St. John’s College MAG

By Christine T., Irvine, CA

     Santa Fe, NM: I’ve always been skeptical about name-brand schools. The typical person, if asked about his dream school, will regurgitate vague, glassy-eyed fantasies about Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or other household-name schools, without really knowing much about them.

Like most stereotypes, there is a grain of truth in the assumptions about well-known schools: They are good. But the question is, for whom? A school that is ideal for one may be stifling for another. Choosing a school should be more than just securing an impressive name.

When I first read about St. John’s College - a small, quirky liberal arts school in Santa Fe - I knew it was the place for me. Their program is unlike any I’d heard about. Instead of using textbooks, the students study the “Great Books,” those that have had the greatest influence on Western civilization. The list includes Homer, Aristotle, Kant, Milton, Melville, Tolstoy, and Conrad. There are no majors. Students are required to take classes in literature, mathematics, science, Greek, French, and music. The teachers specialize in certain subjects but are expected to be knowledgeable in all. The idea is to connect all academic disciplines together, demonstrating that knowledge should not confine itself into categories.

As an aspiring writer, I want a school that will challenge me in writing. At St. John’s, writing is a significant portion of every class. I will be forced to step outside my comfort zone by writing about chemistry and mathematics as well as philosophy and literature. Though it is a demanding program, I know that it could give me great tools to help my writing. I believe that to become a good writer, one must study more than writing itself - one must study all disciplines and the whole world. After all, the goal of literature is to reflect the human experience, something that cannot be achieved simply through clever rhetorical strategies.

With its idealistic values, St. John’s attracts people who genuinely want to learn. There are two campuses - one in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and one in Annapolis, Maryland - each with about 500 students. I have a hunch that I will find fascinating people to talk to. And that, perhaps, is the most important feature of a school. Surrounded by vibrant minds, eager to learn and discuss, one can’t help but learn.

Although our culture bombards us with the names of number-one schools, finding the right college is something a student must do for himself. Does she want a small or a large school? What does he want to study? Who does she want to meet? Our nation has become infatuated with fashion and status, but with perseverance today’s students can choose to say “no” and rise above rumors and trends, and learn to think for ourselves. For more info about St. John’s, go to

Similar Articles


This article has 1 comment.

AulieZander said...
on Aug. 28 2010 at 9:01 pm
Hey, since your an aspiring writer like me, can you tell me what colleges I should be looking at. I need some help...Thank you!


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!