From our side of things, it doesn’t make a difference — we are going to be getting to know you through the application, not your choice of application. So it is really up to you to decide which method showcases your work (& your, uh, self) the best.
If you do the dimensional app, I’d encourage you to think very intentionally about what you include and make sure we are getting a whole picture of you. With the common app, you have a sort of safety net which is that of tradition.
The choice is still yours…that’s the Bennington way.
I’ve taken three philosophy courses in my time at Bennington: Global Ethics/Global Justice, Philosophy of Art and Language, and Philosophy and Biography of Wittgenstein. I wouldn’t call myself a philosophy student exactly, but my work in the social sciences has definitely been more on the theoretical side of things.
We covered logic in the first few weeks of Wittgenstein, but we really glossed over it so that we could deconstruct it. Paul’s courses are definitely your best bet, though — philosophical reasoning, theoretical ethics, global ethics, etc. While it isn’t the wikipedia page “logic,” his emphasis is definitely on constructing a logical argument and doing things with it rather than more whimsical ways of doing philosophy (I suspect Paul would much enjoy this characterization…). I would also look into pure math, if I were you; as well as some basic music theory. I know that sounds a little crazy, but once you get how Bach works it kind of makes sense.
But I also think it is important to realize that students here aren’t limited by the curriculum. You could easily focus on logic as part of your advanced work — our philosophers are well-versed enough to assist you in pretty much any interest. Before then, you could even do a tutorial with one of them.
Email me at email@example.com; I’d like to keep chatting so we can figure out what logic even means. I’ve got a paper I read in an education class I’d love for you to wrestle with.
There is a soundbite lodged in my head of Sarah Palin saying, after a series of stutters, "it’s gotta be all about job creation." For whatever reason, before I found this on youtube, I could repeat it to you word for word with her exact inflection. Why? I have no idea. But it serves as the perfect example of something I’ve been thinking about lately: the turn toward outcomes in discussion. And then, what does it mean to choose a college not based on what will be promised to you, but based on what the college is?
What Sarah Palin is doing with words, here — and it isn’t just her, it is every talking head on the news — is framing things in terms of tomorrow instead of today. The normative way of making decisions today is based on outcomes: it is a sort of banal utilitarianism, that is so common, we don’t notice it. “Job creation” becomes an empty promise that distracts us from the present — and sometimes it’s easy to do some morally repugnant things today under the pretense of a better tomorrow. Every policy, every choice is actually a promise of a future rather than a choice in the present.
To give another example, facebook just asked me: are you sure you want to delete your account? And then provided photos of my friends, telling me individually that each one would miss me. But what about taking a stand based on principle, rather than consequence? In that moment, it is hard to feel like a good person while imagining all of your friends in tears. And yet, ethically, I disagree with a lot of what facebook is doing.
Yes, Alan, but “at the end of the day….” To which I respond, for a moment let’s suspend the end of the day and just think of, um, the morning? I’m not sure how to maintain this metaphor.
What does this mean for college? It is so tempting to frame this choice based on the promise of a job. And a house. And a car. And a family. Look: happiness! You can have that! Make this choice for THAT! But in a nation that designed itself as an experiment, maybe it makes sense to turn back to that mentality.
Maybe it is noble to go to a school based on values, based on principle and not the promise of an outcome. Maybe it is just the place you want to spend four years. Bennington, for example, might be the right place if you value freedom or don’t think education should be dictated to you. Education shouldn’t be a pill you swallow (or a textbook you have to digest) when you don’t want to. And maybe that actually is enough of a reason to come here.
It isn’t that we can’t answer questions about outcomes, or that we won’t. It’s just that sometimes I wonder why those are the only questions I’m ever answering.
Chocolate, avocado, coconut, vegan/gluten free mousse!
