Marlboro College

Admissions Applicant Interview FAQ

Interviews at Marlboro College are intended to be casual discussions, ensuring that applicants’ questions are thoroughly and genuinely addressed by a member of the community. We’ve compiled a list of questions and answers from many past interviews which should be useful for you during your process.



Q: Marlboro is a Liberal Arts and Sciences college, but what does that mean, exactly?

A: Marlboro students design their own curriculum among more than 30 degree fields in the Arts, the Humanities, the Natural Sciences and the Social Sciences. Degrees offered include Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science and, through the World Studies Program, Bachelor of Arts or Science in International Studies.

Q: What are classes like at Marlboro?

A: Marlboro offers discourse-based classes which average ten students. Engagement and discussion are paramount to all courses, so each student is expected to be an active participant. While you will not find large, “100-level” survey classes at Marlboro, freshmen typically start out at the introductory level, advancing to intermediate level courses their sophomore year. Subsequently, upperclassmen embark upon independent study, internships and creation of their own one-to-one tutorials.

Q: Are there required classes at Marlboro College?

A: No. Marlboro’s curriculum does not outline general distribution requirements like most colleges and universities do. Instead, all students are expected to study broadly across the disciplines and must pass a Clear Writing Requirement and complete a Plan of Concentration before graduation.

Q: What are faculty members like at Marlboro? Are there TAs?

A: There are no Teaching Assistants at Marlboro. The great strength of the academic program is the faculty, who share—despite diverse backgrounds, expertise and opinions—an eagerness to discover a fresh perspective on their material. They collaborate closely with undergraduates in small classes and in advanced one-to-one tutorials, which demands flexibility and the willingness to articulate anew why they think the way they do. Marlboro faculty thrive in building a curriculum that provides students with both the foundation of a liberal arts degree and the framework to make their own sense of an area of knowledge.

Q: What is the Clear Writing Requirement?

A: All students have three semesters to pass the Clear Writing Requirement, which covers academic or expository writing as opposed to creative writing. Clear writing both engenders and reflects clear thinking; it is thus a skill essential to obtaining a Marlboro education. The College requires all incoming students to demonstrate that their writing skills are sufficient to ensure their successful progress through courses and tutorials toward the Plan of Concentration. Students meet this requirement by presenting a 20-page portfolio of clear, concise, grammatical expository writing to the faculty, generated at Marlboro.

Q: What is the Plan of Concentration?

A: The Plan of Concentration is an in-depth, self-designed exploration of a field or fields of each student’s choosing. By the end of their senior year, each student completes this major independent project which involves research, one-to-one study with faculty in tutorials, and a two-to-three-hour oral examination with Marlboro faculty and an outside evaluator who is an expert in the student’s field. Check out the Plans of Concentration of the 2010 graduating class.

Q: When and how do students go on Plan?

A: Unlike traditional colleges, Marlboro students don’t simply declare a major by the end of their sophomore year. At the end of the second semester of the sophomore year (after at least 55 accumulated credits), they complete the Sophomore Review and file a Preliminary Plan Application in collaboration with a Plan sponsor or sponsors to go on Plan.

Q: What is the Sophomore Review?

A: The Sophomore Review is designed as a tool for students and advisors to help in the conscious planning of a thoughtful education here at Marlboro. Students are asked to review their accrued courses and cocurricular work focusing on the following four areas: broad study, the development of a global perspective, continued work towards good writing and the preparation for a Plan of Concentration.

Q: What kind of grading system does Marlboro have?

A: While the most meaningful avenue of feedback continues to be through general faculty mentorship and discussion, Marlboro does assign midterm and final letter grades. Satisfactory performance is a 2.0 or higher on a 4.0 point grading scale.

Q: What kind of international opportunities are there at Marlboro?

