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Attended Bard--Happy to Answer Questions

bananapplecatbananapplecat Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
edited July 2013 in Bard College
Hi! I attended Bard for three semesters and am in the process of transferring out.
If you are an accepted student trying to choose between Bard and other schools, I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about any aspect of Bard.

It's an intense and unique place, and there are a lot of things I wish I'd known before I chose to go there.
Post edited by bananapplecat on
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Replies to: Attended Bard--Happy to Answer Questions

  • atidrepatidrep Registered User Posts: 87 Junior Member
    I would also hope some students who are really happy there will also share on this thread. My daughter feels like she is in heaven--passionate teachers, intellectually hungry students, lots of artistic kids, a gorgeous campus....it's important that everyone find the college that's the right FIT and Bard may not be for everyone but as a Bard-Mom I've met many kids who are thriving there. I am very impressed with the place.
  • CottageSpiritCottageSpirit Registered User Posts: 200 Junior Member
    I'm interested, bananapplecat, in hearing why you are planning to transfer. When we visited Bard this past fall, we all absolutely LOVED it, and it became S's favorite school. Strangely, though, when we attended Accepted Students Day (ASD) last Saturday, none of us were feeling the same sort of love for it, and about halfway through the day, S said we could head home. It was a real surprise, and I'm very glad we took the time to go back for the second visit. What department are you in?

    atidrep, what department is your daughter in?

    S is interested in Philosophy, and it was difficult to connect with the professor they had representing the department. He wasn't very engaging with S, and he told us there would be essentially no opportunities for S to work with any of the faculty outside of the classroom (on projects, research, and such). Because we've heard such good things about Bard's faculty and how there are close interactions with students, we were very surprised (and disappointed).

    S hasn't committed to a school yet, but it looks like he will end up choosing a different one.
  • momwondersmomwonders Registered User Posts: 193 Junior Member
    Making a college choice is so individual, and based on many impressionistic moments. But I just had to respond as my daughter is having an amazing experience at Bard and is a Philosophy major. In fact, she is moderating in two fields, the one she came to Bard to pursue and Philosphy, which she added after by chance meeting a professor who was so engaging and remarkable. She has since had several other Philosophy professors about whom she raves. In fact, opportunities to engage with professors and administrators all across Bard had been a hallmark of her expereince there. Is she totally happy every day? Of course not. But she is so intellectually alive and has so many interesting outlets that I always feel she is having a true college experience. I had no particular view on Bard before she enrolled, but everything I've learned through my daughter and independently has deepend my respect for the institution. I don't know if there is an opportunity for your student to revisit and have more interaction with the Philosophy faculty but I am sorry you didn't have a more positive experience
  • atidrepatidrep Registered User Posts: 87 Junior Member
    My daughter is doing Written Arts and Religion but a good friend of hers is in the Philosophy department and is preparing to continue getting her PHd. I'm sorry you met a dud professor on visiting day, they exist everywhere, because my daughter has received extensive mentoring in both of her departments. I think that is what impresses me most about the place, honestly. I'm with momwonders, it's an amazing school intellectually. Freshman Year Seminar (FYSEM) is essentialy a school-wide philosophy class that's been rigorous, thorough and eye-opening for my daughter. That said, it is all about fit. My daugther thought Wesleyan was her dream school until she sat in an advanced poetry class filled with jocks looking for an easy A. It's okay to trust gut instincts, too. Where else is your son looking?
  • CottageSpiritCottageSpirit Registered User Posts: 200 Junior Member
    Interesting, momwonders and atidrep. It's difficult to reconcile the wonderful anecdotes I've heard/read with our experience of ASD. I hate to think of any professor as a dud and after the visit I tried making excuses for it, but then I had to accept that the school *did* choose to represent themselves the way they represented themselves. The particular Philosophy professor we spoke with seemingly tried to reassure us by saying it wasn't just in the Philosophy department, that in none of the Humanities departments were there opportunities for the students to collaborate with the faculty outside of the classroom. Who knows? Maybe the classroom environment is so engaging nothing else is needed, but we were really hoping there would be some sort of opportunities at least.

