Tucked away in a charming town in Vermont’s picturesque, bucolic Champlain Valley,
Middlebury College—ranked among the country’s finest liberal arts schools—boasts postcard-
perfect vistas. The jagged, often snow-capped Adirondack Mountains to the west and
the rolling Green Mountains to the east provide a dramatic backdrop to an equally lovely campus. Gazing out of one of the towering windows in the college’s state-of-the-art science
building, students take in the student-run organic garden and the barns and silos of the college’s
farming neighbors in the distance.
But make no mistake: the College on the Hill is no provincial outpost. Though students
routinely embrace their rural locale, volunteering with migrant farm workers or reading
up on rural geography, they are just as likely to take to the stage in one of the college’s
five top-notch performing spaces, or team up with a chemistry professor for cutting-edge
research. It’s here, in a setting that prospective students and seasoned Middlebury students
alike find breathtaking, that students dive into a curriculum steeped in the traditions
of the liberal arts. That curriculum guarantees that Middlebury is populated by English
majors with a soft spot for oceanography, or economics whizzes with a talent for photography.
They do so in state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories: take the $40 million, nearly
one-million-volume library that opened in 2004, or the newly renovated center for the
humanities finished in 2008.
If you ask most students, though, Middlebury’s sparkling amenities and stunning vistas
pale beside the college’s true draw—the intellectual and social vitality the community
fosters in classrooms and dining halls, on highly competitive sports fields, and in paintsplattered
artists’ studios. These students will rave about their close relationships to their
professors, who as often as not turn out to also be friends, or hiking buddies, or teammates
in games of pick-up basketball. They’ll tell you about a particularly heated debate at a seminar
table, or a wet, cold, and downright fascinating lab expedition to band local birds.
These same students will likely admit that they’ve never worked harder in their lives, but
almost universally, they’ll say that they wouldn’t have it any other way.
With the lakeside college town of Burlington only thirty-five miles away, and Boston
and Montreal well within striking distance, the college’s “country mice” aren’t entirely cut
off from the occasional hubbub of city life. What the college’s rural setting does offer,
though, is a sense of community both reassuringly close-knit and vibrantly diverse. With
often-posh on-campus housing guaranteed for students for all four years, ninety-seven percent
of students live on campus, and this is no suitcase campus. Come weekends, students
stay put—and with good reason. As most Middlebury students will tell you, the problem
isn’t ever a question of finding something to do. On the contrary, most students lament that
there isn’t enough time in a week, or a semester, or even a four-year stint at the College on
the Hill to take advantage of everything the college has to offer.
Their best advice: dive in, head first.
Middlebury students agree: this place is an extraordinary one. The campus is beautiful,
the social life vibrant, the caliber of student (both personally and academically)
unmatched. Middlebury students are typically quite humble about their achievements, having
opted out of a big school with a big name for a reason, but they’re a talented, diverse
crew. You won’t discuss SAT scores over lunch at the dining hall; instead you’ll talk about
who you are, where you came from, and what is happening in the world beyond Vermont.
For all of the campus’s amenities, stunning vistas, and topnotch facilities, this is what
makes Middlebury ultimately so special. Come see for yourself.
Middlebury’s curriculum values breadth and depth. In addition to diving into their
own chosen area of study, students are required to sample courses from seven of eight
“core” areas: literature; the arts; philosophical and religious studies; history; physical and
life sciences; deductive reasoning and analytical processes; social analysis; and foreign languages.
(In addition to these eight core subjects, students also must satisfy regional distribution
I’m a huge fan of Middlebury’s ‘breadth and depth’ approach to learning,
particularly because it pushed me toward classes and departments I might
not otherwise have explored. During the fall of my junior year I tried my hand
at oceanography. Our class spent our weekly lab sessions on nearby Lake
Champlain, collecting data from the deck of a lobster-boat-turned-research-vessel.
On a cool October afternoon, as the Green and Adirondack mountains to the
east and west turned gold with fall colors, I stood at the helm of this little dinghy
with my professor and thought, This is what college is about!
But don’t fret—those requirements don’t translate into English 101 or Freshman
Biology. Need to take a literature course, but not thrilled about Chaucer and Milton? Try
“Maritime Literature,” or “Science Fiction.” Looking to fulfill a science requirement, but cringe
at memories of high school chemistry class? Students in an Introduction to Astronomy class study the night sky every fall from a rooftop observatory
atop the college’s Bicentennial Hall.