Alana reads out loud “Chocolate, avacado, coconut, vegan/gluten free mousse???” and then it continues:
"MMMmmm, yum" -Nina
"What? I don’t know about the avocado." -Alana
"No! They are so good. They-" -Nina
”…it’s used as a replacement for butter, right” -Naima
"Yeah, and they are so good because you don’t taste the avocado much and you just get the richness of it." -Nina
"Wait! Pause. This is the most enthusiastic conversation this shift has ever had" -Alan
"Well, if I was to marry anything that wasn’t a human, it would probably be an avocado…" -Nina***
****No, but seriously, Nina made ceramics inspired by avocados last year: http://nbrnstn.tumblr.com/
It is deceptively simple.
You know you better than we do, so we aren’t going to design a checklist for you. If we frame the conversation, you might not be able to put your best foot forward: maybe your transcript just isn’t the best way for us to get to know you. Maybe it is. You decide.
So, your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to help us see in you….
The capacity to
design an inquiry, create and revise work
find, analyze, and use resources
apply your understanding to new situations and connect your work to broader contexts
Dexterity with words and with numbers, so as to communicate your ideas and take in those of others
The wherewithal to continue when things are hard, when they don’t make any sense
A tolerance for ambiguity
A facility for collaboration
Aesthetic sensibility and cultural sensitivity
Self-direction, self-reflection, self-restraint
What materials will convey that?
It is hard to do. But high school me would do it because it is an opportunity to have an enriching application experience that’s hopefully kind of fun and not just a drag. Having said that; do what you are comfortable with — we are going to get to know you through the content of your application, not by your choice of application. And you still have the opportunity to include all of this miscellaneous stuff on the common app supplement as well.
That’s a student’s take.
The more official one is here.
I do love Bennington, but as we all know love can also suck. Like when you realize that the person you love is not as perfect as your image of them. But love isn’t all bad! It gives you someone to ramble to about things no one else cares about.
As a playwright, I will now turn to the theater to communicate this emotion. Take it away, Young Jean Lee:
Go where works for you. Bennington will work for you if you’re self-directed and fascinated by most things. Bennington allows you to sculpt the experience to be the perfect for you, but you have to be willing to sculpt (it takes two to tango! metaphors!). It’s something you grow into here, but it is also something you want to have, at least a little bit, from the beginning.
In my experience, Bennington students ramble to one another about things no one else cares about. When I communicate with students from other colleges — friends from high school, people I met over Field Work Term — the enthusiasm isn’t there enough to ramble and the conversation falls flat, for me. So come here if you can see yourself rambling.
Yes! Indeed. I didn’t take physics (I did Earth Science, Biology and Chem) and look at me.
There are no deal-breakers that will immediately disqualify you (unless you got an A in White Supremacy). We’re looking at the big picture: have you studied broadly? with depth? excelled?
I do, however, regret it EVERY DAY. FIGURATIVELY not LITERALLY. I should’ve done physics here at Bennington…and as my time is coming to an end and I still haven’t. So you’ve inspired me to take another gander at the curriculum and see if I can fit it in my schedule. Thank you, sir, madam or other gentleperson.
It would be a shame if you put all that work into that paper and are super proud of it and we said you couldn’t send if because there wasn’t feedback written on it. We want to see your strongest work and we’d like to see the notes of the person grading it, but sometimes you can’t have both and we get that. So, go for it.
The people are awesome, which is why it doesn’t matter that there are only around 700 of us. That was very direct of me, but I think it is true. I find the people here to be dynamic and unexpected if that makes any sense. By unexpected, I guess I mean always surprising and not able to fit into stereotypes. Like someone who studies both theater and conflict in the Middle East (~**~shout out to Tenara!!~**~). Next thing you know she’s speaking Hebrew fluently and you’re like I thought you were from Ohio and then she’s like “Born in Israel, SUCKER!” Okay, I got a little carried away. You think you have them pegged from seeing them in one classroom (“oh you’re THAT type of student”) and then they shock you in another, by not only being an amazing dancer, but also a brilliant physicist.
