College: Quest University – http://www.questu.ca/
Location: Squamish, British Columbia (Canada)
Type of Institution: Private liberal arts college
Size: 700 students, undergraduate only
Admissions Advice: Quest University is all about fit. While they are seeking students who can handle a rigorous curriculum and have excelled in the classroom, they are also focusing on more inherent qualities and characteristics such as intellectual curiosity, motivation, and creativity. Quest requires an original piece of work in addition to a more traditional application. Students can submit artwork, films, science projects, written work, or even videos of themselves participating in favorite hobby.
Most popular majors: Well, there is only one! Every student graduates with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree (BA&Sc).
Words to describe students I met: international, outdoorsy, hippie, cultured, alternative, intelligent, genuinely curious about the world, unique, self-motivated
Unique academic aspects: Quest University uses a Block Plan where students take one class at a time for a fairly intense 3.5 weeks total. There are 8 blocks per academic year and once one block is completed, students get a five-day weekend to explore the natural beauty of the Squamish area. I happened to visit during a block break and many students were off-campus skiing at Whistler or were enjoying city life in Vancouver, a short 45-minute drive from Quest.
The first two years of the curriculum focus on Foundation courses across a wide range of disciplines, while the second two years are self-designed around a student’s “Question”. With the support of a faculty member, students design their last two years of study to explore a topic of interest in great detail and complete a culminating project, thesis, research paper or other keystone piece in an attempt to answer that question. Some example topics include:
- “How do we push our limits?” – An exploration of psychology and exercise physiology. Student is studying hormone levels in athletes during exercise. She is also simultaneously preparing for a physical therapy graduate program in the U.S.
- “What is the best way to educate a child?” – A student dives into educational psychology and teaching methods. Part of this project involved working in four different types of classroom settings: Montessori, public school, Waldorf and private school.
- “What is the role of empathy in medicine?” Student designed a survey and interviewed community members and healthcare leaders, coming up with a profile healthcare in her community.
Unique social/cultural aspects: Quest students are very unique and diverse, making this tiny college seem much larger and actually very reflective of the global community. About 50% of students are from Canada, 35% from the United States, and 15% from other countries throughout the world. Students are driven and many services and resources on campus are student-run, such as the communal garden and apiary.
Colleges that seem similar: There aren’t many quite like Quest! Colorado College uses the Block Plan and has some cultural overlap, while Evergreen State College and Western Washington’s Fairhaven College have some similarities to Quest as well.
Concerns about this college: Obviously with a college so small and so unique, students need to be sure before they enroll that this is a good academic and social fit for them. Quest tries to ensure fit by interviewing all potential students for admission, but there still are students who transfer out seeking a more traditional university experience.
Overall impressions: This is probably one of the coolest colleges I have ever visited (and I’m currently at over 130 college campus visits). Though I picked an absolutely horrible rainy winter day for my visit, I still thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the Squamish area and the charming little campus. The admissions staff and tour guides are beyond welcoming, and I am confident entering students would benefit from this support throughout their four years.
*Note: Thanks to Brad @ Quest for providing me with the sunny day photo above!