Middlebury, after all, is a school that values
choice; professors and advisors trust students to
chart their own academic paths, providing guidance
along the way. The framework of the college’s core
subject and regional requirements simply provides a
rough outline for those paths.
The First-Year Seminar
All students at Middlebury kick off their academic
careers with a “first-year seminar,” a class
designed to foster the close student-professor interaction
that marks a Middlebury education. In a small
class, made up of no more than fifteen students,
freshmen huddle around a table with their professor
in classic seminar style. Because students choose
from a long list of possible seminars, and because
professors design these classes based on their own
research interests, the writing-intensive seminars
naturally engender spirited conversation. American
Literature professor (and baseball enthusiast) Karl
Lindholm taught a class last year on Negro baseball
leagues, while a professor in the music department
led students in a song-writing workshop. Geologist
Pat Manley looked at geology through the lens of
national parks, and noted biologist Steve Trombulak
introduced his seminar to ecology and conservation
In addition to fostering academic curiosity and the rigorous, in-depth exploration of
a single subject, first-year seminars also inspire tight-knit communities. Professors serve as their students’ academic advisors until the students declare their academic majors—something
students aren’t required to do until the end of their sophomore year. Because each
seminar belongs to one of the college’s five residential “commons,” students also live in
close geographic proximity to one another. (For more on the commons, see Middlebury’s
“Social Life and Activities.”) Though the heart and soul of first-year seminars is in the classroom,
that spirit frequently carries over into friendship and collaboration outside of the
classroom—not to mention cozy fireside dinners at professors’ homes.
A Place for Writers
Coming over the Middlebury Gap toward the
Champlain Valley, drivers cresting Route
125 will pass a cluster of brightly colored
buildings painted in yellow and green. This
is Middlebury’s Bread Loaf campus, a picturesque
mountain retreat that was at one
time a haunt for poet Robert Frost. In the
winter, Bread Loaf is transformed into a
winter wonderland paradise, the headquarters
of the college’s Nordic ski touring center.
But in the summer, the
campus—complete with several cabins, a
historic inn, a beloved barn, and well-worn
theater—is home to the oldest and most
famous writers’ retreat in the country.
Come August, famed poets, writers,
and journalists from around the world,
including, in recent years, Edward Hirsch,
Susan Orlean, Randall Kenan, and Scott
Russell Sanders, converge at Bread Loaf
for the venerable conference, which Frost
himself jump-started in the 1920s along
with colleagues such as Willa Cather and
Louis Untermeyer. Despite concessions to
convenience, the campus has changed little
in the last half century. Today, the twoweek
conference is chock full of readings
and lectures, workshops and hikes,
friendly meals and blazing bonfires.
Students of all ages come to study writing,
and every year, a handful of talented young
Middlebury students are granted full scholarships
to the conference. It’s a once-in-alifetime
opportunity for aspiring writers.
If you’re intent on picking up Chinese or diving in to Arabic, or any of the other eight languages
the college teaches, there’s no better place to start than Middlebury. (It’s not a
coincidence that teachers, government agents, and top-notch students from around the
world join Middlebury undergraduates on campus during the summer for the selective “No
English Spoken Here” immersion language programs.)
But Middlebury’s well-deserved reputation for foreign language study doesn’t begin to
capture the scope of its academic strengths. The college offers more than 850 courses in more
than 45 majors. Among the most popular departments every year are economics, psychology, and
English, but many students choose to participate in interdisciplinary programs that pull on
courses from many departments. Take the International Studies (IS) program, for example,
which combines foreign language study, regional specialization, time abroad, and a disciplinary
focus. It’s a sort of build-your-own-major approach to international affairs, which means a
mouthful for IS majors trying to explain their own majors. Think: East Asian studies with a sociology
focus, paired with Chinese language study in Hangzhou. What about European studies with
a focus in human geography, topped off with a semester spent mastering Italian in Florence?
Another popular interdisciplinary choice is the college’s program in environmental studies.
