The Journey to Bennington: A Welcome for Families

August 2019

Welcome to the third and final 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.

Arriving at Bennington

Campus is officially open to incoming students and families on Friday, August 30, between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm. Your student's first stop will be the Student Center 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 the Student Center, your student can head to their 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 Student and Family Program from 1:00-5:00 pm, in which we hope you will participate.

Bennington Speak

Every college has its own language unique to members of its community, and Bennington is no different. Here are a few examples of ideas and terminologies that are distinctly Bennington:

Terms: We have three terms every year —two 14-week academic terms (fall and spring) 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 and Areas of Study: At Bennington we have disciplines and discipline groups, 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 their own individualized course of study with close guidance from faculty and advisors. 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.

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 formally discussed 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, an exercise where students engage in conversation about how they will share their space and communicate when issues arise. This agreement is a great first step to negotiating and resolving issues.

Fall Weekend 2019 

As you say goodbye to your student for now, you can take comfort in knowing that Fall Weekend will soon be upon us. This year, Fall Weekend will take place September 27-29. Fall  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. These conversations will help them prepare for 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. See more information about the FWT options available to first-year international students.

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 to remind them 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: Balancing 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 myriad 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? Knowing the answer to these types of important questions will ensure your student feels empowered to make decisions regarding their life at college.

Practicing Self-Care: This topic is incredibly important for students. Getting 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, Assistant Dean for Academic Services, if your student is struggling through this transitional time. Please be aware Bennington students must complete a Contact and Other Information Form, indicating that they are a 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. For more information,  read about the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

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 additional costs to add funds or to use the Bennington ID Card for purchases. Account balances roll over from term-to-term and year-to-year and can be refunded when a student leaves the College. 

Student Billing

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) is due on August 1. There is a two week grace period for completing this payment on time. See more information or contact the Business Office at mrollins@bennington.edu.

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

Carrying health insurance is mandatory for all students and Proof of Health Insurance must be submitted to the College by August 1. Students are required to provide information on any change in insurance coverage to the College at the time of change. 

July 2019 

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 Website

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 also 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, email registrar@bennington.edu.

Course Registration

The countdown to course schedules begins! One of the most exciting moments in your student’s journey to college is finding out what classes they 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!

Grading

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.

At the beginning of term, students can also request to receive letter grades (A, A-, B+, etc.) 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. Additionally, if your student receives a scholarship or grant that requires a GPA, they should request letter grades through our online request form. If your student has any questions about this process, they should contact the Registrar's Office when they arrive on campus.

Regardless of whether or not your student requests letter grades, rest assured that Bennington’s narrative evaluation is a meaningful metric for students who are applying to graduate school or for a scholarship or grant. This type of evaluation has the advantage of painting 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 by  fall term it becomes 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 While Away from Home

The Health Center at Bennington operates like a private medical practice: we charge usual and customary fees, which are billed to 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 tend to use health and psychological services more often. We urge you to speak with your student about prioritizing their health and wellness during their time at Bennington and utilizing campus services, such as Health and Psychological Services.

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 Bennington College Corporation (not the individual doctors or therapists) in-network? When calling, reference NPI #1063851350
  • 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 all international students must purchase the IFS Prime Plus policy and show proof of coverage by August 1 for coverage starting August 15. With this plan, most campus services will have no copays, deductibles, or coinsurance (see additional info under the Sign Up for Health Insurance tab). If you have any questions or concerns regarding the policy, please email healthcare@bennington.edu. If an International Student does not show proof of purchase of the IFS Prime Plus by August 1, the College will purchase a policy on the student’s 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 the Student Health Insurance page. Please take a careful look at the information included there. If you have further questions, please email healthcare@bennington.edu.

Student Billing

Statements for Fall 2019 term were mailed mid-May 2019. The first payment for the four-payment plan was due July 1, 2019. The first payment for the two-payment plan is due August 1, 2019. Payment information is available online.

Deadlines!

The next set of important forms are due July 1, including your student’s health forms.

June 2019

Para la versión de esta carta en español, presione aquí.

Welcome to Bennington!

Sending a child off to college is one of the biggest steps a family can take. The young person you have long considered your child is now growing into their new identity as a student—starting  on a path through their college years as a unique individual.

This transition is 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. At some point, your student may feel overwhelmed, or question whether they can really "do it." Your support in that moment will help carry them through the challenging times that all students inevitably face.

In order to give you the information and tools you’ll 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 also 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 if your own journey brought you to the world of work or the military instead of college, we anticipate you’ll have questions. Rest assured, we’re here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us throughout the summer.

First-Year Forum

Advising in the first year is focused on helping students transition to Bennington and preparing each student to actively shape their own education. This work takes place both within a year-long one-credit course called First-Year Forum (FYF) and one-on-one with a faculty advisor. FYF consists of weekly meetings of a group of 12 to 16 students with their faculty advisor and a student co-leader, as well as weekly workshops that each student chooses based on their particular needs and interests.

