Mental health is treated as a completely legitimate concern here, though I… would hope that that’s true at all schools. Many people struggle with their mental health, especially while under the stresses of college and beginning their adult lives away from home. Anxiety and depression in particular are very common, although no less difficult to experience for that. None of the therapists in the office of psych services would bat an eye at such problems, nor will just about anyone else on campus. I see a therapist in psych services once a week, and I’ve never lived anywhere else where it was so normal, so stigma-less, to be open about being in therapy/having a mental illness. And you’ll never lack for kind people here, whether or not you attend therapy. It is, additionally, worthy of note that psych services are available to students regardless of ability to pay — they’ll work something out with you structured around your specific situation vis a vis insurance etc., and their payscale does go all the way down to “free” if that’s what you really need.
In addition to all of the above, psych services recently struck up a campus conversation with a meeting that was open to all students, staff, and faculty. It was well-attended, and one of the things that came out of it was an ongoing conversation about mental wellness at Bennington — that is to say, how we can do more to promote overall health and to propagate the idea that you don’t need to have a diagnosable mental illness in order to take steps to take care of yourself. Situational depression, for instance, is a thing. And some people find that they do better in therapy even though they don’t have a mental illness per se. So there’ll be more going on in the near future to promote wellness in things like study and sleep habits, especially during high-stress times like midterms and finals.
So, let me know if that answered your questions (or, especially, if it didn’t). Hope you’re well, and if you wanted to talk about anything in more detail, please feel free to email me at rays (at) bennington.edu.
PS. Pro tip: one of the strongest indicators of success with therapy I’ve seen here is understanding what you’re looking for when you go in. Most of Bennington psych services’ therapists fall into either the psychodynamic or cognitive-behavioral therapy styles, and chances are you have a preference, even if you don’t know it yet. As a disclaimer, I’m not any kind of qualified mental health professional, I’m just talking out of my own experiences with therapy here on campus. But the people I’ve talked to who have had bad initial experiences with therapy here and haven’t gone back have usually done so because they went in expecting PD and got CBT, or vice versa. You can totally request one or the other when you set up an appointment.
You may have seen Alan’s admissions-interns-in-high-school series on the blog these last few weeks. Hopefully that’s defusing any ideas you may have had about us in the office being Cool People. In a complementary effort to let y’all get to know us from a different angle than how we answer questions about the analytical essay, I’d like to introduce another ongoing post series. Twice a week from here on out, for your edification and pleasure, we’ll be publishing interviews of admissions interns, conducted by other admissions interns.* Enjoy.**
*For MAXIMUM INTERN POWER.
**This is an imperative, not a suggestion.
I reached out to the Dean’s Office on this one, and the answer I got back was that requests for disability-related companion animals - other than service dogs - are handled on a case-by-case basis. The required information you must submit to the school in requesting an accommodation can be viewed here. I do know of one student previously who had a cat for an anxiety disorder, but it’s really between you and the Dean’s Office.
Glad you asked. Here’s the rundown: if you live in the southeastern states or Montana, it’s crucial that you interview in person; those counselors place a lot of weight on it. If you live elsewhere and have more than six freckles on your left arm, a school-visit interview is your best bet, and if fewer than six freckles, a phone interview. It you have exactly six freckles or if you do not have a left arm, you must interview via Skype. Unless you live in the southeastern US or Montana.
No, but really, whatever. We don’t measure people’s commitment to getting into Bennington via some sick metric of how much they’re willing to drive/fly to see us. We do encourage people to visit so that they can really see the school, but if you’ve already done that, then it is 120% up to you how you interview.
Sort of, sometimes! You can have one if it’s got an emergency shutoff feature when tipped over and one of those heating-element guard doodads. Also everything you plug in in the dorms has to be 1000 watts or less. All of the rooms do have radiators that you can crank up, though, so you probably won’t need a space heater.
We do not. At a school where everyone is pursuing an individualized set of objectives in their education, that breed of competition has very little point. My work is closely related to that of some other students, in my disciplines and in ones I don’t study. For instance, the other person on campus who has a plan most like mine, that I’m aware of, is a computer science student, whereas I study conflict resolution, literature, and biology. Then there are plenty of students, inside my disciplines and out of them, whose work has very little to do with my own. There’s no reason we should be judged against one another, as a whole-school population or within arbitrary subgroups. Bennington prefers to work in a spirit of cooperation, wherein everyone’s work and conversation feed all of us in our various pursuits.
I will note, though, that plenty of Bennington students have GPAs; grades are opt-in here, not entirely absent. So if that’s something you need, for scholarships, grad school, or your own sense of your progress, you can have it pretty easily.
All of ‘em.
The ones where they keep the lights on are VAPA, CAPA, a set of study rooms in the library, and Jennings. You can wander through most of the other buildings but you’ll need the above pictured sweet twisty keys if you want to go in the rooms. Also, Campus Safety does not recognize the use of sweet twisty keys. Your mileage and disciplinary sentencing may vary. Alan, additionally, wishes me to remind you that in the Bennington educational philosophy, “freedom” is defined as “not the absence of restraint.”*
* “…but rather the fullest possible substitution for restraint imposed by others for restraint imposed by the self.” This applies equally to the Plan process and the availability of banned housebreaking instruments via the internet.
We get questions about Bennington’s incidence rate and handling of sexual harassment and assault fairly often, so today the intern body took some time and came up with a more comprehensive response than we can give off-the-cuff while on tour.
