Advising and Registration in Your First Year

Laurie Kobik, Dean of Studies
Laurie Kobik, Dean of Studies

I am very excited to welcome you to Bennington! As Dean of Studies, much of my work focuses on the student academic experience and how we support that experience.

You have chosen Bennington and in doing so you chose an education that asks you to be an active participant in shaping your experience. You will ask questions and revise them, you will make all sorts of things, tear them up, and start over. Your inquiries will drive the direction of your education here.

In the first year, students are encouraged to pursue a broad range of courses. You may be entering with a clear idea of what you are interested in studying—and you can certainly pursue those areas, but also explore new ones.

Your transition to Bennington will be filled with many new experiences and a good deal of unfamiliar territory. I encourage you to embrace this. Remain open to new approaches and new perspectives. Remain open to the idea that there is a lot you don’t know—and take comfort in the fact that at Bennington we are interested in what you want to learn and how you will develop.

Tools and Forms

First-Year Forum and Faculty Advising

To help you transition to Bennington, to learn about how to get the most out of each of your classes, and to prepare you to actively shape your own education, you will be registered for the First-Year Forum (FYF). First-Year Forum is a year-long course, led by a Bennington faculty member and a student co-leader. The faculty member will serve as your faculty advisor for the year. In the FYF, you will work closely with your advisor and the student co-leader to develop key academic skills and your ability to reflect on your learning across contexts. This will be useful preparation for the Plan process. You will also prepare for your first Field Work Term, register for spring classes, and complete the First-Year Essay. We 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 your development as a student in all realms of your experience which includes academic, residential, co-curricular, and personal.

First-Year Advisors

In addition to your FYF faculty advisor, all incoming students will have access to first-year advisors in Academic Services. First-year advisors provide support to accepted students as they prepare for their arrival at Bennington College and throughout their first year on campus.

Through individual advising meetings, skill building workshops, academic and social programming, and a weekly newsletter, we aim to connect first-year students with the people, programs, and resources available at Bennington.

First-year advisors work collaboratively with faculty advisors to assist new students as they acquire an emerging understanding of the capacities of a Bennington education, the Plan Process, the student/faculty advising relationship, work/life balance, what it means to engage inclusively with community members and the world at large, and campus resources.

Tips for Course Registration

One of the most important things to remember as you envision your schedule for the coming term is that your education will take place over four years. It is also important to remember that you do not come to Bennington to study a subject. You come to Bennington to study questions that psychologists or economists, for example, ask. More than that, you come to Bennington to pursue your own questions. For your first term at Bennington, you should explore as widely as possible. Develop your passions, certainly, but open yourself to discovering others. Elio Jahaj, class of 18, international student and First-Year Forum Co-Leader, recently advised new students, “Be open to realizing that something you thought was a passion is not. It is not a personal failing if your passion changes over time.”

In registering you for fall term classes, our shared goal is to build a course schedule that incorporates a variety of areas of study (e.g. music, biology, literature, visual arts) and approaches (performance, labs, reading, writing, studio work) to allow you to confirm, refine, and discover your passions.

By approaching your education from a variety of areas of study and approaches you will be prepared to make connections across disciplines. You will consider multiple perspectives incorporated into the structure of your courses and brought in to class discussion by students studying in other disciplines. You will build skills that aid your success in both academic and professional pursuits, such as how to develop an inquiry, best practices in research methodology, engagement in critical problem solving, participation in a community of learning, and effective communication. You will find that there are always questions to ask and always new ways to ask a question.

Some Specific Information

How many credits should I take?

First-term students normally take 14-18 credits. This summer, with the information that you provide on the registration form, we will aim to enroll you in a well balanced course schedule, taking into account class meeting times, workload, and variety. All first-year students will be placed in a two-credit First-Year Forum advising course, which is a year-long interdisciplinary course that all first-year students take to orient them to a Bennington Education, prepare them for the Plan, and help them understand the resource and supports at the College. During Orientation all students will have the opportunity to speak with their faculty advisor about their course schedule and the opportunities and challenges involved in taking anywhere from 14 to 18 credits in their first term.