Middlebury was a pioneer in this field, launching the first undergraduate program for environmental
studies in 1965, and today the college remains well ahead of the curve. As is the case
with the IS program, students choose a disciplinary specialization in addition to completing a
prescribed selection of core courses. As one of the most popular departments at the college, ES
attracts chemists and geologists, writers and musicians, literary analysts and historians, all of
whom want to match their passions with a study of the natural world. These students are on
the cutting-edge of their field. Middlebury graduates with a passion for the environment have
gone on, in recent years, to lead the youth climate movement, spearheading the Step It Up and
350.org movements, and founding companies such as Brighter Planet, which designed and markets
a carbon offsets credit card. Middlebury students and recent graduates take off for the
Appalachians, where they campaign against mountaintop-removal coal mining, or participate
in international climate change talks in locales as far-away as Poland.
The hub of the environmental program is the Franklin Center for Environmental
Studies at Hillcrest, an old farmhouse on campus that was remodeled in 2007. But the
Franklin Center is only one of Middlebury’s top-notch facilities. While still preserving the
buildings that lend the college its historic character, Middlebury has added a fleet of new and recently remodeled buildings to its campus roster in the past several years. There’s the
state-of-the-art Bicentennial Hall, where students pair up with faculty for hands-on
research in the sciences. The building was completed in 1999, in time for the college’s
bicentennial anniversary in 2000, and now houses the geography, psychology, chemistry,
and biology departments, among others.
The college built a new library in 2004 (which is supplemented by an additional
music library at the Center for the Arts and a science library at Bicentennial Hall) that
houses more than 900,000 volumes and boasts a comfortable café and lounge. In 2008 the
college finished construction on the old Starr Library, now the Axinn Center for Literary
and Cultural Studies. Just like the surrounding hills and mountains of Vermont, many of
Middlebury’s buildings are visually breathtaking.
Middlebury’s renowned language and international studies programs translate into
another hallmark of the Middlebury education—the junior semester (or year) abroad.
During the 2007–2008 school year, more than 400 Middlebury students studied abroad in
more than forty countries and at more than ninety different programs and universities. The
college itself administers schools abroad in Argentina (Buenos Aires and Tucumán), Brazil
(Florianopolis, Belo Horizonte, and Niterói), Chile (Concepción, La Serena, Santiago,
Temuco, Valdivia, and Valparaíso), China (Hangzhou), Egypt (Alexandria), France
(Bordeaux, Paris, and Poitiers), Germany (Berlin and Mainz), Italy (Ferrara and Florence),
Mexico (Guadalajara and Xalapa), Spain (Córdoba, Logroño, and Madrid), Russia (Irkutsk,
Moscow, and Yaroslavl), and Uruguay (Montevideo). Students are also allowed to participate
in select outside programs, participating in programs in places such as Kenya, Madagascar,
South Africa, New Zealand, Greece, and the United Kingdom, to name just a few.
Study abroad means different things to different students. For many, it’s a way to live
the language they’ve been studying for several semesters, or in some cases, several years.
For others, it’s a chance to travel, or put anthropology and sociology skills to work observing
a new culture. For everyone who goes abroad, it’s a nice change of pace from
Middlebury’s admittedly isolated campus.
Studying abroad in Mainz, Germany, the German I studied at
Middlebury certainly got a workout! That came in part from my full immersion
in the local university; by the end of the semester I was giving oral reports to my
native speaker classmates and typing up fifteen research papers auf Deutsch.
But to be perfectly honest, that wasn’t nearly as instructive as navigating my
way downtown on my trusty German bicycle, plopping down in a café under the
shadow of the city’s cathedral, and watching the world go by.
Finally, no rundown of the Middlebury academic experience would be complete without
mention of the college’s Winter Term, or “J-term.” This is the “1” in Middlebury’s “4-1-
4” schedule; after completing four courses during the fall semester, students return to campus
for a one-month interlude before the spring semester kicks up. This is an integral part
of the college’s academic schedule, and one students look forward to with relish. It’s a
much-needed reprieve from a student’s typical course load, and frees Middlebury students
up to try their hand at something new or burrow deeper into an existing passion. Classes
meet at least ten hours a week, and span the academic spectrum. Students taking a firstyear
language are often required to use J-term as a bridge to a second semester of language
study. Other students might opt to jump-start their majors by taking a compressed version
of organic chemistry or first-semester psychology. But just as often, students take a risk and
try their hands at something new. Maybe that’s a creative writing course, or an art class
dedicated to oil painting. Maybe it’s an in-depth look at the Lewis and Clark expedition, or
a crash course in local politics. The college draws on faculty talent to teach these courses,
but also invites outside scholars, artists, authors, and professionals into the classroom.
