Middlebury College


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.

Information Summary

Ranks 1st in Vermont and 7th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 99.2
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $71,980
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 34 / 1500
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 8 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 96% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 2,611


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 requirements.)

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 Vermont.

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.

Thinking Global

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.

Winter Term

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


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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.

Students’ Backgrounds

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 Middlebury.

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.

Decisions, Decisions

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.

Financial Aid

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.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 3273rd for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in Vermont.


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 college recently.

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. Student Organizations 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.

Magical Place

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 pretty seriously. 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.

Prominent Grads

  • Julia Alvarez, Author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies
  • Ari Fleischer, Former White House Press Secretary
  • 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 Vagina Monologues
  • 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 and Comets
  • James Davis, Founder of the New Balance Athletic Shoe Company
  • Rep. William Delahunt, Congressman from Massachusetts
  • Rep. Frank Pallone, Congressman from New Jersey
  • Jacqueline Phelan, Three-time National Championship Mountain Bike Racer
  • Anais Mitchell, Folk Singer and Songwriter
  • 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 Tavern.
  • 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.

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