St. John’s College Revolutionizes College Admissions with Innovative Discussion-Based Application

The new format emphasizes thoughtful, sustained conversation—a hallmark of the St. John’s experience.

Annapolis, Md./Santa Fe, N.M. [August 16, 2023] - St. John’s College, renowned for its interdisciplinary curriculum centered around great books and classroom discussions, has announced a groundbreaking approach to college admissions through its newly introduced Discussion-Based Application. Breaking from conventional norms, the Discussion-Based Application offers a distinct alternative to the traditional written application and is designed to assess prospective students based on their ability to engage in thoughtful, sustained conversation—a hallmark of the St. John’s educational experience.

“We believe that the application process should reflect the essence of the education we provide,” says Mark Roosevelt, President of St. John’s College Santa Fe. “Our Discussion-Based Application embodies the spirit of intellectual exploration and deep engagement that defines St. John’s.”

Although the college will continue to offer the choice of a traditional written application for students who prefer to showcase their writing skills, the Discussion-Based Application allows prospective students to undergo an evaluation process comprising two interviews and participation in a St. John’s seminar. This approach eliminates the need for lengthy written applications, essays, and recommendations, allowing those with strong speaking skills to shine.

The Discussion-Based Application process includes two interview components. The first interview, conducted by an admissions counselor, provides an opportunity for applicants to discuss their interests and learn more about St. John’s. The second interview, led by a St. John’s faculty member, delves into the applicant’s academic preparedness, their perspective on the curriculum, and their favorite books, fostering a dialogue that mirrors the college’s classroom discussions.

“We are excited to welcome applicants to engage in meaningful conversations that mirror the St. John’s experience,” says Nora Demleitner, President of St. John’s College Annapolis. “The Discussion-Based Application allows us to evaluate students on their ability to communicate, analyze ideas, and contribute to insightful discourse while also guarding against authenticity challenges posed by college-admissions consultants and AI-penned writing.”

Applicants can fulfill the seminar requirement of the Discussion-Based Application by participating in the St. John’s Summer Academy program or attending free Saturday Seminars throughout the year. Seminars encourage students to participate in genuine conversation, emphasizing listening as well as speaking. Prospective students are also required to submit a graded analytical essay from their junior or senior year of high school, showcasing their ability to express ideas through writing rather than requiring an essay written especially for the application process itself.

One distinct advantage of the Discussion-Based Application is that it allows for an expedited admission decision within two weeks of fulfilling all requirements. This approach aims to alleviate stress for applicants, provide an immersive introduction to St. John’s, and invite prospective students into the college community and culture before the onset of classes.

“While the Discussion-Based Application may not suit every student, it offers an unparalleled opportunity for those who thrive in conversational contexts to authentically showcase their thinking,” says Ben Baum, Vice President of Enrollment. “In that respect, I think this new application will serve as a tool to promote access among students of diverse backgrounds and learning styles. Instead of simply submitting an application over a computer screen, students will engage deeply with St. John’s through the application process itself, allowing them to get to know the college better.”

The Discussion-Based Application is now open alongside the traditional written application. Prospective students can find further details about the Discussion-Based Application and its requirements on the St. John’s College website.


St. John’s College is exceptionally distinctive due to our interdisciplinary program, in which 200 of the most revolutionary great books from across 3,000 years of human thought are explored in student-driven, discussion-based classes. By probing world-changing ideas in literature, philosophy, mathematics, science, music, history, and more, students leave St. John’s with a foundation for success in such fields as law, government, research, STEM, media, education and more. Located on two campuses in two historic state capitals—Annapolis, Maryland, and Santa Fe, New Mexico—St. John’s is the third-oldest college in the United States and has been hailed as the “most forward-thinking, future-proof college in America” by Quartz and as a “high-achieving angel hovering over the landscape of American higher education” by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more at

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Carol Carpenter, VP of Communications: carol.carpenter(at)