Sunday, July 14, 2013

Real reviews of Shimer College

If you happened across the Shimer College entry on a certain popular review site (which will remain nameless here but which has become infamous for its dubious and extortionary tactics), you might easily think that only two people in all the world had considered Shimer worth reviewing -- both of whom apparently had quite miserable experiences.

Your eye might easily miss the gray text at the bottom of the page announcing "28 Filtered Reviews" -- which is where this popular review site has seen fit to dump every single positive review of Shimer College, despite nearly all of these in-depth recommendations of Shimer having been written by demonstrably real human beings who really attended the school.

In the public interest, then, I here present all 28 of the reviews of Shimer that are currently filtered on the aforementioned site. (NB, the total number of reviewers is slightly less than 28, as each update to a review is counted as a separate review.)

If, gentle reader, your review is among these, I hope you will consider reposting it on Google+ Local and/or Yahoo Local, which lack that other site's incentive to rig the game against the reviewee.

Real reviews of Shimer College, in chronological order

bill m.
Flower Mound, TX
5.0 star rating

I went to Shimer in the late 60's early 70's
The education that the school offered has proved invaluable in my life
You did not learn a craft or trade
You learned how to research and think for yourself
You also learned to take care of yourself
I've been involved with two companies that vanished but could get on with my life because of what I learned at Shimer

Jon E.

Duluth, MN
5.0 star rating

I'm sorry to hear of anyone having difficulty with financial aid at Shimer. I suspect the cause is simple shortage of admin manpower at such a small school (I would like to see Shimer achieve some economy of scale by increasing enrollment to several hundred). I nearly left Shimer after a single semester when, newly married, I thought we couldn't possibly afford double Shimer costs. Financial aid put together a package that made it possible, and both my wife and I were graduated. Years later my loans were sold to Wachovia, who put some impossible pressure on me at an especially impoverished juncture in my life. I called Shimer, who immediately called Wachovia and furnished what amounted to a character reference for me, and induced Wachovia to arrange a manageable payment schedule. I offer these anecdotes to illustrate a different facet of financial aid at Shimer. I don't wish to contradict someone else's perception, but mine is obviously one of warmth and affection.
In the matters of continuing education and job-hunting assistance I can offer no comment except to wonder what one might expect from such a small institution. A remarkably large percentage of Shimer graduates successfully pursue advanced degrees, so one can hardly fault the school for insufficiently preparing students academically. I suppose the times have changed, but it never occurred to me to seek Shimer's help in finding a job. I assumed I was on my own, but with the considerable advantage of a Shimer education and degree.
That brings me, finally, to the heart of the Shimer experience, its curriculum. Reading original source materials instead of textbooks, discussing those readings in small groups guided by skilled and experienced teachers, and pursuing the major themes of Western thought through several academic disciplines toward intellectual synthesis at the upper levels of the curriculum constitutes an educational experience attainable in very few places on the planet (Shimer is indeed unique in some important qualities). I can't claim any "success" in my life in the ordinary use of the term. I came to Shimer early in my struggle to overcome ADD (the diagnosis didn't even exist at the time) and probably some very mild form of autism. Shimer's curriculum gave me simultaneously the focus and the self-confidence I needed to learn how to overcome my deficits, and began an education which I have continued on my own to this day. I would not trade that experience for any material success I (or you) can imagine. My life began at Shimer College. I say that in complete sincerity, and it is a sentiment I have heard again and again from other Shimer alums.

Meg N.
Aurora, IL
5.0 star rating

I think I should start out by saying that Shimer College is not for everyone. We are fairly open about this, and aware that it attracts a certain type of people: usually bookish, self-motivated individuals; people who were unhappy with the type of education they'd received before; and yes, some people who because of our novel curriculum thought they might get a degree with less effort than going to a normal university. These people generally leave before they are halfway through their studies.

I am going through my second year here at the college, and while I have gone through my share of ups and downs with the community and the curriculum, my overall belief in the mission of Shimer College has not diminished. It doesn't always live up to its ideals, but what university does?

