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Why St. John's College

Continue Your Education after Your Military Service

There were many days and nights when I stood Officer of the Watch of a U.S. warship when I would converse with other watchstanders, quartermasters, boatswain mates, undesignated seamans, where they desired to go to college and what they wanted to study once they left the military. Many, if not all, stated their intention to go to their local state college and pursue a degree in business or finance. This did not surprise me as this option is both affordable, and offers graduates with a supposedly higher income. Most of the time, instead of agreeing with their college plans, I suggested an option completely different than the one they presented. This option was St. John’s College.
The enlisted watchstander would ask me: why should I consider attending St. John’s College, especially as a veteran? Before I answered this question, I first addressed the following question: what makes St. John’s College so different from any other university in America? To begin, the curriculum at St. John’s is quite different from what you find at 99% of American universities. At a traditional college, the student will read from a textbook and attend lectures where the classroom size is between 50 to 100 students. If the student is lucky, they may be able to listen to the lecture without any distraction or ask a question at the end of class. These troubles don’t exist at St. John’s College.
Here, the student reads only original texts, stemming as far as the Roman Empire, and not secondary sources written by academics who try to summarize the essence of a book in a few pages. A Johnny, what I’ll refer to moving forward as a St. John’s College student, discusses what they’ve read in a classroom size of 12 to 15 students. There are no “death by power point” in these classes, just discussion, or what is commonly called the Socratic method. This different approach to education, what is called a liberal arts education, is what makes St. John’s the renowned institution it was two-hundred plus years ago and still is to this day. 
Furthermore, reading the original texts and discussing them in a small setting environment allows your intellect to grow in a way that is impossible in a large classroom setting. This unique learning process frees your mind from former biases and predispositions and exposes you to new ideas and arguments. You are essentially liberated from the shackles of your own ignorance that have chained you down. How you perceive the world changes, and more importantly, how you live your life changes as well. I’ll conclude with a personal example to best illustrate this liberating experience.
In one of my classes in the St. John’s graduate program, I read Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s The Philosophy of History. Prior to this class, I had no idea who Hegel was, other than being some boring, complicated German philosopher. And certainly, I had no desire to read any of Hegel’s writings simply because either, there are better books out there, or I won’t be able to understand the book. This negative bent on Hegel, what I mentioned earlier as ignorance, was quickly dissolved when I began reading The Philosophy of History and discussing the book with my peers. 
What I formerly was led to believe about Hegel as a boring, complicated philosopher was, in fact, a thrilling, still complicated, but unbelievable creative genius. Out of the countless philosophers I’ve been exposed to and the books that I’ve read at St. John’s, The Philosophy of History was the most rewarding and personally impactful book I’ve ever read. If it wasn’t for St. John’s, my ignorance of Hegel and his works would remain in me forever, and that would be the greatest of loss. 
I understand that my personal experience may not fully convince you to apply and perhaps enroll into St. John’s College. Learning, in depth, a specific author and book may not be as attractive as a state-of-the-art gym or a lucrative degree offered by other trendy colleges. The crowd, especially your friends and family, will persuade you to choose the latter: the hip, popular college. For those who face this dilemma, I offer you a poem written by Robert Frost, a poem which I hope can guide you in making one of the most important decisions in your life.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
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