Deep Springs College
January 19, 2004 1:51 PM   Subscribe

DSC - Deep Spring College is a prestigious all-male (currently) college almost nobody has heard of. It consists of only 26 students and was founded by Lucien Lucius Nunn in 1917. The average SAT score is 1500. There is no tuition; instead the students physically work for their education. It is located on an isolated ranch in Deep Springs Valley and the only way there is a two hour greyhound bus ride that stops at the Cottontail Ranch Brothel, followed by a one hour ride on the college's own transportation. Anyone interested in attending?
posted by Hypharse (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could I get a football scholalrship and not have to work for tuitition?
posted by Postroad at 1:58 PM on January 19, 2004

Like many a California Geology students, I spent a fair amount of time studying the Poleta Folds on the western edge of the Deep Springs Valley. It was pretty cool to see this bright green ranch on the floor of the valley. Too bad they stopped selling the Pseudo-communist "Glorious Library of the Peoples of Deep Springs" shirt. I always wanted to get one.

The other observation is that the school is all-male. While they have talked about going co-ed it hasn't happened yet.
posted by Badgermann at 1:59 PM on January 19, 2004

From the Sunspot article: "In an all-male environment, that comfort level sometimes leads to exaggerated boyishness."

I know a couple of Deep Springs alums. That quote is a 'delicate' description of some of the stories I've heard about the place. Nevertheless, I still think it is an interesting school.
posted by eastlakestandard at 2:09 PM on January 19, 2004

I guess the idea is to go to Deep Springs for a few years, then move on to Harvard or Yale. The few DSers I've met tried that. None graduated. All are very smart and doing well despite this. I guess it's not too easy to make the transition...
posted by crank at 2:18 PM on January 19, 2004

One of my dad's colleagues taught physics at Deep Springs, and we went to visit him there once. I was about eleven, I guess.

There were goats everywhere, and the students all looked - to my eleven year old eyes - like sort of scary bohemians. I remember walking into a sort of smoky lounge where a couple of students were reading and smoking.

It was a neat place.
posted by interrobang at 2:26 PM on January 19, 2004

"Nunn... decided to build a college in the middle of nowhere, with an enrollment of a few dozen students, expecting it to change the world. Nunn had earlier started a college in Claremont, Va., but disbanded it after a year when students spent too much time socializing in town."

Right then.
posted by Spacelegoman at 2:30 PM on January 19, 2004

I applied there (if I recall correctly) when I was shopping for colleges. The application is all essays -- 2 or 3 to get to the real application, which is 6 essays. I made it past the first round, but kinda lost interest. [I think that if the admissions committee (it's got students on it) likes your essay's, they invite you out to visit / interview.]

The socialism I liked. The seclusion I could do without.
posted by zpousman at 2:57 PM on January 19, 2004

From the school's website: ..."dairy boys"..."The dancing is high energy and the floor gets sweaty quickly."..."And, of course, there's the hot tub"... "The prime time for physical activity is just after dinner"..."the Bonepile, the student body's communal wardrobe...Theoretically, one could find everything one needed in the Bonepile"..."And it is good to climb - to get sweaty and tired and hungry with friends. And then to let the lights go out slowly with the sun, make heat and food--talk and huddle close and sleep closer to the stars."

Oh god, that's hot.

*fans self*
posted by stonerose at 2:58 PM on January 19, 2004

Always wanted to go here, was too weird a choice for the folks at the time. Also fell in love with another unusual school: St John's College. You read the great books of western civilization for 4 years, picking up Latin and French along the way. Beautiful. I ended up at dear old Earlham, and it was a wonderful 4 years.

It's a shame most people don't even consider small liberal-arts type schools, and end up as student 345-09-2416 in an auditorium at anonymous State U. Any other greatest hits for quirky colleges?
posted by leotrotsky at 3:01 PM on January 19, 2004

From the Academic offerings:

Traditional Breads of Europe and the Middle East
Cecilia Michel Lopez, terms 2, 1999

This class will teach the techniques of traditional bread making from England to Russia and Egypt. Bread making is both science and art. As a science, it demands careful obervation skills, record-keeping, and a thorough understanding of the biological process involved. As an art, it allows considerable personal judgment, preference, and style-- it is also beautiful. Baking must be practiced with respect for the biological processes involved and a strong sense of cooking as bountiful celebration. This class is offered with the chef's blessing and his kitchen needs, expectations, and convenience are a priority. Bread, like all community cooking, serves the community first.

Just wow. Bread, man.
posted by davidmsc at 3:09 PM on January 19, 2004

Any other greatest hits for quirky colleges?

Goddard College, Plainfield, VT
posted by anastasiav at 3:16 PM on January 19, 2004

this alumni letter (pdf) lists what many deep springs alums have gone on to. very impressive.

sounds like a cool school, wonder what it would have been like to go there...
posted by jcruelty at 3:24 PM on January 19, 2004

Any other greatest hits for quirky colleges?

