Profile: Bard Early College at Simon’s Rock (MA)
“Does your math teacher do math at home?” That question was posed to our counselor’s group during an extended visit to Bard Early College at Simon’s Rock (Simon’s Rock). The answer is the reason that 150 former high school sophomores arrive each year to begin their college experience—academic and social—two years ahead of schedule. Those admitted to Simon’s Rock also want to be taught by teachers who are also scholars. I prepared a profile about this unique educational opportunity and also assembled a Pinterest page with pictures from the college and community.
Founded in 1966, in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, Simon’s Rock is the only co-ed residential four-year Early College in the United States. It’s academic program has spun off launches of non-residential publicly chartered Early College High Schools in seven US cities as well as a residential Academy Program for ninth and tenth graders at Simon’s Rock.
But while other two and four-year colleges have offered early admission into classes, even degree programs, with qualified students as young as high school freshmen, Simon’s Rock provides the rigorous curriculum and much of the residence life of a small private liberal arts college. The campus looks more like a college than a boarding school. Those who choose to go on this journey have also considered boarding schools, private high schools that are more academically rigorous and attending college close to home.
After completing their Associates degree program Simon’s Rock students have these options:
- Take time away from college, maybe travel, do service or work
- Remain to complete a Bachelors degree after mediating into a major
- Transfer to Bard’s main campus in New York State—and mediate into a major there
- Transfer to another college or university
About half of Simon’s Rock’s Associate degree holders remain on campus, half transfer out. Rockers who have attained excellence have successfully transferred into the some of the most selective colleges in the country, including Ivies. Between 75 and 80 percent of the students who earn a Bachelor’s degree at Simon Rock go on to graduate and professional school; the opposite is true for traditional age graduates of a more traditional small private liberal arts college.
It’s not fair to develop a Report Card for Simon’s Rock, since there are no comparable colleges. Aside from the academic and social adjustments that new students need to make, which are not the same for each new student, the major downsides are costs and a small alumni base, even for a liberal arts college.
However, Simon’s Rock has developed and refined an early college model that has gone well beyond “proof of concept” to produce successful graduates.