The Journey to Bennington: A Welcome for Families
Welcome to our third and final summer letter to families of incoming students. For the previous issues, see below. Para la versión de esta carta en español, presione aquí.
Arriving at Bennington
Campus is officially open to incoming students and families on Friday, August 31, between 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM. Your first stop will be Usdan Gallery for incoming student check-in. This is where your student will pick up their student ID card, room key, and orientation folder, among other items.
From check-in at Usdan, you can head to your student’s house and unload their personal belongings. Of course, the real settling in will take place throughout orientation weekend and during the first week of term. During this time, roommates and housemates will get to know one another and make intentional decisions about their shared space.
Here is the New Student Orientation schedule. Please note that we have a Family Program from 2:00 - 4:00 PM in which we hope you will participate.
You will discover some exciting new developments on campus. The College is currently in the process of renovating its historic Commons building, and there have been significant changes to other campus facilities as well. Here is an overview of the campus upgrades (many still in progress) that you’ll find.
You might have noticed that Bennington is a little different from other colleges and universities. Here are a few examples of ideas and terminologies that are unique to Bennington.
Terms: We have three terms – two 14-week academic terms and a seven-week Field Work Term – rather than two semesters.
Faculty Members: We refer to our teaching professionals as faculty members rather than professors. In most cases, students call faculty members by their first name, as they often collaborate professionally and with the expectation that learning goes both ways – not just with knowledge being passed from faculty member to student.
Disciplines: At Bennington we have disciplines, rather than departments, and areas of study, rather than majors. Free from imposed core/general college requirements, students are at the helm of their education and propose a self-directed course of study around a central inquiry or series of questions. This individualized course of study takes shape in the Plan.
The Plan: The Plan Process is the framework by which Bennington students develop their own ideas, connect with the on- and off-campus resources of the College, and design, with close guidance from faculty and advisors, their own individualized course of study. For more perspective on the Plan, you can listen to a podcast about the process, and find more information, including a term-by-term overview, here.
Self-Governance: Like your student’s academic experience, Bennington's residential housing system is rooted in self-governance. This means that the culture and behaviors of each house community are discussed, formally, at the beginning of the academic year through a Community Living Agreement. This document is created and managed by the students within each house, and ideally is discussed throughout the year to ensure the community is still meeting the needs of its members. Additionally, every roommate pair or trio is asked to complete a roommate agreement. This is an exercise where students have an engaged conversation about how they will share their space and how they will communicate when issues arise. This is always a great first step to negotiating and resolving issues. For more on self-governance and residential life at Bennington, click here.
Family Weekend 2018
As you say goodbye for now, you can take comfort in knowing that Family Weekend will soon be upon us. This year, Family Weekend will take place September 28 - 30. Family weekend is a wonderful time to enjoy the Bennington experience together as a family and to sample the many intellectual, artistic, cultural, and recreational experiences that students enjoy year round.
Planning for Field Work Term
Some students find Field Work Term (FWT) sites on their own while others use Handshake to locate a listed FWT position. You can help your student prepare for FWT by asking about their ideas, and prompting discussions related to housing and budget. This will help them prepare their first FWT as they settle into the fall semester. Due to Department of Homeland Security regulations, first-year international students should work closely with Field Work Term staff and International Student Services to plan FWT experiences that meet the terms of their F-1 visas. More information about the FWT options available to first-year international students can be found here.
Supporting Your Student
The start of college can be a difficult adjustment for students and their families. Below are a few tips to help students who are struggling with this transitional time in their lives.
Asking For Help: Whether your student is struggling with a class or feeling homesick, it is important that they be reminded that there's nothing wrong with reaching out for help. Encourage your student to schedule time with a faculty member, first-year advisor in academic services, student life staff member or health services staff member if appropriate.
Striving For Balance: Understanding how to balance competing interests in college can be a challenge. Help your student understand that being actively engaged in life outside of the classroom (and even off campus) is an important part of their college experience. The Office for Student Engagement offers a myriad of different involvement and engagement opportunities, including clubs and organizations; athletics and recreation programs; community partnerships and volunteer opportunities; and many other programming and leadership opportunities.
Knowing the Important Stuff: Is your student allergic to any medications? Do they know where your family banks? Do they know how to get a hold of their physician? Do they have their insurance card? These types of questions are important to ensure that your student feels empowered to make decisions regarding their life at college
Practicing Self-Care: This is an incredibly important topic for students. Ensuring adequate rest, eating healthy, and staying active are all important behaviors that can reduce stress, regulate mood, and improve focus in the classroom.
Communicating with the College: You may want to speak with Kate Child, Director for the First-Year Experience and International Student Services if your student is struggling through this transitional time. Please be aware Bennington students must complete a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Form indicating that they are dependent in order for us to share information with their parents or guardians. If they are independent or they don’t submit a form, we cannot share information.
