I attended an information session this week for the Evergreen State College.
Evergreen is a public, liberal arts college just outside of Olympia, Washington. Since I’m probably not going to be able to make it up to Olympia any time soon, I was happy to take advantage of the fact that a representative from Evergreen was in the Los Angeles area to share more information about this very interesting school.
With just under 5,000 undergraduate students, Evergreen is a moderate-sized institution. It is public, so tuition for California students is comparable to the California State University system (about $18,000 per year tuition, not including room and board).
Evergreen is very different from many other colleges in that students don’t take four classes during each quarter, they sign up for a “program,” and they work with one professor for that ten week period on a variety of topics all connected by a theme. For example, a student would choose to take a program (currently being offered – more details here) called “Public Health and Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa,” with Professor Tom Wolmendorff (who attended the local information session), and they would spend time researching public health issues, creating spreadsheets that relate to economic development, reading books, watching and discussing films related to this topic. Prof. Wolmendorff team teaches this course with another professor, and the two professors work with the same students, no more than 48 of them, through each of these explorations. There are no teaching assistants, so students have direct contact with their professor, averaging 14-20 hours per week.
Through this thematic style of education, Evergreen really takes interdisciplinary study to a new level. There are also no grades at Evergreen – instead, they have what they call “narrative evaluations.” In addition to the professors writing evaluations of the students’ progression through the ten-week program, students write self-evaluations as well. Evergreen says that students have a deeper connection with their education than at many other colleges, because they are trained to think about what they are learning and how they are performing.
Evergreen is definitely not for everyone. Their hands-on style of education is more collaborative than many students are accustomed to, and for students who want to sit in the back of a lecture hall, or blend into the crowd, this would definitely be the wrong place.
Evergreen offers merit scholarships to students with over a 3.0 GPA, and weights GPA twice as heavily as SAT or ACT scores (“if we had our choice, we would be test-optional,” said Admissions representative Clarissa, “but the state of Washington makes us require standardized tests.”)
Of course you can learn much more about Evergreen from their website, and even more by visiting campus.
But if you don’t plan on travelling to all of the colleges you’d like to explore, take advantage of these local information sessions. In addition to learning more about the college itself, you’ll learn from paying attention to who attends – these students may be your competition and someday, your colleague! You may be in a room with hundreds of people, or a more intimate gathering where you can learn more about the other attendees. Boston University will be in Los Angeles in a few weeks – here’s the link to that reception.
Evelyn Alexander is president of Magellan College Counseling.