How Do I Apply?

For the Fall 2021 admissions cycle, applicants will participate in one online writing session. Finalists will be contacted to set up interviews, and will be asked to complete the FAFSA form. There are no standardized tests or placement exams.

Admissions for Fall 2021 are now closed however; please join our mailing list to be contacted when the Fall 2022 admissions cycle opens.


The online sign-up form for the 2021–2022 application has now closed. 

Basic contact information is all that is required. This will enable applicants to reserve a place in an online writing session.


Applicants will be invited to a Zoom meeting by Bard Microcollege staff at the time they have selected for their writing session. Applicants should plan to spend 1 to 2 hours on this part of the process. Sessions are scheduled on many different days at different times of day during the month of May.

During the writing session, applicants will be given three or four short passages to read and asked to write an open response to just one.

Applicants may write in whatever form they choose. It does not have to be a formal essay. Grammar and spelling are less important than showing how and what they think about the passage selected.


Once the essays are reviewed by Bard College staff, selected prospective students will be asked to fill out the FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Bard College staff can help with this if you run into questions


Finalists will then be scheduled for an interview, via Zoom. Each finalist will meet individually with Bard College staff for a 10- to 15-minute conversation.


What is Bard College?

A liberal arts college founded in 1860 in Annandale on-Hudson, New York. Today, Bard College is one of the country’s most respected institutions of higher learning, known for its commitment to the liberal arts and to democratizing access to them. Bard seeks to inspire curiosity, a love of learning, and a commitment to the link between higher education and civic participation. Its small-group seminars encourage thoughtful conversation in an inclusive environment.

What is the Bard Microcollege for Just Community Leadership?

A local, top-quality, accredited college where students earn an Associate in Arts degree from Bard College by attending classes at the Countee Cullen branch of the New York Public Library. The Microcollege for Just Community Leadership is a collaboration between the Bard Prison Initiative, College & Community Fellowship, and JustLeadershipUSA, and culminates years of cooperation between these three organizations, insisting that education and community-based advocacy always be at the core of criminal justice reform. Launching in a community that has been disproportionately harmed by the criminal justice system and economic gentrification, the Microcollege for Just Community Leadership represents a significant investment in Harlem and the people who for generations have made it their home. It demonstrates a way to think innovatively about education and power in America, while addressing the harms of mass incarceration and structural racism directly.

How much does this cost?

There is no cost to students. Tuition and books are fully covered by grants and scholarships. Unlike student loans, grants and scholarships do not have to be paid back.

What will I study?

Everything college students study at liberal arts institutions the world over: literature, philosophy, anthropology, art, science, writing, mathematics, sociology, economics, history, and more. At the Bard Microcollege for Just Community Leadership, advocacy and leadership are at the heart of the curriculum. While students take classes across the same breadth of disciplines as all Bard College students, specific course topics are designed around students’ interests in social justice and community-building. Extra-curricular leadership training and academic support is available to Bard Microcollege students who apply to participate in JustLeadershipUSA and College & Community Fellowship’s parallel programs.

What are classes like?

Small seminars taught by experienced professors who are invested in student learning and potential — no big lectures, no teaching assistants. Standards and expectations are high. Bard Microcolleges are large in ambition but small in terms of the number of students they serve at any one time. Students receive individual attention that keeps them on track toward their degree.

Who is this for?

People from justice-impacted communities and those whose educations may have been derailed by incarceration, financial challenges, work, family responsibilities, or life in general. Students may come from all over New York City. Age doesn’t matter. Those whose household finances qualify them for Pell and TAP Grants will be given priority. The Bard Microcollege for Just Community Leadership only enrolls students who do not already hold an associate degree or higher from another institution. Microcollege students may be co-enrolled with College & Community Fellowship or JustLeadershipUSA programs, or they may have no prior relationship with CCF or JLUSA.

What do I need to get in?

A high-school diploma or its equivalent (GED/HSE/TASC). Curiosity, ambition, a willingness to work hard, and an open mind. No standardized tests are required.

When and where will classes be held?

Classes are offered in the fall semester from September-December and in the spring semester from January-May. New Fall 2021 students begin their first year with a two-week workshop in mid-August. Classes are scheduled between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday, at the Countee Cullen Branch of the New York Public Library.

Will we be studying online during the pandemic?

Classes at other Bard Microcolleges have been running remotely in 2020-2021. But you should be prepared for the Fall 2021 semester to be at least partly in person, though hybrid or virtual classes may end up being necessary.

How many classes will I take each semester?

Bard Microcollege students enroll full-time. The typical full-time course load is 3 courses per semester, 4 credits per course = 12 credits per semester. Some variation is possible.

Can I work while studying at Bard Microcollege?

Yes, if you can schedule your work hours around your college work and other responsibilities. A full-time, three-course, 12-credit course load requires at least 8 hours of in-class time per week, plus 16-24 hours of work outside of class. Students who have added a job to their college and household responsibilities have become expert time managers.

I’ve already done some college. Can I transfer those credits?

Yes, Bard will accept up to 30 credits for courses taken at another institution as long as they’re similar to those offered at Bard. You must provide proof that you completed the course and earned a grade of C or better. Bard’s registrar has to review and approve each transfer-credit request.

I have a student loan in default. Can I still apply?

Yes. If you’re accepted, Bard counselors may be able to work with you to rehabilitate loans in default and help you qualify again for federal and state financial aid—this is a goal but not a guarantee.

What can I do with a Bard Associate in Arts degree?

Continue on for a bachelor’s degree, and from there a graduate degree. Qualify for a job that requires critical thinking and communication skills. Gain a broader, deeper perspective on our world, culture, history, and political environment. Redefine what success can mean.

What’s my next step?

To schedule an admission session, click here.
Questions? Reach out to Madeleine George, Director of Admissions, at