The student body is small. Lack of diversity? Maybe. It's true that it tends toward the white. Male/female seems pretty equal to me (sometimes more men than women). Political? Definitely left-leaning, but I see this trend in most college students, and I definitely know students here that span the spectrum. As far as ideology goes--I've had my own ideas challenged left and right, and the same text is approached from so many angles in a single class that it turns my head sometimes. Personalities come in an extremely wide range as well.

The curriculum itself has its roots, in part, in the Great Books movement that surged in the 1950s and continues to spread small tremors even today. But Shimer continues to revise its curriculum, adding and taking away works in various classes, diversifying the material that we read. I won't deny it's mostly western. Any Eastern, African, Central/South American literature I'd want to read, I would probably take in an elective here. But the idea is to spark original thinking, to look at how the authors we read have over the ages struggled to answer the same problems we face today. For me, it got me excited about learning things again, after high school textbook memorization had all but killed it.

One of the biggest concerns that most people have is practicality, I think. Reviewers below mentioned that Shimer grads (the recent ones) are having trouble finding work, etc etc. I think a good amount of this is due to the economy at the moment, among other factors. My mother graduated from Shimer in 1975; she is now a general editor of the religion section in a publishing magazine, works for religion news sources, and has published three books. My own plans after graduation include publishing novels, volunteering and traveling, attending culinary institutes and working at starting a cafe or something similar. Will I be in debt? I don't know. It's probable, but not yet speculative. It's a much-touted statistic that two-thirds of our graduates go on to higher education; accounting for the small number of students that we have, that still speaks of some successes. The way Shimer approaches reading, writing and analytical thought serves grad students very well when it comes to taking the GRE.

As far as tuition goes--it's fairly expensive, but for a private college, it's on the lower end of the scale. Shimer has expanded its scholarships, most recently with the Michel de Montaigne scholarship competition, offering two full and two half-tuition scholarships. We may offer less financial aid than other universities do--we are small, we do have less resources. This is part of the reason we share a campus with the Illinois Institute of Technology. We are slowly building up our resources and our student body, and in the meantime taking advantage of the city location that IIT has to offer. Possibly the best thing about the campus is that as a full-time student you get a Upass, allowing you unlimited rides on CTA public transit for a single semester fee--huge savings on what you would normally pay for monthly passes.

Shimer has two programs: a weekday and a weekend college. The weekday follows a more normal school schedule of classes; the weekend college meets once every three weeks for two days of intense back-to-back classes. It's ideal for working adults that would like to go back to college but don't have the time to do it on a weekday. I've taken classes in both programs and enjoyed them both immensely. They each have their differences and their advantages.

For me, the best thing about being at Shimer is that I'm around people who are really excited about reading the things that we do, and have explosive ideas about the world. Yes, most of us are young and tend towards the ideological side without real-world grounding as of yet. But you have to grow up somewhere. I see nothing wrong with thinking you can change the world and trying. Sometimes you really can. Shimer has immensely helped my reading and thinking skills, which I know will serve me when I go to publish. I've run out of room here, but I could say so much more. Shimer has given me the freedom to think.