Bennington Card Account Info
The Bennington ID Card (student ID card) includes an add-value account, which enables parents and students to add money to the card so that it can be used at select locations on and off campus. There are no costs to add funds to or use the Bennington ID Card for purchases. Account balances will roll over from term-to-term and year-to-year and can be refunded when a student leaves the College. More information on the Bennington ID card can be found here.
Whether you are paying your student’s fall term bill in full or have opted for the two payment plan, fall term payment (less any expected financial aid) was due on August 1. There is a two week grace period for completing this payment on time. For more information, click here or contact the Business Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disability and Accommodations
Because colleges fall under different laws than high schools, you and your student will encounter many differences in support and accommodation. We encourage you to review the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) letter to better understand your rights and responsibilities.
Health Insurance/Proof of Insurance
Student health insurance plan details need to be submitted to the college on the Proof of Insurance form. For new students, Proof of Insurance should be provided on page 8 of the Health Forms. Students are required to provide information on any change in insurance coverage to the College at the time of change. The Proof of Insurance and images of the insurance card (front and back) can be emailed to email@example.com or mailed to Bennington College Health Center, One College Drive, Bennington, VT 05201.
Para la versión de esta carta en español, presione aquí.
Welcome to Bennington! Sending a kid off to college is one of the biggest steps a family can face. The person that you think of as your child is becoming the individual we call a student—starting off on a path through their college years as their own person.
It’s often a lot to process for the people—like you—who have cared and advocated for them for so long.
Starting in the fall, our communications will be addressed directly to your students: we want them to be the architects of their own experience at Bennington, so we put them at the center of any conversations or issues that come up.
But we also know from experience that every one of them, no matter how independent and confident, will benefit from the support and encouragement of their families as they strike out on their own paths.
In order to give you the information and tools you need to support them, we’ll be sending you a series of emails like this one over the summer with information about life, academics, and work at Bennington College. We’ll try to answer all your questions about dates, deadlines, and details—after all, this is a new experience for you as well as for your student.
We encourage you and your student to look at this letter together so that everyone becomes familiar with what the first year experience will be like. You can also visit Bennington’s Welcome pages for more information about all facets of life at the College.
No matter if this is your first college student or your fifth, if you remember your college days well or you never went to college yourself, we anticipate you’ll have questions. Rest assured, we’re here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us throughout the summer.
To help students transition to Bennington, to learn about how to get the most out of each of their classes, and to prepare them to actively shape their own education, incoming students will be registered for a section of the First-Year Forum (FYF) advising course.
First-Year Forum is a year-long course. There will be 13-14 sections of FYF next year each led by a Bennington faculty member and a student co-leader with about 14 to 16 first-year students. The faculty member will serve as the students' faculty advisor for the year. In the FYF students will work closely with their advisor and the student co-leader to develop key academic skills and their ability to reflect on their learning across contexts. This will be useful preparation for the Plan process. Students will also prepare for their first Field Work Term, register for spring classes, and complete the First-Year Essay. Through the work of the course, students will also develop capacities for learning, discuss progressive and liberal arts education, and explore some history of the College. The class will also focus on community building and student development in all realms of the student experience which includes academic, residential, co-curricular, and personal.
In addition to the First-Year Forum faculty advisor, all incoming students will have access to a first-year advisor in Academic Services. First-year advisors help new students and their families prepare for their arrival at Bennington and provide support throughout their first year on campus—we can connect you with the resources you’ll need to make sure your students thrive, no matter the situation. Please feel free to contact us.
Seeing their first-term course schedule is among the highlights of the summer for college-bound students! Here’s some information on the process:
Students should complete a course registration form by June 1 to let us know what classes they are most interested in taking. In the first term, we encourage students to explore as widely as possible—it’s important to balance diving into what they know they’re passionate about, developing new passions, and pushing beyond their comfort zones.
Students won’t always get into their first choices in their first term, but we work with the list of courses they provide to create a well-balanced schedule of courses, taking into account meeting times, workload, and variety. When students arrive on campus they will meet with their First-Year Forum faculty member to discuss their fall term course schedule and any changes they would like to propose to it. In consultation with their First-Year Forum faculty member, new students can refine their schedules during the “add/drop period,” which starts before classes begin and runs through the first weeks of the term.
Accommodations and Support
To make a request for accommodations, it’s vital that your student complete a Disability Accommodation Request form. With this completed form and supporting documentation, the College will be able to arrange for reasonable accommodations and support to ensure equal access to College programs and facilities. You can find more information on the accommodations and support page on our website.