During one standout J-term, my professor—a New York poet—suggested
our class take advantage of a clear night and a full moon with a midnight
snowshoeing adventure. It was my first time on snowshoes, but we had a blast. I
never thought I’d be an outdoorswoman, but I left Middlebury nonetheless with
a newfound love of snowy vistas and winter sports.
J-term can be surprisingly demanding, but inevitably, students spend more time outside
of the classroom than in. What this means is that January is a wonderful time to
explore Vermont in the winter. Students huddle onto the shuttle bus to the college-owned
Snow Bowl or cross-country ski touring center, or borrow snowshoes from the wildly popular
Middlebury Mountain Club. Workshops in everything from wine tasting to digital photography
to sign language to Thai cuisine also crop up, many of them student-led.
Most Popular Fields of Study
To Choose and Be Chosen
If there were a recipe that guaranteed admission to Middlebury, someone would have
cracked it by now. The fact of the matter is that there is no clear-cut formula that distinguishes
Middlebury students in the making. The admissions committee at the college,
holed up in the cozy Emma Willard House on the periphery of campus, considers a range of
factors in evaluating candidates, and those factors tend to value individual quirks and
strengths over empirical gauges of potential. That said, Middlebury does recommend that
candidates for admission complete the following college preparatory coursework:
- Four years of English
- Four years of a foreign language
- Three or more years of laboratory science
- Four years of mathematics and/or computer science
- Three or more years of history
- Some study of art, music, or drama
Middlebury is among the few colleges that do not require the SAT for admission,
instead allowing applicants to designate a representative sample of standardized tests from
among the SAT, ACT, or SAT subject exams. If choosing to submit SAT subject exam scores,
students should choose three subjects to highlight. (These exams, the college suggests,
should be taken by December of the student’s senior year.) As this policy suggests, admissions
officers at Middlebury are looking at the whole student rather than numbers on a page.
In this spirit, the admissions team welcomes materials that speak to a candidate’s
ability beyond the scope of mere test scores. The most important factors, they say, are a student’s
enrollment in advanced placement or honors courses during high school, recommendations
by teachers and other school officials, and evidence of special talents. But in
addition to this usual portfolio of high school grades and achievements and teacher recommendations,
admissions officers also consider the optional dance and theater videos,
artwork, or music compilations that some students choose to submit as well. Admissions
officers are quick to say that it’s these materials, as well as students personal essays and
interviews, that often prove most illuminating.
As is the case at almost all prestigious colleges these days, Middlebury receives far
more applications from qualified applicants than it can possibly accept. Given this reality,
Dean of Admissions Bob Clagett has been known to send a note to prospective students explaining the difficult task facing admissions officers every year. Denial from Middlebury
isn’t a vote of no-confidence in an applicant’s academic or extracurricular ability, Clagett
says; it’s a reflection of the ever-escalating applicant volume at a college that has established
itself as among the nation’s finest.
Middlebury received 7,180 applications for admission to the class of 2011, and accepted
1,479. (Of those accepted, 644 chose to enroll at the college.) An additional 1,231 students
were placed on the waiting list.
Of students selected, ninety-five percent ranked in the upper twenty percent of their
high school classes, and ninety-nine percent ranked in the upper forty percent. Those students
who elected to enroll at Middlebury last fall joined a student body 2,500 strong. Six
percent of Middlebury students are Vermonters, but the college is home to students from
all fifty states. If you make it to Middlebury, chances are strong that you’ll stay here; only
five percent of full-time freshmen do not continue after their first year, and ninety-three
percent of freshmen go on to graduate from the college.
The college still contends with age-old stereotypes about the makeup of its student
body, and like many elite New England colleges, Middlebury was historically regarded as a
haven for well-to-do, white New Englanders. The school still contends with a reputation for
homogeneity but the student population is still a vivid, international bunch squirreled away
in the hills of Vermont. That diversity comes in part through programs such as the Posse
Program, now in its ninth year, which handpicks students from urban environments and
gives them the scholarships—and institutional support—they need to succeed at
But Middlebury also attracts a great many international students; ten percent of the
student body is made up of foreign nationals, in fact. These students, hailing from seventyfive
countries, contribute to the college’s vibrant cultural life. What this means is that the
myth of the prototypical Middlebury student these days is just that—a myth. The college
wants students from Nepal and North Dakota, aspiring poets and cross-country skiing
enthusiasts, logrolling champions and budding scientists. The bottom line is this:
Middlebury College wants students with broad-based interests and experiences, and a passion
for learning, who will jump at the chance to invigorate campus life—and themselves—
across four years of study.
