When prospective students wonder if they would do well at
St. John’s, the best advice might be to ask themselves howmuch
they desire to learn, to know, and to understand. Such desire is the
most important prerequisite to success. It lies at the root of the
love of wisdom: ultimately, it is a desire to
realize one’s fullest potential as a human.
Beyond this underlying desire, what traits do successful
St. John’s students have in common? They share a deep curiosity
about the world—a curiosity satisfied, more often than not, by
reading. St. John’s students love to read, and they love to talk with
others about ideas encountered in books. Equally important, they
are willing to work carefully through the details—parsing sentences,
following proofs, taking careful measurements—to pave the way to
an insight. Finally, they enjoy expressing their ideas in writing:
making connections, analyzing, critiquing. They realize that the
page is where the examined life wrestles with its questions.
In the classroom, successful students bring an open-
mindedness, an ability to entertain opinions counter to their own.
The ability to listen is paramount, because only through active
listening is true dialogue possible—and dialogue is how we learn.
Given the importance of classroom conversation to learning, success-
ful St. John’s students are serious about attendance; they know
they can’t make up a missed conversation. Moreover, a student who
misses class, doesn’t do the readings, or doesn’t participate is
letting classmates down. Students depend on one another for the
work of cooperative insight. No one can do it alone.
Finally, successful students are here because they want to
be here. They are serious about their education, and they know their
tutors will take them—and their desire to learn—just as seriously.
Why do somany students transfer fromother colleges toSt. John’s?
Nearly a fifth of St. John’s students transfer fromother institutions—principally because they are
disenchanted with the education they are receiving elsewhere. They realize that their college
years provide an opportunity for broad learning and self-discovery that should not be wasted,
and that at St. John’s they will be challenged by civilization’s greatest ideas. Moreover, at many
colleges, roommates and classmates with differing majors often have little common ground;
at St. John’s, students find a community of peers who are interested in learning and with
whom they have a powerful program of study in common. These students transfer to the
college despite the fact that they must start over as freshmen to complete the entire curriculum.
Success at St. John’s