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| The college employs a four year "Great Books" program that includes the generally accepted 'classics' of the western world. This program starts with the Greek philosophers and the Bible and progresses through the later commentators on these seminal works - both defenders and critics.|
There are majors or electives. The teachers - called 'tutors' - lead a group of students in a daily or twice weekly discussion of a section of one of these "Great Books". Different tutors bring different backgrounds,
strengths and interests to their discussions, so the variability in value to an individual student is considerable. This wouldn't present a big
problem except the final exams are uniform: all freshmen take the same math or lab final, for example, and the preparation may or may not have covered the same points of emphasis. This was very frustrating as was the
great subjective element in individual grading in such a loosely defined system. Syllabi, for example, included our required reading assignment but little information
about the signposts leading towards good grades. TAC purports to deemphasize grades but that didn't seem to help me - I graduated with a 3.0 but was always an active participant in class. Too bad that didn't
seem to help at the end of the semester. One of the natural defects of such a subjective grading system was that some students quickly earned the reputation as 'smart' among the tutors and grading differences quickly arose. I have met graduates who claim they worked very little and
received 3.5 GPAs overall - I can't help but resent them. Please don't be fooled - grades matter to grad programs and my poor TAC performance caused me to change career direction to minimize the impact my low grades
would have. The truth is, I should have transferred to Occidental College or a similar school.
Also, the college is heavily oriented towards making the Catholic faith plausible to it's students. That is it's whole focus - there isn't a goal that is a close second. This produces a deplorable 'good guy' (supporter
of needed premise or positions that support Catholic doctrine) and 'bad guy' (critic of Catholic positions). This closed mindedness is absorbed early and well by the students and actually interferes with a genuine
liberal education. TAC is a four year advertisement for one understanding of the The One True Faith. If that seems interesting to a prospective student, he or she will not be disappointed.
It's math and laboratory curricula are antiquated: no semblance of modern biology is taught for example and the little modern math and physics present are very poorly understood by the students and inadequate for transfer or to meet graduate school admission requirements.Oddly, frequent writing isn't part of the program although there is a final thesis required. I wish there had been some attempt to train us in writing a basic research paper which would have helped ease the transition to further schooling.
|Nov 20 2012|| 4th Year Male --
Class 1994 |
| Thomas Aquinas College is a 4 year liberal arts college offering a curriculum centered around the Great Books. All the students take the same course of studies, an integrated curriculum consisting of theology, science, mathematics, philosophy, literature, history, etc.|
The classes are small, usually made up of 11 - 19 students directed by a "tutor" who controls the discussion. The classes are seminar type settings rather than lectures. There are no majors, minors, or electives. Every student does the same sequence of studies and at the end each receives the same degree - a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts.
The workload is very heavy as it's a very rigorous curriculum. It's a challenging, and unique academic experience -- one that is testing, draining,
But the downside?
For people who want the "college experience", TAC is not the right place for you. Dress codes, curfews, and stringent rules destroy the atmosphere quite a bit. TAC is a very catholic place, and whilst religion is not forced upon you and you don't have to be catholic to attend, it is a VERY catholic and conservative atmosphere. This of course affects what kind of place that it is. The student body consists of a lot of homeschoolers and people from large families. I'd estimate under 10 of the student body ISN'T catholic, myself included. Everyone tends to be very like-minded in their thinking and beliefs, so if you're looking for a diverse campus culture, this is not the place for you either. It is a very small college, numbering about 350 students, which is both a positive and negative thing. Positive in that you get to know all your classmates and tutor really well, and many find smaller classes to be beneficial to their learning experience. The size makes it negative due to the fact you're really stuck with the same people for 4 years which almost feels like you're in high school rather than university! The size also makes the dating scene difficult, because if you break up it's difficult to avoid them and there's not a lot of "selection".
The social life was probably the worst part about TAC. Being so small, there was very few clubs or groups to get involved in. It is a very sheltered environment, partly due to being very isolated. The campus aesthetically speaking is absolutely beautiful, being situated in the Los Padres National Forest in Santa Paula in Southern California. Being in this unique location provides opportunities for bushwalking and hiking. The school organises certain events for students, such as guest speakers, excursions to nearby towns for museums and plays, plays to get involved in, dances etc. but overall the social life is very bland and not very exciting. There is a not a whole lot that goes on at the campus which can make it a dull experience. And since everything is so strict, it's sometimes difficult to enjoy your time there and "feel at home" It's not a laid-back kind of atmosphere which is kinda how I imagined college to be - there's not a lot of freedoms or privileges granted. For example, no TVs are allowed in dorms so everything is very regulated and kept under control. Another thing is the school seems very centered on academics to the point where the overall college/social experience is compromised - even out of class students talk about school work a lot of the time. I transferred after a year because I didn't feel I was getting a lot out of it, and I was wondering where it would possibly take me. Of course, getting a job shouldn't be the most important factor in choosing your college education. But realize that at TAC, whilst a highly academic and rich learning experience in many ways, it is also very rigid and narrow and in many ways limiting. You don't get to see "the full picture" or be exposed to all kinds of thinking, beliefs, etc. so it is definitley *not* for everyone. I recommend you attend the High School Program first to see if TAC is for you. Many people would find attending TAC a very worthwhile and rewarding experience. But like anything, make sure it's the right one for you.
|Mar 21 2007|| 1st Year Female --
Class 2010 |