Marilyn M.
Libertyville, IL
5.0 star rating

As a graduate of Shimer's Weekend Program, as well as a five-year student of a large state university, and someone who currently works at an excellent large suburban high school, I must dispute some of the criticisms I've read here. Shimer is far from perfect -- and it's true that one can have a less than stimulating class if one's fellow students (or oneself!) comes to class unprepared -- however, in my four years at Shimer even the worst class was better than an average class at a large university. I found at Shimer a love of learning that I had not seen in all my years of schooling. Both the professors and the students were curious and intelligent -- willing to challenge one another and themselves. The fact that the students had real control over the content of the class meant that if a class failed to engage or challenge you, you had to accept part of the blame for that -- you couldn't blame it on a lousy professor. There were many intelligent professors at my large university, but they were uninvolved with and disinterested in undergraduate students. Teaching us was a rather unsavory chore to be gotten through as quickly as possible. For several years I was convinced they had underground tunnels or secret passageways to escape the classroom buildings, as I never encountered them in the halls or on campus. At Shimer, we ate together, had wonderful conversations, and occasionally socialized on weekends. They were involved with and concerned about the students to a degree that I still find incredible.
I think much of the dissatisfaction one might have with Shimer -- or any college/university for that matter -- is a result of incomplete research. I definitely should have done more searching before I attended that large university. There are many components that combine to make a school a good fit for someone, and there should be some extensive soul searching and a good deal of on-site examination and conversation before a decision is reached. One complaint was the size of the school -- it takes very little research to find out that information, and that should definitely be taken into consideration before one commits to attending a school - of ANY size. Why didn't the student think that through beforehand and perhaps talk to Shimer students about that concern?
I cannot agree at all with the comment on cost -- you folks need to look around a bit -- as far as private schools go, Shimer is on the VERY low end. Most privates cost thousands more, and most don't even begin to approach the kind of education available at Shimer.
It is true that you may well have an English teacher as your tutor in a science class. I found that incredibly refreshing -- we were learning together, and it was exciting and energizing! We frequently had visitors to our classes, and on several occasions the visitors weren't sure which of us was the teacher. Everyone in the class -- including the tutor -- was delighted by this, as we felt it demonstrated that we were asking good questions and digging deeply into the readings.
Finally, the whole job thing is problematic for ALL graduates today. Liberal arts grads often have a tough time selling themselves, but generally, once they get that first job, their value becomes obvious. The trouble these days is getting that first job! I truly believe the faculty will help you in any way possible -- but no one will research this for you -- although they may provide alumni contacts and other sources of information, this is an every-girl/guy-for-her/himself sort of thing.
Shimer provides something rare and wonderful in higher education, and I hate to see folks tear it down for things it never claimed to have in the first place -- at a school of 100, one can scarcely expect an extensive campus and resources (didn't you visit first?) -- or for things it doesn't want to have (professors lecturing away about their field of expertise, rather than acting as questioning guides to the student's own learning). I can understand that this type of education isn't for everyone, but for those of us who jumped in and really worked while we were there, I believe it was the best of all possible worlds.

Colleen C.
Brookfield, IL
4.0 star rating

Luckily, I happen to go to Shimer College, in their Weekend Program, and, as expected I love it. The primary reason Shimer is, in my opinion, a top-notch higher learning institiution is the typeof education they offer. The discussion based, Socratic method is not your everyday lecture in a lecture hall. It's impossible to say how different this is, from ordinary colleges on the whole,except that one has to experience it.

Phthalo B.
Chicago, IL
5.0 star rating

What Aaron says about it being limited in diversity is certainly true but hopefully we will fix that.

Certainly it is also true what he said about laziness. I have been lazy lately myself. It is certainly true that you have to get your own education out of it: if you want to be lazy as all hell you sure can, but that is your own fault and it is possible to get a beautiful experience. But as he says this is "as with any school".

But the community for me is the most beautiful part. I can talk about beautiful academic topics all the time: all kinds of beautiful discussions all the time on feminist theories, gender theories, discussing religion, theories of how the mind works on drugs, theories of consciousness. Huge amounts of dialogue. If the teacher doesn't show up we still have class just discussing what we want to more freely. I am convinced that Shimer will save the world. I think that Aaron was in the weekend program which is less amazing than the weekday program apparently.

Here is a website that I made which contains my opinion of the school:

Dan S.
Mill Valley, CA
5.0 star rating

Shimer College is simply the most amazing school in the country. Granted, it's not for everyone, but it was far superior to UC Berkeley and the other acclaimed universities where I did graduate work. As far as getting a job is concerned, first of all, Shimer students tend to go on to graduate school--in fact, Shimer students receive doctoral degrees at a rate double that of Harvard, Stanford, Yale, or Princeton. For those who don't--like me--Shimer prepares one for almost any work. After I left Shimer, I was hired to do accounts receivable at a $100 million corporation (with $2 billion in assets). After five years, I was Controller. After I was named as the new Controller, I was asked if I had a CPA; I said no. I was asked if I had an MBA; again, no. I was asked where I received my accounting degree; I told them I didn't have one. I told them the truth: I had attended Shimer College, and Shimer graduates can do anything. I've been in corporate finance for years; I also sell used and rare books. I use my Shimer education every day. By the way, my wife, a UCLA summa cum laude graduate and a Berkeley MBA (top of her class) refers to me as the smartest person she's ever known. I had a 2.64 GPA at Shimer (4.0 everywhere else, including Berkeley. Enough said.