The fact that you are meeting physicists in dance, or drama students in poli sci makes the school huge because. While it seems everyone’s face is familiar, you’re always seeing new people, even in familiar places.
Cool! In contrast, I barely had extracurriculars because I’m introverted and didn’t like the school I was at. On my free time I was listening to free college lectures online like “existentialism in film and literature” and “American literature since world war two.” These lead me to read Kierkegaard and Nabokov, Pynchon and Nietzsche before I even got to college. I also filled a lot of time working at the local library to make money. I love film and watched over 200 of the 1001 movies you must see before you die before college, which ranged from French New-Wave to Hollywood classics and some wonderful trashy B-movies (I’m now up to 400). I also became enthused about politics and made it a point to watch Democracy Now every day, educate myself through documentaries and listen to NPR.
None of this showed up on my application and no other college bothered to learn this about me, but these are the things that have helped me in college the most! So, you’re right, we don’t play the college games your high school is likely telling you we do. We don’t want to know you by the numbers. We want to see you at your best, whether or not you’ve been preparing yourself for college ‘by the book’ or not. That very well could mean learning about your very, very, busy nature.
In my opinion, these “success” games are anxiety-provoking, not entirely fulfilling and misleading ways to look at people. It is great that you are so active! What have you learned from that? What have you taken away? That’s what I want to hear about.
Yup. It seems we are drifting more and more that way. We did the song cycle Myths and Hymns a few terms ago, and are doing Don Giovanni in the spring. Additionally, the student production this term is [title of show]. The theater courses don’t have the same emphasis on musical theater that you might find at a conservatory, but opportunities pop up here and there to dabble. And of course, vocal performance and such is available to all students through the music course offerings.
Having done tours for a few years, I’ve found the same questions come up again and again; regardless of where you are from. Some of them are useful, some aren’t. Here are the questions I wish I asked when I was visiting schools. In turn, I hope you ask me them on tour or on the tumblr. More broadly, I hope it helps on any tour and helps you make this tough decision.
1. “Do the students here love to learn?”
This is crucial, to me anyway. Are you going to a college where people geek out about their studies 100% of the time, or, on the other side of the spectrum, it is an afterthought to partying. You could frame this in terms of workload or free time, but I think it kind of sidesteps the issue. What you really want to know is if students place their work first in their lives, and if they do so willingly or because the environment demands it.
2. “How is mental wellness facilitated on campus?”
College is intense. The transition from home life to campus life can be stressful, as can starting college level courses. But mental wellness can be an issue beyond one year. You want to know how the campus thinks about these issues. The answer might be therapy, or study breaks or even a thoughtfully designed housing model (feng shui?) that prevents it from being an issue. But you want to know this, because it will impact your well-being for four years. If you wanted to go a step further, ask how emotional wellness is taught, learned and encouraged — that, too (not just a paycheck) is part of a fulfilling life.
3. “What structures bring the student’s perspective into administrative decision making?”
Policy choices by the administration will affect you. Sometimes, you actually aren’t considered in them as a student. Be cynical, especially if the school in question seems more like a business than a college. How are students considered?
4. “What does your work consist of? How are you evaluated?”
Do most classes have exams or use projects? You probably don’t want to take a sculpture class that culminates with an exam. Not all colleges use letter grades, some use narrative evaluations. But also, what is the quality of feedback on individual assignments?
5. “What is your favorite and least favorite class?”
It might feel a bit awkward to ask this in a large group tour, but I think that’s exactly why you should. Asking the tour guide something that is totally subjective can give insight into their perspective, as well as a candid description of what courses are like.
6. “Are the faculty passionate about teaching?”
The school may have exceptional faculty, they may be accessible, but if they don’t love to teach it won’t make much of a difference. In my opinion, that’s because you need faculty that will bend over backwards for you and go out of their way to think of things you’d never think of and address concerns you didn’t even know you had.