Most students have their “how I met Simon’s Rock” story down. And it’s always interesting, as last year’s senior class speaker Skyler Balbus noted. Take senior Nikki Tennerman. She discovered Bard College at Simon’s Rock in seventh grade, reading the book Hush. Senior Kori Higgins learned about the College after being pulled aside by a judge during a Model U.N. conference in high school. It gets better. This act was his way of repaying a World War II debt to the doctor who saved his life—a Bard alumnus who asked the grateful soldier to tell students about his alma mater. Some found the campus through a mailer; heard about the early college from a person who knew someone who knew someone; or from alumni; or in a news report; or they saw first-hand what Simon’s Rock was all about from a sibling. The “how I found Simon’s Rock” stories are as diverse as the students, but the “why I’m here” story is almost always the same: it was the education I’d been waiting for, longing for, hoping to find for a very long time.
This May, like every May, many students will graduate from Simon’s Rock with an AA degree and a transfer plan. Just like Nikki Tennerman and Kori Higgins and Eden Chubb and Tom Kotarba and Darcy McCusker and Jessica Lee, these graduates will probably be sure about one thing: they aren’t coming back. “There was no question for me, I had a plan, this was a done deal,” Nikki recalls. Eden was more concrete. “There was no chance in Hell I’d be back.” Kori: “Nope, not coming back, definitely not going to happen—it was firm.” Here’s the thing. It’s not that these students wanted to leave so badly, it was more that they were sure about where they were going and how to get there.
“I believed that my interests would always be the same and that my goals in life would never change,” says Jessica. “I wanted to be a cellist at a music conservatory and that was it.” So it made perfect sense to transfer to New York University, Steinhardt School of Culture and Education.
Kori, a pre-law concentration, transferred to Mount Holyoke. “It was one of the best law programs out there and I saw a lot of networking and internship potential on the campus.” For Kori, this was a major pull. She was a student clearly priming for a notable political career, so networking and opportunities were important. “In politics, you need to get your foot in the door,” she says. “And Mount Holyoke is known to offer spectacular internships.”
Eden was looking to get into the world of animation, but really, “I was smitten with San Francisco,” she says. For her, the decision was a no-brainer after she found the Academy of Art University, which just so happens to have a massive animation department.
Tom grew up in Great Barrington and the area charm began to wear with time. “I wanted to study and live in New York City and leave town for a while,” so he transferred to Hunter to continue his film studies.
And Nikki, she was sticking to her plan, one that was mapped long before she even got to campus. “I’d spend two years at Simon’s Rock, work and study hard the entire time and transfer back to Boston (where she grew up),” she says. “That was my plan.” So, she headed off to Wellesley.
Grand plans, big cities, networking at prestigious colleges, and studying at an Ivy League institution are hard opportunities to pass up—especially if you’ve only experienced college at one of the country’s most unique campuses. As Nikki puts it, “Obviously, I think Simon’s Rock is an incredible place,” but she says, “When it comes right down to it, I think Simon’s Rock has an unwarranted inferiority complex. And after a while it gets easy to believe it. I used to think when I transfer I’m going to go to a ‘real college.’ If a professor would assign us a book to read in a day, I thought it would be nothing compared to what kind of work I would get when I got to Wellesley.”
But like all best laid plans, things changed when they got to where they were going—be it San Francisco, NYU, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, the University of Maryland, or New York City. Soon, they would join a growing group of Simon’s Rock students in becoming what are known on campus as “re-admits”: students who transfer from Simon’s Rock and decide to apply for re-admission. It’s a trend that is as unique to Simon’s Rock as its early college mission.
[Visit next month to read the second part of this two part series, which will look at why and how this group of students, along with others, found their way back to campus]