By Jacob Rowland, 2020 Fall Semester Program
Thoreau College is a singular place, and perhaps a hard place to understand. The applicant process is, in a way, opposite to the ordinary college search process: most colleges have extensive websites, virtual tours, and brochures to appeal to applicants, but something always feels wrong—you feel more like a potential customer than a potential student. In contrast, Thoreau doesn’t spend too much time on advertising every detail of the experience—it might even seem like there’s something you’re missing—but then, the second you reach out, you understand the difference.
Thoreau College is a profoundly human institution. When Jacob (the director) responds to your tentative email of interest with equal parts geniality, transparency, and excitement, when your interviewers actually read your essays and ask you to elaborate on the ideas you wrote, when you are sent a chart of the exact costs of running the college when talking about finance, it’s clear that, much more than simply a microcollege, or a folk school, or a liberal arts college, or anything else you could call it, Thoreau College is a bunch of people committed to building a meaningful community.
Looking at the trend of colleges moving away from the human and towards the profitable, it’s tempting to grow distrustful of all that is institutional, to be cynical of organization itself. But we (especially young people) need places, groups, and environments that spur growth. At Thoreau College, I’ve seen how those growing climates are created: not through prestigious titles billion-dollar endowments, but through collective intention and commitment.