The Education

Today, the term “liberal arts” has come to signify something general, such as “humane studies” or “general education.” But in the educational tradition of the West, the liberal arts are seven introductory disciplines which prepare the student for the more profound subjects, those that constitute the heart of a liberal education

By reading and discussing the great books, with their vigorous — and sometimes conflicting — arguments, students learn how to discern the truth, how to distinguish it from error, and how to defend it. They become gradually ever more like Aristotle’s exemplar of the liberally educated person, “critical in all or nearly all the branches of learning,” able to live a truly free and humane life — a life lived in the truth.

Thomas Aquinas College’s four-year, classical curriculum presents the arts and sciences of liberal education as a comprehensive whole. The classes that make it up thus reference and reinforce one another, across disciplines, enabling students to develop an ever-greater understanding of nature, man, and God. Because this integration is essential to the education offered, all students at the College take the same courses.

Upon completing the degree, students will have undertaken four years of coursework in philosophy, theology, math, science, and seminar (where modern philosophy, history, literature, and other works are studied). They have also studied two years of language and one year of music. Thomas Aquinas College is one of only six institutions of higher learning in the United States (one of two in California and the only in Massachusetts) to require study in all seven major academic disciplines, as outlined by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

All classes at Thomas Aquinas College are conducted by way of the Discussion Method. There are no lectures, no didactic discourses, no simple memorization of others’ conclusions. As such, it is not the role of the Thomas Aquinas College faculty to “profess.” The tutors do not offer their own opinions and theories, but help bring to light those of the greatest thinkers and authors of Western civilization — the true “teachers” in the College’s classical curriculum

Because there are never more than 20 students in a class at Thomas Aquinas College, members of the teaching faculty can tailor these discussions to the needs of each group. They thus serve as a sort of personal guide in the pursuit of wisdom — “tutors” in the truest sense of the word.

Because students at Thomas Aquinas College receive a truly liberal education, they leave campus well-versed in the skills necessary to learn and thrive in any profession or endeavor. Roughly a third of the College’s alumni go on to graduate or professional school. Graduates flourish in most every discipline or career imaginable, from education and law, to medicine and business, to architecture and technology. To find out more about what a liberally educated student can do, read about our alumni.

Two Campuses

The Admissions Office welcomes visitors year round, but we recommend you visit when classes are in session for the fullest experience of life at TAC. Visiting provides a great opportunity to get to know the College, sit in on classes, and ask current students any questions you may have! 

You can arrange your visit through one of our Admissions counselors, or if you prefer, schedule your visit

California offers year-round sunshine, mission architecture, and nearby beaches. New England boasts four seasons, historic colonial buildings, and the majestic Connecticut River Valley. Each campus has its own unique culture and distinct traditions, but the two share the same program of Catholic liberal education, employing the same curriculum, pedagogy, and commitment to what St. Anselm called “faith seeking understanding.”

Students who enroll at one campus are required to complete their course of studies at that campus, although transfers may be permitted under certain rare conditions.

Tuition and room & board are the same at both campuses, and both offer need-based financial aid. In New England, as in California, there is no charge for books or other fees.

Students on both campuses come from all over the country and beyond. In California, slightly less than half of the student body hails from states east of the Rocky Mountains. In New England, a comparable percentage of students come from states west of the Mississippi River. On both campuses, about 5 to 10 percent of students are from abroad.   

Application Process

It is never too early for high school seniors to begin an application! The College operates on a rolling-admissions policy, meaning that qualified applicants will be offered admission according to the order in which they submit their applications. To learn more about the admissions process, please head to the Application page.

Applicants who have been homeschooled may choose to request that a parent write one recommendation as their primary educator, unless another teacher’s recommendation is available. Otherwise, the application process is the same.

Financial aid is available on the basis of need. The College does not offer merit-based scholarships, but does accept outside scholarship funds (e.g., National Merit Scholarships, local service club scholarships, high school awards, etc.).

Unlike most colleges and universities, Thomas Aquinas College does not have a competition-based application process, in which the Admissions Committee examines all applications, then picks and chooses among them. The College’s founders firmly believed that a Catholic liberal education should be available to — and can benefit — anyone with the aptitude and willingness to undertake it. As such, the College has a rolling-admissions program. Each application is considered on its own merits, and any applicant who demonstrates the ability and desire to spend four years reading, discussing, and discerning truth from a wide range of difficult texts is offered admission, space permitting.

To the extent that standardized test scores are predictive of academic success, the College considers them as part of the application process. Most accepted students’ test scores range within the 80th percentile or above, and even students who achieve perfect scores on standardized tests still find the program to be rigorous and challenging.

While there is no absolute minimum, math scores that fall close to or below ~540 SAT/ ~22 ACT/ ~20 CLT will raise concerns about an applicant’s readiness for the curriculum’s demanding Mathematics and Natural Science courses. Verbal scores that fall close to or below ~570 SAT ERW/ ~23 ACT English/ ~50 CLT Verbal Reasoning & Grammar/Writing (combined) likewise sometimes suggest that an applicant may not be as prepared to handle large and complex readings or to participate meaningfully in classrooms discussions.

If you have further questions about the College’s test-score policy, please do not hesitate to ask the Admissions Office.

While many students at Thomas Aquinas College have attended college and/or earned credits elsewhere, because the curriculum here is fully integrated and builds sequentially, credits from other institutions are non-transferable.

Students at Thomas Aquinas College take between 17 and 19 credit hours per semester, 146 in total after completing all four years. To view the full breakdown of the degree, please see this chart. You may also be interested in viewing this list of works read in the curriculum. 

Campus Life

Although the curriculum and community life at Thomas Aquinas College are animated by fidelity to the teaching Church, non-Catholic students are warmly welcomed. In fact, some 5 to 10 percent of students on the California campus are not of the Catholic faith. However, in order to receive the full extent of religious-liberty protections under Massachusetts law, the College can admit only Catholic students to the New England campus. The California campus remains open, as always, to students of all faiths and religious traditions as long as they are respectful of the College’s Catholic mission and are willing to abide by Catholic moral teaching.

Students at Thomas Aquinas College all live in single-sex residence halls on campus, with the rare exception of married students. The College’s intellectual life is essentially bound up with its community life, and is all the richer for it. Residence halls remain off-limits to members of the opposite sex at all times.

Because the academic program is paramount, the College does not participate in intercollegiate athletics. Intramural sports, however, are popular in every season.

Part-time, on-campus nurses provide minor medical care. A College courier service can also bring students, free of charge, to off-campus doctor’s appointments during daily scheduled courier runs, or to nearby hospitals for emergency and/or major medical treatment.