New International Students

Welcome to Bennington College!

We are very pleased that you have chosen to attend Bennington, and we look forward to meeting you. The staff of International Student Services (ISS) is here to help you learn about and follow the F-1 student visa regulations. There are many benefits and restrictions associated with F-1 status, and we’ll assist you with understanding how the immigration regulations intersect with the College policies. Below you will find guidelines regarding pre-departure and your arrival to Bennington.

Obtain Your Visa and Plan Your Travel to the U.S.

If you are living outside the U.S. you must obtain a passport from your government. Next, you must apply for an F-1 student visa. As soon as you receive your I-20, schedule your visa appointment at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to apply for an F-1 visa. The ISS F-1 Visa & Immigration page has comprehensive information about the supporting documentation you should compile and how to prepare for your visa interview.

Apply for the Visa as Early as Possible

Students applying for initial entry F-1 visas may be issued the visas up to 120 days before the academic program start date as noted in item 5 on the I-20.

You may not enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days before the start date noted in item 5 on the I-20 form. You should make your travel arrangements with this date in mind. The start date is chosen to allow adequate time for you to arrive for the International Student Orientation. Your I-20 does not require a travel signature for your initial entry into the U.S. However, you need a travel signature for subsequent trips. ISS advisors cannot sign your document for travel and reentry to the U.S. until you have registered full-time for your first term. Do not plan to travel outside the U.S. after your first entry unless you will be able to register first and obtain a travel signature.

Visit the F-1 Visa & Immigration page.

SEVIS Transfer Students

If you are changing schools within the U.S. and transferring your SEVIS record to Bennington, there are visa and travel policies unique to your situation.

  • You can travel with your current F-1 visa and Bennington I-20, even if the visa has your previous school’s name on it, as long as the visa is not expired and you are not outside the U.S. more than five months between academic programs.

  • You can use your Bennington “transfer pending” I-20 to enter the U.S. once without a travel signature before the start date, even earlier than 30 days before the I-20 start date. The 30-day rule is only for travel with “initial” I-20s, not “transfer pending” I-20s. However, if you wish to travel outside the U.S. after your initial entry on your Bennington “transfer pending” I-20, you will need a travel signature from an ISS advisor. It is recommended that transfer students wait to receive a Bennington “transfer complete” I-20 before traveling outside the U.S. as the “transfer complete” I-20 is issued with a travel signature.

Sign Up for Health Insurance

In the United States the cost of health care is very high, including:

  • Routine medical care
  • Emergency care
  • Lab tests
  • Visits to specialists
  • Prescriptions
  • Emergency Room visits
  • Mental health care
  • Hospitalization

Health insurance from other countries often provides limited services while the student is abroad and/or may exclude the U.S. entirely.  For these reasons, incoming international students are required to purchase the Prime Plus Plan from IFS for their stay in the U.S. Policy enrollment required by August 1 for coverage beginning August 1, 2019 - August 15, 2019. Please submit your Proof of Health Insurance by August 1.

If policy info is not provided by August 1, the College will purchase the IFS plan on the student’s behalf and will post the cost of the policy to the student bill with a $100 administrative fee. If a student does not have insurance; willfully fails to maintain the insurance coverage; or makes a material misrepresentation to the College regarding the coverage, the student will not be able to enroll or attend as a student at Bennington. It is the student’s responsibility, not Bennington’s, to obtain and maintain insurance coverage.

With the IFS Prime Plus Plan most campus services will have no additional fees (copays, deductibles, or coinsurance) for your care at the campus Health Center (the 20% patient portion of the coinsurance is waived for students on the IFS Prime Plus Plan). This applies to services at the Campus Health Center only. Please know that services such as Labs that are sent off campus may require you to pay your deductible before the policy covers the 80% portion.

Health insurance definitions included below. Students should be in touch with the College if they have other questions or concerns regarding health insurance coverage by emailing: healthservices@bennington.edu.

Definitions
  • ACA-compliant coverage refers to a major medical health insurance policy that conforms to the regulations set forth in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). These plans can be sold on or off the exchange, but all new individual major medical policies sold after January 1, 2014, are required to be ACA-compliant. This means they must include coverage for the ten essential benefits with no lifetime or annual benefit maximums, and must adhere to the consumer protections built into the law.
  • Coinsurance refers to money that an individual is required to pay for services, after a deductible has been paid. Coinsurance is often specified by a percentage. For example, the insured pays 20 percent toward the charges for a service and the employer or insurance company pays 80 percent. After the insured has paid the deductible, he’s responsible for a percentage of the costs, specified by the coinsurance split (80/20, 90/10, and 70/30 are common coinsurance splits, with the insured paying the smaller percentage and the carrier paying the higher percentage). That remains the case until the out-of-pocket maximum (OOMP) for the year is reached. At that point, the insurance company starts to pay 100 percent of covered claims until the end of the year.
  • Copay or Copayment is a predetermined (flat) fee that an individual pays for health care services, in addition to what the insurance covers. For example, some HMOs require a $10 copayment for each office visit, regardless of the type or level of services provided during the visit. Copayments are not usually specified by percentages.
  • Comprehensive coverage—also known as major medical health insurance—refers to plans that cover a wide range of health services (i.e., not a limited-benefit plan or supplemental policy). All new individual policies sold after January 1, 2014 must be at least as comprehensive as the Affordable Care Act requires, meaning that they cover the ten essential health benefits with no annual or lifetime benefit caps. Plans that predate 2014 are still considered comprehensive if they are major medical policies, but they are generally not as robust as the new policies.
  • Deductible is the amount an individual must pay for health care expenses before insurance (or a self-insured company) covers the costs. Often, insurance plans are based on yearly deductible amounts.
  • Generic drug—Once a company’s patent on a brand-name prescription drug has expired, other drug companies are allowed to sell the same drug under a generic label. Generic drugs are less expensive, and most prescription and health plans reward clients for choosing generic drugs.
  • Prescription Tier—Tiers apply to the category and cost of drug. Tiers include: Preferred generic (commonly prescribed generic drugs); Generic (generic drugs that cost a little more than preferred generic); Preferred Brand (brand-name drugs that don’t have a generic equivalent); Nonpreferred Drug (higher-priced brand-name and generic drugs not considered preferred); and Specialty (most expensive drugs on the drug list used to treat complex conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis. They can be generic or brand name).
  • SVMC—Southwest Vermont Medical Center is the local hospital for the region located in Bennington, Vermont.

