Posts tagged college admissions

I filled every extracurricular option on the common app and I have a lot of leadership. However, in an earlier post you said quality over quantity and that admissions could tell if you're lying. What if you were just a REALLY busy person? Also, does admissions account for the rigor of your high school, not just the courses? Like, do they notice if it has a high usnwp/huff post ranking? And if so, does it help your application? — Asked by Anonymous

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.

Alan ‘15

What you haven’t asked us (or any college) that you should.

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.

Alan ‘15

Hey! I'm sure you get this a lot. I haven't visited Bennington yet but I have a really good feeling about your school from all I've read about it. The problem is that I'm not a very good high school student, I don't have a very high GPA-- it's actually pretty low. On the plus side, I think I'm a pretty talented actor and highly articulate! I'm not really sure what I'm asking here but I guess it's how much does the low GPA affect an application? Thanks! — Asked by Anonymous

Fortunately for you, we give you a bunch of platforms to ~*~shine!~*~ Besides the common app stuff and transcripts, we’d love to see a portfolio of anything you want to share (act for us?), and we’d love to chat (it’s really more of a chat than an interview). SAT/ACT scores are optional, but if you rock them, tell us. If you didn’t, don’t — we really don’t care that much. Strike up a correspondence with a current student if you’d like ( We want to see the whole picture, not just some impressive stats. We were high school students once and we know the numbers aren’t everything.

Okay, so. To answer your question: no clue. It’s a case by case thing. If you’re as talented as you claim, I’d recommend you try and find other ways to show us that you apply yourself. I’m no counselor, but that’s what would worry me about a low GPA in this situation. Prove to us you’re not lazy. Moreover, that you’re enthused. How are you going to do that? That’s on you.

Alan ‘15

I just wanted to say that although I will not be attending Bennington next year, my choice was very difficult; one of the reasons I ended up seriously considering Bennington and feeling connected to the school was because of this blog. I never even asked a question, but reading all of your responses to others' questions was so informative and entertaining - I love the idea. Everyone I ever talked to from Admissions was helpful and enthusiastic. You guys do a great job. Thanks, and best wishes! — Asked by continuedconfabulation

No worries!

Thank you for your kind words my friend! It’s times like these that our job is worth it, where we are validated by YOU. AND THAT’S WHAT MATTERS AT THE END OF THE DAY. THAT YOU GUYS LOVE US AND THAT WE’RE HELPFUL AND ENTHUSIASTIC.

We wish you the best of luck with your incoming college adventures! And we hope you have a joyful rest of your life!

Remember: never accept love without thorns.

~Carlos ‘14

Hi there; I've recently been accepted by Bennington College, and am still on the fence about my decision. I am considering a career as a technical writer. I have lived my whole life in Texas, and have no idea how I will acclimate to Vermont winter. I have never come across a curriculum that seems so daunting, even after being in GT and AP classes. So, all in all.... my questions are: Is Bennington good for technical writing, and how easy/difficult is getting used to the school? — Asked by Anonymous

Great question. Here’s my take on it.

Any adjustment is stressful: your routines are disrupted wherever you go and you have to cope with the unfamiliar and strange constantly. This school may be particularly strange to you. Vermont winter might also be! (plus we miss 7 weeks of it with field work term…) But being immersed in something unfamiliar is an incredibly enriching experience and it’ll turn you into an awesome person who can be two different people: old self and Bennington self. Bennington self can synthesize ideas in an interdisciplinary paper and immediately articulate eloquent intellectual critiques on a moment’s notice. It takes time to grow into this self and there are some growing pains, but why else go to college? Note: Bennington self might also get a tattoo. Consequently, old self will too.

Courses are immersive, too. And taught to all levels first-years to seniors as well as seniors who have never studied that subject matter before. Within that room, we’ll meet you on your level: I’ve found teacher’s assessments of my work to be relative to my progress, not to other students. (Thank goodness. Otherwise neuro this term would be deadly)

I’m not sure what ‘technical’ writing is, but Bennington is solid for all types of writing. We aren’t big test takers — we write essays and papers and fiction and poetry and such instead. Discursive psychology has some things to say on the matter of technical writing…

Bottom line: you’ll be immersed, make mistakes and grow — whether it’s a not so eloquent class remark (I’ve mastered the art of turning something pointless into something that sounds meaningful by concluding ideas with “I just think it’s worth noting”) or feedback on your first paper (sentence fragment, consider revising). This is a space where mistakes are okay and there’s a safety net.

Take care and take it easy.
Alan ‘15

I GOT IN. I'm in shock. — Asked by untamedfreebird


It’s ok to be in shock! But just not for that long ok? Your loved ones might worry.

Congratulations ~untamed free bird~. You are now part of a rich history of students who decided they were going to design their own education, become self-advocates for their interests, in a dynamic and exciting social environment!


~Carlos ‘14

Why did you choose Bennington? I'm an accepted student, with a good problem, trying to figure out which school to attend. So, why Bennington? — Asked by Anonymous


A good question will only generate multiple responses so here you go (courtesy of the Friday morning shift):

Julius ‘17: “It’s halfway across the world (Julius is from Japan)”

Liam ‘14: “I still needed time to explore different disciplines. If I went somewhere else I wouldn’t be a music student.”

Ray ‘15: “I wanted to study in multiple disciplines and I fell in love with the sense of community here.  And also Oceana Wilson (Crossett Library Overlord).”

Kagan ‘16: “I had a lot of financial aid given to me by the school and I really liked the idea of adding 3-4 lines to my resume through Field Work Term during my time here.”

Rachael ‘15: “Bennington was the opposite of my former college. And my former college was not a wonderful place! I also wanted to go to a school covered in trees.”

Glennis ‘15: “It was love at first sight. I really liked the idea of designing your own curriculum.”

