If someone asked you to picture the most exclusive college in the United States, what would you imagine? Probably some upper-crust, northeastern Ivy League school. Or maybe a renowned art school like Julliard or NYU. What you probably won’t imagine though is a small ranch located in a California desert just outside of Death Valley.
Welcome to Deep Springs College, a school of only 26 students that focuses on teaching students life lessons through a combination of academics and manual labor as a ranch hand.
Deep Springs was founded in 1917 and has stayed committed to its founding principles ever since.
Deep Springs College believes in the power of self-government, so the students themselves are tasked with running the ranch and many of the school’s operations.
The school fosters a tight-knit community between its few students and forces them all to hold each other accountable.
The small campus features only a few buildings, all of which come together to form a circle surrounding the ranch.
Best of all, everything is free. The lucky few who get accepted receive scholarships covering all tuition, room and board.
Since its founding, Deep Springs has admitted men only. But in 2011, a decision was made to begin the process of transitioning into a coeducational school.
The student body has elections every year to fill certain roles with exciting titles like “Dragonslayer,” “Frodo” and “Gandolf.” The Dragonslayer is in charge of fire safety while the Frodo and Gandolf positions run the radio and telephone communications.
But there is one position that is revered above all the rest, “The Cowboy.”
Most every student position at Deep Springs requires 20 hours a week of manual labor, but The Cowboy is a full-time job that requires 18 months of commitment. It is his duty to watch over the cattle from 4:30 in the afternoon until 6 in the morning. My old college job sure seems pretty easy now.
The closest town is over an hour away, so the college exists in almost total isolation.
The students embrace the isolation though and all agree to never leave the ranch except for religious or emergency reasons.
If you’re thinking of taking a visit to Deep Springs you are out of luck because the school prohibits access to visitors of any kind unless they pass a lengthy review process.
Despite its unconventional methods, Deep Springs has proven to be a success throughout its 98-year history. From the tiny alumni base has come Rhode Scholars, Senators, and even an Emmy-Award winner. Do you think you have what it takes to join them?