Passages from a book. Memorizing formulas. Vocabulary words. Historical dates: These are just a few things students worry about in their academics, and every student has read pages upon pages from a textbook only to forget what they were reading the next day. But what if, when preparing for college, you hear of a different environment for learning – something totally outside your box. Would you be interested? Would you be open? Would you be willing to jump into a whole new experience? One BT alum, Jack Isenberg ’15, took this leap of faith and confidence when he decided to attend St. John’s College, located in Santa Fe, NM (there is also a campus in Annapolis, MD).
Jack, who is loving his first year at St. Johns, first heard about St. Johns during his junior year at Blessed Trinity when he signed up for a mailing list called Colleges that Change Lives.
Like many students, during his freshman and sophomore years at BT, Jack was focused on going to a big named university. “The St. John’s admissions coordinator for the South actually called me and asked me if I was familiar with the college,” said Jack. “I was not, and he explained the program and the college to me. I would like to say that I fell in love with it immediately, but I did not.”
At St. John’s there are not textbooks or lecture halls. The students engage in active conversations with their tutors (professors), and learn math, science, and history from classic texts written by Aristotle, Euclid, Einstein, and many more. Along with their regular classes, students at St. Johns participate in seminars twice a week. According to the St. Johns website: “One of the tutors opens the seminar with a question inviting probing conversation that can lead in unexpected directions and that may continue well after the two-hour period is over. Seminar develops attentive reading habits, elicits clarity of thought and generosity of spirit, and encourages a willingness to embrace unfamiliar territory.”
As he visited other colleges. he began to realize how unique the St. John experience was. “All the other colleges I looked at seemed to be ‘high school continued.’ You go to class, you listen to your professor, you take notes, you read the textbook, and you take a test,” said Jack. “The St. John’s program, by contrast, appeared enriching and engaging in a totally new way.”
Jack received a piece of invaluable advice that would convince him that St. John’s was the school for him. While listening to a podcast on college admissions a guest speaker advised students to “ choose the college that will help you be the person you want to be.”
St. Johns offers a very interactive learning community. Students participate in seminars where they express their own ideas and opinions, and ask their fellow peers questions. St. Johns also provides a range of clubs from the Sustainability Club which runs an organic garden on campus to study groups that focus on reading French, Arabic, or Greek. All students graduate in four years with a Bachelor of the Arts Degree in Liberal Arts. Many students will then continue on to graduate school narrowing their field of study.
Some critics may be skeptical of the program St. Johns offers, but for Jack it has opened up new doors into the world of education. Instead of memorizing facts and numbers St. Johns teaches its students how to think. “ I can’t tell you about every character in the Iliad or the Odyssey, but I can talk about death, war, honor, glory, love, and homecoming” said Jack.
Jack encourages high school seniors to consider St. Johns. “In a world increasingly focused on speed and moving from high school to a job in a snap,” said Jack, “the program encourages you to take it slow, to really think things through, which I find invaluable”