Lessons are conducted in seminar form (of about 12-18 students) following a non-elective course -- though there are also occasional lectures and essays. Among other subjects are studied mathematics (geometry, algebra, calculus), science (biology, chemistry, physics, electromagnetism & relativity), history/literature, language (Latin, speculative grammar), music theory, philosophy (logic, natural science, ethics & politics, metaphysics), and theology. Tutors are quite accessible, often eating at the mess hall with the students. Students are also required to complete a thesis paper on some subject of their choice and defend it before a board of three tutors. Grading is based on the grasp of the material that the students show in class and in end-term essays.Quality of Life
The school is situated in a fairly remote region of southern California. As such, there are very few safety issues, and the surroundings are beautiful and pleasant for hiking and so forth. The architecture and artistry throughout the campus is wonderful, and there are many pleasant sites like the ponds amidst the redwoods, or the Painter's Shack overlooking the valley, that are good for relaxing. As to the dorms, they are at least spacious and have air-conditioning, and the meals are tolerable. There is stress due to the difficulty of the courses, and students complain; still, they do not seem overly depressing -- quite the contrary, in fact.Admissions
Financial considerations play no role in admissions -- any and all demonstrated financial need is supplied by the College. In addition, all who are accepted as suitable are allowed entrance, though if a given class is full those who apply later are adding to a waiting list. Acceptance is based on: 1) SAT scores; 2) letters of reference; 3) a number of essays relating to family life, education, religious background, etc.; 4) a short essay on a classic book of the student's choice.Graduation Year
The credits amount to a double major in philosophy and theology with a minor in mathematics.
Because of the Socratic discussion method of the classes, the academics are only as good as your effort and the efforts of your section mates. Your section is a group of 14-20 students with whom you spend every class the entire year. If you don't read the assigned texts, you probably won't be able to follow the discussion. And if you don't participate in the discussion, you won't absorb the material half so well. Unfortunately, your academic experience also depends on other students, how well they understood the text, and how adept they are at discussing it. A lot of class time is wasted in unproductive scuffling by talkative and enthusiastic but less-than-brilliant students. Then some of the students are brilliant but completely inept at creating an intelligent and interactive conversation surrounding the material.
Often the objectivity of the classes is compromised by the prejudice of most of the students and faculty against questioning the religious authorities whose works we are reading, for example if he is a doctor of the Church or a saint. The students are generally unwilling to think outside the religious box and consider religious material objectively. According to one of my professors, some authors are regarded by many students with over-reverence and a deficit of critical analysis.
The workload is extremely heavy, with many students studying through meals and nearly all free time until bedtime, and often late into the night. A few of the professors are notorious for assigning more homework than necessary in an effort to "challenge" the already overwrought students, humble them, or show them who's boss. In my view this is a terrible oversight of the need of the students to maintain a human balance in different areas of their lives, and is especially egregious if it is in a less important class, such as laboratory or mathematics, because it takes away from time spent studying philosophy and theology, which are purportedly our most important subjects.
There is a general emphasis of the intellectual good, the power of reason being glorified and emotion, which is referred to as "the passions", being de-emphasized and discredited, as we have it in common with the beasts.
All but two professors are male. Thus, since this is an extremely conservative school where modest codes of behavior must be followed, male students have greater access to professors than female students. Professors are more likely to sit at mealtimes with tables of male students, and enjoy a kind of camaraderie with them that is not possible with female students. In addition, the vast majority of authors read are male, the vast majority of visiting lecturers are male, and the overt Roman Catholicism of the community carries a tradition of male leadership, all of this resulting in an unspoken attitude of male superiority at the school. In fact, despite that female students comprise over half the student body, they could arguably be called the marginalized majority.
Professors are generally quite accessible, often sitting down at meals with students and making themselves available for discussion after class is over. However as was mentioned, because it is improper for a male professor to spend time alone with a female student, they are more accessible to male students.
Class sizes are 14-20 students, which effectively weights the discussion in favor of extroverts. Because of the size of the classes, extroverts are more comfortable speaking up and are thus listened to more attentively. Introverts should note this when they consider applying.Quality of Life
Housing is well-appointed. All but a handful of females must share rooms because of greater numbers of female students and insufficient space.
The library is also very pleasant and beautiful.
All students take their meals in the common cafeteria. The food is good by college cafeteria standards, but most of it is from SYSCO, and is therefore not very good at all. If I were buying my own groceries I could spend less than I spend on the meal plan here and eat better---fresher food, healthier, more organic, tastier.
Crime from outside is pretty low---the college is isolated in the hills, so very few outsiders are ever seen on campus, and there are security guards. However, petty acts of theft by the students are quite common, despite the professed Christianity of 99% of them. Many people have their personally purchased food stolen from the dorm kitchens, though it is clearly labeled with their name. There is usually a mandatory dorm meeting every year where this is addressed, but it doesn't stop. Many people have alcohol stolen from where it is kept in the prefect's closet, also clearly labeled. I have also heard of musical instruments, clothing, mattresses, and books being stolen. This erodes the bond of trust in the community and makes many people angry and suspicious of their fellow students.
Overall happiness is very variable. A few students seem to enjoy their time at the college very much, and prefer to stay on campus rather than seek interaction with "the outside world". Many students enjoy it at first, but the realities of living in an extremely insular college community come home to them sooner or later, and henceforth they begin to see getting off campus as a necessary respite for the sake of sanity and happiness. The college employs a psychologist, and a number of students go to him with their confusion about the place, not understanding why it makes them miserable to be there. The hyper-insularity of the college is a major threat to the happiness of the students. There is almost nowhere you can go on campus where you can be alone, with no danger of being interrupted or observed. Someone is always around, someone can always be observing you, someone always knows where you are, who you are with, and what you are doing. You study, attend class, eat with, work with, and live with the same people, day in and day out. Understandably, people get sick of other people.
Some students are appointed as prefects, to uphold the rules and be the extended arm of the administration. They are paid as if they were doing work-study, 13 hours a week. Generally the most gregarious, popular, personable, upstanding, responsible people are chosen to be prefects. In other words, they try to choose the people who have the most influence over other students' behavior. Understandably, prefects suffer a certain loss of social status as their peers cease to trust them in certain matters.Admissions
The admissions application asks you to describe your family life. They probably do this because living at the college is very much like living in a family, and they want to know you will be able to fit into it and handle it.
Application is on a first come, first serve basis. This means that better qualified students who apply later may not get in.
Also, as of the 2010/11 school year, they have capped admissions for female students because of limited space in the dormitories.
The financial aid program is very good, as it allows anyone who is accepted to attend the college regardless of financial background. Financial aid is also available to international students, which allows me and other students from Canada and other countries to study there.Level