All first-year students participate in a common curriculum—
the Language and Thinking Program, First-Year Seminar, Citizen Science—and take elective courses.
First-year students return to Bard in January for a first-of-its-kind course that focuses on a specific scientific issue—infectious disease, for example—and looks at it from different methodological and conceptual approaches. This technique leads to an understanding of the impact of science and mathematics on everyday life and how Bard students, regardless of major, can become constructive participants in the debate over and solutions to crucial global problems.
The Language and Thinking Program is an intensive introduction to the liberal arts and sciences with a particular focus on writing. All incoming first-year students attend the program during the last three weeks of August. Students read extensively, work on a variety of projects in writing and other formats, and meet throughout the day in small groups and in one-on-one conferences with faculty. The work aims to cultivate habits of thoughtful reading and discussion, clear articulation, accurate self-critique, and productive collaboration. Satisfactory completion of the program is required for matriculation into the College. Students who fail to meet this requirement must defer matriculation for a full academic year.
Entering students may spend their first year or a semester of their first year at Bard’s campus in Berlin, Germany, joining a global student body of 140 from more than 40 countries. Begin in Berlin students take Language and Thinking and the first-year core sequence at Bard College Berlin, and may choose electives from courses in (among others) German language, practicing and performing arts, social studies, literature, art history, aesthetics, philosophy, and social engagement—many of which use the city as a classroom. All credits transfer automatically to Annandale.
First-Year Seminar is a two-semester course that presents seminal intellectual, cultural, and artistic ideas in the context of a historical tradition. Class discussions and frequent writing assignments develop precise, analytical thinking. Core texts address a specific theme for the year; recent themes include “Quaestio mihi factus sum: Self and Society in the Liberal Arts” and “What Is Enlightenment? The Science, Culture, and Politics of Reason.”
All first-year students are assigned an academic adviser, with whom they meet at strategic points during each semester. The advising system helps students begin the process of selecting a program in which to major, meet the requirements of that program, prepare for professional study or other activities outside of or after college, and satisfy other interests.
Electives allow students to explore fields in which they know they are interested and to experiment with unfamiliar areas of study. Students select three elective courses in each semester of the first year (the fourth course is the First-Year Seminar).