The Feb Program
Middlebury students in the making do have one more decision to make before submitting
their applications to the college: we’re talking about the “September preferred”
or “February preferred” dilemma. (Amid those checks and blanks, the college also provides
an option for students with no preference for either September or February admission.)
The so-called Feb Program is one academic path that sets Middlebury apart from its peer
institutions. The program evolved in the 1970s as a novel way to fill places vacated by students
studying abroad in the spring. Over time, the program grew to be a beloved fixture of
the Middlebury community. Every February, just as Vermont winters seem their coldest and
grayest, an infusion of fresh energy and new faces bursts onto campus in the form of around
one-hundred eager first-year students.
I wasn’t a Feb, but I had a heavy dose of Feb-envy, which ‘Regs’ will often
reluctantly ’ fess up to if pressed hard enough. I was chomping at the bit to make
it to college, and was excited to start in September. That said, a part of me has
always wished I had spent that first semester traipsing the world or interning
in D.C., and earning my membership in the ranks of Middlebury’s Febs. Their
enthusiasm, by and large, is infectious.
These “Febs,” as they’re dubbed, swear by their experience. Many use their gap
semester to travel, work, or study abroad, and Febs argue that these experiences enrich
their college careers. Many arrive on campus with thrilling stories to share with new
friends, and their midyear arrival fosters a warm camaraderie among Feb classes. They take
great pride in their Feb status, donning traditional “Feb” sweatshirts emblazoned with
their “class year,” for instance, 2012.5, for students who enrolled a semester after fellow
first-years slated to graduate in May 2012.
The Feb experience culminates four years after their arrival on campus in a winter celebration.
In addition to a ceremony at the college’s hilltop Mead Chapel, Feb graduates don
their caps and gowns and participate in a collective “ski down” at the college-owned Snow
Bowl. The Feb Program isn’t for everyone; some high school graduates are simply too antsy to
wait out a semester before starting college, but for independent-minded students with big
ideas for a gap semester, the Feb Program offers a flexible, nontraditional entrance to college.
Regular applications are due December 15. For candidates who are certain that the college
is their first choice, Middlebury offers a binding, Early Decision program that
telegraphs one’s commitment to Middlebury and offers the promise of early notification
from the Admissions Committee, which may choose to accept, reject, or defer a decision
until the usual April 1 deadline. Early Decision applications are due November 15.
In addition to Febs and “Regs,” as September students are dubbed, Middlebury enrolls
five to ten transfer students selected from a pool of 200–250 applicants. Application deadlines
for transfer students are March 1 for fall admission and November 15 for spring admission.
A Middlebury education costs a pretty penny, but luckily the college cushions the
sticker shock of its $48,830 (2008–2009 comprehensive fee) education with need-based
financial aid. A candidate’s decision to apply for financial aid has no bearing on the admissions
decision. When a student factors in the additional costs of traveling to and from
Vermont, and purchasing textbooks every semester, a nearly $49,000 comprehensive fee
might seem unmanageable. Students and families can take heart, though, in the fact that the
college has a commitment to meet each student’s full demonstrated need, as calculated by
the Office of Financial Aid. (The college requires that students applying for regular admission
submit the College Board’s college scholarship service (CSS) profile by February 1.)
Aid packages typically combine grants with federal and institutional loans, and are
guaranteed to remain consistent over the course of all four years, provided a student’s family’s financial circumstances do not change. Forty-eight percent of incoming freshmen in
2007 received financial aid, and the average freshman award that year was $34,849. (On
average, freshmen receiving aid received $31,446 in need-based scholarships or grants, and
$4,282 in loans and work-study jobs.) The operative word, when it comes to financial aid at
Middlebury, is need. The college does not award athletic or academic scholarships. That
said, students may still apply for outside scholarships to offset their college expenses.
Regardless of whether or not a student is eligible for financial aid, all students are
able to work on campus. In fact, sixty percent of Middlebury students work part time on
campus. A special office for student employment helps collect and advertise these positions,
which range from paid research assistantships with professors to the popular job of
manning the front desk at the library. Other students trundle into town to wait tables at a
nearby restaurant (or the college’s trendy town-gown bar, 51 Main), or work at any of the
boutiques on Middlebury’s quaint Main Street.
