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College is increasingly becoming the norm for students seeking well-paying jobs, whereas in years past, it was the exception. Education styles in college are changing as well. Many experts now consider rote memorization to be the least effective way to learn. According to, new forms of learning include schooling based “entirely [on] a discourse between the professor and the student” with minimal grading involved.

Some students would embrace such practices, while others would run away screaming. Education doesn’t function like latex gloves; one size doesn’t fit all. That is why the experiences of students like Sean O’Hagan, coming to Principia from a gap year, and Lindsay Wold, a transfer from University of Maine, are valuable: they let us compare and contrast different models.

O’Hagan said he had a very positive gap year experience. “In all honesty, my gap year was more valuable than my twelve years of classroom experience combined,” he said. O’Hagan decided that the knowledge that could be gained from college was worth the cost and work. “I knew exactly what I wanted from education and was able to clearly see that Prin had what I wanted,” he said. “What I put into my learning experience [is what I get out of it], and [I realized] that the College would give me the most opportunity to really put myself in learning situations.”

Wold is now a junior here at the college, where she has decided to be a biology major. She transferred to Principia last year and agreed to compare and contrast the two colleges she has attended. “[At Principia] I feel more challenged because our teachers […] assign a lot more work, because they are able to grade it.” Despite the increased workload, Wold said, “At Principia I have been able to actually learn the material more and have it stay in my mind.” She added, “I’d say I’m definitely enjoying classes here more because I am learning more and doing better in school.”

Another valuable viewpoint is that of professor Joan Wesman, from the Mass Communication Department. She came to teach at Principia after having had a very different undergraduate experience of her own. “One thing I liked about my college that seems very radical today […] is that there were no grades.” This forced Wesman to be conscientious of the effort she put into a class, as the only feedback she got was written evaluations after turning in assignments and at the end of the course. “The idea was that students should be motivated by a love of learning, and not by grades, and at least in my case, it worked,” she added.

“What makes Prin special beyond all else is the close relationships students have with faculty. I don’t even remember who my advisor was and am not sure I ever saw him, or her, after my freshman year,” said Wesman. Wesman also noted that the professors at Principia “[see] the students as already complete and whole.” This could be part of the atmosphere that is enticing to students who did not like the big university experience or felt burned out after high school.  

No higher education institute can promise the proverbial golden egg (in the form of job offers) for students that graduate their school. It simply doesn’t exist in the current economy. But Principia has done a good job of convincing O’Hagan, who was done with school, to attend. Principia also made college enjoyable for Wold, who burned out on the huge state school model after a year. Wesman also notes the high points of the Principia experience. While these three voices are a small part of the Principia community, they are part of an increasing number of people for whom the gloves—Principia’s academic programs—are fitting just right.