Three Quick Questions with St. John's College

For Three Quick Questions, I send the same three questions to admissions representatives at colleges all over the country (the subject line of the e-mail is “Three quick questions”), and then I hope to hear back from them. When I do, I’ll post them on Apply with Sanity. It’s that simple.

(See all the past Three Quick Questions posts by clicking on the “Three Quick Questions” tag at the bottom of the post.

The three questions are meant to probe some of the things that make a school unique but that aren’t easily captured as a stat to go in a book or web search.

Today’s response is from Caroline Randall, Director of Admissions at St. John’s College.

What is a course, tradition, program or event that is unique to St. John’s College?

The entire St. John’s College curriculum is radically different. Imagine a college with no majors, no textbooks, and no lectures. All of our students study the same liberal arts degree, including math, science, history, humanities, economics, philosophy, literature, music, and more. Instead of using textbooks, we read classic books to study these subjects. The “teachers” are Einstein, Mozart, Austen, Tocqueville, Aristotle, Chaucer, etc. All classes are discussion based, with fewer than 20 students and a faculty member sitting around a table asking significant questions and challenging each other to think at a deeper level.

Naturally every college wants to recruit the perfect student--high grades, high test scores, involved in their community, leadership...everything. But what kinds of imperfect students tend to flourish at St. John’s?

Who’s perfect? At St. John’s we care about your passion for big ideas—even if you (and your ideas) aren’t perfect. Test scores don’t tell us much about your ideas, and that’s why we are test optional in our admission process. The most important part of the application is your essay about a great book. And that’s also why we deemphasize grades at St. John’s. Instead of getting a grade at the end of the semester, students meet with their professor in a “don rag” where they get real, personalized feedback from professors who truly know them.

When people come to visit St. John’s, what's a place off campus that you recommend they check out while they're there?

By having campuses in Santa Fe, NM and Annapolis, MD our students benefit from two of the best college towns in the nation. In Santa Fe, be sure to check out the immersive theater experience at Meow Wolf, spicy New Mexican food at The Shed, incredible art at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, or the best hiking and skiing in the Rockies by walking straight off campus and onto the Atalaya Trail. In Annapolis, sail on the Chesapeake Bay, explore 300-year old cobblestone streets, feast on famous Maryland crabs, play croquet against the US Naval Academy, or jump on a short train ride to Washington, DC.

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Photo by Angela Elisabeth.