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What We Don’t Talk About on the Admissions Tour

By A.J. Peters

Before I even heard of St. John’s, the so-called Great Books, or Loren Pope’s 40 Colleges that Change Lives, thinking seriously about what I wanted out of college was what landed me here. I remember visiting some small East coast liberal-arts schools on my first real college tour. The campuses were uniformly gorgeous, the dorms felt spacious and luxurious—with the exception of one particularly dank hallway in every sense of the word—and the social life was touted like perfect summer camp (Harry Potter Club! Friendly frat parties! A capella pop songs! Yay!). But none of the schools seemed interesting. At one school, which recently topped the U.S. News and World Report College Rankings for best liberal arts college in the country, I sat in the back of a small classroom and watched a professor work through a Powerpoint before a silent group of fifteen students. The 12:1 student to faculty ratio didn’t seem so great anymore—what does it matter if you’re in a lecture of 20 or 200?

Sometime during that tour, plans changed, and I suddenly had a free day. I thought it’d be fun to visit St. John’s College, a school I had been intrigued by but decided not to consider on account of the small size. In one hour, my tour guide conveyed what I had been hoping to hear the whole week before: this school will let you think in ways you have never thought before, and it will be awesome. I haven’t looked back a whole lot since then.

This article, What We Don’t Talk About on the Admissions Tour, is written by a professor looking at schools with his daughter. Frustrated with tours that don’t mention education, he offers guidance on how schools can do better. He seems to think it’s an issue of admissions; tour guides need to learn to provide a better narrative about their classroom experience. But doesn’t it say something when education isn’t naturally on a student-guide’s mind? Maybe the problem isn’t simply indicative of a lackluster admissions office, but a school where learning is no longer paramount.

Almost four years later, I’m thankful the Program was on my tour guide’s agenda as she presented St. John’s to me. Yet at St. John’s, I couldn’t really imagine it any other way.

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