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Academics FAQs

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Are you an accredited school?
Yes, Bard College at Simon’s Rock is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

What does a ‘liberal arts’ education mean?
Simon’s Rock is a college of the liberal arts and sciences, which means that students here undertake a rigorous curriculum in all the disciplines. Simon’s Rock offers strong programs in the sciences and quantitative analysis, as well as in the social sciences, humanities and the arts. During the first two years at Simon’s Rock, all students are working toward their Associate’s degree, which requires a course in each of the following: arts, science, math, Cultural Perspectives (which might be in one of several fields), and two consecutive semesters of a foreign language. The AA also requires completion of Writing & Thinking Workshop (during Orientation), the three-semester Seminar sequence, Health & Wellness program workshops and two RAP credits (Recreational Athletic Program – anything from joining the swim team to hiking to taking a yoga class). It’s an extraordinarily well-rounded education with lots of room for interdisciplinary study. Students are also encouraged to start taking classes in their area of interest right away, and can work on increasing and deepening their knowledge of a particular field even before they choose a concentration for their BA degree.

A liberal arts education fosters curiosity as it challenges students to think deeply and critically, to develop original ideas, and to engage with the ideas of others.  Exposure to a broad array of disciplines develops in students the ability to see things from multiple perspectives, to make connections across different topics and fields, and to adapt.  Simon's Rock students learn how to learn, and they learn to ask insightful questions.  All of these skills are critical to both professional success and engaged citizenship in the interconnected and rapidly changing world of the 21st century.

What is the core curriculum? What courses are students required to take to complete the Associate of Arts degree? The BA degree?
The requirements for the AA degree are the successful completion of 60 credits of course work including the Writing and Thinking Workshop, First-Year and Sophomore Seminars, a Cultural Perspectives course (in one of a number of disciplines), an arts course, a math course, an approved science course, work in a foreign language, RAP courses (Recreational Athletic Program – anything from joining the swim team to hiking to taking a yoga class), and the Health and Wellness Program.

The BA requirements include completion of a Simon’s Rock AA degree, Moderation, upper-level work in a chosen concentration and a senior thesis.

The Workshop—a five day intensive for first-year students held prior to the start of the fall semester—is a common experience that provides foundational skills in critical reading and writing. The workshops set the stage for the kind of interdisciplinary, intensive work students will tackle during their time at Simon’s Rock. Faculty members from nearly all disciplines lead sections of 12-13 students in short writing activities, critical reading exercises, and group discussions about the texts at hand, developing a common vocabulary that will serve students as they continue to examine material and articulate ideas in their first Simon’s Rock courses.

All Bard College at Simon’s Rock students are required to participate in the two semester First-Year Seminar, an examination of many of the works that have shaped the tradition of Western writing. Students examine the classic works of Sophocles, Plato, Dante, Shakespeare, Austen, and others, accompanied by a variety of articles, essays, poems, and stories. Students develop a critical eye, understanding these works through study in which they analyze the human situations, emotions, conflicts, and questions that have engaged great writers over the centuries. The seminar focuses on themes of self-discovery, the relationship of the individual and society, and the nature of values and responsibility.

During the second year as part of the one-semester Sophomore Seminar, students read the works of Darwin, Nietzsche, Tagore, DuBois, Woolf, Kafka, Marx, and other 19th and 20th century thinkers whose perspectives shifted radically from prescribed social norms. With readings supplemented by lectures and writing assignments, students continue to hone the skills gathered in the course of the first year. Sophomore Seminar helps provide not only knowledge in innovations of modern thought, but also encourages students to consider their own ideas and the view they have on the world.

What concentrations of study does Simon’s Rock offer?
Bard College at Simon's Rock offers more than forty concentrations in which students might focus their BA work. As a liberal arts institution, we offer strong programs in the sciences, quantitative studies, the social sciences, languages and literature, and the arts. You can find the complete list of concentrations and overviews of each program here.

In selecting classes and programs that will fulfill the requirements of their chosen concentration, Simon’s Rock BA students pursue a remarkably individualized and interdisciplinary course of study culminating in a year-long senior thesis project.

What is Moderation?
The Sophomore Review Process is geared toward helping students decide the best plan for their BA program. Students are asked to reflect on their time at Simon’s Rock, and think critically about how the work they’ve engaged in might inform their future educational and career plans. Students receive a great deal of support and guidance through this process by their advisors, trusted professors and members of the Win Resource Commons.

Students intending to earn their BA at Simon’s Rock go through a process called Moderation into the Upper College – a formal review of strengths and weaknesses, plans and goals. Together with a faculty advisor, students meet with a Moderation Committee of faculty members familiar with the student’s work. Students choose a concentration (Simon’s Rock offers over forty concentrations), and discuss possibilities for the junior year that may include participation in a Signature Program, study abroad, or an internship. Students also begin to think about what direction their senior year thesis project might take.

How is Bard College at Simon's Rock different than Bard College in Annandale, NY?
Bard College at Simon’s Rock is part of the Bard College system, which also includes our sister school in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Simon’s Rock is located on a separate campus about 40 miles away in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. (The Bard system also includes two high school/early college programs in New York City and several programs and initiatives worldwide. See the full list of affiliated institutions here.)

We share a strong liberal arts philosophy, and a unique educational framework that includes the Writing & Thinking workshop, the process of Moderation and the Freshman Seminar model. We also share a president (Leon Botstein). Both Simon’s Rock and Bard College in New York are four-year residential liberal arts colleges, but Simon’s Rock is geared specifically for bright, motivated students who are ready for college after 10th or 11th grade, while Bard in New York serves traditionally aged college students.

You can read more about the history of Simon’s Rock and the affiliation with Bard elsewhere on our site. Students at Simon’s Rock can take classes at Bard, have access to the resources the Bard system offers both here and abroad, and can apply to transfer to Bard after earning their AA.

What about my high school diploma?
Bard College at Simon’s Rock is a four-year college of the liberal arts & sciences that awards a two-year Associate’s degree and a four-year Bachelor’s degree. Simon’s Rock students do not complete high school coursework here, but are instead engaged in a college learning environment right away. You can read more about the academic program here.

Students do not receive a high school diploma from Simon’s Rock; however, some students work with their home high schools to transfer credits back toward a high school diploma. Some students take the GED in their first or second year at Simon’s Rock. A high school diploma or its equivalent can be helpful to those students who choose to transfer and plan to apply for financial aid at another institution. Many of our students opt not to pursue a high school diploma or GED and find that with the completion of their AA and BA degrees, the same broad range of employment and graduate study opportunities remain open to them.

Ultimately, it is up to your school administrators to decide whether to transfer credits from Bard College at Simon’s Rock toward a high school diploma. We are always happy to talk with counselors (and principals and teachers) about early college at Simon’s Rock, the academic program here and how other schools have approached transferring credits.