Bard College vs New College of Florida

Hello everyone. So recently I’ve been both accepted to Bard College and New College of Florida and am trying to narrow down which school to enroll in. I like both of their approaches to academics in different ways. I like the flexibility and freedom New College’s has to offer along with its independent study projects, although I am very indecisive so that is a somewhat daunting of an idea as much as I’d like to enjoy it. But at the same time I like the sense of guidance that is given through Bard’s moderation system when you declare your major sophomore year, although the notion of possibly being rejected from your potential major seems a bit scary. Also New College of Florida doesn’t have grades just written evaluations done on a pass/fail system, which is a refreshing change not being based on the numbers. Although I’m a bit apprehensive about not having a traditional transcript when applying for graduate school. Also just to clarify I intend on going into the field of Written Arts/ international relations and both schools are excellent for that field.

I was able to visit New College for their open house and felt very comfortable there so I’m pretty sure that it’s a good fit for me. I’ve read how both campuses are progressively liberal but I have yet to visit Bard. Although being a black student Bard College is more ethnically diverse than New College of Florida, which is a plus to me. I’m not able to attend Bard’s open house this upcoming Saturday, but I will try to visit in the middle of April with my mother to really see how well the campus and I mesh together. Although one concern of mine is how isolated Bard College is (based on what I’ve read so far). Does it ever feel stifling at all to the students?

The biggest factor though that will decide which school I go to is financial aid. I’m getting a full-ride if I go to New College due to Bright Futures and obtaining additional outside scholarships. As for Bard College I am still waiting on my aid packet and am concerned about its expenses. If finances weren’t a factor I’m leaning somewhat more towards Bard because of just how strong their “Written Arts” program is. And also I’m guilty of romanticizing the idea of leaving Florida in my head. But at the same time I don’t want to be rash, enroll in Bard, only to end up in thousands of dollars in debt while going into graduate school. This is especially important to consider when I can graduate from New College of Florida with practically zero debt and not have to take out any student loans. Either way at both schools I’ll still get a good education.

Basically can anyone who’s familiar with Bard College or New College of Florida offer me some sense of perspective on this? Mostly in regards to their academics, overall campus vibe, social life, and financial aid.

Thank you very much.

It’s hard to beat a full ride, and New College should be a great experience. I don’t think you could go wrong choosing there.

However, Bard has some amazing Written Arts professors. From all over the world. I really doubt you’ll find a better program. There is also a large international contingent to the student body - I don’t know if New College has that, or not. But it adds to the diversity - both in the student body, and the faculty. The Hudson Valley itself, though, will seem remote, and not diverse, to someone used to a more varied population. It might feel isolating to you, outside of the Bard campus. However, conversely, it might also feel exotic coming from Florida. Rural, winter, farms, forests, rivers and mountains. And New York City is close enough that students go there often (from once a week to once a semester - depending!)

Bard has grades, but also crit sheets - with critiques/comments from the professors. I don’t believe the comments are on transcripts for grad school, however.

You haven’t received your financial packet yet? Many students already have. You might want to contact Bard’s financial aid office to check on that.

Have you visited Bard? If not, I’d really recommend it.

Our S was accepted without any merit or FA and yet may choose to attend there over other LAC’s that accepted him … for many of the reasons that Spiritmanager just mentioned. He just returned from the admitted students day and remains thrilled. Engaging profs progressive yet very liberal thinkers bucolic campus student driven vibe with emphasis on individually created curriculum…You really need to visit there before accepting and certainly befor you give up on a full ride elsewhere

@SpiritManager @parentgeorgia Thank you both for the input you had to offer. I got caught up preparing for IB exams and forgot to check back on here hence the late response (sorry about that). I got my financial package a few days after I made this thread and it was very generous meeting my need, they offered a total of $60k and doesn’t run my family dry, while not needing to take out any loans so going to Bard now is actually a very real possibility. And I’ll be visiting Bard this Thursday actually, and that will really confirm where I’ll enroll.

One real concern that I have with Bard though that I don’t have with New College is just how polarizing some of the student reviews are. I know any experience at any college is subjective but the negative reviews were exceptionally negative. Things along the lines of how the social-life is non-existent, how the school lacks a sense of community, how the hipsters are cliquey, how awful the food is, how depressing the campus is, etc. I highly doubt it’s actually like that but a part of me fearing that what if there is a ring of truth to those claims. So why the intensity in negative opinions when it comes to Bard?

