BWW Blog: Why I Decided on Bard College
When I first started the college search process, I was theater all the way. Although I was very serious about academics in high school, nothing could compare to my passion for theater. My high school was a performing arts school. I majored in drama and spent all of my afternoons in school in theater classes and rehearsals. Knowing that a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) program would have me in theater classes for the majority of the time, I started looking for such programs that I thought would be the perfect fit for me.
I was born and raised in Connecticut and I was hoping to break away and expand my opportunities. However, I'm very close to my family and it would have been hard to be miles away from them and only be able to afford to see them for Christmas and summer vacation. I therefore knew that New York would be my second home for the next four years. New York City is one of the biggest cultural hubs in today's world, especially for theater. However, I didn't mind going to a school that was in Long Island or in upstate New York instead. As long as I was easily able to travel to the city and/or have connections to people who work extensively there. Plus, I have relatives all throughout New York who I'm very close to.
Now a majority of the BFA schools I applied to had a competitive audition process. I didn't really give myself a whole lot of safeties. On top of this, a couple of these schools were also tough to get into academically. While I had really good grades, my test scores were not at all anything to brag about. By mid-fall of my senior year, I was feeling pretty stressed out. I was starting to feel less and less confident about going into the application and audition process with the list I currently had. I then met with my guidance counselor to discuss the dilemma I was facing. He encouraged me to find a few test optional schools that I could apply to and to perhaps expand my horizons a bit when searching for these schools. Maybe not just rely on a BFA.
This is how I came across Bard College. Well actually, I stumbled across the school's website a year or two beforehand but soon pushed it aside once I saw it was BA (Bachelor of Arts) only. This time, I was a bit more desperate. So I took much more time to explore what Bard had to offer. I soon fell in love with the school and immediately started my application. I was a little concerned with the acceptance rate (37% when I first looked it up though this may fluctuate) but I knew I had to take the chance if this was a place I could really see myself at. I was so excited when I learned that I was accepted and after finding out my decisions from the other schools I applied to, I put down my deposit and committed to Bard College. So what was it about Bard that made me want to complete my undergraduate education there?
Bard College is located in Annandale on Hudson, New York. However, the only thing in Annandale is the college itself (besides the Hudson River). There are a few small towns nearby though, along with a couple of bigger ones with more "civilization" one can travel to by car. Although there were a few occasions where I wondered if the small town I grew up in was bigger than the nearby towns of Tivoli and Red Hook, I ended up realizing, especially after completing a summer theater intensive in New York City, that if I went to school in a city, I would be broke within a few weeks after all of the sight seeing and shopping that I would do. A small town helped me maintain a budget. When I was able to spend some money on non-essentials though, I discovered some really amazing local businesses such as retail stores and restaurants that I would recommend to anyone traveling through the area.
Because Bard only offers a BA degree in Theater, I had to take at least one class in each of the nine distribution requirements along with a class that completes the Difference and Justice requirement. However, I actually ended up having to obtain 40 credits outside the DIVISION of my major (in my case, these would have to be outside the division of the arts). With all of these requirements, I knew that Bard truly wanted to provide us with a well-rounded education and have us consider a variety of academic topics within our majors. These actually weren't our only requirements though. In August of freshman year, all incoming students have to complete Language and Thinking, an intensive reading and writing program. Also during freshman year, we have to complete the Citizen Science program in January and one of the classes we're required to take is First Year Seminar. In the seminar, we read and discuss texts that will be relevant to our education as we advance through the college. In our senior year, we have to complete a project based on the requirements within our major. In my case, I had the opportunity to write and produce a full-length show with a cast and crew and then write a small thesis about the experience. It can be rigorous and these definitely take up a lot time, but Bard College really wants to prepare us for a college education regardless of our backgrounds and to eventually have the ability to be a leader in whatever field we decide to pursue.
But what is their theater program like? Also very rigorous. We have to take five introductory classes in theater by the spring of our sophomore year. By that time, we have to present a small project to the theater faculty who will determine if we "moderate" into the major or not. It seems nerve wrecking, but at the same time, it's really assuring to know whether we have potential in theater or not. After this, we have to take at least two classes in three different specialized areas and complete our senior project. All of the theater classes at Bard are in depth and its faculty has extensive theater experience especially in New York City and internationally. Each fall and spring, a faculty member or a guest artist comes to direct a mainstage production. While the most recent production, Mad Forest, was unable to be performed in person due to COVID-19, the cast and crew moved forward with an online performance which was then revived by Theater for a New Audience in Brooklyn for three more of them. The majority of performances however, come from the creativity of the students. Whether it's a production with the student run Old Gym Theater or one through a student run club, Bard gives us the challenging yet inspiring opportunity to determine for ourselves what kind of art we want to show to the rest of the student body. During my time at Bard, a non-male dance/burlesque collective was born, the Shakespeare club was revived and there are now musical theatre performances all year round. This is just a small percentage of the amazing work done by students. At Bard, we become more than prepared to create our own work and give a voice to the work that we feel strongly needs one.
So that's why I chose Bard College in the end. It may not be a BA program and is a little rural for a place like New York, but that doesn't make it any less amazing. It may not be an Ivy League or a household name but its academics are top notch in practically every major they offer, including theater. This is truly a school where we're trained to not only become talented theater professionals, but also smart ones. I feel prepared to enter the theater world in every and any capacity thanks to Bard College. This small yet bustling community of students and faculty has inspired me to go above and beyond in my theatrical pursuits and if the opportunity that I want isn't already there, I know from Bard that I can just create it myself. I encourage all high school students applying for college to take a look at Bard College. It's truly a hidden gem and offers opportunities one can't find anywhere else.