A: There are many ways to develop a global perspective while at Marlboro College. In addition to studying abroad, an international understanding is infused throughout the curriculum and in campus life. Live with a student who's just returned from a six-month internship in China or Kenya, take classes with professors experienced in international research, participate in one of the many intercultural events sponsored by the World Studies Office. The nearby School for International Training (SIT) in Brattleboro, VT is accessible via college vans, offering courses with a culturally diverse student body representing the continents of the world.

Q: What is the World Studies Program?

A: The World Studies Program (WSP) is a four-year course of study integrating liberal arts and international studies with a six-to-eight month internship in a foreign culture. Students follow a core curriculum that provides a foundation for approaching global and cross-cultural issues in an educated and articulate way. Students attain the goals of the program through course work, proficiency exams and portfolios that document equivalent learning. Students who complete the program receive a Bachelor of Arts or Science in International Studies and their area of concentration.

Q: What are tutorials? How are they different from classes?

A: Tutorials are student-designed courses wherein juniors and seniors, meet regularly 1:1, or in small groups with faculty in tutorials. Fundamentally different from recurring classes designed by faculty, students have the opportunity to create their own topic and study it in depth in partnership with the faculty member of their choice.

For instance, for students to prepare for a tutorial in Environmental Studies, and benefit fully from it, a student should have a basic background in biology or environmental studies. This will typically include introductory course work in biology and at least one intermediate-level course (e.g., Ecology). For students who don’t yet have a solid background, a research paper in a course can often allow the student to explore a potential area of interest and prepare for a tutorial in the following semester.

Tutorials include: one-to-one tutorials in a student’s specific field in preparation for Plan work, group tutorials with several students who have similar interests, and tutorials in the senior year focusing on analyzing information and writing Plan papers. Students are expected to provide a general outline of the semester’s tutorial and to provide much of the scientific literature that will be covered in order to propose a tutorial. Typically, the tutorial culminates with a major body of work, or a comprehensive paper.

Q: How do students register for classes?

A: In the first week of the fall and spring semesters, all faculty members introduce their courses in “Intro Classes.” These half-hour long glimpses provide students a direct opportunity to learn about the expectations of the courses, review the content and schedule, ask questions and get a sense of each faculty member’s style. This ability to “shop” around in the first week enables students to best-select their courses, with the guidance of their faculty advisor. Unlike most other colleges and universities, students are not expected to register for courses well in advance of the onset of the term, without having a personalized experience of each course to be considered.

Q: What is advising like?

A: Students meet regularly with their advisors in Dedicated Hour, known as “ded hour.” One of the advisor’s most important roles is to ensure incoming students are aware of Marlboro’s unique approach to education—self-designed study, selecting courses, governance, academic resources, personal and residential life resources and more. Students are encouraged to become involved in all facets of life at Marlboro. For more information: Advising

Q: What is community life like?

A: Community life at Marlboro for most students means living in a residence hall on the edge of the woods and eating alongside faculty and staff in a dining hall that was once a dairy barn. It means going to Town Meeting to vote on where people park cars and whether to give a few hundred dollars to a community service trip to Costa Rica. It means serving on a committee that decides which faculty will be hired, which students will be accepted, which films will be shown and where community art should happen. It means playing in or cheering on the soccer game against Bennington on a Saturday afternoon and then getting dolled up for the event of the season—the Queer Homecoming dance. It means attending a presentation by monks from India and going to your roommate’s poetry reading. There’s a lot going on at Marlboro outside the classroom, and most of it is initiated by the people who live here.

Q: What is Town Meeting?

A: Once a month, students, faculty and staff assemble in the dining hall for Town Meeting, an exercise in democracy that guides the direction of campus life. Should parking be allowed on campus? How should the money from the Student Activities Fee be distributed in the budget? Should Town Meeting help fund and organize a college farm? In the spirit that has been part of Marlboro from its founding – that if you want people to be responsible, you have to give them responsibility – student representatives serve on the Faculty committees that oversee everything from faculty reviews and hiring, to admissions, curriculum development, academic integrity and the World Studies Program. Students, faculty and staff each have an equal, individual vote at Town Meeting, which is a tangible example of democracy at Marlboro.

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