More information

At the Port of Entry

Present your passport, Visa, I-20 form, evidence of acceptance to Bennington College, such as a recent tuition payment receipt or acceptance letter, proof of paying the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee, and evidence of financial support to the U.S. immigration officer at the airport. After questioning you about your plans in the U.S., the immigration officer will decide how long you will be allowed to stay. You will then be directed to the Customs Service for inspection of your baggage.

For additional tips and advice about entering the U.S., visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.

Getting to Campus

You are expected to arrive at Bennington on August 25 or August 26, between 12:00 pm and 5:00 pm. As you make your travel plans, keep in mind that the closest airport to Bennington is Albany International Airport in Albany, New York. However, flights to Boston or New York City are less expensive and are offered more frequently. If you enter via Boston or New York City, you can then take a domestic flight, train, or bus to the Albany area (Albany International airport or an Amtrak train or bus to Albany-Rensselaer Train Station). The Office of Student Life offers a shuttle service to new students from Albany to Bennington. Please complete and submit the Transportation Reservation by the reservation deadline.

Climate

The weather in Vermont is unpredictable, so it may be very warm when you arrive, or cool. Temperatures begin to drop in October, and it typically stays chilly into April. If you don’t already have winter gear, you will need to purchase a winter coat and boots. To plan for the changing weather from fall through spring, it is useful to have at least one heavy coat, as well as a light jacket or sweater. You will also need an assortment of footwear, such as sandals for summer and heavier boots/shoes for winter. When the snowy season arrives, typically November through February, a good pair of winter boots is essential.

If you are from a warm-weather country and don’t yet own a winter coat or boots, there are places near the College to buy winter clothing. 

Living on Campus

Bennington is a residential college; all students are required to live on campus unless approved otherwise. Exceptions to the residential requirement are rare, and can be found in the Student Handbook. Students should not expect to live off campus during their time as an undergraduate at Bennington.

Students live not in dorms but in houses of generally 30–45 people each. With architectural styles ranging from modern design to clapboard houses reflecting 1930s New England, Bennington student houses consistently top the rankings in Princeton Review’s “Dorms Like Palaces” list.

  • Each house offers kitchens and cozy common areas (most with fireplaces), where students relax, study, socialize and hold weekly Coffee Hours to discuss campus and house issues together. All houses are co-educational. There are co-ed bathrooms for every four to five rooms, all with showers, and many with bathtubs. Depending on where you live, you might enjoy a patio or porch overlooking panoramic views of the mountains, a second living room, or a piano.
  • House communities are made up of students from all classes, continuing students, transfer students, and first-year students. Some of the current students will have lived in your house for many terms, while others will be new to the house. Through your housemates, you’ll discover new inspiring ideas and influences, and express your personality and passions.
  • House Chairs are undergraduate students who serve as community leaders to house residents. There are two House Chairs in each house. They are knowledgeable about resources available on campus, serve as a liaison between campus services and your house, and run Coffee Hour, the weekly house meeting.
  • All first- and second-year students have one or more roommates. This is integral to the coeducational structure that Residential Life at Bennington prides itself on. After their first year, students have the option to continue living with their first-year roommates or to room with someone new. Students who are 24 years or older are eligible to live off campus.

Dining Services

  • All students residing on campus are required to utilize the campus meal plan. In rare cases, exceptions to this policy may be granted.
  • If you have a special diet or dietary restrictions, available options can be explored with the executive chef. Meals at the Dining Hall offer students a wide range of options, drawing on cuisines from Thai to Cajun to Italian. Vegetarian and vegan selections are served at every meal and special events. Cooking stations and ingredients are available for students to prepare some of their own food.
  • The Dining Hall serves three meals a day on weekdays, and on weekends a continental breakfast, brunch, and dinner. Students with visiting guests can purchase guest passes through Dining Services.

FWT Information for First-Year International Students

Field Work Term (FWT) is a seven-week off-campus term which will take place from early January until the middle-end of February each year in which students pursue jobs and internships in areas that complement their studies. It is an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in a working environment and apply and reflect upon their classroom experience in the real world.

By the end of their time at Bennington, students will have completed four FWTs and acquired a body of work experiences, a set of references, a network of professional contacts, and most importantly, the confidence that they can make their way in the world.

Field Work Term in the First-Year

The Department of Homeland Security regulations affects FWT options for international students during their first year. International students on F-1 visas who have been in the country for less than nine months are generally not eligible to work off-campus in the United States for any type of compensation—including pay, room and board, academic credit, graduation requirements, etc. As such, FWT options for first-year international students generally include:

  • Defer their first FWT to the summer when they can work for pay anywhere in the U.S.
  • Apply for an FWT position in one’s home country
  • Arrange a volunteer FWT position abroad

For more information on the above options, go to the FWT for International Students page

Questions?

If you have any questions before you arrive, please feel free to contact International Student Services at iss@bennington.edu (802-753-2491). During the winter the office is open 8:30 am–4:00 pm (Eastern Standard Time).