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'Dimensional' Admissions

Bennington will give applicants complete control over how they want to present themselves, and becomes second college this month to become transcript-optional.

September 25, 2014
 
Hung Bui of Bennington

Bennington College on Wednesday announced a new option for undergraduate applicants in which they themselves determine entirely what to send or not send for consideration.

The college was already test-optional and a member of the Common Application, and will continue to accept applications that way. But a new "dimensional admissions" option will let students create their entire application portfolio (including transcripts from high school only if they wish).

There will be no suggested format except for this broad prompt: “We invite you to share with us a collection of your work that speaks to these capacities and creates a portrait of what you bring to the Bennington community. We invite you to be deeply thoughtful. We invite you to be bold. We invite you to bring your own dimension to the college application.”

Bennington officials said that in the same way that the college encourages students to be creative and to think for themselves, the college now wants to see how applicants demonstrate those qualities.

A panel of faculty members and Bennington alumni will review the applications that are submitted this way. Their charge will be to evaluate applicants based on how their submission -- in whatever form -- shows "the ability to create and revise work, dexterity with words and numbers, inventiveness, intrinsic motivation, and the capacity to apply ... understanding to new situations," as well as on other qualities.

A spokeswoman from Bennington said that a high school transcript (which would be part of a review under the Common Application) could be submitted by an applicant using the dimensional approach, but that this was not required.

Bennington's announcement comes the same month that Goucher College announced that it was creating a new admissions option. At Goucher, applicants may submit a two-minute video and two pieces of work done in high school instead of everything else, including the high school transcript. While some experts praised the idea as innovative (and it attracted considerable attention), others said that a high school transcript is in fact necessary to effectively evaluate applicants.

In 2013, Bard College introduced an option for applicants to apply using only essays -- four 2,500-word research papers -- and the college has been pleased with the results.

Hung Bui, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at Bennington, said via email that he expected most applicants to continue to use the Common Application and to submit transcripts.

On the issue admitting students without high school transcripts, Bui said that "whatever application students are using, the Common App or the dimensional application, we require that they demonstrate a record of academic achievement to be admitted to Bennington." He added that "transcripts are one way to communicate a student's capacity to work hard and consistently. We are open to reviewing other materials, in addition or in place of a transcript, that demonstrate those same qualities."

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