The Journey to Bennington: A Welcome for Families
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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.