Bard College

One of the best liberal arts colleges in the United States

Located in the hamlet of Annandale-on-Hudson in New York State, Bard College sprawls along the river and its campus covers 1000 acres of rural land, which blends historical Hudson Estate mansions with innovative post modernist and collegiate-Gothic architecture.

A private liberal arts college, ranked 54th in the whole USA, Bard College is renowned for its programs in fine arts and performing arts and has many quirks which distinguish it from similar educational institutions. Bard places 4th in the listings of most innovative universities (2023) and comes 25th in the rankings of best undergraduate teaching (2023).

How is Bard College different from other US universities?

Bard College has been test-optional for the last 50 years, so ACT and SAT standardised tests are not required.

It welcomes home-schooled students and, as well as accepting applications through the Common App, it offers the Bard College Entrance Exam as another option for gaining a place on a course.

Students cannot graduate if, in their first year, they have not completed:

  • a Citizen Science program
  • attended the First Year Seminar
  • taken part in the Language and Thinking program which is run three weeks before the first term, and covers philosophy, science, poetry and religion
  • Bard requires its students to go through Moderation at the end of their second year of studies, and thereby move up from Lower College to Upper College. Three faculty members decide whether to approve, reject or defer this promotion, and it is at this point that Bard students discuss and decide on their Major.
  • The last year of your degree is spent on completing your Senior Project, which is judged by a board of three professors
  • Bard is where Hannah Arendt, the political thinker and theorist, was buried. A political refugee, who fled the second world war, Hannah taught at Bard
  • Bard has over 120 clubs, which are funded by Convocation. Student representatives sit on the board deciding which activities will be funded, and then the matter is debated in a public forum
  • Bard was the first US university to offer a degree course in Human Rights
  • Bard runs self-funded outreach programs in five prisons in New York State under the Bard Prison Initiative

What is the Senior Project?

The Senior Project is the culmination of all you have learned over your four years at Bard College. Students prepare for undertaking the project through discussion groups, seminars and tutorials.

Depending on what you are studying, you could put on an exhibition, write an 80-page reflective essay, choreograph and produce a dance performance or make a film etc. Social science and mathematics students normally carry out independent research studies for their project.

Since the emphasis at Bard is on integrated learning and complementary education, you are free to draw any strands together to create your final piece. This will be judged by three Bard professors and is an integral part of gaining your degree. You need to get 128 credits for a bachelor’s degree, which works out at 16 per term – Bard runs a two-term academic year.

What is Moderation at Bard?

Students do not simply move from one year to the next automatically at Bard College. At the end of their second year, they come together with faculty members, to review their educational journey to date. Students have to produce two papers.

The first looks back at their curriculum and their learning experience. The second essay looks forward, into the future, and sets out targets and aims and proposals for a study plan. In addition, each student must show a sample of their work to date. The student’s record, plans and work will be evaluated and, if the board accepts the quality of what they have produced and the study path they have chosen, they move on to Upper College.

What courses can I study at Bard?

  • Engineering
  • Forestry and Environmental Management
  • Economics and Finance
  • Conservatory of Music
  • Arts
  • Language and Literature
  • Science, Maths and Computing
  • Social Studies
  • Interdivisional programs and concentrations

Getting into Bard – the Entrance Exam

If you decide to sit Bard’s online entrance exam, you will have to do it by 1 November – and will receive the result by mid-December.

The exam is made up of 19 essay questions in four categories: social sciences, literature, the arts and science and maths. Applicants must choose three topics from different categories and write a 2,500 word essay on each. If you score B+, you are likely to be offered a place at Bard.

If you decide to do the essay exam, you will also need to send in high school transcripts and a general reference letter from your current secondary school.

You can apply for:

  • Early Action – non-binding
  • Early Decision – binding
  • Regular Decision
  • Immediate Decision – note that interviews are part of the process if you make this choice 

Day-long session – which may be virtual or in person.

Does Bard offer financial aid?

Although Bard College is need-aware, and provides scholarships based on need and NOT on merit, the university clearly spells out that its financial assistance is limited. Bard will tell you if it cannot provide you with tuition fee help, so that you can choose another university.

International students who have the academic requirements and can show that they have the funds to cover costs are generally offered a place.

Applications for financial aid have to be submitted by 1 November and 65 percent of Bard students receive some form of help. International students are eligible for both scholarships and loans. In 2023, the average scholarship was $57,693– which is approximately 61 per cent of the costs associated with attending Bard College.

How much does it cost to attend Bard?

Tuition feesUSD 62,790 (2023-4)
Room and boardUSD 18,040
Campus health service feesUSD 470
Security depositUSD 225
Tuition insurance planUSD 816
Health insurance planUSD 3362

English language proficiency requirements

Bard accepts IELTS and requires a score of 7 or above. In TOEFL you are expected to score 600.

Does Bard have its own accommodation?

Yes, Bard College has 50 student residences on campus, with one-third of the rooms being single-occupancy. Each residence has communal areas, Wi-Fi, a kitchen and laundry facilities.

What is Bard’s acceptance rate?

65 per cent.

How many students attend Bard, New York State?

Approximately 2171 undergraduates and postgraduates. The total number of Bard students is far higher because of its international links, dual degree programmes and Bard affiliates across the world.

What activities does Bard offer on campus?

As a liberal arts university, Bard runs a wide range of activities, produces plays, exhibitions, concerts and shows, publishes human rights and literary magazines, and has a lively student theatre and independent music scene – indeed, two of the founders of Steely Dan studied at Bard, as did Chevy Chase, Blythe Danner, Christopher Guest, the amazing Roy Lichtenstein and Gia Coppola. Bard also fields a number of sporting teams, and offers a wide range of sports ,from lacrosse to baseball, basketball to rugby, and has excellent sports facilities.

I am interested in applying to Bard, what is the next step?

As you have gathered by now, the sheer number of options offered by Bard is both exciting and challenging. Do you want to use Common App or sit the entrance exam? Are you looking for a course which is partly run abroad or at another US university? What type of subjects do you want to study, and are you keener on a single-focus degree or concentrations? These and many other factors all need careful discussion, and Elab offers you guidance and a sounding board, and will help you choose the best path through the riches and opportunities offered by Bard.

Call us or drop us an email and we will work together to make the right decision for you and your future career.

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