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Though the sleepy village of Middlebury winds down most evenings around 8 P.M. (save,
of course, the local pubs and pizza shop), the campus is alive every night of the week with
things to do, places to be, and people to see. Walking up the hill from town en route to a WRMC
91.1 FM-sponsored concert, you’ll pass the German House in the historic (and recently renovated)
“Deanery,” where students of German and their professors chat away over kaffee und
kuchen, a reception that will likely give way to a party later in the evening once faculty members
call it a night. At the nearby Weybridge House, on the corner of College and Weybridge
Street, residents of the house cook up a nightly feast of local and organic vegetarian fare, and
pile into a cozy kitchen for communal meals. Once you make the trek onto the college campus
proper, you’ll meet up with students on their way from a crowded dorm room to the Center for
the Arts, where dance majors are giving a recital. Others are queuing up outside of the Black
Box Theater in Hepburn Hall, where tickets are always at a premium and students vie for a spot
on the evening’s wait list.
Continue past the Gamut Room, a student-run social place hosting a student band for
the evening and serving up cocoa. Meanwhile, at the McCullough Social Space, things get going
late; the pulsating music of a Friday or Saturday night dance party wafts out over the quad well
past midnight. And the Grille, a hot spot for coffee fixes and late night snacks, is a popular destination
at any time of day. Finally, out of breath and shivering, you arrive at Coltrane Lounge,
where radio station DJs are manning the door. Inside you’re greated by the sounds of Andrew
Bird, the Books, Girl Talk, indie darlings Menomena, or any number of bands that played at the
This is all to say that it’s hard to be bored here; in fact, you’d have to try pretty hard.
Middlebury did away with single-sex fraternities and sororities in the early 1990s, so anyone
hoping for a classic Greek system will be disappointed at Middlebury. That said, if
the idea of such organizations appeals to you, check out the college’s social house system.
Tucked away in a wooded grove on one side of the campus, these co-ed organizations are
Middlebury’s own take on the Greek experience. The social houses throw regular parties that
are open to the college community, but parties are just the start. The close-knit houses also
host barbeques, volunteer in the community, and start up teams for the college’s annual Relay
for Life. Students may pledge a social house after completing one semester at college, and students
are allowed to join the organization and still live in the dormitories if they so choose.
Social house involvement runs the gamut at Middlebury. Some students find that
belonging to a social house is a great way to plug into a smaller, supportive environment,
and many members find their closest friends at the social houses. Other students are perfectly
happy to head to parties on the weekend, but steer clear otherwise. Still other
Middlebury students have little or nothing to do with social houses. It’s a sliver of the student
population that actually pledges a social house, but the rule of thumb is this: it’s there
if you’re interested, but not omnipresent if you’re not.
The Commons System
Every student, upon arriving at Middlebury, finds him- or herself a member of a
“Commons,” like it or not. The Commons System describes Middlebury’s way of building
smaller communities—residential and academic—within the school’s larger residential system.
Commons affiliations are determined for first years and sophomores by residence hall
assignments. Each Commons has its own dean, faculty head, self-governing council, and residential
assistants, not to mention its own unique character. A little over ten years old, it’s
still a relatively new system at the college, and for every student who dives into the Commons
System wholeheartedly there are some who are quick to point out the setup’s flaws.
That said, the system does strive to build strong residential communities and provide
students with support from deans and administrators who know them personally. Commons
deans are the go-to people when a student is struggling in school or with a personal issue.
The Commons also have financial clout on campus, and often fund lectures, visiting performers,
outings, and social events. Cook Commons hosts a fall festival on Battell Beach every year, complete with pie-eating contests and
apple bobbing, and Ross Commons throws a popular
“Viva Ross Vegas” nightclub event each year.
Middlebury boasts nearly 150 student organizations,
and if you’re the average Middlebury student,
it might feel some days like you belong to each
and every one of them. Far from lazy, Middlebury students
occasionally teeter at the brink of being overwhelmed
by academic, social, and extracurricular
pressures. Most like it that way, though. Each semester
kicks off with an activities fair in which group
leaders peddle their wares. Dancers in the “Lindy
Hop” swing dance club demonstrate their moves
while the radio station recruits new DJs. There’s the
African running choir Mchaka-Mchaka, which
dashes through campus one night per week chanting
traditional songs in the dark, and a slew of magazines,
political organizations, musical groups, and
volunteer services. Among the most popular of the
student groups is the self-proclaimed “Sunday Night
Group,” which piles into the grand salon of the
Chateau every—you guessed it—Sunday night to
brainstorm ideas for fighting climate change on campus,
across the state, and throughout the country.