On written policy level, our rules governing such matters are available here. Campus Safety’s particular take on sexual harassment and assault, and campus crime statistics, are available here, and the updated 2013 figures should become available toward the end of this month. The statistics, of course, only cover reported assaults; according to the US Department of Justice, less than 5 percent of college sexual assaults are reported to campus security forces or law enforcement. Bennington does have in place several of the strategies that the DOJ report outlines to encourage reporting, but we also want you to be aware of the context of our statistics.
So. Sexual harassment and assault do happen at Bennington, as at all colleges. We are a great place to live and work, but we are not immune to this. Generally speaking, we are a safe school at which most everyone knows most everyone else. Due to the structure of campus life — the intimate size, the community-based housing setup, the lack of Greek life, the fact that students mostly socialize on campus and don’t go out clubbing — certain factors don’t apply. No one in the office has ever heard of rape drugs like GHB or rohypnol being used at Bennington. No one on campus has to fear walking around alone at night. And if you ever do feel threatened at a party or event, your house or the Campus Safety booth are only ever a few minutes’ walk away. Again, because the vast majority of socializing and partying occurs right on campus, it’s rare for anyone to have to feel stranded in a bad place. These factors together lower our rate of sexual assaults a lot.
In particular, we want to make reference to Ken Collamore, the director of Campus Safety. He’s a great guy and, more importantly, a safe person to go to when you need help. In our various encounters with him, he has never been anything but supportive and respectful of confidentiality. Also available ‘round the clock is Bennington’s team of sexual harassment advisors, who work with students in a confidential manner.
That’s about what we’ve got on this, but back in May, interns Alana and Arden posted about this topic, and provided a bunch of other helpful information. We encourage you to visit their post as well.
-Ray, Alana, Alan, Eliana, and Kagan
People debate at Bennington all the time in the our-education-is-a-conversation way. We don’t currently have any student groups devoted to formalized debate, although I am currently propping open my closet door with a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order. If you were to come to Bennington and find yourself missing the good old days when people only said what the rules told them they could, you could found a debate club. It’s pretty easy to get stuff going here. Keeping it going can be hard, but presumably you’re persuasive.
[Image description: two extremely buff shirtless men straining to push on a stack of book with their foreheads. The stack is between them and they oppose each other, fruitlessly, managing only to keep the books suspended immobile above the ground. The buff men should learn the value of teamwork, but alas, they are a .jpg file, frozen in time and doomed to their folly forever.]
While I can see how this would make for a compelling essay, discretion might be the better part of valor in this case. It’s a tricky thing. Bennington is not interested in turning your mom in to the feds, nor in penalizing you for your family status. But depending on the essay itself and how it is received wherever you send it, there could be some risk, either to your mother or to your chances of getting into schools. I can’t quantify those risks for you. I just genuinely don’t know what your family might come up against if you put that information on the internet and send it to a bunch of strangers, or how it might be received by colleges. Once it’s out there, you have no control over how it will be read or by whom.
If it’s essential to you that this aspect of your life is heard, if you need for people to know this about you, consider interviews. Bennington strongly encourages our applicants to have personal interviews with us, and just generally speaking… in a closed room, with a person you can see and feel out, you can open yourself to the admissions counselors who feel right and be selective about disclosure with the ones where something seems off. Just be careful, and best of luck to you and your family.
Yup. There are quite a few of them around and plenty of students get licensed. But don’t drive if Vermont makes you sleepy, dude. You’ll die.
The beds are on adjustable legs, so they can touch the floor, or be up high enough that you can store a mini-fridge and dresser under there. A trunk will absolutely fit. The colonial closets vary a lot in size; mine is like 3’x4’ right now, my last one was smaller, a friend of mine has one he could put a mattress in. It’s kind of a crapshoot. That said… you almost certainly don’t need as much stuff as you think you do. And keep in mind that a crowded room will affect your roommate’s quality of life as well as your own.
(part 2) I am the same student considering Bennington, it seems like a very friendly and lighthearted place. However i am wondering how Bennington deals with more serious problems at school like sexual assault. do you know anything about Bennington’s history or their process for dealing with rape and other issues on campus?
My first term at Bennington, I took a class called Fundamentals of Advancing Public Action. Over the course of the year, we explored six major topics — education, climate change, income inequality, health care, uses of force, and… I forget the two-word summary of the sixth one. It was about the state of American democracy, political gridlock, the worth of a vote in the 21st century, etc. So for everything we looked at, the class asked three questions, at least to start: “What is the world like? What should the world be like? and what can the world be like?” The approach was based on assembling a complete picture of the situation, then deciding what to do, because intervening without knowing what you’re doing, of course, risks backfire. But at the same time, we were discouraged from holding back and hoarding our knowledge until we felt like we were experts, because then nothing would ever get done. It was, essentially, a crash course in rigorous activism and in not cleaving to only the traditional strategies for changing the world.
Since then, most of my work in public action has been with Susan Sgorbati, who is my faculty advisor, frequent teacher, and an absolute goddess. Her classes are very project-based; working under her, I’ve helped convert North Bennington’s streetlights to energy-efficient LEDs, and co-written circulated a report to local hospitals and lawmakers about the heroin epidemic in New England. Even in classes that are more about abstract thought and less about using your hands, no one’s Bennington going to drop the world’s problems into your lap and say “these are yours now, have fun.”
We’re going to work up a separate post on sexual assault, so look for that later today.
The committee will read your portfolio, yes, because they want to get to know you as a person. The supplement, to which you can upload portfolios of any kind and pretty much anything else you want us to see, is a very important part of the Bennington application. Interviews, too, are strongly encouraged, and can be conducted in person, or over the phone, via Skype, etc. if you can’t make it here for a visit.