What exactly is Deep Springs?
Deep Springs College is an accredited two-year full-scholarship liberal arts college with between 24 and 30 students, located on a cattle-ranch and alfalfa farm in the high desert of eastern California. The school, founded by L.L. Nunn in 1917 on the three pillars of labor, self-governance, and academics, aims to prepare its students for lives of service to humanity.
Why are the essay questions on the application so weird?
It is all too easy to fall into traditional modes of self-presentation when applying to colleges. But since Deep Springs is unusual, it is hard to tell from “usual” essays how well a student might fare here. This means our essay questions should bring you to a stop for an hour or two.
Please don’t be discouraged if you’re not sure at first what to say. We have tried to ask questions about things you haven’t already studied, and to craft questions that cannot be answered without taking some time to think about them first. We hope that our applicants will enjoy this opportunity.
Can I visit Deep Springs?
Due to social distancing necessitated by COVID, for Academic Year 2020-2021 our usual visiting policies are greatly curtailed. Please see the COVID-19 Updates on our College News page. The remainder of this response to this FAQ question does not reflect these temporary changes.
Deep Springs does not have an admissions staff to welcome visitors or provide tours. We try to limit the number of campus visits in order to ensure the best possible atmosphere for our focus on education.
It’s not that we are anti-social; it’s simply that our community is very small, and the students and staff are heavily scheduled with labor and academics. Because of this, there is no one with the free time to show visitors around and talk to them about the college. If we encouraged the kind of prospective applicant visits typical of other colleges, students would risk falling behind on labor and academic responsibilities, and, worse, treating visitors rudely by mistake.
That said, we don’t expect students to enroll without visiting. We require a visit from most applicants once they have reached the second round of our applications process. That way we can consolidate the visiting times and provide proper attention to the visiting applicants. Travel support is available for applicants who need it.
Is a visit required as part of the second-round application? What if I can’t afford it?
If you are admitted to the second round of our application process, you can apply for financial support for travel expenses within the United States. (If you qualify for application fee waivers at other colleges, there’s a good chance you qualify for travel support at Deep Springs.) We make alternative arrangements for international students who cannot afford to travel here as applicants. Please don’t let fear of the travel cost stop you from applying.
Who will actually read my application?
Each first-round application is read by 4 members of the Deep Springs community, as facilitated by the Applications Committee (ApCom). Second-round applications are read by ApCom (about a dozen individuals), which also conducts interviews and makes the final decisions. ApCom is chaired by a student and made up predominantly of students.
Is there a tuition fee of any kind?
Deep Springs is fully committed to ensuring that all selected applicants who wish to attend are not burdened by financial considerations. For this reason, all students receive a full scholarship valued at over $50,000, which includes tuition, room, and board. Students are expected to provide a small damage deposit and to pay for their own books, travel, medical insurance and incidental expenses. In cases of demonstrated financial need, these costs too can be covered by scholarship. The Dean consults with admitted students to ensure that all expenses are met.
How many students do you accept? How many students make it to the second round of the applications process?
We receive around 300 applications each year. Of these, about 40 of the most promising are selected for the second round application and interview. From these second-round applicants, 14 are invited to enroll and 10 are placed on a wait-list. Our goal is an incoming class of 14 students.
Is there an age limit?
We do not consider applicants over the age of 23 at the time of application, nor students who have already completed a four-year degree.
Is there a testing or GPA cutoff?
We do not practice a GPA cutoff of any kind. However, the academic program at Deep Springs is very rigorous and students should be able to show their ability to perform consistently at a high academic level. Non-native English speakers must either obtain a TOEFL score above 100 or a IELTS score above 6, or otherwise demonstrate English proficiency.
How is my application being judged?
Beyond grades or test scores, competitive applicants should be able to demonstrate curiosity, an ability to reflect upon themselves, a strong work ethic and good communication skills. All of these traits are necessary to succeed in the Three Pillars of our educational program: academics, labor, and self-governance. It is also important that an applicant be interested in pursuing a life of service to humanity after Deep Springs, and that they have a sense of how the college would help them achieve this goal. There is no single type of student that we look for, nor any single criterion that we use in making decisions. Instead, we try to get as complete a view as possible of each applicant before deciding if they are a good “fit” for Deep Springs and if Deep Springs is a good “fit” for them.
What are you looking for in essays?
Like the rest of your application, we will read your essays to gain a better sense of the way you think and approach the world. This is an opportunity to show us what really matters to you, where you’ve come from, and how you think. We do value creativity and strong writing skills, but what we’re really looking for is a good understanding of who YOU are and why you want to attend Deep Springs.
What if I’ve never been on a farm nor practiced self-governance?
An integral part of the pedagogy at Deep Springs is learning how to learn, learning how to succeed in situations unfamiliar and intimidating. Most students arrive at the college without ever having done farm or ranch work and possessing limited – if any – experience in self-governance. Your background is far less important than your enthusiasm and work ethic in new situations.
Does Deep Springs College require standardized test scores?
No. We recently changed our admissions policy to be test-optional.
Does Deep Springs College practice affirmative action?
We firmly believe that diversity within higher education is important and valuable, especially in the small, tight-knit community that is Deep Springs. Diversity comes in many forms, and we hope to evaluate each student not only on their potential contributions to the community but also their potential growth. We do not practice quotas of any kind, but always keep in mind the socioeconomic background of each applicant while reading applications.
Can I apply early decision to another college and apply to Deep Springs?
Please do not apply early decision to another college while applying to Deep Springs.
Do you accept transfer applications?
Yes. Although Deep Springs does not accept credits for advanced standing or award bachelor’s degrees, we are more than happy to read applications from students of a variety of educational backgrounds. We will require transcripts from both your secondary school and your most recent place of higher education.
Do you accept international applicants?
Absolutely. For international students, the application process is like the application process for domestic students, with one major exception. If an applicant has not attended an English-speaking secondary school or college, we will ask for proof of English proficiency through the TOEFL, the IELTS, or other equivalent exam. Deep Springs does not offer ESL (English as a second language) programs.
If I’m accepted, when do I begin classes?
Deep Springs operates year-round, with academic coursework beginning in early July and finishing in late June of the next calendar year. If accepted, you can expect to spend two solid years at Deep Springs, with periodic week-long breaks and one 7-week term off. You can get a sense of our typical schedule by looking at the academic calendar.