Bennington College is part utopian Liberal Arts haven, part bureaucratic morass. It is a private institution located in rural Bennington, Vermont, which is about an hour northeast of Albany, New York.

Bennington possesses no core curriculum, and an optional grading system. All students receive a Pass/Marginal Pass/Fail grade for each class, as well as a one-page narrative transcript summarizing their strengths and weaknesses. It is possible to opt in for additional letter grades.

Plan Process
The concept of "core curriculum" has been replaced with "plans."
  • Freshman year, you're pretty much allowed to study whatever you want. In fact, you are not allowed to focus at all! If you try to take a full term of credits pertinent to your focus (they frown upon calling it a "major"), your faculty advisor will suggest you branch out.
  • Sophomore year, you have to write a "plan proposal," which explains why you are interested in taking the classes you have attended, and what classes you intend to take as your education continues.
  • Junior year is when you should be heavily focusing in your fields of interest. Visual arts students are subjected to the Junior Review, which must be passed to keep visual arts on their transcript. Additionally, in their sixth term, Juniors must write a "plan confirmation" essay, which solidifies the contents of their transcript and plans for their last year of education.
  • In Senior year, students are informally expected to once again branch out and begin finding new applications for the skills they have learned. This year, visual arts students matriculate through the Senior Review, which must be passed for a student to have their work displayed in the Senior Show.
Field Work Term
Every year, from January to February, Bennington College kicks its students off campus and tells them to go find a job. Any job. Any job, anywhere, with anyone. Field Work Term can be a source of shock, horror and suffering for some students, but many manage to persevere and find two-month internships that inspire them and teach them something new. The Field Work Term office is remarkably flexible regarding where and with whom you can do your work. Bennington Students have done just about everything for Field Work Term, from working on Broadway in New York City to teaching English overseas. Most students take their senior year Field Work Term to do an independent study, often one that relates to their Senior Project. Or, you know, you could just go learn to blow glass.

The Price
Bennington College tuition, including room & board, costs approximately $40,000 per year. It was notorious in the sixties for being the most expensive college in the country. The Financial Aid office has been known to dole out many generous grants (upwards of $25,000), but their resources are limited (Bennington College has no endowment), so many students struggle with loans. Low-income students are granted Federal Work Study (preferential employment) status, but the majority of students go jobless until their second or third year (unless they find something off-campus).

Bennington College students work extremely hard. There is no formal standardization for grading, so professors often eschew tests completely in favor of student projects. Almost every student at Bennington has at least one project pending at any given time. VAPA, the Visual And Performing Arts building, is open 24/7, and students are free to make use of the abundant studio space (public and private) at any time (thought the most dense hours of use seem to fall between 9 PM and 4 AM). VAPA is, itself, a form of art - it was designed and fabricated in California and flown to Bennington to be constructed, and is comprised of fifteen-foot doors (to make room for transporting large projects), walls decorated by decades of mischievous artists and the unending cacophony of banging hammers, the slap of hands on wet clay, the din of Pink Floyd trying to drown out Daft Punk struggling to be heard over showtunes and tuneless ambience.

Most Bennington College students will rattle off a laundry list of complaints about the college at the drop of a hat, but if you ask them about transferring, the answer is almost inevitably, "Oh, I couldn't!" Maybe there's something in the water, perhaps Elizabeth Coleman's personal magnetism is just that strong. Maybe Steven Bach is just that awesome. Whatever the reason, almost every single Bennington College student is hopelessly attached to this strange educational institution, like a Vampire's childer is bound by blood to their sire. Don't ask us why, we don't know.