College: Middlebury College
Location: Middlebury, Vermont
Type of Institution: Private liberal arts college
Size: 2,400 students
Admissions Advice: Like many super selective liberal arts colleges, Middlebury admits a large percentage of its incoming freshman class through Early Decision. For students who love Middlebury, this is the best option as the admission rate is more than double the admission rate for regular decision candidates. And because Middlebury is a school which meets 100% of demonstrated financial need, it is a potential Early Decision option for students requiring need-based aid as well.
Most popular majors: Environmental Science, Economics, Political Science, languages, Neuroscience
Words to describe students I met: Outdoorsy, passionate, collaborative, globally-focused, athletic
Unique academic aspects: Middlebury College prides itself on the Commons System, a living-learning community including students of all grade levels. For freshman year, students will select a writing-intensive freshman seminar which then determines their Commons / residential hall placement for the first two years (with some additional options, like the Academic Interest Housing options). There is a big support team of upperclassmen, faculty, and staff located in each Commons, and tons of social and academic programming throughout the year.
Middlebury is also one of a handful of colleges to offer a January term (J-term), a four-week intensive where students can focus on one specific class either on-campus or out in the world. This breaks up the academic year and provides a great opportunity for hands-on learning, internships, or just the chance to spend some time away from Vermont in the dead of winter.
Unique social/cultural aspects: Middlebury loves gap year students. In fact, there is a cohort of partial gap year students who enter Middlebury each year in February, “the Febs“. Nearly 20% of the entering freshman class takes advantage of this each year, giving students 7-8 months of time off between high school graduation and the start of college. My tour guide was a Feb and spoke enthusiastically about his choice to take time off for travel and work before the start of college. He also shared some insights into how Middlebury welcomes these students to campus mid-year and helps them build connections within the Feb starts and the greater Middlebury community. One of the coolest traditions for this group of students is that they ski down a hill on campus (in cap and gown!) for their winter graduation ceremony.
Colleges that seem similar: Whitman College, Colgate University, Colorado College, Williams College, Hamilton College
Concerns about this college: Middlebury is truly in the middle of nowhere, and the downtown area encompasses little more than one square block. There are enough services on the outskirts of town for students to do the basics (a few stores, restaurants, drug stores), but there isn’t much else. For many, this isolation and immersion in the outdoors is a reason to choose Middlebury. But for city or suburban kids who want the convenience of big box stores and off-campus activities like concerts and restaurants, Middlebury probably isn’t the best match.
Overall impressions: Middlebury is an amazing liberal arts college option for students interested in outdoor adventures, collaborative intellectual pursuits, and a social life that centers around campus activities. The college environment strikes a great balance between preppy and hippie/granola, academic and social, theory and real-life application. Students I met were all incredibly friendly and outgoing – you have to be in such a small community, and particularly in a community with such cold, long winters.