hold dear like your ice cream. Do not give them any satisfaction. Instead say: “seriously guys I was going to eat that and then sleep. Ugh it has been a long day and I don’t have a sense of humor. I love sleeping and eating and you are getting in the way.” This works. Do not expect positive surprises though, like parties.

Alan ‘15

Faculty Member Liz Deschenes Receives Rappaport Prize

Probably an odd question but are you allowed to bring a kayak to Bennington? hahaha — Asked by Anonymous


There aren’t any rules against it as far as I know, but I wouldn’t recommend bringing anything that big. There isn’t really anywhere you’d be able to store it other than on top of your car or in your room, and I dunno if your roommate would be a fan of that. There are also maybe… two and a half months? that you’d really be able to kayak in decent weather while you’re here.

kayak responsibly!

kagan ‘16

Do most students bring a car? I was thinking about bringing a bike actually... — Asked by Anonymous

Enough students bring cars that it’s pretty easy to get a ride to wherever you need to go (within reason!!!!!!) There’s also a rideshare group where people can ask for/offer rides to further away places like NYC and stuff. Someone may even let you BORROW their car as long as you’re a safe driver and not a Rude Dude


Hey, so I'm looking at Bennington's website for the application deadlines and stuff. I'm that rare student that absolutely has her heart set on a school before senior year even begins. Anyway. I noticed that the application deadlines for Early Decision and Early Action (which I'm definitely planning on doing one of) are both before the FAFSA becomes available. How does this work for students like myself that absolutely need financial aid? Is there another form that's sent in later? — Asked by ggordonliddyvevo

First off, you’ll be considered for $cholarships right off the bat, so you’d find out about that with the acceptance letter.

In terms of other aid, Bennington has a financial aid application in addition to the FAFSA (opens January 1) and CSS (DUE December 10) for you to fill out when you apply with questions similar to the FAFSA, and you’d get an estimated institutional and federal aid award based on the Bennington form and CSS with your letter, so as long as the numbers on your FAFSA and CSS Profile are consistent with what you put on the Bennington application, the aid you recieve in the spring should be the same as the estimate you get with your letter.


(you can check all the financial aid deadlines here)








Looking for a great blog to follow???
Well here is the amazing new Alumni Relations blog which unites Bennington past and present. Check out where we’ve been and where we’re going.

I'm visiting this Friday and just wonder what's in store? And some places I could possibly check out while I'm in the area — Asked by fin-de-mundo


most likely, you’ll show up and have an info session with one or even two of the admissions counselors where you will be filled in on everything at once! in thirty minutes! Then, you can expect a tour with one of the interns (glennis! sarah? me??) where you can ask all of your questions while we walk around and look at the campus and classrooms and houses, etc. It’ll be a bit quiet since most everyone’s gone for the summer, but also very pretty?


glennis says Lake Paran, like a five minute drive from campus, in North Bennington

sarah says the Village Chocolate Shoppe, in downtown Bennington, on main street (we can give you better directions once you’re here)

michaela says the Park McCullough House in North Bennington, super pretty right now and it’s right next to the Mile Around Woods, hella dece if you feel like going for a walk.

and I’m telling you right now, buddy, eat at Ramunto’s (if you like pizza.) Also in downtown Bennington. If you don’t like pizza, we’ll work together to figure something out when you get here.

there’s always Chili’s!

Kagan ‘16

Hi! I saw another question asking about sports at Bennington, and I have a similar question regarding figure skating. I am a figure skater and would love to know if there is by chance an ice rink near Bennington at all? Thanks so much :) ~Johanna — Asked by Anonymous

Hey Johanna, 

There isn’t an ice rink in Bennington, there is one about a half hour away in Manchester, VT. However, when it gets cold Lake Paran in North Bennington freezes. No guarantee that there won’t be snow on the ice, but its there for you if you want it. My friend, and fellow intern, Selina is an amazing skater and she has skated outside before. 

Also, not on ice, but requires related skills: Roller-rama, our super fun rollerskating event that happens each term. The school gets a ton of roller skates and we roll around Greenwall, one our our performance spaces, for a while. There is a disco ball, candy, and lots of other fun. Selina and the other figure skaters are always the stars of the night. 

Hope that helps!


You know, sometimes the answers come before the questions do. Makes my research a bit easier. Thanks Abby!

You know, sometimes the answers come before the questions do. Makes my research a bit easier. Thanks Abby!


P.2 of my question about calculus in Cambodia - Do you think it would be that big of a deal to not have it, or should I make it a great priority to continue working on it while in Cambodia? I could try and make it a priority, but realistically it will be a lot easier to keep up with British Lit, because I won't need internet OR the computer (just a few novels! and same goes with Physics, history, and khmer, since they are all offline- though I plan to finish those before I leave..) — Asked by Anonymous


I actually never took calc, and I wasn’t even travelling ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Class-wise, Bennington doesn’t require anything beyond what you need to take in order to graduate high school. Volunteering in Cambodia seems like a pretty legit excuse, so just do what you can. 

tell cambodia i said what’s up

kagan ‘16