Samuel H.
Miller, IN
5.0 star rating

I am a 1998 graduate of Shimer College, and I would recommend it to all independent thinkers. Shimer offers a blend of Great Books learning, participatory governance, and dialogical education that no other college has ever replicated. Few have even tried.

I cannot judge whether what Shimer offers is actually the best education in America, but it is certainly the best that I have experienced. You read original sources, not textbooks; you come to your own conclusions, not the conclusions your professor wants. You participate in the actual governance of the college, not the make-believe of "student government."

In sum: if you like reading and thoughtful discussion, and don't care for the mass-produced drivel that masquerades as "education" in much of the world, go to Shimer.

Matt M.
South Pasadena, CA
5.0 star rating

I started at Shimer College in '01 and graduated in '07, having taken some time off. I saw the college go through various notable changes, some that took place in as little as a year, due to its small size and creative culture. I moved the college from Waukegan to Chicago the summer before my final year, working on the Buildings and Grounds crew, which no longer exists. I stay in touch with current students, former co-workers, and fellow alumni. When I started teaching, I sent an e-mail to all my facilitators asking for advice; all responded. It is a close community.

The community can also feel narrow-minded and stifling sometimes, which is why I respect the narratives of Aaron and Jeremy. The college does not suit many people's ideas of rigor and interest, and it's inability to include them stems from and reinforces its social and academic narrowness. I see this as a problem, and I want to work within the community to address it.

That said, a Shimer education is both challenging and enlightening for those who commit to it. Because each member of the community has a voice, the shortcomings of the school can be addressed by each member, and problems are often rectified. I've attended a state university, a correspondence program, and now a community college for brief stints, and none of them has begun to compare to Shimer College. The program is grueling, but interesting and rewarding. This page will be helpful for anyone interested in the specifics of Shimer's curriculum. The links from it also contain valuable information for anyone hoping to get a sense of what we do:…
I would recommend a Shimer education to anyone who loves to read and think. But people should also know that the college faces a grave threat at the moment. The president and a majority of the board, all recently imposed by an anonymous donor, have spurned Shimer's long-standing tradition of self-governance and open dialogue. They have put the college's accreditation in danger by adopting a mission statement that lacks the support of the students, faculty, and a vast majority of alumni. Community members worry that the president may begin firing cherished faculty whom he perceives as threatening to his dominance.
Many of us are working to regain our voice at the college (though the offices of Board and President have always had legal control of the college, they have taken the wishes of the rest of community seriously). If we are not successful, Shimer risks losing its accreditation, faculty will be distracted from their academic duties by worrying about their jobs, and students will no longer be able to meaningfully participate in the decisions of the college, missing out on an unparalleled civic education. A Shimer education would still compare to that of many other universities, but it would seriously degrade. Shimer has plenty of problems, but the current regime will only exacerbate them.
To learn more about the current situation at Shimer, read the February issue of Promulgates, the student newspaper:…

Ron P.
Maidstone, Kent
5.0 star rating

Although it's awhile since I attended Shimer, I have many friends who have been there over the intervening years, and have been in close touch with those involved in ensuring the college's continuing freedom and independence. Over the years it has remained a great place for stimulating education in Western thought, close community and enduring relationships. I sincerely and strongly recommend this school.

a b.
Beverly Hills, CA
1.0 star rating

This school is awful- could be the worst school ever. Ran by manipulative students and duped faculty. The faculty have absolutely no clue what is going on outside the classroom which is really bad considering that of the 5 or 10 faculty members they have, all of them have joint roles as the director's of either financial aid, dean of students, housing director, academic dean, etc. This school is very cliquish and the students that do not leave after 1 or 2 semesters are extremely manipulative, particularly to the faculty, who basically control everything. The clicks ultimatly end up determining what elective classes are taught, who gets to take them, who gets in (or out) of housing and where they stay, who gets scholarships- basically who leaves and who stays. Most students that attend (particularly the quality ones) either get fed up with all the manipulation and resulting poor administrative choices made by the faculty and transfer (which almost none of their classes do) or give up with school altogether because they are too in debt now and disenchanted to start over some were else. Those people I know who did put up with it (or were in the clicks) and have graduated had a sour experience and are typically employed as waiters.