Preparing for FWT
Many students choose to come to Bennington in part because of Field Work Term and the unique opportunity that it provides to explore and discover the world of work. While we offer many FWT student resources and other planning guides for families—we also want to encourage students to enjoy the summer, knowing that they will be supported in their planning once they get here. At orientation, they will be granted access to our career search platform called Handshake, which houses hundreds of postings for Field Work Term and thousands of summer internships, part-time jobs, and work-learning opportunities beyond that. In the First-Year Forum course, they will learn strategies and skills to find and secure a FWT, such as job searching, networking, resume and cover letter writing, and more. The Field Work Term and Career Development team is also available to meet with them to assess their goals, assist them in their job search, and help with any challenges or questions along the way.
We know that many students have work allotments in their financial aid packages and are eager to know their fall term campus job. At Bennington, we consider campus work to be an important and valid forum for work-based learning, and as such, student employment is managed under the office of Field Work Term and Career Development. Over the summer we will share a simple online application form inviting students to indicate their preferences for a campus job (hours, responsibilities, special needs, etc)—and will work to match them to an appropriate position. Students will be notified of their initial work assignment by the end of July and can apply for additional work opportunities when they arrive on campus.
Community is the core of Bennington College, and the residential experience is one of the most important elements of your student’s time here. First year students will be paired up and assigned double or triple rooms in our houses. Each house has a mix of class years so that incoming students connect and develop relationships with each other and with students who can mentor and guide them. Two returning students act as House Chairs for each house; among other things, they coordinate weekly gatherings in order to build community and promote communication among housemates.
Please be aware that per Vermont State law and College policy, your student needs to meet certain health-related requirements before they arrive at Bennington College. In order to occupy campus housing or register for classes, students must provide one of the following: immunization records, other proof of immunity, or a signed medical or religious exemption form. In addition, they must submit a health history, undergo a physical examination, have a tuberculosis screening, and complete a consent for treatment. This information will not be used to exclude students but to plan for their care, and will be kept entirely confidential.
You can find instructions and the Health Forms on our website. Please note that making the appointments and gathering the documents often takes more time than one expects, so you might want to assist your student so that everything is ready for the submission deadline of July 1.
One of the biggest differences between high school and college is that at Bennington, students are expected to take responsibility for their own well-being—which means learning to be their own best advocates and asking for help when they need it. There are many resources available on campus and off, and their advisors will do everything possible to connect them to the help they need—but it’s important that they reach out to ask.
One of the most important resources available to them is the Bennington College Student Health Center, which has grown into a newly renovated, stand-alone space for the promotion of health and well-being. The Student Health Center provides students with direct and preventative health care, psychological and psychiatric care, health counseling, and education by a team of physicians, RNs, a women’s health nurse practitioner, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrist, and the Director for Student Health Promotion. You can visit our website to see information on hours, making appointments, range of services, referrals, and payments.
All full-time Bennington College students must be covered by a health insurance policy and submit Proof of Health Insurance to the College by August 1. As you consider the best option for your student’s health coverage, please keep in mind that the Bennington College Student Health Center charges usual and customary fees, just like any private doctor’s office. We suggest that you contact potential insurance carriers to understand their In-Network and Out-of-Network coverage. For more information, including some options for finding insurance coverage, visit the Student Health Insurance page on our website.
Please note that international students must purchase the IFS Prime Plus policy by August 1 for coverage starting August 15. Domestic students who need to change their coverage, have a 30 day window when they move to campus (called a qualifying event) to make policy changes. Window specifics vary depending upon policy.
If your student has been offered financial aid and/or loans, they will need to log into their My Financial Aid page to accept or decline the funds. They should also check the Required Documents tab—make sure it says “received” next to all the required documents so that we can transfer the expected financial aid to your student’s bill. If you don’t see “received” next to any document, or if you have any other questions, please contact the Financial Aid office.
Student billing statements for Fall 2018 are mailed in late May along with a packet of important deadline dates. Statements are addressed to the billing address we have on file through the Dean’s Office. Students may see a copy of their billing statement 24/7 on the college website for Populi. Additional information regarding billing and payments plans may be found online at Student Billing.
Dates and Deadlines
As you and your student prepare for the first fall term at Bennington, keep your eye on this checklist for important deadlines. You’ll notice that the contact and other information form, course pre-registration form, housing questionnaire, and disability accommodation request are all due on or before June 1.
Welcome to the second in our series of summer letters to families of incoming students. For the previous issue, see below. Para la versión de esta carta en español, presione aquí.
The Bennington website is a wealth of information for you, both before your student arrives and while they’re here. This summer, keep an eye on the Welcome pages and the Checklist for first-year students. If you are able to accompany your student to campus in August, you will find useful information about where to stay, eat, and explore in the Bennington area.