    Sadly, I thought the faculty panel session was uninspiring as well, and I felt badly for the faculty because probably about half of the attendees left early (so apparently I wasn't alone in my thinking). DH wanted us to as well, and I said "no way" because I felt so terrible that so many people were getting up and walking out while the faculty were talking.

    atidrep, his set of college choices ended up being Bard, Skidmore, Hampshire, Bennington, UVM Honors College, Macaulay Honors College at Hunter, New College of Florida, Goucher, and SUNY New Paltz. It looked like, for one reason or another, it was down to Macaulay, Bard, and Skidmore, but then out of the blue last Wednesday UVM contacted us and said they were awarding him another merit scholarship, which brought the cost down to right in between Skidmore and Bard. So we went to UVM's ASD last Friday and it was really great. We loved the college just as much as we did on our first visit, the faculty presentations were absolutely fabulous (we didn't see one single person leave early), we were happy with the Honors College program, and perhaps most importantly, we got to spend nearly an hour sitting around a table with a couple of the their Philosophy professors. They were truly engaging and personable, and afterward S said it was really exciting to think about studying under them. All of the professors we heard from and talked to throughout the day were clearly very intelligent, but they all seemed very down to earth as well, and having the students involved in the faculty's research projects was mentioned over and over again as an important part of "what they do". Frankly, that's the experience I thought we'd have at Bard. <sigh>

    Anyway, last night S said he was ready to mail in the "no thanks" response cards and to commit to UVM. He said if UVM hadn't become possible with the extra merit money, he'd be picking Bard, but his gut is telling him UVM is a better place for him.
  • atidrepatidrep Registered User Posts: 87 Junior Member
    UVM and Bard are very different schools. Same with Skidmore. Trust the gut. Nevertheless, Bard is a rigorously intellectual school with a much more demanding curriculum than either of those two colelges, where my daughter has good friends and compares notes. I only write this for others who might be reading this thread. You need to do what is best for you.
  • danceclassdanceclass Registered User Posts: 728 Member
    My two cents: My daughter participated in a dig with her anthropology professor last summer.
  • zack147zack147 Registered User Posts: 47 Junior Member
    I am also transferring out of Bard, coming from the computer science department. Happy to answer any questions about it.
  • bananapplecatbananapplecat Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    I'm a Written Arts major. Reasons I'm transferring (not in order of importance):

    1. Weather

    I'm from SoCal, and I found the weather at Bard unbearable. The winter is long and freezing and there are frequent storms that cause the power to go out. The sun sets at 4:30, which is incredibly depressing. When it does get warm, it is humid and buggy. I had to spend a lot of time outside, walking from place to place on campus, so the weather really affected me.

    2. Location

    Bard is in the middle of nowhere. You may have been told that the city is close by and/or easily accesible. That's not true. To get there, you have to take a shuttle, a bus, and a train. The whole process takes at least 2 hours and is quite expensive.

    I quickly got sick of the two tiny villages that are near the school. The combination of rough winter weather and isolated location made me feel lonely, restless, and alientated from the real world.

    3. Culture

    People at Bard are unfriendly. No one greets each other on the path. People form cliques quickly during freshman year, and gossip a lot. It's a very small school, so everyone knows everyone and knows everything about everyone. However, everyone pretends not to know anyone except for their close friends. There is no sense of community.

    Many Bardians are also quite pretentious. There are some genuinely artistic and/or intellectual kids, but there are many who just talk incessantly about obscure French films and other similar topics to impress others. There are a lot of trust fund kids from the city who smoke a lot of cigarettes and do a lot of coke. That's not my scene, and I got sick of it. All of this applies to Bard:

    20 Ways To Be Popular At An Expensive Liberal Arts School | Thought Catalog

    4. Personal Difficulties

    This past semester, several of my close friends developed serious mental health issues, and one of them attempted suicide. Dealing with this made my experience at Bard much more difficult.

    I share this because I believe that it reflects on the culture at Bard. It seems like every other Bard kid has taken/is taking a semester off to go to rehab or an eating disorder clinic. It is rare to find someone that doesn't have some sort of mental health issue. Even the students that haven't been diagnosed with something seem like they should be. (Bard kids don't smile.) I don't know whether Bard attracts these students or creates them. It's a chicken/egg question. I do know that it's an unhealthy environment to be in, especially when combined with the isolation and cold.

    Those are my reasons for transferring, and I'd be happy to elaborate on any of them. Also, I noticed that a lot of you characterized Bard as "rigorously intellectual," etc. That's definitely relative. I never felt challenged, so I would not really characterize it as such. However, even if it were the best school in the world, I would not go back. Academics don't matter one bit if you can't stand living there!
  • bananapplecatbananapplecat Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    I wanted to add that I came across the following review of Bard on its U.S. News profile. I did not write this, but I relate to it a lot, and I think it sums up Bard pretty well:

    I transfered from bard and it was the best decision I have ever made, despite being the hardest. there are some incredible minds at bard and most of them are suffocated in the midst of a descent into a hard partying, mind altering journey through their time at school. i was frustrated and anxious most of the time i was there. the administration largely chose to ignore these problems. this school is in the middle of nowhere with long winters and a small student population. it was a lot like being at a summer camp but never leaving and constantly being consumed by some chemical or another. i met the most amazing people i have ever met in my life while at bard and i also felt like i was in hell. bard is not for the faint of heart.

