College isn’t one size fits all. For a certain kind of ambitious student who is both socially and intellectually mature, the prospect of waiting until 17 or 18 to pursue their academic or creative passions can be unsatisfying to say the least.
Since its founding in 1966, Bard College at Simon’s Rock—the only accredited four-year early college in the nation—has provided those bright students ready to enter college after their sophomore or junior year of high school a one-of-a-kind college experience tailored to ignite their potential. (Notable alumni include Academy Award-winning filmmakers the Coen Brothers, podcast host Roman Mars, and journalist Ronan Farrow.)
Simon’s Rock is located in Great Barrington on a 275-acre campus in the picturesque Berkshire Mountains, and is immersed in the vibrant cultural and political life of the region. The college offers over 35 Bachelor’s Degree-earning concentration areas—from anthropology and creative writing to physics and pre-medical studies.
The school is no stale monument to the traditional liberal arts, however. In its more than 40 years, Simon’s Rock has evolved to meet the current moment, and is forging new paths for the socially and environmentally conscious young students of today.
"Bard College at Simon’s Rock has always been a school on the leading front of educational innovation,” says Provost John Weinstein. “Our two upcoming initiatives, the Bard Queer Leadership Project and the Center for Food and Resilience, are the next step in this mindset.”
Launching next fall, the Bard Queer Leadership Project (BQLP) is a Bachelor’s Degree program designed for, and by, LGBTQIA+ college students, with intentions to become the first queer-serving college in the world.
“The program aims to uplift LGBTQIA+ students and propel them to leadership roles in school and after graduation,” says Weinstein. “Given the rising tide of legislation limiting LGBTQIA+ instruction in many states, BQLP meets this need, responding in Bardian tradition by stepping forward to respond to the crisis of rising LGBTQIA+ student exclusion.”
Any climate-aware student will also know that food security has become an area of vital concern for our warming Earth. Simon’s Rock’s new Center for Food and Resilience (CFaR) offers them an important role in exploring the sustainable future of food and agriculture.
Students will learn in CFaR’s teaching and production gardens, grow food for the dining hall and People’s Pantry in Great Barrington, and curate and contribute community art to its Garden of Ideas, which will invite visitors and students to learn about the campus ecosystem.
“With the Center for Food and Resilience, we will both enrich and honor the natural world here at Simon’s Rock while exploring the function of food in our community and nurturing ideas at our school," Weinstein says.
And for those students and families who know by middle school that a more rigorous academic environment is the best for them, Simon’s Rock also offers Bard Academy. Founded in 2015, Bard Academy is the nation’s first two-year high school, affording boarding and day students access to all of the collegiate-level resources and facilities of Simon’s Rock, and preparing them for college by the tenth grade.