The Academic Calendar is helpful when planning for school breaks and making flight arrangements for the coming year. If you have questions regarding the academic calendar you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The countdown to course schedules begins! One of the most exciting moments in the journey to college is finding out what classes your student will be taking. They will receive their course schedule at the end of July.
In our last issue, we gave you information about how we create a balanced, challenging, and interesting schedule for your students. Since we prioritize small classes, your student may not be placed in all of their top choices. When they meet with their faculty advisor in September, they can review their course list and discuss any potential changes they would like to make during the Add/Drop period, which lasts the first ten days of the term.
First-year Forum co-leaders, faculty advisors, and staff at Bennington will give students all the information they need to navigate Add/Drop. By the time the term is in full swing, your student will have a schedule that will serve their needs, fit their interests, and expand their horizons!
The way we grade courses at Bennington may be new to you. All Bennington students receive a narrative evaluation—a written summary of their progress, appraisal of their work, and suggestions for future development—and a Pass, Marginal Pass, or Fail for each course at the end of term. Students can also request letter grades (A, A-, B+, etc.) at the beginning of each term for any or all of their classes.
If it is possible that your student will apply to a post-graduate professional program (law school, medical school, etc.) or to graduate school, we suggest they consider opting for letter grades for at least four terms during their time at Bennington. Also, if your student receives a scholarship or grant that requires a GPA, they should check in with the Registrar’s Office when they arrive on campus so that we can be sure to set them up with letter grades.
Rest assured, however, that Bennington students are not negatively affected by the fact that they receive narrative evaluations of their work when they go to apply to graduate school or for a scholarship or grant. In fact, these evaluations have the advantage of giving a full and clear picture of students’ strengths and capabilities.
Email Communication with Your Student
Email is the primary mode of communication at Bennington: it’s how we will communicate with your student this summer, and how faculty will reach out to them once term starts. Encourage your student to check their Bennington email regularly in the coming months so that by the time fall comes it has become a habit—one that will help them stay on top of things as a college student.
Accommodations and Support
Information about students' health and/or needs for accommodation is not sent from high schools to colleges—so if your student needs to request accommodations, they must contact us directly this summer. June 1 was the deadline for accommodation requests; however, requests can be made at any time and will be reviewed and determined as quickly as possible. If your student plans to request accommodations, please encourage them to do so as soon as possible so we can attempt to have things in place by the beginning of term. For more information, please visit the Accommodations and Support and Student Health Center webpages.
Staying Healthy Away from Home
The Health Center at Bennington operates like a private medical practice: we charge usual and customary fees, and bill students’ health insurance. This model allows us to offer an exceptional level of service compared to other colleges of our size, and to keep health and psychological care “in-house,” where clinical staff have a better understanding of students’ lives and can provide more personalized care.
Carrying health insurance is mandatory for all students and Proof of Health Insurance must be submitted to the College by August 1. As you consider the best option, please know that students living away from home and who are living in a new environment will tend to use health and psychological services more often. If they don’t have adequate insurance, they may avoid seeking health care because they are worried about the expense, and their health and academics may suffer as a result.
Whether you decide to have your students continue on their current insurance plan or to purchase a new one, it is important to understand what your policy does and doesn’t cover when your student is away from home. Insurance policy documents can often be confusing—the best way to find out what your insurance will cover is to call the customer service number on your insurance card and speak directly to a representative. Be sure to ask the following questions:
- Is the Bennington College Health Center (not the individual doctors or therapists) in-network?
- Is Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (our local hospital) in-network?
- What percentage of fees will be covered?
- Will I be responsible for out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance?
- How much will I have to pay for medicines? Can I use a mail-order pharmacy and are there discounts for doing so?
- What services are excluded?
Please note that international students must purchase the IFS Prime Plus policy by August 1 for coverage starting August 15. With this plan, most campus services will have no copays, deductibles, or coinsurance (see additional information on Health Insurance tab). Students must sign up for the IFS Prime Plus Plan and show proof of coverage by August 1 for coverage starting August 15. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the policy, please email email@example.com. If an International Student does not show proof of purchase of the IFS Prime Plus by August 1 the College will purchase a policy of the students behalf, add the cost of the insurance premium to their Bennington account, and charge a $100 administrative fee.
Domestic students who need to change their coverage have a 30 day window when they move to campus (called a qualifying event) to make policy changes. Window specifics vary depending upon policy.
You can find more information, along with recommended health insurance options, on our Student Health Insurance page. Please take a careful look at the information included there. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statements for Fall 2018 term were mailed May 23, 2018. The first payment for the four-payment plan is due July 1, 2018. The first payment for the two payment plan is due August 1, 2018. Payment information is available online.
The next set of important forms are due July 1, including your student’s health forms.