    Kate Senior
  • danceclassdanceclass Registered User Posts: 728 Member
    bananapplecat, sorry you had such a hard time. It seems to me that the fact you come from southern California is central to your story. I've never been there, but on television it's often portrayed as a place of eternal sunshine. Most of the things you mention, cold winters, commuting by train, living in close quarters, a perception of unfriendliness, are a matter of course for a New Yorker. We take them in stride because life here is so intensely rewarding. It's a trade off. To address the mental health issues, please don't imagine that the problems of a few kids represent the school as a whole. I've met many of my daughter's friends, and they have been happy enough, interested in their studies and in life, and, yes, friendly.
  • secondroundsecondround Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    Hi danceclass and all, our child applied and was admitted to Bard and his visit experience was similar to what Fosterte described. There was an aloofness on the part of the current students towards the prospectives (the ones that were there to engage with and guide the prospies only engaged with themselves and not with the prospects, for instance). Of all the cafeterias that my child ate at (19 accross the country) this was the one where the divisions between race/ethnicity/style of dress was most patent. Although the academic piece seemed attractive our child felt there was an air of unhappiness hanging about the place. In our child's words: "kids looked suicidal". Whether these are the real or feigned "existential crises" of the upper middle class or true depressive state, our child could not tell for certain. Has ended up picking a college in the west where the kids are friendlier and less pretentious about being intellectual. (for what it may be worth to others, higher "ranked" than Bard). We live in the Northeast and child's college choices were all over the US map. The friendliness and openness of the rest of the country relative to NEast cannot be denied. Our eldest went to a school in the south for exactly the same reason, after being admitted to a few of Ivies (too many drunk freshmen at admitted wkend & prospies too obsessed with what social clubs they might get into). In a nutshell, I disagree that central to bananapplecat's story is that he/she is from SoCal. I think it's more likely to be that the school draws too many from NEast. And maybe that in the NEast we think we (and our expensive colleges) are the cat's pajamas. It's us, and then there's the rest of the country!
  • morganhilmorganhil Registered User Posts: 393 Member
    My son, who is a potential Theater and Computer Science major, is choosing between Bard and Skidmore. He's also from California, and as his dad, the several student reports here scare the bejeezus out of me. He's quite intellectual, but it sounds like he would be up for a very stressful and unhappy experience there from what you students say. I discount what college parents say a bit, as I already have an older son who's at my alma mater and even though we are very close, I don't live on campus and could never make a statement about the campus atmosphere and student recreational habots and/or drug and mental health crises. I am most concerned about the comments about the unfriendly nature of the campus. I would love to hear more from students about this, as he must decide by Wednesday between two very similar offers. He visited Skidmore this week but won't be able to visit Bard.
  • CottageSpiritCottageSpirit Registered User Posts: 200 Junior Member
    "where the kids are friendlier and less pretentious about being intellectual"

    It's funny you say this, secondround, because when talking with others about our visit, I've said that there was a definite "air of intellectual arrogance" emanating from the campus. I imagine that some folks might really like the "intelligence is the air" feeling, but we didn't find it enjoyable. We actually found it altogether strange, and we did not feel anything remotely similar at any of the other colleges we visited. And to reiterate, we LOVED our first visit and gather that the only difference is that on this second one we were actually interacting with a lot more people than the first one (when we only interacted with one person from admissions and our tour guide). I keep hoping that the college was just having an off day, and I did ask S this past week if he wanted to drive down there one more time to give it another chance, but he said no, that he's good with UVM. <shrug>

    morganhil, since we visited both Skidmore and Bard last week, I'm going to PM you with some of our observations.
  • atidrepatidrep Registered User Posts: 87 Junior Member
    Everyone is different, with different needs and interests and it's important to find the school where YOU fit in. The natural beauty and distance from the city are big pluses to my daughter and her friends, all of her friends seem to be receiving remarkable mentoring, and they are good kids...But then it's about fit. We thought the kids at Middlebury, cheerful as they were, were terrifying pre-recruits for the CIA. Give us an honest curmudgeon or pre-caffeinated painter over a thoughtless, if smiling, robot! And there are too-rich kids with too many drugs at EVERY school you will visit. Don't fool yourself. Still, I think the physical environment is really important...if lots of grass and trees freak you out, don't go to Bard!
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