St. John's College (Santa Fe, NM)

Here are more details I learned during my visit: For fun students go climbing or skiing, hang out at coffee shops, or visit with friends. Some campus parties are themed around the readings and since everyone on campus takes the same classes students can have fun getting into the theme. Both students who met with me said the same thing — after visiting campus they couldn’t imaging not coming to St. John’s. Math is part of the program, but it is different than high school math. In high school students memorize rules then solve problems. At St. John’s students learn how and why these rules were developed. Lab covers all types of sciences. Students recreate original experiments. The goal is to figure it out, so labs are unguided. This is perfect for the student who wants to know why. Both of my student guides raved about how they actually learned things from lab, unlike high school labs that told them every step and what they were supposed to learn. Tutors (instructors) teach in all subjects. My guide, AJ, has a sophomore music tutor who holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Stanford. Tutors guide students through the material, so they aren’t expected to specialize or narrow their abilities. Because everyone takes the same classes over four years, students don’t leave campus during the school year for study abroad or internships in other cities. St. John’s offers scholarships for summer internships and students can study abroad during summer months. St. John’s students have a strong work ethic. In small classes that are discussion based it is hard to cut class or not do the reading. Because students don’t earn grades, they are encouraged to work for the sake of learning and improving. Freshman year students begin reading original texts in Ancient Greek. AJ told me that after learning to translate from Greek, he feels he can learn anything. It has taught him that he has the ability to figure anything out. Students never take tests at St. John’s. They write a couple papers for each of their four classes every semester. I was surprised because these weren’t huge research papers; most papers are 3-12 pages long. For study groups and support students have a “core”: a group a 4-5 students who share their exact same class schedule. Both student guides told me they were so interested in what they were doing that “it doesn’t feel like work.” They take four classes a semester and probably spend 15-30 hours a week reading. St. John’s isn’t for everyone, but students who think they might like the program should try the Summer Academy for High School Students. For one week over the summer, rising juniors and seniors can experience St. John’s for a week. St. John’s is willing to admit a smart willing student who has a less than perfect high school record. In fact some St. John’s students had low grades in high school because they were bored or didn’t complete busy work. If what you’ve hear makes you think St. John’s College might be a good fit, I’d encourage you to visit. St. John’s isn’t right for everyone, but it is perfect for the smart, thinking student who wants more out of college than lectures and grades.  ]]>

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