Classes at St. John’s

What Type of Classes Does St. John’s Offer?

All classes at St. John’s are conducted seminar-style with 20 students or fewer and faculty facilitating the discussion. There are no large classes, teaching assistants, or introductory lectures; conversation among students and faculty is the heart of every class at St. John’s.

While many students are familiar with discussion-based classes from high school, few have experienced the kind of discussion that happens at St. John’s. Whether the subject is literature or calculus, students do the talking. Classes will have one (and sometimes two) faculty members guiding a conversation by asking questions.

Schedules contain six different kinds of classes:


Every student spends four years in seminar—a class that features the humanities and social sciences, including philosophy, literature, history, economics, politics, theology, psychology, and more.

Mathematics Tutorial

All students take four years of mathematics tutorial addressing questions of geometry, calculus, and relativity in a discussion-based format.

Language Tutorial

All students take four years of language tutorial to study ancient Greek, modern French, and English poetry.


For freshman, junior, and senior years, students take a class called “laboratory” where they discuss scientific texts in biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and genetics, and then recreate iconic experiments in a laboratory.

Music Tutorial

For freshman and sophomore year, students immerse themselves in music tutorial through study in sight singing and music theory, where they explore the work of great composers such as Bach, Mozart, and Wagner.


While all students take the same seminar, mathematics tutorial, language tutorial, music tutorial, and laboratory, students choose their own elective classes called “preceptorials” during junior and senior year. Preceptorials may include more intensive study of a book already in the curriculum or something entirely different.

Are There Lecture Classes at St. John’s?

A St. John’s lecture isn’t your typical college lecture: Students may attend Friday night lectures, which features talks from visiting scholars or St. John’s faculty. Recent lectures have included subjects from Einstein to the Electoral College, Sanskrit, the Koran, Aristotle, and Shakespeare.

What is a Typical Freshman Class Schedule?

All first-year students at St. John’s take the same classes. These samples are for illustration purposes only, and actual freshman schedules may vary.

A Sample Freshman Schedule, Annapolis
9–10:10 a.m. Language   Language Music Language
10:20–11:30 a.m.   Mathematics   Mathematics Mathematics
1–3:40 p.m. Laboratory     Laboratory  
8–10 p.m. Seminar     Seminar Formal Lecture
A Sample Freshman Schedule, Santa Fe
9–10:30 a.m. Mathematics   Mathematics Mathematics  
10:30–12 p.m. Music Language Language   Language
1:30–4:30 p.m.   Laboratory   Laboratory  
7:30–9:30 p.m. Seminar     Seminar Formal Lecture