Middlebury College (visited 4/14/14)
The director of admissions described Middlebury as a “quaint, quintessential small new England Liberal Arts College – but we’re not content just to be that.” They’re working to expand both programs and buildings and programs. For example, they’re expanding their relationship with the Prose Foundation for students interested in STEM programs. They also have new study abroad offerings in India and Cameroon with more being added all the time.
They are currently downsizing because they have actually overenrolled over the last few years and are hovering just under 2,500 students. This year, they brought in 575 new freshmen and 85 new in February. Middlebury’s mid-year enrollment has been around a lot longer than other schools who have recently started up the trend, and it remains popular here; the term “Febs” is a common word in the vernacular to refer to these students. Middlebury provides as good an orientation for them as for those starting in the fall, and the Febs cohort becomes close. Because many of them also graduate mid-year, they hold a “Ski Bowl graduation” (and they’re also welcome to walk in the spring).
This year, apps were down by about 10% but overall have doubled in the last 10 years. Their main overlaps include Bowdoin, Williams, Brown, and Dartmouth. One of the admissions reps said that size is the difference; it offsets the location. Most students live on campus; they can apply to move off during junior or senior year, but usually don’t. They have Social Houses (their version of Learning Living Communities) in which students can propose the themes. All students are on the all-you-can-eat meal plan, so they can come and go as they want. The tour guide said that this was great for when they want a cup of coffee or a snack between classes. Two of the dining halls serve all three meals; one only serves breakfast and lunch.
They have a strong honor code, but this has come under scrutiny lately.
Most of the buildings are impressive, and made of gray stone. Campus is sprawling and well-maintained with large grassy areas, occasional sculptures, and some trees that students are happy to put to use for hanging their hammocks. There are lots of bikes on campus which I imagine are useful; the campus is certainly walkable, but also fairly large for the size of the student body. Several students were out and about; many seemed a bit preppy.
Middlebury offers the full range of majors that you would expect at a liberal arts institution with a few unusual additions including Neuroscience; languages such as Hebrew, Arabic, and Japanese (not surprising since they’re known for their language instruction); History of Art and Architecture (including concentrations in Museum Studies, Architecture and the Environment, and Architectural Studies); and Film and Media Culture. They have a strong involvement in the arts, but many more people participate than will major in theater, music, and dance. Several students participate in the Potomac Theater Project. They have to audition to participate as an actor or technician, but if they they’re accepted, they spend 6-8 weeks in NYC during the summer to work with equity actors. Mostly juniors and seniors go, but sometimes sophomores are accepted.