Apply to Bard, in 10,000 Words

Bard College will soon offer students a new way to apply for admission, The New York Times reported this weekend. Extra-large thinking caps will be required.

Starting this fall, applicants may choose to write four essays—totaling about 10,000 words—in response to a list of intense (my word) research questions. The questions concern Aeschylus, Confucius, and Gogol. One asks about “the origin of chirality (or handedness) in a prebiotic life.” (There are no questions about Miley Cyrus, alas.) Students whose essays receive a B-plus or better will be admitted to the college, regardless of their grades or test scores (the college is test-optional).

“It’s kind of declaring war on the whole rigmarole of college admissions and the failure to foreground the curriculum and learning,” Leon Botstein, Bard’s president, told the Times.

The essays won’t be everyone’s cup of ginseng, and that’s kind of the point. If you’re turned off by the questions, you might not, uh, dig Bard too much. Applicants may continue to apply to Bard through the Common Application.

In this era of “fast apps,” which allow students to apply to a college instantaneously, Bard’s experiment is a striking departure from convention. Call it noble. Call it crazy. Call it a self-indulgent exercise in pretentiousness. I’ve heard all of those descriptions from college counselors so far.

But for now, it’s fair to say this: Bard has created a “slow app” for the  ages.

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