Northwestern to St. John's

I am a Northwestern freshman. I am wondering if transferring to St. John’s would be a good idea. I am doing okay at Northwestern, but it’s not like I love this place.

The Great Books program at St. John’s fascinates me. Communication skills and the ability to read and understand extremely complex books are what I want to develop and also what, I believe, St. John’s can and will give.

However, I’m not sure if this would be a right choice. Concerns are practical and realistic ones. Education at St. John’s will surely build great foundation for further advanced learning. But SJC education itself seems not quite enough for building specialization or practical skills (like finance?). That may be why almost 70% of graduates pursue advanced degrees where they can obtain more practical skills applicable in job settings. If I currently have no plan for a graduate school, do you recommend that I rather stay at Northwestern?

By the way, I have no clue what I want to major. I am honestly open to everything, but just don’t have anything that really really intrigues me.

Any thoughts? Thanks!

Before I begin, I will say that not everyone has the experience that I had. I am looking at this from a pragmatic perspective, where the average student does have this experience.

I posted something similar in a recent thread and am expanding upon it:

If you want to be successful, do not go to SJC. It will set you up for a life of misery. They will never tell you your grades until you have received them at the end of the semester, which by then, is too late. They have a strict grade deflation policy, and most kids (meaning 90%) hover around a 2.9-3.0 gpa. If you have any hopes of going to graduate school or finding a job, go somewhere else. Their reasoning for low grades is that grad schools know how difficult the school is, but intentionally giving your students low grades (low grades that they don’t deserve) to appear rigorous is egregious, unethical, and unacceptable. The people there have the pomposity of The University of Chicago without the credentials to do so. Not that anyone has the right to be pompous, but if your school has 100’s of Nobel Laureates and Rhodes Scholars affiliated with it, then you can brag a little. If you are interested in a classical type of education, go to UChicago. You will be far better off. Besides, you can always get the SJC Reading List and just read the books on your own. After you’ve read the books on your own, you can find someone in the classics department and have a meaningful discussion with them. Also at Chicago, you can major in something that you want to study, along with reading the classics in the context of their core curriculum.

Oftentimes, the kids who work the hardest won’t get to speak as much as they deserve to, which is disappointing. It’s even more disappointing when this happens at 10 pm. Sometimes the Seminar class runs late and it goes until 10:30. You might become very angry when class unnecessarily cuts into your personal sleep time. The classroom conversations are wholeheartedly unproductive. Most kids after the first 3 weeks will come to class significantly unprepared (or high) and will just say something to prove to the tutor that they read the material. What’s even more frustrating is that the kids who talk the most, know the least.

The only productive conversations that I had at this school were the ones that I had with professors. As many negative things that I have to say about this place, even I will admit that there is no disputing the quality of the professors (or “tutors” so to speak). They are world class. But the biggest problem is that if you don’t understand something, and need them to explain it to you, they will nuke your grade. Why? Because there are no tests. Ergo, they must base your grade off of your “perceived” understanding of the material. If it appeared to them that you didn’t understand the material, why would they give you a good grade?

Don’t care about your grades? Don’t care about grad school? Gonna just live off family money and read classical literature for the rest of your life? Then by all means, none of these problems that I’ve raised will concern you. Granted, does everyone have the same experience that I do? No. Some people thrive there and have an excellent time. But there are too many people who have the same experience that I had for someone to take a risk without knowing some of the details of what goes on there and I think that it’s important for people to know more about the school from a firsthand account.

Some sources will say that 75% of kids at SJC go to grad school. When I was there, I asked many seniors what their plans were for the following year; 90% of whom gave me a blank stare and a “Duh, I don’t know.” This was not an “I don’t know because I’m passionate about things ranging from Newtonian Physics to The Italian Renaissance”. It was an “I don’t know because I haven’t thought of anything real-life-applicable for 4 years.” If you have any type of passion for a particular subject, you will not have the opportunity to study it. You won’t even get to study classics after the first 3 semesters if you’re passionate about that. Sure, you might say that the school is very rigorous and that’s what makes it great. But that’s where you are wrong.

Let’s say that you don’t care about grades, and just want the best quality education for yourself. Books that posit such important ethical questions aren’t meant to be given a fast food approach to philosophy. Meaning that the books are read at such a rapid rate, that the students don’t have the opportunity to really delve deep into the philosophical issues that they want to explore. Instead of knowing a lot about many things, they know little about a lot of things. The only exception to this is the books that kids write their annual essays on, in which one will know a lot about one particular question. But is writing 15 pages on whether or not Aristotle’s inquiry into the nature of human good as an activity of body or soul REALLY going to benefit you in the long run? I, for one can tell you that it’s only been 4 months since I wrote that paper, and when I read it again I didn’t understand a word I was saying. Yet I got a B on the paper so it must’ve been halfway decent to the person reading it at the time.

Now let’s pretend that you want to make friends when you’re in college. I will tell you that many of the kids there are quite unlikeable. Most of the time, you can’t make one joke without offending someone. It’s almost like these people have an “offense fetish” a desire to be offended. It’s like that scene in “21 Jump Street” where the kids start saying that Jenko and Schmidt are being racist and homophobic towards the kid, when they weren’t even doing anything. Or the scene from “Ted” when Ted’s girlfriend Tammy Lynn gets offended when Mila Kunis’ character asks her simple questions. Do you really want to live like this and walk on eggshells for 4 years?

I don’t mean to be harsh, but these are the sad realities of this school. I hope that I can save at least one person from the trouble of having to go through what I had to go through.

How was the social environment at the school? You make very valid points here and I am reconsidering my college options…