Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Students
The answers to the questions below represent the typical Great Books experience on all of our campuses. If you have more specific questions about our Great Books at Oxford program, you can find your answers here.
What types of students attend Great Books Summer Program?
There is no typical kid at Great Books Summer Program, but everyone comes to learn and have fun. They come from lots of different cultural backgrounds, from cities and from rural areas, and from all over the world—49 states and 40 countries! Some play music, others play sports, excel at chess, write poetry, speak other languages, or star on the stage. Great friendships are made and many people stay in touch with each other all year long. Perhaps the one common attribute of our campers is that they like to read and they enjoy thinking about and discussing interesting ideas.
What will we learn at Great Books Summer Program?
The Great Books Summer Program is a lively community of young people who love to read and talk about ideas. Together, we read about, talk about, and dedicate ourselves to important ideas—ideas like liberty, justice, and honor.
We look closely at the way the classical Greeks and Romans talked about liberty, justice and courage. We follow Homer's tales of heroes and homecoming, Cicero's notions of public virtue, and the hopes and dreams of Aeneas as he lays the foundation for the new city of Rome, grown from the ashes of fallen Troy.
We hold the texts of the founding documents of the United States in our hands and see the connections to ancient ideas of liberty and the growing importance of the individual in European and American philosophy.
We read stories and poems about the struggle to live a good life in trying times, to be decent and honest when others aren't, and to find truth in a complicated world.
What is the food going to be like?
All the meals are prepared by the college dining services and there is a lot to choose from, including pizza, sandwiches, salad bars, hot meals, and great desserts. During the sessions, we have outdoor barbeques, picnics and ice cream sundae parties. Healthy snacks and drinks are provided during breaks. If you have special dietary needs, we can accommodate you if we are notified in advance.
What books will we read and how should I prepare?
The readings vary each year and we're hard at work on the curriculum for 2019. We'll be reading Shakespeare, Homer, Hemingway, Tolstoy, Sherwood Anderson, Dante, Orwell, Jamaica Kincaid, Cicero and Virginia Woolf, among others. To view some past reading lists for the Intermediate and Senior Programs, click here.
No advance reading is required before the program. Reading selections are generally brief (a chapter, essay, poem, short story or two at a time). The majority of time is spent on discussions, activities and group projects. You should just come ready to have an unforgettable experience!
Will it be like going to college?
The Great Books Summer Program is a wonderful opportunity to get a sense of college life. You'll live in the dorms of Amherst College, Stanford University, University of Oxford or Trinity College, Dublin in either a single or a double room. Boys and girls are separated by floor or wing, and sometimes separate dorms. The older Senior Program students are usually separated from the younger Intermediate Program group. Each dorm has a common lounge area and grassy lawn for getting together with your friends, playing games and music, or grabbing a snack.
The dorm will be your "home base" but you will be able to explore the rest of the Amherst, Stanford, Oxford or Trinity campuses with your Program Assistant. There are on-campus museums, athletic facilities, game rooms, and much more. You will eat in the college dining halls and use the beautiful college classrooms of each institution. To learn more about each of our distinguished campuses, click here.
May I request a roommate?
Most of our students come to the program by themselves, but if there is a friend or sibling you would like to room with, we may be able to put you in a room together.
Will I be able to communicate with my parents during the program?
You're allowed to bring cell phones, but we ask that phone calls and texting be kept to a minimum and only during specified times. All phones will be turned off during classes and activities.
How will I get clean clothes?
There are coin-operated laundry facilities in each of the dormitories. The multi-week sessions will include time for you to use the laundry. Your Program Assistant will be available to help you if you'd like.
How do we spend our free time?
Each day, our college-age Program Assistants lead all kinds of fun activities and games—taking advantage of the beautiful open lawns and facilities at on each unique campus. We go fountain hopping at Stanford and swimming in the Olympic-sized pool at Amherst. There are ball games, foam sword fights, theater skits, trips into town and chess matches. We have outdoor lunches, barbecues and ice cream parties. In the evenings, there are movies, impromptu music sessions, performances and lively discussions in the dorm rooms.
What if I need medical care?
All programs have on-campus health facilities or community-based physicians who are on-call if needed. Prescriptions and over-the-counter treatments for pain and minor discomfort will be administered by our adult staff with a signed permission notice from your parents or guardian.
What do I need to bring?
All of the reading and other materials are provided. Fans are a good idea if you live close enough to bring one. You will need to bring an alarm clock and enough clothes for your stay (if you're coming for multiple weeks, there is coin-operated laundry). Make sure to bring a pair of sneakers for when we play games. If you play an instrument, we encourage you to bring it with you if it's convenient to travel with. For a complete packing list, click here.