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The Most Exclusive College You’ve Never Heard of Has Just 26 Students

(Photo: Vivian Xiaowei Mao/Deep Springs College)

Deep Springs College is a liberal arts college deep in the California desert near Death Valley. It’s both a school and a working cattle ranch. Those very few students who are admitted to it study great books, especially within the fields of religion and philosophy, as well as do hard physical labor to earn their keep.

It’s an incredibly selective institution. Only 6 to 15 freshmen are granted offers of admission each year, of which 90% accept. After spending two years there, 80% of graduates go on to higher universities, including elite Ivy League schools. The all-male school offers an isolated, almost monastic lifestyle of study and work. Wallace Kalkin of Messy Nessy Chic describes this college that is unlike any other:

The course catalogue reflects both the view that every young man should immerse himself in the desert before rejoining society as well as the serious intellectual vibe of the school. The President of the College, David Neidorf, teaches a class, ironically, on feminism, despite the student body being all male.

Other courses at Deep Springs include; God and Evil: Theodicies (Philosophy of Religion, Religious Studies), Sacred Texts of Wandering and Journeying: Zhuangzi & Dante (Religion Studies, Literature), and Catching Spies (Literature, Film Theory). […]

The school shows no qualms in advertising the reality of the intense commitment. After all, as they admit freely on their website, each student really does “labor at least twenty hours a week.”


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I will never forget one particularly nice young woman who used to hang around us science/engineer students. She was a Communications major and got furious when she realized that we would earn three times what she did after graduation.

She was not mad at us. She was furious that no one told her about this. No counselor, no teacher, nor friend.
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sounds nice. i went to a small private art school (MICA) and working 30 hrs a week made virtually no dent in my expenses even with extensive scholarships pell grants and hefty family help. can't exactly say i regret it but i feel like someone somewhere could have made the implications of attending a school that was 32,000$ a year for tuition alone with up to 8000$/year in supplies (then feeding and housing in Baltimore in the late 80's) just a bit clearer. especially considering what the job prospects for a recent grad with a painting or sculpture degree are.
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