The goals of the course are for students to begin establishing relationships with multiple faculty members, learn about and access campus resources, engage in community on and off campus, explore potential new areas of interest, develop reflective writing skills, and learn to approach writing as a process. Students will also reflect on their development of key academic skills and their learning across contexts, which will help prepare them for the Plan process.

Within FYF, students will have access to support as they prepare for their first Field Work Term, register for Spring term courses, and complete the First-Year Essay. The course will focus on community building and student development in all realms of the student experience, including academic, residential, co-curricular, and personal.

First-Year Advising

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.

Choosing Courses

For college-bound students, seeing their first-term course schedule is among the highlights of the summer. Here’s some information on the process:

Students should complete a course registration form by June 1 to indicate which courses they are most interested in taking. In the first term, we encourage students to explore as widely as possible. For example, first-year students might choose one or two courses in areas they are already passionate about, along with one or two courses in areas in which they have less experience.

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, taking into account meeting times and workload, as well as ensuring that your student experiences a variety of academic disciplines. 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. 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 an academic, residential, or housing accommodation, it’s vital that your student completes 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 and Exploring Careers

Many students choose to come to Bennington in part because of Field Work Term and the unique opportunity  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 Handshake, our career search platform, which houses hundreds of postings for Field Work Term and thousands of additional summer internships, part-time jobs, and work-learning opportunities. In the First-Year Forum advising groups, students 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.

Campus Employment

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 forum for work-based learning, and as such, student employment is managed under the office of Field Work Term and Career Development. At the beginning of June, we will share a simple online application form inviting students with campus work included in their financial aid to indicate whether they are interested in being assigned a job. Students who respond will be notified of their initial work assignment in early August and can apply for additional work opportunities when they arrive on campus.

Student Housing

The residential experience is one of the most important elements of your student’s time here, and we look forward to welcoming new students into our community. 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 incoming students connect and develop relationships with each other and with older students who can mentor and guide them. Two returning students act as House Chairs for each house; among other things, these House Chairs coordinate weekly gatherings in order to build community and promote communication among housemates.

Health Documentation

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 it will be kept entirely confidential.

You can find instructions and the Health Forms on our website. Please note that making  appointments and gathering the documents often takes more time than expected, so you may want to assist your student to ensure everything is ready for the submission deadline of July 1.

Staying Healthy

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. Many resources are 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 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.

Health Insurance

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.

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 (considered a qualifying event) to make policy changes. Window specifics vary depending upon policy.

Financial Aid

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 to ensure it says “received” next to all the required documents, so we can transfer the expected financial aid to your student’s bill. If you see “not received” next to any document, or if you have any other questions, please contact the Financial Aid office.

Student Billing

Student billing statements for Fall 2019 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 access 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 their first fall term at Bennington, keep your eye on important deadlines with this checklist. 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.

 

July 2019

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 Website

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 also 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, email registrar@bennington.edu.

Course Registration

The countdown to course schedules begins! One of the most exciting moments in your student’s journey to college is finding out what classes they 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!

Grading

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.

At the beginning of term, students can also request to receive letter grades (A, A-, B+, etc.) 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. Additionally, if your student receives a scholarship or grant that requires a GPA, they should request letter grades through our online request form. If your student has any questions about this process, they should contact the Registrar's Office when they arrive on campus.

Regardless of whether or not your student requests letter grades, rest assured that Bennington’s narrative evaluation is a meaningful metric for students who are applying to graduate school or for a scholarship or grant. This type of evaluation has the advantage of painting 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 by  fall term it becomes 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 While Away from Home

The Health Center at Bennington operates like a private medical practice: we charge usual and customary fees, which are billed to 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 tend to use health and psychological services more often. We urge you to speak with your student about prioritizing their health and wellness during their time at Bennington and utilizing campus services, such as Health and Psychological Services.

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 Bennington College Corporation (not the individual doctors or therapists) in-network? When calling, reference NPI #1063851350
  • 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 all international students must purchase the IFS Prime Plus policy and show proof of coverage by August 1 for coverage starting August 15. With this plan, most campus services will have no copays, deductibles, or coinsurance (see additional info under the Sign Up for Health Insurance tab). If you have any questions or concerns regarding the policy, please email healthcare@bennington.edu. If an International Student does not show proof of purchase of the IFS Prime Plus by August 1, the College will purchase a policy on the student’s 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 the Student Health Insurance page. Please take a careful look at the information included there. If you have further questions, please email healthcare@bennington.edu.

Student Billing

Statements for Fall 2019 term were mailed mid-May 2019. The first payment for the four-payment plan was due July 1, 2019. The first payment for the two-payment plan is due August 1, 2019. Payment information is available online.

Deadlines!

The next set of important forms are due July 1, including your student’s health forms.

Bennington College