Middlebury students take their studies
seriously. When it comes time to let
loose, though, they do so in high style.
Among the quirkier fads to take root on
campus recently is Quidditch, that broomstick-
toting, Snitch-snatching game of
“Harry Potter” fame.
The “Intercollegiate Quidditch League”
started off humbly enough, when a few students
in one of Middlebury’s first-year dormitories
rounded up the custodial staff’s
brooms, took to the sprawling green Battell
Beach, and hashed out the rules for a
“Muggle” version of the Harry Potter sport.
They recruited a cross-country runner to
play the part of the Snitch, devised a few
goals out of hula hoops, and went so far as
to fashion their own cloaks, some out of
bedsheets or wall hangings.
In the last few years, Quidditch at
Middlebury—and at colleges around the
country—has taken flight. Though originally
the stuff of children’s literature,
intercollegiate Quidditch is no child’s play.
The games can get rough, and victory at
the now traditional “World Cup,” which
last year hosted fourteen teams, is taken
Running around on a broomstick might
not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that particular
hobby is indicative of Middlebury
students’ fun-loving streak. Depending on
the season, students are often spotted
around campus playing bocce, sculpting
sledding courses, or, yes, chasing the
Snitch. After all, it turns out that many
Middlebury students take their “work hard,
play hard” reputation just as seriously.
My favorite nights at Middlebury were invariably spent in the basement
of Hepburn Hall, where the newspaper staff put together the college’s weekly publication.
Over pizza, we debated editorial topics, wrestled with layout dilemmas,
and hurried to meet press deadlines. Working on The Campus wasn’t always a cake
walk, but nothing compared to the feeling of picking the newspaper up off the newsstand
every Thursday morning to read over breakfast in the Proctor Lounge.
For the artistic set, there are student organizations galore. Middlebury boasts strong
academic programs in the visual and performing arts, but there are also several a cappella
groups on campus for which students can audition, and an inevitable slew of campus bands
each year. Dance fanatics find their home in “Riddim,” the world dance troupe; every
semester, their shows inevitably sell out, and student fans are left trying to smuggle themselves
into their much-anticipated performances.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
Cheer, boys, cheer for Middlebury’s here,
Fight, boys, fight, fight with all your might,
Cheer, boys, cheer, for Middlebury’s here,
It’s going to be a hot time in the cold town tonight
Hey, hey, hey!
— Middlebury College Fight Song
Middlebury might be a Division III school, but this is the little engine that could on
the athletic fields. Middlebury has perennially competitive teams in its New England Small
College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), and athletics are a way of life for many Middlebury
students. Sometimes that means competing on a varsity team, but just as often it means
taking off for the Snow Bowl, playing Ultimate Frisbee on Battell Beach, or joining a feisty
intramural hockey team.
The Panthers field thirty-one varsity teams and about thirty intramural teams.
Between these two programs, a significant percentage of students participate in athletics.
Others are staunch fans, pouring into the student section at the Chip Kenyon Arena to
cheer on the men’s and women’s hockey teams, typically powerhouses in their division.
There’s an impressive trophy case to boast of their success, but plenty of other teams at the
college are equally competitive. In recent years, Middlebury has won national championships
in men’s hockey, women’s hockey, women’s lacrosse, men’s lacrosse, women’s crosscountry,
men’s soccer, field hockey, and men’s tennis.
Just like the teams themselves, the college’s athletic facilities are top-notch, too.
There are two field houses on campus, gyms, a swimming pool, a fitness center, indoor and
outdoor tennis courts, playing fields, an 8-lane 400-meter track, and an eighteen-hole golf
course. Parents, alumni, and town fans frequently pack into the 3,000-seat stadium or
2,600-seat hockey arena. Up the mountain, about twenty minutes from campus, the college
owns and maintains alpine and Nordic ski areas.