Erik B.
Chicago, IL
4.0 star rating

In contrast to the other reviews here, my Shimer experience was transformative in a lasting and positive way. In high school I didn't participate seriously because I resented being treated like a child by teachers who rarely impressed me. In contrast, at Shimer, through four years of thoughtful, rigorous, small-group discussion centered on original source texts, I was invited to share my opinions with others, to collaborate respectfully to come to a deeper understanding of the topic at hand, and to face the responsibility that comes with having strong opinions. Rather than the revered repositories of arcane knowledge, my teachers were the stewards of this complex learning process. Using some of the greatest original sources as the starting point of our discussions, my Shimer experience helped me to find my own voice in response to life's most challenging existential, philosophical and practical issues.

This experience not only prepared me for graduate school - which seemed easy after Shimer - and the workplace - where my writing and communication skills have earned me strong recommendations ever since - but it also prepared me in a much deeper way for life by refining my critical reasoning skills, cultivating the habit of active participation, and broadening my interests across the disciplines.

The comments here about "manipulation" surprise me. Elective offerings are determined by surveying student interest and then taking that together with available teaching resources - much more input than a larger school would offer. Who gets to take what class is determined like at any other school, based on prerequisites and seniority. Housing is contracted through IIT's housing services, so IIT, not Shimer, determines who gets to live there and who doesn't. Scholarships are determined by a committee that is elected by the entire community. To accuse the faculty of being 'clueless' outside the classroom, makes me wonder what particular clue "a b." has to make such a strong and sweeping judgment. As an alum ('97) and a former staff member ('02-'09), I found my colleagues on the faculty not only to be remarkable teachers, but to be remarkably informed and responsible citizens and individuals. Furthermore, the only significant administrative position currently held by a faculty member at Shimer is the Dean of Students and that's a temporary measure taken only because the former president refused to fund a full-time Dean of Students for this year.

In response to Aaron's comments (who I knew at the College), though I'll agree that the price tag is high, for the kind of education that Shimer offers, it's much cheaper than the alternatives. As for available services, Shimer students have access to all the services that IIT students do so one might look into other reviews of IIT's services to get a better sense about that.

As for the Shimer classroom lacking rigor, I simply disagree. Though it takes time for those students who aren't ready or committed enough to handle the work at Shimer to either find their own way elsewhere, get kicked out or get serious, a student who takes her or his work seriously is in for somtimes hundreds of pages of reading per night, scores of pages of writing per semester, and enough serious discussion to wear out the most energetic intellectual. And, apparently, it works. Despite a very liberal enrollment policy, Shimer graduates score in the top 1% in the country on standardized tests and are three to four times as likely to earn doctorates than graduates of such schools as Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. My own informal survey has the graduates that I'm in touch with programming at Microsoft, studying and practicing law, doing various non-profit work, teaching at St. John's College, doing graduate study at UofC, Duquesne, DePaul, Loyola and elsewhere, and on and on.

My main reservation about Shimer is that it would be better off with its own campus and one or two hundred more students. This would allow for more elective options, a larger and more diverse faculty, and a student life experience better tailored for Shimer students.

Though Shimer is certainly not for everyone, if you are ready to work hard, to read an amazing amount across the disciplines, and want an education which goes beyond simple job preparation and genuinely prepares you for a meaningful and engaged life, try Shimer. You won't regret it.

ps: Yelp's automatic filter seems to have hidden the majority of the comments about Shimer. I'd encourage you to scroll down and read the "unfiltered" comments.

