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.