For non-varsity athletes, there are plenty of intramural sports to keep students
active. Ultimate Frisbee is a favorite for many; students bedecked in outrageous practice
gear, often culled from the college’s own recycling center, practice on Battell Beach and
travel to tournaments as far away as Georgia. There’s also crew, rugby, and many other
sports. The Middlebury Mountain Club, billed as the largest club on campus, provides a
recreational outlet for students looking to get outside. They lend out equipment and organize
hikes and overnight trips to the Green and Adirondack Mountains.
Attending Middlebury earns one admission into a small but tight-knit community,
both on campus and in cities and countries around the world. Running into a Middlebury
student, current or past, is a treat, and most Middlebury students recognize that spending
four years on this snowy campus in central Vermont is a sort of badge of honor. A
Middlebury degree signifies a bond with all who came before, or who came after.
As I embarked on the stressful task of job-hunting during my senior
year at Middlebury, I was bowled over by the support and enthusiasm I received
from strangers I met through the Middlebury alumni network. All we had in
common was a name on our diplomas, but that didn’t stop professionals from
going out of their way to tell me about their lives and their jobs, and dole out useful
advice. What I realized is that, after leaving Middlebury, it’s hard not to look
back on the place and its people with exceptional fondness.
What that means is that the Middlebury alumni network is a powerful asset. Alumni
are scattered around the world and found in all industries. There are budding journalists in
Gaza and heads of major national news organizations. The governor of Vermont is a
Middlebury alum, and so is a selectman on a local town selectboard. Financiers, bankers, lawyers, a gold medalist Para-Olympian, an opera singer, and a Bollywood music composer
are all linked by their Middlebury degrees. It’s not the quantity that counts, to dust off a
well-worn cliché; it’s the quality.
- Julia Alvarez, Author of How the Garcia
Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time
of the Butterflies
- Ari Fleischer, Former White House Press
- Felix Rohatyn, Financier and Former
Ambassador to France
- Jim Douglas, Governor of Vermont
- Aditya M. Raval, White House Producer,
BBC, and Baghdad Bureau Chief, BBC
- Eve Ensler, Playwright, Author of The
- Chris Waddell, Para-Olympic Gold Medalist
- Adrian Benepe, New York City
Commissioner of Parks and Recreation
- Sabra Field, Woodcut Artist
- Donald Yeomans, Senior Research
Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory and an Expert on Asteroids
- James Davis, Founder of the New
Balance Athletic Shoe Company
- Rep. William Delahunt, Congressman
- Rep. Frank Pallone, Congressman from
- Jacqueline Phelan, Three-time National
Championship Mountain Bike Racer
- Anais Mitchell, Folk Singer and
- Shawn Ryan, Television Executive
Producer of The Shield and The Unit
- Snake Jailbird, fictional character
and criminal on animated television
series The Simpsons who repaid his
Middlebury College student loans after
robbing Springfield landmark Moe’s
- Jane Bryant Qinn, Personal
The close student-professor relationships that first-year seminars encourage don’t grind
to a halt after a student’s first semester—far from it. One thing that students often
extol when speaking about their alma mater is their close relationships with their professors.
Middlebury professors are among the leading scholars in their fields and all boast
impeccable credentials, but the college is first and foremost a teaching college. That means
that professors are hired and reviewed not just on the basis of their scholarship, but also
on their skill at the front of a classroom. At the end of every semester, just as professors
tally students’ grades, students have the chance to give their professors feedback, too.
Every class ends with an anonymous review, which is typically used in tenure review discussions
for faculty members. The job falls to one or two students in each class to handdeliver
these reviews to administrators at “Old Chapel,” a hub for the college’s movers and
shakers. Students—and faculty members—take this stuff seriously.
Perhaps most importantly, students have access to these professors. Though language
classes have native-language assistants, and professors occasionally hire students on
as research assistants or tutors, classes are always taught by professors. And these classes
tend to be small ones; the average class size at Middlebury is nineteen students. Even
larger courses, like introductory courses in popular departments, often top out at forty or
sixty students, and typically break down into smaller “discussion sections” of ten or twenty
students—all led by a professor.
Just as professors wow students in the classroom, students frequently marvel at the
dedication these teachers put in after hours. Professors routinely fire off lengthy e-mails
and meet students at the Grille to discuss an assignment over coffee. Many open their
homes to their classes at various points during the semester. At a school where students
have a reputation for working hard, this sort of reciprocal dedication does not go unnoticed.