Robert H.
Mill Valley, CA
5.0 star rating

Shimer College is, without a doubt, the best college in the country. Shimer graduates are five times as likely as Harvard or Stanford graduates to attain doctoral degrees. Shimer graduates outperform virtually every other college or university on standardized tests. Yet Shimer accepts 90% of their applicants, some of whom are high school dropouts, others of whom only attended high school for two or three years! How do they do it? Incredible teachers (called "facilitators"), tiny classes (usually between five and twelve students), an amazingly supportive environment, teachers who know EVERY STUDENT personally (there are only about 120 students, so it is not that difficult)...I could go on and on. Sure, it's too small for some people and too difficult for others--you have to read a lot, write a lot, think a lot, and talk a lot in class. But you will achieve things at Shimer that you never believed possible--and without being miserable or worked half to death. And for the (quite reasonable) cost, you are getting an education comparable to what you would receive at Oxford University in England--where many Shimer students spend their junior or senior year. My entire education was wasted years--middle school, high school, graduate school--except Shimer. What an experience! What an education! What incredibly wonderful faculty and students! How I wish I could do it all again!

Tia S.

Chicago, IL
5.0 star rating

Shimer is an amazing academic experience, one that you can't get anywhere else in the country. The facilitators care about the students and want them to really thrive, and as much as Shimer is a college, it is also a family, and a community.

I've experienced more personal growth in my last year at Shimer College than I have through any other formal education. Shimer is incredibly rigorous, but if you welcome change and put effort into your work, you will come out with so many skills that other colleges don't have the resources or care enough to teach.

Robin B.

Chicago, IL
5.0 star rating

So, take this with a grain of salt as I've been attending Shimer for hardly a month as of now, but this is a fantastic place to go to school.

Known as the "other" Great Books school, (St. Johns being the primary) Shimer has a culture and a community all its own that sets it apart from all others. Reading and discussing the Western canon with a group of people who are passionately interested is what Shimer promises - and delivers. Perhaps it is really the quality of the group of people one has class with that makes the most difference in the educational benefits one receives at Shimer, but the added element of a generally friendly and open-minded character that permeates the school is what makes it special to me.

While I wouldn't say that this school is good for everyone, I believe that for the people it IS right for, it is an invaluable experience. If you love to read and dialog, and you crave that "aha!" moment of understanding, chances are Shimer would serve you well.

Danielle B.
Chicago, IL
5.0 star rating

Shimer is unique, and as such, attracts unique students. I was one of them, and after attending several other college, finally found what I was looking for at Shimer: A vibrant intellectual institution; a caring, considerate community (and that includes students, faculty, staff, alumni, and even trustees); an acceptance of what each of us has to offer; and the opportunity to be challenged, and succeed, in a demanding environment. The academics are difficult--you have to really enjoy reading and thinking--but the rewards are worth it. The cost was far lower than other colleges and universities I attended, and the financial aid package was quite good. And I've never been to another college where faculty members invite you to their homes for dinner. I even had a Board of Trustees member I was chatting with one day take me--an 18 year old student--out to lunch. When I graduated, I found work quickly (maybe not the dream job I hoped for, but it met my needs) before going on to law school two years later (five applications, five acceptances). In summary, you won't do better than Shimer College. I only wish I had not wasted almost three years at other colleges.

Danielle B.

Chicago, IL
5.0 star rating
Update - 2/12/2012

Only three students who have ever attended Shimer College have anything negative to say about the college. There are about TEN TIMES as many positive reviews, except Yelp has chosen to "filter" those so you cannot see them without searching. I don't think there is another college in the country where 90% of the students talk about how wonderful their college experience is. And as a former student at Shimer (and not one who dropped out or never even attended, like one of the front page reviews), I can categorically state that the education at Shimer is unsurpassed, the students warm, thougytful, considerate, and just plain fun to be around, the faculty amazingly knowledgeable about almost anything, and the experience unsurpassed. Try it--90% of those who do so love it.
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Robert K.
Princeton, NJ
4.0 star rating

I am a 1961 graduate of Shimer College, who lost touch with the institution, and has recently spent quite a bit of time at the College. I am an academic (a professor at Princeton) so I am well-acquainted with higher-status institutions. What impresses me about Shimer is not only how bright the students are, but how engaged they are in their education. They read Great Books and continue their discussions -- of Plato, Thucydides, or Durkheim -- outside of class. It is true that many of the usual amenities of US colleges are missing, such as sports, and that Shimer is housed in the campus of IIT. But if you want a truly intellectual college experience, and to play a major role in your own education through both small discussion classes and a democratic governance system, you should look at Shimer College.