It’s true - Bard is an intense experience. And students seem to really love it. Or they really don’t enjoy it at all. Which is why it would be great for you to visit, or do as much research as you can. Do know that the students who tend to post on both CC and the review sites - just like all crowdsourced reviews - are the ones who feel passionate - one way or the other and feel the need to post. Certainly my own son, who had a fabulous experience, has never posted a public word anywhere. And I’m sure that is true of the majority of the students. It’s not the kind of school which attracts the kind of students who feel compelled to post about it.

Are the hipsters cliquey? Most likely. Are they the entire student body? No. Is the food bad? I’ve heard it’s improved, and there is the Bard Farm now - but no, people don’t choose Bard for the cafeteria. Which is why it’s nice to have a dorm with a common kitchen. There are some great farmer’s markets and health food stores in the area with local cheeses, produce, salumi etc. This is the Hudson Valley which is rich with great food. Is the campus depressing? Winter can be depressing. There’s no two ways around that. Cold, dark, muddy, damp. Coming from Florida it will be a huge change. My son came from California and he never got used to winter or how depressed people seemed to be by it - compared to what he was used to. But the flip side to that? Spring! Amazing spring. The seasons themselves have become a huge influence on his perception of the world. Something he was barely conscious of at home. There are also beautiful hiking trails, a campus waterfall and swimming hole, sculptures scattered around the campus, views of the Hudson and Catskills, glorious sunsets and incredible starry skies (no urban lights to distract.) Social life? Well, it’s not a party school and there are no fraternities. But there are lots of concerts on campus, films, dance & theater productions, lectures etc. And, truthfully, many Bard students just like to hang out with other talking, sharing their passions. But if that’s not for you, it’s important to know now.

I think your concern about Bard being isolated is warranted. And, being a student of color, I know it can be a concern to be off in a remote rural area - in the woods, really. That’s not for everyone. On the other hand, I always think of Bard like an Artists Colony - one of those magical rural retreats where artists go to create. If that’s appealing to you, then Bard will suit you.

(Feel free to PM me. Also, be sure to sit in on classes during your visit!)

Good choice to visit Loonytunes… Our S arrived early spent the whole day and engaged everyone he could …from students, new and upperclass, to teachers and even asked cafeteria workers and security guards what the students were like…Yes he got the feeling they were more singular and not so communal or outgoingly friendly…The negativity that he read about and we as parents were concerned about had a measure of truth. However, the whole package of the visit did leave him thrilled. He felt he could deal with a perceived " loner" sense amongst the students and find his own niche and group. In fact he was so set on Bard that he was ready to commit on Monday… Had it not been for purchased plane tix and a scheduled visit to Oberlin… he would have…

He committed to Oberlin…! He would be fine with Bard but he felt even more connected to Oberlin and the “global” and more inclusive / friendly student body. Academically they are very similar and respected… Have to be completely honest though as he felt somewhat validated by Oberlin with a 60k merit scholarship… unlike Bard … Wanted to share that as a visit can make all of the difference. Godspeed…!

Good luck to your son @parentgeorgia. I’m sure he’ll have a great experience at Oberlin, as he would have at Bard. I don’t blame you or him for that extra pull from the 60K! It’s so nice to feel wanted, let alone to have that money available for other things. Oberlin and Bard attract many of the same type of students - but you may be right that Oberlin has more of a group ethos rather than the focus on the individual. As for ‘global’ does Oberlin really have more international students than Bard? If so, that’s amazing.

@SpiritManager, @parentgeorgia, your comments are helpful here and in other Bard threads. I’m struggling to understand the somewhat frightening descriptions (on CC and in some other social media) of negativity and unfriendly nature of the Bard campus community. It is hard to know what the purported Bard focus on individuality/individual experience vs a more communal experience at another college might mean in day to day student life. My student is also deciding between Bard and Oberlin this week. We’ve visited both campuses - but the difference in student friendliness or community was not obvious to us. Some students do seem to love Bard and I assume have friends. Hypothetically, a focus on individual personal and intellectual growth could be very energizing and desirable to some students - of course more rewarding if experienced in the company of peers and friends. Can you shed anymore light on the reality behind the Bard stereotype? How does the focus on the individual really play out in campus and social life? Are Bard students primarily loners? Is the social life dominated by small exclusive cliques?

I think it’s going to depend on your student. My son made fantastic friendships almost from the first day, that continue to this day, a few years out of school now. He never ever lacked for friends. And all his friends I’ve met - I would love to have them as my friends. I guess they’re ‘my people.’ They’re interesting, engaged, passionate, and, yes, a bit unpredictable. I don’t know what they’re going to say before they speak. I happen to like that.

