Marlboro College - Comments and Student Experiences|
I came here because I wanted to be somewhere different. I wanted my college to be as beautiful and off-beat as rigorous and nourishing. As an older student who spent a few years volunteering, working, partying, and not putting my Associates in environmental science to very good use, I came to Marlboro because it fit all of my requirements (including a Chinese language program, organic garden, and a psychology/philosophy presence) as well as because it was easy to get into. The common term used to describe our admissions process is "self-selecting", a highly accurate characterization. Some don't realize what they're getting into when they come here. It's small, but I'd prefer to call it cozy. You can live anywhere on campus and rush to your class from the front door of your dormitory in five minutes (or much less). The marketing buzzwords being employed at the moment include "rugged" and "intellectual" and, while corny, they do not fail in their descriptive adequacy. The campus is clean and beautiful. The people (here and in Vermont) are kind and engaging, generally. You should not expect everybody that you encounter in life to be such. When I came in, I was keen to make friends. Two years later, I've retained a select few, while some have graduated, and I've developed a close relationship with my chief faculty mentor. I have great relationships with many other faculty members on campus. I've been to Cambodia (remarkable volunteer work and sight-seeing), Costa Rica (for TESOL certification and plenty of fun), as well as taken frequent trips to regional destinations (including twice to Montr?al ??again in three weeks for a conference). I've been challenged academically and personally more than I expected. The beauty of this school is that you have the opportunity to get to know people so well. With some, it requires being open and respecting differences. Others will come much more naturally and with far less effort. That was speaking to the social life, which can also include professors (if you're not working with them), but I'd like to speak more to faculty. The greatest fruit of your labor here will be entering into your junior and senior years. Doing so, you'll be provided with a unique opportunity to take the diverse (or immediately focused upon matriculation, we have both types here but it is a quintessentially liberal arts institution) experience of your earlier semesters and narrow them in such a way that you're constantly thinking about, researching, and enacting the passions that you've curated as a student here. You will be doing so week after week with a professor that knows you well, knows the material well, and wants to help you meet your goals. You will be on a first-name basis with them. Then you'll graduate and go to grad school, right? (Maybe you will. Have you made that decision already?)
I've gone tangential. I wanted to remark upon two aspects of the school that are frequently brought up for comment.
The first is the rendering of our college's social life. In response to common misconceptions amongst the woes of the disengaged, I'd like to say that it is far from poor. It gets clique-y. That said, I don't adhere to a click. I get along fine with people from all walks of life and liberty. There will be those who party a lot, and those who play four-square and probably watch a lot of anime. There will be a bit of everything. Who you choose to engage with and get to know, and how to choose to conduct yourself as a student and peer, will determine the depth of your enjoyment and social engagement. Some people are simply different from one another, others don't want to be engaged much at all. Most importantly, it is very rare that anybody here acts disrespectful to another by malice or malcontent. Nobody will abide your dignity being invalidated. We are a kind and considerate student body. If the music is coming too loud from the "party" dorm on a Friday night, request to live a little further away from that dorm (and you will be accommodated). If it's your neighbor being too loud, ask them or your RA. You'll be listened to.
Sheesh. I'm losing steam. Okay, two more things (but one will be the second point of the aforementioned "two aspects".)
The surrounding area does not suck. Brattleboro is a 15-20 minute ride down the hill, during which you'll see beautiful rolling hills, mountains, a river, or snow, depending on the time of year. Brattleboro is a quirky town (look it up on Wikipedia, and while you're at it, look up the town of Marlboro). There's plenty of arts and culture there, as well as great food. This goes for the entire surrounding area. Marlboro and its neighbors are full of a long-standing, proud and vibrant history. The town of Marlboro is home to so many different people. Take a short, gorgeous bike ride and you can buy fruits and vegetables from a farm stand owned by the son (or is it grandson?) of one of our first ever professors (John MacArthur, husband of Margaret McArthur, a nationally-renowned folk musician, look her up on Wikipedia, too) who still teaches occasional science classes here at the age of over 90 years old. Also at that farm stand, you can buy locally-raised meet that comes from the family of our science professor, among others. That's just one farm stand within 10 minutes of here. Small town? Yeah. Get to know it. You'll never want to leave. Every Saturday, I go to the local farmer's market 10 minutes down the hill on Route 9 towards Brattleboro. My girlfriend and I enjoy local, organic food samples and then buy a whole weeks' fresh vegetables for about twenty dollars. Tomorrow, we'll attend a local, free potluck celebrating the Chinese Mid-Autumn festival and watching a supermoon do a backflip during an eclipse. Or something? She loves special moons. I like food and Chinese culture.
Finally (yes, I hope), I'd like to address academics in a more specific way. During my first year or so here, I wondered if I had made the right choice. The truth was, I didn't know what I wanted and I didn't know what personal challenges lay ahead of me. Most importantly, I didn't know the opportunity that was available to me here. Yes, I'm studying theoretical linguistics and Mandarin Chinese at a school where the faculty for those two fields consist of the same, remarkable man. Do I get large lectures and sponsored reading clubs and tutoring? No. But I get to walk into his office five days a week and talk about the graduate-level textbook and contemporary literature that I've selected to work through with his guidance. I get to study Chinese at my own pace and next semester, practice reading Chinese-language primary linguistics literature to prepare myself for a Masters in Taiwan. And what of those tutoring sessions and reading groups? I'm being paid to tutor and working to schedule supplementary class discussions. That's what it means to work your way up to familiarity with your professors and the institution. At Marlboro, I've broken through multiple academic thresholds and done things I'd never thought I would. My CV will look amazing coming out of here. My scholastic background will be well-rounded yet diverse and advanced. What are you looking for in an undergraduate education?Okay, that's it. To be real, if you want to talk more, you should probably be able to find me by now.