Nancy N.

Evanston, IL
5.0 star rating

About three years ago I decided to become a more active alum at Shimer because I valued deeply the experience of open and vigorous inquiry at the college, the commitment to thoughtful dialogue, and the affirmation that an informed life is truly possible. Alums from various decades often report the ways in which Shimer "changed their life," just as it had done for me. I am so inspired by the students that I meet on campus today. They are incredibly bright, dedicated, involved, and are living proof that the education at Shimer continues to nurture real intellectual and personal development. I have been able to be more flexible, creative, collaborative, and discerning in my professional life because of my education at Shimer. Going to Shimer was one of the best choices I ever made, and I love the fact that what was great about Shimer when I attended remains great today.

Pandora W.
Chicago, IL
5.0 star rating

An incredible place. This is the second-smallest first-tier college (after Deep Springs) in America--a wholly unique place. We start with the pre-Socratics and progress all the way through to the post-structuralists, but still valuing each author in their own right; we discuss each text together, as a group, and also value everyone's opinion. The entire format is set up to be a meta-meta-modern dialectic, essentially that which teaches one to be active and yet understand.

Everyone (well, everyone who does it right) has their mind blown every single day. Most of us see Shimer as a place where you learn how to live, which is admittedly not something that can be quantified with a diploma very easily. Luckily, we have a great reputation with graduate schools and are in the top 1% of graduating seniors who go on to masters' programs.

Basically, learning to love all things makes you a better person. Doing it this way makes us a really special place. It's definitely not for everyone, but if you're reading this, it's probably worth your time to come visit and see if it's right for you.

Meep L.

San Francisco, CA
5.0 star rating

Shimer is a fantastic school.

i just read 'what is art' by Tolstoy, and 'waiting for Godot' by Beckett for my humanities 1 and 2 classes respectively. i had rehearsal for a collection of David Mamet shorts, i attended a Quality of Life committee meeting where i actively participated in the governance of my school. also happening was a SMELT meeting (our student activist group), where a speaker from a local community organization conducted a Q and A session.

the reading, the community, the classes all make this a really outstanding school. i like the people and atmosphere that is created in polite and honest discourse. it is a very small school, with limited resources, but i think that it serves its mission well.

'to serve rather than be served' is the official motto, and one i love and think truly represents the spirit of this college community.

'let us discuss this' is the unofficial motto and one we see enacted everyday, in and outside of classes.

i'm really happy i came to shimer, i think that it creates a unique environment that many people could benefit from and fosters critical thinking and an active mindset.

Genevieve W.
Libertyville, IL
5.0 star rating

This is an unbiased, positive review about one of the best kept secrets (that should not be a secret) in higher education. I value the rigor, antics and fun and the true sense of the community of scholars that is Shimer. The facilitators (professors in regular college speak) are some of the most committed, intellectually curious group I have had the pleasure to study with.
I am a graduate from 2006 Adult Weekend program; one of the Waukegan campus alums.
Yes, it has a number of administrative dysfunctionalities, the school is quite small and does not spend a fortune on amenities.But they continually work to improve the support systems. On some levels it is a bookish place with a no frills approach. That was just what I needed to focus my attention of the learning. My facilitators helped me or arranged for tutors anytime I made the need known.
With it being a small school I had the opportunity to serve on governing committees to do the work of the college. To have a say, so to speak.

Yes I did take on student loan debt, but I knew that going in and made the commitment to do so. But my financial aid package also had grants, some scholarships funds as I worked and attended school to keep down my personal debt. If you are willing to work out the finances, they went out of their way to help me navigate the expense.

This is not a school for the faint of heart, or pampered soul used to having everything laid out for them. But it is for the willing participant in the life of the mind, willing to work for their knowledge and continue onward in their life able to think, and not from having been told what to think

I am a part of an ongoing legacy of excellent academics and joyous reading whilst searching for the meanings of the "Great Books" and how to integrate that knowledge into real world, real time life situations. It has broadened my abilities to critically analyze and propose solutions in many areas. It is for the curious, the geeky, the independent learner who hungers for knowledge, conversation and impeccable writing skills.But you personally must put in the effort and want it enough.

