Bard College at Simon's Rock: the Early College
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Understanding Early College

Simon’s Rock is college now for motivated younger students ready to realize their intellectual and creative potential.

Watch video: Why Simon’s Rock

Our students typically enter Simon’s Rock after finishing 10th or 11th grade, which means that they skip the last year or two of high school and arrive at Simon’s Rock without diplomas. They make a deliberate break from the standard academic track to dive straight into college at an age when most of their peers are just heading into their junior or senior years of high school.

But Simon’s Rock is not some kind of “halfway” college or an unconventional prep school. It’s a rigorous four-year institution accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, part of the prestigious Bard network, and regularly recognized for its excellence (ranked #7 in the Princeton Review’s top 20 schools with the most highly rated faculty; ranked #4 for the most innovative school and #5 for best undergraduate teaching by U.S. News & World Report.; students awarded 10 Fulbright fellowships since 2010).

We know this path is not for everyone, but for those who make the leap, choosing early college at Simon’s Rock has been demonstrated over 50 years to give our students a head start on finding and pursuing their passions — and to set them up for a lifetime of personal and professional success.

Early College Ready

early college ready

The time to undertake a challenging interdisciplinary college program is the moment a young person is most curious about the world, most driven to ask big questions, and flexible enough in their thinking to make profound connections. For many bright students, that time comes well before a conventional high school track allows.

At Simon’s Rock, our students thrive because they are given the chance to do challenging work in an engaged community at the moment they are ready for it.

Defining “Early College”

“Early college” is a term used to describe a number of different programs. By “early college” some people may mean AP classes or IB programs, or dual enrollment at a high school and college. It is also sometimes used to describe a situation in which a student graduates early and enrolls in college classes with an older cohort.

Early college at Simon’s Rock is different. We’re the only full-time, four-year, highly ranked college of the liberal arts and sciences designed for motivated students ready for college after the 10th or 11th grade.

If it’s the right decision for you, you’ll leave high school (a diploma isn’t required) and start college.

Deciding if early college is right for your child? Listen to the stories of other Simon’s Rock families.

The admission process is just that — a process. We’ll work together to decide if the right time for college is now.

amanda johnson

I think it’s a really bold move to do something different. It’s a big leap to make, but once you’re here, there’s so much support that it feels like an easy transition.

-Amanda ’11

It’s Not About Grades

While many Rockers were academic stars in high school, some were students who failed to prosper under the limits and constraints of the typical high school experience—students who did not flourish academically until they got to Simon’s Rock. We examine each applicant holistically when evaluating college-readiness, looking for students who aren’t motivated by grades or acing the test, but who are instead motivated by ideas, by the prospect of knowing more, making connections, surprising themselves, and applying their brains to thorny problems and complicated issues.

 Meet Our Students

The Full College Experience

Simon’s Rock is a small, intensive college of the liberal arts and sciences specifically designed to offer students a broad-minded, paradigm-shifting college education after the 10th or 11th grade. We take young minds seriously enough to offer a full college experience beyond what they might get from an AP/IB class or a test that duplicates college textbook material, offering over 40 concentrations (our version of majors), plus a large (and ever-evolving) selection of special programs, internships, and study-abroad opportunities.

See for yourself what the academic experience at Simon’s Rock looks like.


A Community of Peers

students on a blanket
Our students join a diverse, tight-knit community of their intellectual and chronological peers. We’re a community of individuals, but nobody is an outlier here because of their age, or their decision to seek greater academic challenges.

Support Where It Counts

Our students benefit from the guidance of talented and dedicated faculty and the support of experienced Student Life staff. It’s a support system thoughtfully conceived to help younger college students find their footing and make their way into adulthood.

One decision, unlimited possibilities

Watch video: Life After Simon's Rock

Rockers know that once you have your BA or AA without finishing high school, you’ve received all the credentials you’ll need to meet your educational and professional goals. Grad schools and employers may want to know your story, but they’re most interested in how well prepared you are for the challenges ahead, not whether you have a high school diploma. Starting college early at Simon’s Rock gives our students many more options for completing their studies and pursuing their goals. They’re ready, earlier, and have the degrees to prove it.

Fifty Years of Early College Innovation

Fifty years ago, Simon’s Rock was founded as the nation’s first early college, and we’ve been an innovative leader ever since. We are a proud member of the Bard network, and have helped shape a vision for early college that sets the highest standards for excellence and exceeds expectations for student support.

Leon Botstein

[Our society] delay[s] a serious engagement with intellectual material — science, art, literature, history — too long. And so, when they arrive at college at 18, in my view, we have lost some of the best years of the life of a young person who wants to learn.

-Leon Botstein,
President of Bard College at Simon’s Rock