The Evergreen State College, while a public school, is pretty quirky. No grades, just narrative evaluations. No distribution requirements. Instead of a mish-mash of individual unrelated courses, 16-credit "coordinated studies" programs.
posted by litlnemo at 4:24 PM on January 19, 2004

I have a friend who went there here in grad school -- he could probably talk about it, but he said he hardly ever uses a computer. I obviously should've gone there too.
posted by josh at 4:25 PM on January 19, 2004

Nunn also founded the Telluride Association, which runs summer and full-time scholarship programs through bigger schools like Cornell and U Michigan. Students live in the same house together and run it like a family (take turns at dishes, yardwork, etc.) while getting the benefit of having smart people to sit in the common room and talk about art and life with.
posted by onlyconnect at 4:42 PM on January 19, 2004

It's a shame most people don't even consider small liberal-arts type schools, and end up as student 345-09-2416 in an auditorium at anonymous State U.

There's at least one reason for that - State Us are typically about 1/5th the cost of small liberal arts schools, if you are in-state. It's still sometimes even possible to graduate from one without being in debt.
posted by advil at 5:54 PM on January 19, 2004

Marlboro College in Marlboro, VT was a great experience.
posted by swerve at 6:50 PM on January 19, 2004

From the Sunspot article: "In an all-male environment, that comfort level sometimes leads to exaggerated boyishness."

Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

Any other greatest hits for quirky colleges?

My semi-alma-mater (I never graduated) was the Manhattan campus of Fordham University(the main more conventional campus is up in the Bronx). The curriculum and stuff was pretty standard, but our "campus" had no dorms. So the 10% of students who were not commuters were housed in a glorified SRO on 79th street (it's since been renovated) with a bunch of rent controlled old folks. One of them was an 80+ year old woman who was supposedly a former showgirl. She enjoyed walking the halls in a haze with her robe open and nothing underneath. Ruined nudity for a while. We were also above a nightclub fulla tuxedoed schmucks that went thumpity thump well into the night. Worst of all, I was surrounded by theatre majors.

But since I was in New York, I figured I'd hang out downtown and absorb the artistic scene downtown. Oddly, I ended up dating a girl from Flushing and spent most of my time in a world resembling the King Of Queens. Which may explain why even though, two years and many misadventures later, I was back on my dumb ass in the boondocks working nights in a bakery, I am back in the outer boroughs today.

Quirky enough?
posted by jonmc at 7:35 PM on January 19, 2004

There's always Reed or Antioch.

I ended up at dear old Earlham

First thought: Damn hippie
Second thought: What year?
posted by donpardo at 7:42 PM on January 19, 2004

Back when I was in college, my advisor taught there for one of their terms (which, IIRC, was about 6-7 weeks, with 6 terms/year.) Since this was right when I was supposed to be starting a summer's worth of research, he arranged for me to go out there and visit for two weeks.

What I remember most about the place was the scenery — some of the most austere, stark, gorgeous terrain I've ever had the pleasure to see. There's at least one mountaintop within day-hike distance of the campus, and a gorgeous National Forest within a couple hours' drive.

The work is hard — I helped out with collecting the alfalfa bales from the field, a relatively minor task, and even taht taxed my pasty, white, East-Coast-liberal-arts-college-attending muscles. Most of the cattle were up in the high pastures when I visited, IIRC, so I didn't get a chance to see that aspect of it. I do, however, remember the existence of a student job called the "cowboy", which essentially consisted of spending a term in the higher pastures with the cattle instead of taking classes.

And yes, the all-boys atmosphere was certainly palpable (campus-spanning games of Capture the Flag; girlie mags in the dormitory bathrooms), but there were a few women around (a couple of the farmhands and a couple of the professors' wives, when I was there) to keep everyone from strutting around starkers.

If I'd known about it when I'd been in high school, would I have gone there? I think it would have looked incredibly cool to my seventeen-year-old eyes, and I might have applied. If I'd gone, though, I'm not sure it would have been to my benefit in the long run; given how socially awkward & sheltered I was when I graduated from high school, I'm not sure that two years of talking to the same thirty or so people would have helped.

Oh, and I'll be surprised if we get any replies from current students (as interesting as that would be): the Internet connection available there consists of a 2400-baud modem daisy-chained via microwave towers over the mountains to Bishop, CA. The connection goes bad if it gets too windy, and every now and then a transmitter breaks down and the connection goes out for several days.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:32 PM on January 19, 2004

They recruited me, sent me some literature. It didn't look like much fun to my 17-year-old pasty-white-boy self. So I went to UNC, along with 32,000 other folk, and promptly flunked out. I ended up graduating from tiny little (yet very traditional) Presbyterian College, 1000 students strong. So I guess I found a happy medium.

Berea is another work-your-way-through college, as is Berry. The University of the South is another oddball place. Honor students, and all faculty, wear black gowns to class. The town is on a mountaintop far from the corrupting influences of civilization, and most of the faculty live in rented houses surrounding the college. My (now ex-) wife and I considered teaching there, but felt it would be too isolated.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:35 AM on January 20, 2004

I have a good friend who attended DSC and I have to say, he seems the wiser for it. Then again, he was damn smart to begin with.
posted by Henry Flower at 7:03 PM on January 20, 2004

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