I'm looking for comments on Bennington's Field Work Term (FWT) beyond what I see on the college's website.
It sometimes strikes me as a great program. Other times, though, I look at it with a critical eye, and I am bothered by the fact that at this college, the most expensive of the ones that offered admission to my son, he will be pretty much on his own for seven weeks in the middle of the year, every single year.
A specific concern I have is that while the FWT experiences described on the website sound very interesting, there is clearly no guarantee that any particular student will have a great job for that term. I understand that it is up to the student to use the resources of the FWT's office to find something, but those resources (job listings, books about internships, etc.) seem very similar to the resources that my older son (a college sophomore) has available to him at his university for finding summer internships. It does not bother me that my older son has to find his own summer internship or job, using his school's resources to help, because we are not paying tuition for the summer. But with Bennington, the FWT falls in the middle of the school year, so I feel as if we would be paying tuition in return for -- well, nothing, really, for those seven weeks.
I guess I'm complaining about the degree of support for the FWT. It appears to me to be similar to the degree of support that kids at other colleges get for finding summer jobs/internships, but it seems to me as if there should be more support for FWT -- whether logistical, financial, or whatever.
Am I being too cynical? I want to love this program, but I'm not feeling it!
FWT is a pretty autonomous thing. There is help out there; the FWT office is very small, and they are willing to sit down with you and help you apply to internships that best suit you. But, if you choose not to seek it, you might be pretty much on your own.
The best thing I can say about the experience is that it's a good opportunity to get a feel for working somewhere 9-5 for an extended period, without having to waste your entire summer. There is also a required essay that theoretically helps synthesize ideas about what career path you want to follow.
One of the annoying things about FWT that isn't really advertised by the school is that students who are not staying on campus have to move the entire contents of their room for the duration of the term. There is free storage space available on campus, but it is just a large auditorium with spaces marked off by house. However, if your son is sold on Bennington, I don't think FWT should be a make it or break it for him.
Last edited by newyorker327; 05-20-2010 at 04:20 PM.
My son ultimately chose another college, but FWT didn't enter into his decision. That was really a concern of mine. I acknowledge that it may be a cynical view, but I still can't shake the feeling that it is a rip-off to charge full tuition when students are essentially evicted for seven weeks in the middle of the school year. Having said that, if S had chosen Bennington, I would have supported that choice. I think it is an impressive college in many ways. But I would have been very grumpy every time I paid tuition, knowing that S would be on his own every year for seven weeks. That would have made an already expensive college so much more expensive.
I'm not sure I understand the issue in terms of cost. My daughter is very interested in Bennington. I really don't look at it as I would be paying for FWT, in the sense that I would be paying Bennington more than if there were no FWT. There are two 15 week semesters, the only unique thing seems to me to be that there is a long Winter break, they don't start back until the end of Feb., but I don't think you are paying any more because of FWT.
nepop, I admit, I did not focus on the length of the semesters. Given that there are two full semesters, you are absolutely right that no one would be paying more because of FWT. Sorry, I jumped to an unwarranted conclusion there.
I still, however, have reservations about FWT. At my other S's college, they have most of January off, as an intersession between the two semesters. The difference from Bennington is that at S's school, students can stay on campus in their dorms if they choose. If they want, they can also take classes for credit or for fun.
My understanding is that other schools that have programs similar to Bennington's provide some support. For example, Goucher requires all students to study abroad at least once before graduation, and they offer a voucher of at least $1200 to cover travel expenses. The Smith Praxis program (a summer internship) offers sophomores and juniors a one-time $2,000 stipend.
At my older S's college (and I expect many other colleges), the Career Office has resources to help students find summer internships. From reading Bennington's website and from what newyorker327 reports, it seems that the degree of help that Bennington provides to students looking for FWT opportunities is similar. But my feeling is that because FWT is required, the degree of job-seeking help should be higher than it is for kids looking for optional summer internships.
So, I am still not sold on FWT. Having said that, if my S had decided that Bennington was the school for him, I'm sure it would all have worked out. We live in NYC and he is interested in theater, so it would have been cool if he could have worked in a theater and lived at home during FWT.
Again, overall, I think Bennington is a fabulous college. I'm glad that it was my son who had to make the decision between his two top schools (Bennington and Earlham), because I would have had a very hard time deciding! I think they are both wonderful places.
Bennington is not such a fabulous college, depending on what one wants to study. Although the theater program is pretty decent. But it's kind of facing a lot of monetary problems at the moment.... They're expanding the student body, but haven't hired more teachers or increased class sizes yet, so it can be hard to make a workable schedule and get into classes, especially if you want to do something popular, like photography. It's sort of coasting on its reputation, from what I've seen as a student.
Not that Bennington is awful, of course! Tons of people love it. But you know, look at it with a critical eye, and look beyond the tour guide and website.
SF--I agree, you would hope that there would be pretty good support for helping students find FWT internships. Our tour guide said he had no trouble finding work that he really liked, and 2 alums that we know have told us that they never had trouble finding good stuff for their FWTs. Still not sure FWT really costs any more than programs at other schools--I am aware of Goucher's $1200 for travel (was on son #1's short list, on DD's list), but something tells me I am paying for that somehow, they aren't giving it away. I do think the benefit of FWT can be that the kids are really forced to build somewhat of a resume while in school. I'm sure it does not work perfectly for every kid, but I also am pretty sure that it works pretty well for quite a few.
NY327--fair comments, but keep in mind that virtually every college and university in the country is having money problems right now (e.g., MIT cut several atheletic teams because of budget issues; a top LAC near me is cutting academic programs, sports and non-academic staff) and getting classes is a problem at many/most schools. No school is perfect. Based on, among other things, conversations with several satisfied alums, I do think that you get a level of engagement at Bennington that does not exist at many other schools.
SF--by the way, I saw on the Earlham sight your son going there, congrats. See my posts there re my being wistful my son is not--great, unique school, was my first choice for son #1. Alas, my son chose elsewhere. Benn is high on the list of my daughter (kid #2). Seems like our kids are looking at similar schools.
It's true that once you are in a good class, it is pretty good. But I think that many people looking at Bennington take for granted (like I did), that for $53,000 a year they would make more of an effort to get students into classes they want to take. It's incredibly frustrating to come here and not be able to get into any desirable classes. You really need to fight your way into many of the arts and liberal arts classes here.
I do think the benefit of FWT can be that the kids are really forced to build somewhat of a resume while in school.
nepop, I agree with this, and if DS had chosen Bennington, I would have been happy that he would be required to start building a resume starting freshman year.
And thanks for the congratulations! DS is deferring enrollment for a year, but is very much looking forward to joining the Earlham class of 2015. I did see your posts on the Earlham sub-forum, and enjoyed reading them!
I see your son chose to go to UPS. That sounds like a wonderful place. My son was interested in one point at going far away (e.g., U of British Columbia, Evergreen State), but in the end was not crazy about being clear on the other side of the continent. Which is fine with me, although -- I would have enjoyed visiting him there!