If you've ever wanted to be a cowboy...and go to college at the same time...then you should look at Deep Springs College. A two year institution nestled in the middle of a cattle ranch and alfalfa farm, its 26 students (Yes, no typo there...there are only 26 students here) work the ranch, milk the cows, herd the cattle, as well as govern the school (hiring faculty and admitting new students), and attend class. It is located in Deep Springs Valley in Inyo County, California. If you've ever wondered where nowhere is, it's in Deep Springs College.
Founded in 1917, it is all-male but the students voted to open the college to women in 2011. Unfortunately, legal challenges have forced coeducation to be delayed to at least 2015. It was founded on three pillars: academics, labor, and self governance. All students must labor for 20 hours a week in jobs around the ranch, ranging from cleaning the toilets and cooking to birthing calves and branding cattle. The day starts early for some: up at 4:30 am to milk the cows and gather eggs for the morning meal where all students, faculty (six or eight teachers) and their families sit and break bread (freshly baked on the premises of course) together.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="487"] The students govern the school. Here, they are voting for coeducation. No faculty senate here.[/caption]
Before you think that all these guys do is ride horses all day long and look like the Marlboro Man, you should know that they sit on committees that decide on admissions, liaise with the public and with alumni, sit on curriculum committees and decide on which students should continue on Deep Springs or should be "voted off the island". Since the Deep Springs community is so small, the students also decide what is taught and how things are done on campus.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="487"] They don't just milk cows and brand cattle, they study pretty hard at Deep Springs too.[/caption]
This is all great but do they actually study? Oh yes, and quite hard too. Deep Springs, again, is a two year college and students can graduate with a two year associates degree but that's rare, students normally transfer to four year universities, over half of Deep Springs alumni have obtained their doctorates. The average class size is eight and is seminar style so there's no place to hide, you have to come prepared to class every day.
Deep Springs is, understandably, quite selective. They take about 100 to 200 applicants every year for about 12-15 freshman seats. Those are Ivy-esque numbers. The applicants tend to self select though...I can't imagine that a place like Deep Springs will attract the run-of-the-mill Joe College Boy.
So if you are the rugged, outdoorsy type and you want to take that to the next level while going to college, maybe you should follow in the footsteps of Walter Isaacson (former CNN CEO and Time Managing Editor) and spend a couple of years at Cowboy College...Deep Springs.