Bard College at Simon’s Rock

I. OVERVIEW

Bard College at Simon’s Rock is a private, four-year college in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Its 435 students enjoy a self-contained campus with 46 buildings on 275 acres in the scenic Berkshire Mountains, 2.5 hours by car from both Boston and New York City. Simon’s Rock was founded in 1966 by Elizabeth Blodgett Hall, admitting only young women in a program that combined the last two years of high school with the first two of college. In 1974, Simon’s Rock added male students, eliminated the high school components, and received accreditation to grant Bachelor of Arts degrees. In 1979, Simon’s Rock became part of Bard College, which is 50 miles away across the Hudson River in New York. Since 2003, the Provost of Simon’s Rock has been Mary Marcy, PhD. Students can obtain a two-year Associate’s degree and transfer to another college, or stay for four years and earn their B.A. degree.

II. ADMISSIONS & COSTS

Admission to Bard College, Simon’s Rock is open to students finishing their sophomore or junior year in high school. There are no required entrance examinations, but many applicants do submit scores from the SAT, the ACT, and Advanced Placement exams. In 2008, 333 students applied to Simon’s Rock, 267 were accepted, and 175 matriculated. For that year, the admit rate was 80.2% and the yield 65.5%, with 48% of the incoming freshmen having ranked in the top 10% of their high school class. In keeping with Simon’s Rock early history as a women’s college, about 60% of the students are female. Over 25% are students of color. Tuition at Simon’s Rock is $41,160 per year, though 80% of the students receive some form of financial aid. The housing fee is $11,450, with meal plan charges similar to those at other private colleges.

III. ACADEMICS

Students can stay four years and earn a Bachelor’s degree, or transfer to another school after two years with an Associate’s degree. The academic ethos at Simon’s Rock is similar to that of the main Bard College campus in Annandale, New York. The day-to-day operations, however, are autonomous. At Simon’s Rock, all freshmen participate in a one-week “critical writing and thinking” program before classes begin in the fall. They repeat the week-long program two more times before they graduate. In addition, Simon’s Rock has a common seminar sequence, in which all students take the same subject at the same time. Like the writing program, this one is repeated two additional times. Similar workshops occur at Bard’s main campus, though in New York the “Writing and Thinking Workshop” is actually three weeks long.
Unlike many private colleges, Simon’s Rock has very little grade inflation. About 80% of the students who matriculate at Simon’s Rock make it through at least the first two years, with 50% of those transferring with an A.A. degree and 50% staying for the full four years to obtain the B.A. Those students who leave often find that they get easy higher grades. Bard College at Simon’s Rock emphasizes a broad-based liberal arts education, but there are also plenty of science classes being taught as well. Sophomores can apply for a “3:2” engineering program with Columbia University, in which they complete three years at Simon’s Rock and two at Columbia. Two to five students per year usually are accepted into the program.
The student:faculty ratio is extremely low at 9:1. The average class size is only 10 students. Professors take attendance in all class, although this is not difficult as the classes are small and many in the community know virtually all the students on campus. Students who stay four years for the B.A. are strongly encouraged to spend part of junior year off campus, whether working, interning, studying as a visitor at another U.S. college, or going abroad. All students at Simon’s Rock, as well as at Bard College, write a senior thesis.

IV. STUDENT LIFE

There are over 400 students at Simon’s Rock. They come from 40 different U.S. states and 10 foreign countries. Roughly 27% are students of color. All first-year students live in one of three dorms at the center of campus. In keeping with their age, which is considerably younger than that of first-year students at traditional colleges, freshmen must be in their own dorms by midnight. There is an adult called a Resident Director (RD) in every dorm, as well as college seniors called Resident Advisors (RA). There are no bed checks, but students must sign out if they are going to spend the night off campus.
Almost all Simon’s Rock students live on campus, but in diverse housing including singles, doubles, suites, apartments, and town houses. Dining is a social experience in a large hall with small, round tables seating 8-10 students. Bard College at Simon’s Rock is extremely tolerant on many different levels. An annual “Diversity Teach-In” allows students, faculty, and staff to collaborate on ways to make the community as inclusive as possible. There is a plethora of student clubs that allow students to pursue there interests, as well as academic concentrations that reenforce diversity such as African American studies, Asian studies, cross-cultural relations, gender studies, and Spanish and Latin American studies.

V. RECRUITING

Bard College at Simon’s Rock slogan, “No other college in the country does what we do,” is accurate on a number of levels. The college reaches out to accelerated students nation-wide and overseas to provide the only four-year, early college program on a self-contained campus that offers a B.A. degree. Two New York City public high school programs administered by Bard College and the Simon’s Rock campus further make Simon’s Rock increasingly better known as the quintessential early college program. The BHSEC (Bard High School Early College) campus in Manhattan’s Lower East side has existed for five years, and the BHSEC campus in Queens for two years.
The university website is http://www.simons-rock.edu/; its email admin@simons-rock.edu. The main switchboard is (413) 644-4400. The mailing address is Bard College at Simon’s Rock, 84 Alford Rd., Great Barrington, MA 01230.