Campus Spotlight: Bennington College

How does a college where grades are optional and there is no required coursework remain academically competitive? And how does that college attract a diverse student body with a complete absence of formal athletics? Located in the mountains of southern Vermont, Bennington College finds a way, in a manner that's unlike anything you might be familiar with.

Bennington Vermont

Make Your Own Path

At Bennington, you won't be told which classes to take. You won't be told you're required to do much at all. Instead, the college offers you the opportunity to explore and discover your interests through experimentation. Bennington calls this system the Plan Process.

Don't worry if this sounds intimidating; you won't be without support and guidance. Throughout your time at Bennington, you'll write essays and meet with faculty to discuss the direction you're following. It's likely, even expected, that you may change your focus once or several times. Part of the goal of this system is for you to learn from taking the wrong path so that you choose more wisely the next time. Also, while grades are optional, you can request a grade from any teacher and you'll always get a written evaluation.

There's a strong emphasis on experiential learning at Bennington. Many on-campus classes involve extensive hands-on work and the college has strong arts programs that fosters creative expression. Additionally, for seven weeks each year you'll go off-campus for the Field Work Term. During this time, you may work in politics, theater, social work or another career field that interests you. By the time you graduate, you'll have an extensive history of internships and field experiences.

Artist making vase

Embrace Your Passion

Of course, college is about more than taking classes. At Bennington you'll have the chance to pursue your interests no matter how diverse they may be. This is a school with a zombie defense group, which is devoted to preparing for the inevitable zombie invasion and a group called Foam Faction, in which you can relive childhood games. If you ever dreamed of joining the circus, Bennington also features a non-competitive Circus Club.

Additionally, Bennington is a place for more serious interests. Its students work on myriad projects intended to make the world a better place. These include sustainable food, education for low-income students and small business loans.

If there's one unifying theme to both the educational philosophy and culture at Bennington, it's about pursuing passions. This isn't a place where you'll take part in something because it's required or everyone else is doing it. Everyone is pursuing their own passions, and the college has created an environment that is supportive and inclusive. It's this spirit that makes Bennington a top-ranked institution.

While it's not as popular as at Bennington, Indiana University offers an Individualized Major Program that allows you to design your own education plan.

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