He played baseball - so a group there. He founded a musical ensemble and played in the orchestra - groups there. He met with Classics study groups (small groups, certainly :slight_smile: ) He was involved with theatrical productions - more group activities there! He did Contra dancing for fun. Never joined the Georgian chorus, but plenty of friends did. In other words, he had just as many group activities as he wanted and needed. My son is not a partier, however. He is not into drinking, or other enhancements. He gets his excitement from talking to friends, hiking, looking at the stars, playing board/card games, reading books, and, of course, exploring his various intellectual passions. Does that make him more of a loner than someone who prefers group activities - probably. He would have hated to be forced to be a joiner if he didn’t feel like it.

I really don’t know the reality of the stereotype - never having been a student there myself. My only guess is that there are often students attracted to Bard who are introspective & self reflective, which may in the long winter, lead to a kind of depression. Is this what you’re thinking of? You know, those poet and artist stereotypes!

Oh, as for unfriendly - my son comes from the West Coast - people do smile at strangers on the street here. And they tend to be friendly in the Midwest, too. But whenever I visit New England I’m always struck that people aren’t quite as open and friendly as I’m used to. I wonder whether schools like Oberlin have a more friendly vibe because they’re more Midwestern? @bloodmoon what is your student used to? How hard is it for him/her to make friends? Do they need/want a group social scene? And, most important of all, what do they want to study, and how intensely?

@SpiritManager Your insight is helpful. Perhaps the difference in stereotypes does draw from the differences in typical Midwest friendliness vs Northeast reserve and the relative different emphasis - on artists at Bard vs the political and social “change the World” focus at Oberlin. Oberlin provided more access to current students during their visit day and Bard provided more access to faculty via a panel. On a Saturday at Bard, we were not able to visit classes or watch the ordinary students going to or from classes. So, given the Bard stereotype on social media, I was wondering if we had missed something worrisome.

This is not meant to criticize Oberlin. However, despite a more open and bubbly student vibe, at Oberlin we observed many students smoking cigarettes, and saw several “emo - black trench coat” loners - and the smell of pot was obvious in some residences. Another college review website that I can’t name on CC, describes the ideal Oberlin student as “If you’re a liberal, artsy, indie loner who likes to throw around the phrase ‘heteronormative white privilege,’ then Oberlin might be the place for you.” On CC recently a student comparing Grinnell, Pitzer and Oberlin described an uncomfortable overnight visit with a very negative Oberlin student host. The Oberlin student newspaper recently ran an article about a campus mental health survey that reported 45% of Oberlin students feeling overwhelmed with depression. These observations and descriptions of Oberlin sound a lot like the negative stereotype of Bard students - yet Oberlin is frequently referred to as friendlier. I think some student life issues are just common across schools.

We are from the Northeast. The typical midwest openness vs our usual northeast reserve is noticeable and perhaps reassuringly nice when considering a new environment - but not something that my student was specifically seeking. They are undecided about a major, but interested in a mix of social studies, philosophy, art history, film and music. The intensity at Bard is very appealing! Yes, my student is a social joiner - but also very introspective and is looking forward to the freedom to join groups and activities solely based on personal interest rather than high school - college application/resume padding.

Lots to think about. Thank you for your thoughts.

I think SpiritManager makes a very good point about Northeast vs. Midwest. I grew up in the Northeast and live there now, but I lived in the Midwest for several years, and the difference is palpable. Midwesterners are friendly from the get-go. Northeasterners are much more wary, especially New Englanders. The flip side, as one of my transplanted friends said, is once you make a friend in New England, they will probably be your friend for life. Given that Bard has a large chunk of students from the Northeast, that may account for some of the feelings.

My daughter was seriously considering Bard, but just signed on the dotted line for another college. During her decision making process, I reached out to a younger colleague who is a Bard grad. She also asked my questions to several of her classmates. For the most part, they loved Bard. None of them are partiers/big group people, but all are friendly and like to do things like visit historic sites, play board games, seek out kitschy roadside America stuff, and other quirky, non-mainstream stuff. They said that there is definitely a hipster, pot-smoking contingent at Bard, but the great thing was that these folks didn’t pressure them to do anything or be a certain way. They felt that at Bard you could do whatever - whether it was nerdy, straight-laced stuff or drinking and pot - and no one would bat an eye or think less of you.

There isn’t a rah-rah school spirit, which may be why some students don’t like it, and it definitely attracts introverts, but that is the perfect sort of place for some students.