On Aug. 18, former Lakeside High School student Caitlin Hewel will travel to Great Barrington, Mass., to attend Bard College at Simon’s Rock, but unlike most college freshman, Hewel never completed the 12th grade.
“It’s really surreal and it’s happening really fast,” Hewel said.
Hewel applied to Bard College late in April, and was surprised to be accepted. Her mom went to college in Boston and she heard about Bard College from several of her mother’s friends who attended it during the 1990s.
“A year ago I actually searched for schools like Bard College at Simon’s Rock and I think there’s only one school that does something similar,” Hewel said.
Bard College is unique in that it offers students as young as 16 a chance to enroll at a higher learning institution if they’re ready. Steve Coleman, director of admissions at Bard College, said the school was founded in 1966 by a woman who had been a headmistress of a private boarding school for many years. Coleman said the woman noticed that many students were just marking their time during their junior and senior years and were ready, both socially and intellectually, for college.
“The main idea behind the school is that not every student is ready for college at the same time,” Coleman said. “It’s not so much to push them through their education faster but to bring them what they’re searching for—that kind of deeper education when they’re ready for it.”
Hewel currently lives in Atlanta with her mom and stepfather but her dad lives in Boston. She said he isn’t the main reason she chose to attend the college but being close to him will be a plus.
“The nice thing about Bard College at Simon’s Rock is it’s such a small school I’m going to know everyone but don’t know anyone yet, so I’m going to get a fresh start,” Hewel said.
Bard College’s current enrollment is approximately 450 students Coleman said each class consists of an average of 10-12 students, with a maximum of 15. He said about half the students transfer after two years with an associate’s degree.
Additionally, the school is one of the only colleges of its kind—there are 17 early entrance college programs in the United States, including Bard College. However, it is the only stand-alone, fully accredited university that is developed for the sole purpose of early entrance learning.
“This is a very rigorous program and it’s the same kind of courses that students take in any college,” Coleman said. “The students that transfer go to places like Brown University and the University of Chicago, and the students who stay for four years go to the best law schools, med schools and graduate schools in the country.”
Coleman also said he and his colleagues think it’s great if a student chooses to transfer to a larger institution after two years. He said the type of student Bard College looks for varies but that Hewel stood out because of her strong community involvement.
“Caitlin is a good, strong student, but what is really special about her is that she really sees beyond herself and is very active in her community and has done a lot of leadership and community service,” Coleman said.
Since she was 10, Hewel has been volunteering with Children’s International Summer Village (CISV), a nonprofit international peace education organization that sends community volunteers around the world. She said her work with CISV has enabled her to travel the world.
Even though she’s never visited Bard College and will be seeing it for the first time during freshman orientation, Hewel said she’s not worried about having to try too hard to fit in.
“I’m really glad that I’ve had the opportunity to do that because it has shaped my personality and who I am today,” Hewel said of her travels.
Additionally, Hewel said one of her favorite things about the college is that she is able to pick all of her classes and doesn’t have to take courses she won’t ever use. This fall she said she is taking Arabic, which she wouldn’t have been able to do had she remained at Lakeside.
“I have to declare a major by my junior year,” Hewel said. “My real passion is architecture but they have a page and a half of literature classes too, so we’ll see what I choose.”