Dan S.
Mill Valley, CA
5.0 star rating
Update - 6/3/2012

Amazing college. Small classes (10-15 students), brilliant faculty. I was a high school dropout who was accepted to law school at Stanford after completing my undergraduate degree at Shimer. All classes are discussions--no lectures. Half the time you don't even know who the professor is. They are not even called professors, but facilitators. No fraternities, sororities, football teams, cheerleaders, none of tat garbage. Just a small group of kids who are great to hang with (almost all really interesting and smart, including some high school dropouts and "early entrants"--kids who are 15, 16, or 17 and couldn't stand high school any more). You will read more than you ever imagined and learn more than you ever imagined. It will be the toughest four years you will ever love. If you are not a jerk, check out Shimer. If you are a jerk, go somewhere else.
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Samuel H.
Miller, IN
5.0 star rating
Update - 6/5/2012

If you like reading and thoughtful discussion, and don't care for the mass-produced drivel that masquerades as "education" in much of the world, go to Shimer.

I am a 1998 graduate of Shimer College, and I would recommend it to all independent thinkers. Shimer offers a blend of Great Books learning, participatory governance, and dialogical education that no other college has ever replicated. Few have even tried.

Tia S.
Chicago, IL
5.0 star rating

I cannot make this clear enough:

Shimer is an amazing academic experience, one that you can't get anywhere else in the country. The brilliant facilitators care about the students and want them to really thrive, and as much as Shimer is a college, it is also a family, and a community.

I've experienced more personal growth in my time at Shimer College than I have through any other formal education. Shimer is rigorous, but if you welcome change and put effort into your work, you will come out with so many skills that other colleges don't have the resources or care enough to teach.

Tia S.
Chicago, IL
5.0 star rating
Update - 6/16/2013

For whatever reason, basically every positive review has been filtered, while the two negative reviews and mine stand (thanks a lot Yelp).

I suggest you read the filtered reviews in addition to the unfiltered ones to get a better idea of what Shimer is about. I have no idea why 25 of the reviews (many of which are from friends of mine) are hidden.
2 Previous Reviews: Show all »

Sam K.
Green Bay, WI
5.0 star rating

The purpose of a Great Books education is to present yourself with challenging prose, meticulously deconstruct the text, and then attempt to understand. Shimer College is an accredited institute of higher education that allows you to practice this unique curriculum in the city of Chicago.

Here you'd find a big lack of hierarchy. You're not required to climb ladders to reach certain goals. You merely say, "I'd like to study this." Shimer College provides you opportunities to either get credit studying with a professor one-on-one or cross-register with Harold Washington or IIT to obtain whatever intellectual goals you have.

Shimer College, though, is a liberal arts college that focuses on general education. The students, faculty, and staff members are all deeply committed to the spirit of democracy, the socratic method, and conversation. This is perhaps the only place you can walk into and immediately expect a serious conversation.

For those who are self-driven, independent, and free-spirited, this college will not only improve you intellectually -- but would thoroughly cleanse you of any strict dogmatic belief that holds you steadily to whatever political ground you stand. That doesn't mean you will change you from an Objectivist to a Tolstoyan, but rather, you will learn how to talk about concepts and ideas in ways you probably haven't done before. The tools that Shimer will give you after days of dialogue are the ability to comprehend your own ideas, translate your thoughts into words, and then communicate yourself to any audience willing to listen.

Meybalo L.
San Francisco, CA
4.0 star rating

this college has changed my life. It's thoughtful, which is rare nowadays. they don't have the best facilities. but the community is strong, and the education even stronger. we read the great books, which in itself is enough to change someones life. but the opportunity to discuss the great books, that is truly altering. I recommend this education to anyone. this environment is amazing. the people are SMART. the readings are hard (they're not great for nothing.) but totally worth it.
come to this college. it's awesome.

also note that there are 24 'filtered' reviews really praising this college. I'm not sure why they're filtered but many of them say exactly what i am saying now. this is a great college, of great books.

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