Carlos ‘14: “I came here because I could study architecture through different disciplines. And Field Work Term seemed to be a great opportunity for academic and/or professional growth while still being an undergrad.”

Sara ‘14: “Bennington was among my first choices and they were very generous with their financial aid. I was very lucky!”

We wish you luck with your decision-making!

~Admissions Interns of the Friday Morning Shift

The suspense is absolutely killing me! — Asked by Anonymous

Please don’t die.  I don’t know what I would do.  

— Parke ‘15

I had a bit of a crisis. I love Bennington with all my heart and I know it's the right school for me. There are daily tears of joy/sadness/ about Bennington; I've never been so emotional. But there's just no way I can afford it. I'm nervous that I'm putting all my energy into a school I can't pay for without making my family uncomfortable. I don't qualify for need-based. There is merit, but thats not guaranteed. I'm just so nervous. Any words of advice? Even a joke to make me feel better? XO — Asked by Anonymous

Start by listening to this Sharon Van Etten song because she just makes everything okay and really understands what it’s like:

No. Stop reading and listen to the music. I knew you were going to just play it in the background and then keep reading. But don’t do that. Listen to the music.

Okay, anyway: just hang tight. You’re still eligible for merit aid; and the good news is, we give merit aid out to people. Like actually. And because we get to know you as a person and not a number (from your tour, interview, portfolio, paper, essays, etc.) the aid decision isn’t based on arbitrary data like SAT scores. There is no use in worrying about the price — in my opinion — until you know what it will be for you. Make the call then.

Alan ‘15

Does it matter what order colleges receive your info in? If my transcript gets sent before my application itself or vice versa is that a bad thing? — Asked by Anonymous

Not at all!  Send us your stuff in whatever order works best, and we’ll assemble it once it gets here.  I can’t promise other colleges are the same, but I can’t see why they wouldn’t be.

-Ray ‘15

Hey so I got an email from one of you around May, but I didn't respond because my cat was dying and then I had finals. By the time it had all blown over I figured you guys would be on break so I didn't respond and I feel SO bad about it because I am really really interested in Bennington but I'm afraid I looked like I just didn't care. — Asked by Anonymous

Sorry to hear about your cat and I hope finals went well. It’s really not a big deal. Like, its just not a big deal. We’re bad at email too. To help you figure out who emailed you, we compiled a list of everyone who was working in May that is also working here next fall with a couple things each person probably would have mentioned (just to jog your memory)…

Anushka G. - Video games, Texas and being a sweetie
Liam D. - Working out, Taylor Swift, binge eating vegetarian cuisine
Sarah G. - Television, midcentury modern furniture, otters
Alan D. - the 70’s, cult TV & slasher movies, existential crises
Julia H. - Elegance/being perfect, alternative medicine, tarot cards/astrology
Glennis H. - Buckminster Fuller, gluten-free life, Alaska
Parke H. - Hello Kitty, Russian literature, Silver Springs by Stevie Nicks
Rachel J. - Women’s rights, The Bennington Free Press, 90’s clothing
Selina P. - Conflict resolution, Argentina, baking and ice skating and biking and knitting and spinning
Michael T. - Prank-calling Selina during work, Iceland, fixing the world
Alana C. - Maine, queer politics and the like, dancin’!

You can always strike up a correspondence with us. The summer crew is up there now, but everyone else will be soon enough!

-Alan ‘15 

This girl is already cool…she’s a KNITTER
Overheard in Admissions
(posted by Alan ‘15)
how do I get in to bennington? — Asked by Anonymous

Every college will tell you the same thing: be yourself and be honest. Maybe all of them mean it, but the message is lost on most high-schoolers. It was lost on me until I was on the flip side of the application process working here in admissions. Your high school is indoctrinating you to tell us a few quick things: you are involved in your community, you are enthusiastic and you love learning. That’s fantastic, but if you don’t give us any context we just have to take your word for it. We want to know what you love learning about. Show us how much you love learning by writing about a book that changed your life. As for community, I distinctly remember saying during my Bennington phone interview something like “yeah…I’m pretty disengaged with the community here. Its hard for me to get involved because there isn’t a lot here I’m passionate about…that’s something I would love to learn about at Bennington, though.” And here I am. I’m not advocating saying that necessarily. But sincerity shows. If you spend all of your time watching video games, cool. I’ve had some great conversations about how video games can be educational with students during my time here (the best example is one student who liked to toy with them to explore hypothetical government structures. Think about it. In SimCity you are playing God.) So, don’t tell us what you think we want to hear, tell us what you want to say; we can tell in your voice (or in your writing) when you care and when you don’t. We just can.

The good news is Bennington will do a lot of the work for you (if you let us). Take every opportunity we give you: e-mail with a current student, do a tour, do an interview, send us your art or your dance or your piano or your portfolio…whatever. We want to get to know you. If you don’t know what makes you interesting, we’ll actually help you figure it out through all of these things. (You never knew, for instance, that that is why you liked SimCity — try a poli sci class) We’ll help you, you just need to make the first move.

-Alan ‘15

Skip SAT prep, watch Star Trek

I just got an email asking me for college advice. In general: How do you find the right college? How do you know what classes to take? We talk too much about Bennington on this blog. Here’s my advice on finding the right school. In general.

You don’t know what you are passionate about yet. Okay, you might. But if you are like most high schoolers, you don’t. And how would you?

What is the percentage of international students on campus? And where do they come from? — Asked by Anonymous

Roughly 8% and growing every year (and hoping to continue to grow every year). Here is a map of where our incoming freshman class is from; as you can see we’ve got people coming from Canada, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Austira, Armenia, Malawi, Pakistan, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan. Actually, this year they make up 15% of our incoming class.

-Alan ‘15