There are SO many classes that interest me!

We feel you! Bennington’s curriculum is truly special. That said, we ask incoming students to refrain from taking more than 18 credits in the first term. In future terms, you will be able to take additional credits should you want to do so, but new students typically take no more than 18 credits. With permission, transfer students may be able to take up to 20 credits.

As your classes progress you will realize the amount and level of work required, you will understand why we impose this limit and why most students in later terms hold to it. An upper class student once advised incoming students to take fewer credits but to see how far they could go into each of their classes through engagement with the course reading list, discussions, independent research, and supplemental materials available from the faculty upon request. This, right here, is the essence of a Bennington student and a Bennington education.

Can I take fewer credits?

Your first year on campus is a big transition. It’s a transition to a new physical space, to independent residential living, and to college level classes. Given this, on occasion (and with written permission from the Provost and Dean's Office) students can take as few as 12 credits in a particular term. Credits not taken in any given term will need to be earned in future terms.

2000 vs. 4000 level courses

At Bennington we have 2000 and 4000 level courses. 2000-level courses do not have a prerequisite. New students are typically limited to 2000-level courses. In future terms, you'll be able to enroll in 4000-level courses, which require previous coursework at Bennington in that discipline or permission from the instructor, though many upper class students continue to take 2000 level courses even into their senior year. Transfer students may be able to take both 2000- and 4000-level courses in their first term.

You might think of 2000 level courses as a space to wrestle with the foundational concepts and 4000 level courses as a space to incorporate, engage, and challenge those concept in your own terms.

A Liberal Arts Education—Depth and Breadth

Our curriculum is designed to create multiple points of entry and to highlight thematic and associative connections between courses. Every course is categorized according to its area of study, number of credits, and its level. 

Additionally, you’ll see that we’ve tagged courses with a variety of clickable and searchable keywords, which will make it easier to identify cross-curricular themes.

You can create a list of “favorites” as you browse the curriculum. Simply click the “Add to favorites” button and the items will be saved in the “Favorites” menu.

We ask students to select a wide range of classes because we know the importance of developing your passions and exploring new areas. We want to make sure that your schedule represents a wide range of disciplines and approaches so that you can try new things. In a recent plan essay Michaela Brown, class of 2019 and Admission Intern wrote, “Once I relinquished what I thought my college experience should be and allowed myself to broaden my learning objectives, everything opened up. Suddenly all of my classes were influencing and enhancing each other.” As we read your Course Registration form we will aim to strike a balance between things you are already interested in and new areas that you want to explore, so that you too can open up your education and discover new connections and curiosities.

Select courses from a wide range of disciplines. Challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and try something you wouldn't normally study. We will register you for 14-18 credits based on your preferences and on the availability of spaces. You will be able to make necessary adjustments to your schedule in conjunction with your faculty advisor during Orientation in September.

Navigating Disciplines at Bennington

So, you're interested in public action?

Consider a workshop offered through Bennington's Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA). The Center’s curricular offerings address the challenges of effective citizenship in today’s world, inviting students to study the world’s most urgent problems as well as to confront what it means to attend to them. Bennington’s longstanding commitment to educating students toward constructive social purposes is evident throughout the curriculum as a whole; courses offered through the Center focus attention on pressing and evolving issues such as education, the environment, health, the distribution of wealth, the uses of force, and governance. The Center will also provide regular opportunities to acquire or build upon the capacities and skills necessary to effect change, among them design, rhetoric, mediation, improvisation, and negotiation.

Try a dance class.

There are many two-credit options for those who are new to dance. If you have a serious interest in dance, no matter what your previous experience, consider selecting the four-credit First-Year Dance Intensive as one of the courses in your ideal schedule. In it, students will consider many aspects of dance making and performing; improvisational structures will test and inform the process of creating and moving. You may wish to complement it with a two-credit movement practice, which you can add to your schedule in September. You are encouraged to attend the first Dance Workshop to find out more about the Program.

