Academic Life at Bennington
Your transition to Bennington will be filled with many new experiences and a good deal of unfamiliar territory. 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.
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 into 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 - at Bennington, we call these skills the Capacities.
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 Dance Intensive: Embodiment through Improvisation and Performance 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. Bennington offers students a thorough grounding in virtually every dimension of theater-making: acting, directing, playwriting, devising, theater history, dramatic literature, dramaturgy, stage management, and design (set, costume, lights, projection, and sound). Students auditioning for a play should prepare a short monologue (up to two minutes). While memorized monologues are preferred, first-time auditioners are welcome to audition script in hand. Auditions take place during the first week of term. Further details will be available at the first Drama Forum of the term and on the callboard in VAPA.
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, Japanese, and Spanish language and culture courses. We also offer a course on teaching languages and send our students to local schools to teach languages and cultures.
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.
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 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?
Bennington College was the first in the country to put the arts at the center of a liberal arts education, and one that has long embraced—for over 80 years—the idea that art can shape our way of thinking about everything, from aesthetics and philosophy and literature, to mathematics, environmental activism, and community development.
Taught by practicing professionals accomplished in their fields, Bennington’s visual arts program provides students with a firm grounding in the creative process.
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. In future terms, you will be guided by faculty in VAPA to consider taking more than one studio course in a given term.
To guide you throughout your academic experience and the choices you make as you develop the focus of your Plan, you have the support of your faculty and advisor and a team of counselors in Academic Services.
Transfer Student Advising
Transfer students who enter Bennignton as 3rd or 4th term students are matched with a faculty advisor with whom they will work closely to begin to formulate the ideas that will become their Plans. This one-to-one advising relationship is at the heart of a Bennington education. Throughout your time as a student at Bennington, you’ll meet regularly with your advisor to discuss your courses, your ideas and questions, and how you’re using the college’s resources to achieve your goals.
As a new transfer student, in addition to being matched with a faculty advisor who works in your field of interest, you’ll also have the support of the Assistant Director of Academic Services, who works directly with 3rd and 4th term transfer students in their transition to Bennington. She will assist you with registration, planning for your first term at Bennington, and learning the ins and outs of academic life at the college.
First-Year Forum Advising Course
For new first-year students, advising will look a little different. To help you transition to Bennington and to offer you opportunities to begin to establish relationships with multiple faculty members, first and second term students will be registered for the First-Year Forum (FYF). First-Year Forum is a year-long advising 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 learn about and access campus resources, engage in the community, explore potential new areas of interest, develop reflective writing skills, and learn to approach writing as a process. In addition, you will also reflect on your development of key academic skills and your learning across contexts, which will help in preparing you to write your Plan Proposal in your third term.
Within FYF you will have access to support as you prepare for your first Field Work Term, register for Spring term courses, and complete the First-Year Essay. The course 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.
Academic Services Counselors
Academic Services Counselors work collaboratively with faculty advisors to assist 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, and what it means to engage inclusively with community members and the world at large.
All incoming students will have access to a counselor in Academic Services whose work aims to connect students with the people, programs, and resources available at Bennington. Academic Services Counselors provide direct support to students through individual advising meetings, skill building workshops, academic and social programming, and a weekly newsletter.
Whole Student Support
Bennington has a cadre of staff counselors with expertise in providing academic counseling, international student services, Field Work Term and career counseling, co-curricular experiences, study abroad, grants and fellowships, and accommodations and support. They work in concert with faculty advisors to help you develop the habits of mind that contribute to success in your Plan and Field Work Terms, and provide structured opportunities to reflect upon and synthesize the various aspects of your Bennington education.
First Step: Read the Curriculum. Yes, all of it. Make a long list of courses that interest you.
Reading the Curriculum
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.
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 her Plan essay, Michaela Brown, class of 2019, 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 before classes begin in the fall.
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 2018, international student, First-Year Forum Co-Leader, and current staff member in the President's Office, 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 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.
Some Specific Information
How many credits should I take?
First-term students normally take 14-18 credits in their first term. Later this winter, 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 one-credit First-Year Forum advising course, which is an interdisciplinary course that all first-year students take to orient them to a Bennington education, introduce them to the Plan Process at Bennington, and help them understand the resources and supports at the College. Before classes begin 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 courses 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 after consultation with their FYF faculty advisor) 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 concepts in your own terms.
- Fall Curriculum
- Disability Accommodation Request | due (optional)
- First-Year Credit Transfer Form
- Student Technology Guide
Resources for Academic Accommodations
Admitted students, parents, and guardians are invited to schedule meetings with Noelle Murphy if they have questions about academic accommodations and support or would like to discuss their (or their student's) particular learning needs. All conversations are designed as individual meetings and will be held via Zoom.
Resources for First Year and Transfer Students
If you would like to discuss your registration with a first-year or transfer student advisor in Academic Services, please call 802-753-2491 or schedule an appointment by email.