Otherwise, be prepared for a dysfunctional codependent life full of teenage drama. There are some violent dudes on campus and sexual misconduct is a problem that is not addressed. The atmosphere is full of drugs, especially pot, and the administration makes you pay a soul-crushing five dollars to make up for it.
There is a reason that many people leave here and it is not just due to the coursework. It is because this school attracts a lot codependent and borderline students. You must bow down to the school's status quo, lest you be ostracized. You cannot question the students for their actions, and admin will do nothing to break up hostile situations. PNGs regularly show up again in their old dorm rooms. This atmosphere is a circus, and the climate of pathological narcissism is about as unbearable as the coursework.
Like I said, IF you are not concerned about all of the social hysteria,then I would go here and not worry about them. If you feel like you really want to come here because you want the BEST education, then try to live off-campus. Do not come here unless you have a license and an insured vehicle. Get yourself off campus as often as possible. Make more connections in Brattleboro then at school. Try to find a partner who does not attend and make sure that you are in absolute control of your own studies. I believe students can succeed here, only those who have a social net established elsewhere or who do not mind blindly conforming and accepting abuse from others.
However, this does not mean I necessarily recommend going here. As I've previously mentioned, most students cannot handle the amount of independence given to them. Our 6-year graduation rate speaks to that. Although I've criticized the lack of real learning that sometimes happens in the "Academy", do not overlook it's value. Going to Marlboro means: you will not have influential professors, will not have cutting edge research opportunities, will not have any brand recognition for all your hard work, will not get prestigious internships, will not have many peers to collaborate and feel a sense of camaraderie with (especially if not a lit student), have no networking opportunities, and inevitably, feel lost in your educational path, an experience that grad students often feel but is much more difficult for undergrads to stomach. Don't get me wrong-- this doesn't mean you can't search for these opportunities yourself, but it takes a level of independence and self-initiative you just wouldn't need at a bigger school. To be fair, Marlboro is very supportive/flexible of whatever path you go to seek these things out, but you need to be aware that it takes effort. If you are up for it, Marlboro can be an exciting and incredible stimulative place, where a lot of personal growth happens. I found that the freedom Marlboro has to offer turned me from an apathetic high school student into a incredibly driven student. However, I have seen a lot of friends fall through the cracks.
As the previous poster noted, the social life at Marlboro is a weird and dysfunctional one. The school administration is very lax about everything, and the school often can feel a bit like "Lord of the Flies". Although this can be nice, as a freshman I was elated that the police or any other comparable punitive authority figure here is nonexistent, one quickly realizes the downsides. Feel threatened by someone on campus? Too bad. Feel like the lack of campus lighting is unsafe? Same deal. Feel like the campus security guard doesn't really keep anyone safe? Yeah, that's Marlboro. The social scene is very cliquey, and while you'd think that a school this small might have, a, ummm, sense of community, it often feels like you have your small group of friends, and then people who you *might* talk to at a party. Twice a year. Also, it's worth noting that the campus has almost no diversity at all, which makes for a bit too much collective hivemind. After a while, it starts too get pretty old.
And I consider myself an extrovert, not a social recluse. Not sure why everyone at the damn school is so antagonistic and downright cold. I think its just social awkwardness, compounded by the fact that we all see each other too much. Dislike high school drama? Well, Marlboro is kind of like that. But, make no mistake - I've definitely made some really good friends here, which I do feel the smallness contributes to.
There are some extracurriculars worth mentioning -- the outdoor program is pretty cool and definitely a hidden gem, if you're into outdoorsy stuff like hiking/backpacking and climbing, cc skiing, caving etc. Town meeting is frequently mentioned in advertising, and its worth going, only to discover that its politics are frequently about as frustrating as the Senate's. However, you should definitely get involved in some of the committees at Marlboro, some of which are really interesting, and important -- and best of all, students that are diplomatic (and believe me, some students get outraged about everything -- don't be that person) are absolutely treated as equals in every discussion here.
But, ultimately, one does not go here because of the social life. Or Brattleboro - which is interesting for all of about 4 months. Or the lovely dorms, which are pretty grimy sometimes. You go here because, simply put, it is an educational experience like no other. You will almost certainly hate Marlboro and want to transfer desperately, and then never do. You will ask why you paid such an ungodly amount of money, and then realize you spent your last two years having almost exclusively one-on-one classes with your professors. You will hate the social scene and want to get off the damn hill so badly, and then realize you share such a close bond with the small group of friends you have over its awfulness. You will sometimes hate the independence and lack of guidance in your education and question why you are paying to teach yourself, only to realize it made you learn so much more than a regular classroom. You will question why you spent so many long, hard hours doing work at an obscure college with no outside recognition, only to realize it made you work so much harder to prove yourself. You will question why you didn't go to a regular school, only to realize that this finally made you passionate about learning. I absolutely would not recommend this place to 99.99% out of people out there, but for that small remainder, in a really weird, fucked up kind of way, there just isn't a better place to be.