Interested in drama or in auditioning for a play?

Closely integrating course work with production opportunities, Bennington drama trains students as creative and versatile theater artists. Ranked by the Princeton Review in the top five for “Best College Theater,” the College offers students a thorough grounding in virtually every dimension of theater-making: acting, directing, playwriting, devising, theatre history, dramatic literature, dramaturgy, stage management, and design (set, costume, lights, projection, and sound). You are encouraged to take only one performance-based course (e.g. Actor’s Instrument) in your first term here. However, you can combine one of these courses with a different type of drama course, such as theater history. If you think you might audition for a play, come with a two- to three-minute monologue already prepared. Auditions take place during the first week of term. Further details will be available after you arrive.

Want to study a language?

At Bennington, students learn a language while creating with it. From day one, reading and writing, listening and speaking are all directed towards discussing complex cultural ideas, leading students to perform, tell stories, conduct research, create art objects, and analyze cultural artifacts. We offer Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish language and culture courses. We also offer a course on teaching foreign languages and send our students to local schools to teach languages and cultures.

Pure beginners (those who have never studied the language before) are welcome to enroll in introductory language classes. But, if you’ve studied a language before and wish to continue doing so, please note this in the space provided on your Course Registration form. We will place you in the appropriate 4000-level course based on your prior experience. During Orientation you will meet with the language faculty and confirm that you were placed in the correct class and, if necessary, make changes to your schedule.

Are you the next Bennington writer?

Literature and writing at Bennington are grounded in the idea that good writers are by definition good readers. The act of writing is a dialogue with other writers, past and present, and all of our student poets, fiction writers, and essayists spend a good deal of time reading and writing about works of literature that challenge our assumptions and speak directly to our historical moment.

Our faculty is made up of award-winning novelists, memoirists, poets, literary journalists, and translators. You can take a course on Shakespeare, the Political Poem, Moby Dick, Black Queer Writing, or Renaissance Literature.

Poetry at Bennington brings at least four major contemporary poets to campus for readings and residencies each term, and students can join the staff of Bennington Review, our prize-winning national literary journal, or The SILO, the student journal that has been publishing continuously since 1943.

Society, Culture & Thought

Anthropology, economics, history, philosophy, politics, psychology—to study these fields at Bennington means diving deep into the range of human experience in order to investigate history, explore the human psyche, and analyze the workings of states, societies, institutions, and cultures.

Classes are small, discussion‐based seminars, with faculty who are practicing historians, psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers, policymakers, and diplomats. 

Want to study voice or another instrument?

Many music courses have no prerequisites, but to study voice, participate in some ensembles or to take an advanced instrument course you will need to audition for the faculty once you are on campus. Audition information will be included in your Orientation materials that you will receive when you arrive on campus in August.

What makes science at Bennington different?

Science, mathematics and computer science courses at Bennington offer a rigorous, flexible and creative approach to their respective fields.  Courses are offered for all levels of experience and interest, and include seminars, lab courses and fieldwork. Come learn how animals work, look towards stars and galaxies, dive into computer science, dig into environmental geology, fall in love with logic and geometry, immerse yourself in cell biology, ponder ecology and evolution, or explore chemical principles in the chemistry lab. The curriculum is full of options for you to get your feet wet (literally, in some cases) while exploring science, mathematics and computer science at Bennington.

Can’t wait to spend time in the studio?

The demands of studio courses in the visual arts are rigorous, therefore we will place you in only one four-credit studio course. You are encouraged to list a second and third option if you want to be sure to take a visual arts studio course during your first term.

Additional Resources

If you would like to discuss your registration with a first-year advisor in Academic Services, please call 802-440-4661 or schedule an appointment by email. If you are a transfer student, Director of Learning Beyond Bennington and Associate Director of Academic Services Dechen Albero will contact you to schedule a phone appointment, since your registration needs are different from those those of entering first-term students.

Questions? Ask Us