Uni in the USA review
Bard is perched on the edge of a small town overlooking the Hudson River in upstate New York, and is a college of liberal arts and sciences. Students here are focused on finding their place in the world, not just a career, and they are strongly encouraged to pursue personal as well as academic interests.
Students sometimes moan about the claustrophobic size or the distant location of the school, but with the immense beauty of the campus it’s difficult to pity them. The park-like grounds include two historic estates, more than 500 acres of fields and forested land, and views of the Hudson River below and the Catskill Mountains to the west.
And if you fancy a big city getaway, the train to NYC takes a little more than an hour and a half from nearby Rhinecliff.
On the whole Bard is a fairly tight-knit community. Known as one of the most liberal in the country, the student body is famous for tolerance and welcomes a wide continuum of applicants across gender, sexuality, race (even political leaning). Bard students are known to be very involved politically and socially (evident from the number of protests and fundraisers) – they do not let the college bubble keep them from staying fiercely involved with events in the outside world.
Smoking (both tobacco and marijuana) is very prevalent and one of the main sources of complaint from students, and a few have had seriously unpleasant run-ins with substance abuse. The support network is largely respected and able to help in most situations.
Hitting The Books
Like most liberal arts colleges, Bard offers the bachelor of arts degree – with concentrations in more than 40 academic programmes in four divisions (arts, languages and literature; science, mathematics and computing; and social studies). The faculty – student ratio is 1:9, so students have all the advantages and perks of intimate classes and personal relationships with professors.
First years have a mandatory year-long general reading and writing course that covers great works and thinkers through history, studied chronologically, providing students with an invaluable breadth and background to their other studies.
A major Senior Year project forms the “capstone” for all students at Bard; this varies by department but generally provides scope for lengthy research, writing and even performance endeavours, critiqued by the faculty before the student is accepted to graduate.
Overall, academics are extremely rigorous but flexible, aiming to push students to be ambitious in their efforts and especially to develop their critical thinking faculties. Be warned that the traditional focus on arts and social sciences are increasingly being balanced by a new trend towards lab sciences for nonscientists.
Although the campus is fairly isolated in terms of location, it’s difficult to get claustrophobic – the overwhelming number of on-campus events provide plenty of opportunity to get out and find your passion. The annual Bard SummerScape and Bard Music Festival, both held on campus, are acclaimed arts events attracting top creators from around the world. Strong student music and theatre scenes help keep things buzzing the rest of the year.
There’s also a range of great student-run newspapers, journals, zines, and even an all-purpose cafe/library/venue/”Infoshop” called the Root Cellar, home of vegan food, radical politics and egalitarian discussion groups. The healthy life style is rounded off by a range of campus sports (teams are known as the Bard Raptors), of which the most popular is in fact rugby (for both men and women).
Over half of Bard students study abroad for at least a semester. There are also great opportunities to spend time at Bard’s affiliated (and often very intensive) programs at the Rockefeller University in NYC, or on the Globalization and International Affairs Program, which includes internships in international relations and human rights fields. Also in the Big Apple, the exciting and/or terrifying Bard Prison Initiative gives students the chance to volunteer at jails to tutor inmates.
AT A GLANCE – Application & Test Options:
– Early Action, Early Decision, Regular Decision
– SAT/ACT Test-optional
Admission is fairly competitive (30�ceptance rate) but standardised testing (the SAT or ACT) is not one of the admission requirements – so if you’re not a great test-taker, this may be a relief.
A large percentage of Bard students are given financial aid, all of which is need based, and many grants are available to international students. What’s really great is that you are automatically considered for these when you apply, and they cover all four years of college (assuming you continue to meet the requirements).
Chevy Chase – Comedian, writer, TV and film actor
Walter Becker – ‘Steely Dan’ musician