School in Focus: Thomas Aquinas 

March 25, 2023
By AdmissionSight
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School in Focus: Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas College, nestled in the heart of Southern California, is a renowned liberal arts institution that prides itself on its dedication to the pursuit of truth through the lens of the Catholic intellectual tradition. With its rigorous Great Books curriculum and intimate class settings, the college provides a unique and unparalleled academic environment.

At Thomas Aquinas College, students are exposed to the timeless works of history’s greatest minds, fostering intellectual curiosity and a deep understanding of the moral, philosophical, and theological foundations that have shaped Western civilization.

St. Thomas Aquinas, widely regarded as one of the greatest thinkers and theologians of all time, serves as a philosophical touchstone for Thomas Aquinas College’s pedagogical approach. Students at Thomas Aquinas College are guided to a deeper understanding of themselves, the world, and their relationship to God via reading and discussion of the writings of Aristotle, Plato, Augustine, and other intellectual giants.

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Because of the college’s dedication to the Socratic approach and interdisciplinary study, students graduate with the knowledge and abilities they need to become leaders in their areas and make positive contributions to society.

What is Thomas Aquinas College Known for?

So, what is Thomas Aquinas College known for? Thomas Aquinas College, founded in 1971, is a prestigious, private, coeducational, Catholic liberal arts institution located in Southern California. Known for its unique Great Books curriculum and unwavering commitment to intellectual and spiritual development, the college has made a name for itself as a bastion of academic excellence rooted in the Catholic tradition.

Over the years, Thomas Aquinas College has become synonymous with its rigorous educational approach, dedicated faculty, and vibrant campus life, all of which contribute to shaping well-rounded graduates who possess a deep understanding of the world and a strong sense of purpose.


The hallmark of Thomas Aquinas College’s educational philosophy is its Great Books program, which replaces traditional textbooks with the original works of history’s most influential thinkers.

Students immerse themselves in the writings of Aristotle, Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, and many others, engaging in a comprehensive exploration of the philosophical, theological, mathematical, scientific, and literary ideas that have shaped Western civilization. This interdisciplinary curriculum, devoid of electives and major concentrations, ensures that every student receives a well-rounded education.

Female student explaining something to her classmate.

The first two years of the four-year curriculum focus heavily on the Trivium (logic, rhetoric, and grammar) and the Quadrivium (the four liberal arts) (geometry, astronomy, arithmetic, and music.). All four years, students study natural science, philosophy, and theology. Five essays are written in freshman year, four in sophomore year, and two longer essays are written in junior year. Students complete a senior thesis and defend it in front of a faculty committee during their last academic year.

At the heart of Thomas Aquinas College’s pedagogical approach is the Socratic method, an interactive teaching style that encourages students to learn by asking questions and participating in active discussions.

The college’s seminar-style classes foster critical thinking and intellectual curiosity, enabling students to sharpen their analytical skills and develop a strong moral compass. This educational model not only empowers students to become independent thinkers but also cultivates a deep sense of intellectual humility and a profound appreciation for the wisdom of the past.

Spiritual life is an integral component of the Thomas Aquinas College experience. The college is deeply committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition and seeks to provide students with opportunities to develop their faith alongside their academic pursuits. Daily Mass, confession, spiritual retreats, and various devotional practices are available on campus, allowing students to nurture their relationship with God and grow in their understanding of the Catholic faith.

Student Life

Another notable aspect of Thomas Aquinas College is its tight-knit community, which plays a crucial role in fostering personal and academic growth. With a student-to-faculty ratio of approximately 11:1, students receive individualized attention and support from their professors, who are not only experts in their fields but also dedicated mentors.

The college’s small size and rural setting encourage strong relationships among students, faculty, and staff, promoting a culture of mutual respect, accountability, and camaraderie.

Students talking to each other

The college’s picturesque campus, situated on 845 acres in the scenic Santa Paula foothills, provides students with a serene environment in which to study, pray, and grow. The beautiful grounds, with their stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys, offer a perfect setting for contemplation and introspection.

The campus facilities, including the St. Joseph Commons, the St. Bernardine of Siena Library, and the recently constructed St. Cecilia Hall, have been thoughtfully designed to support the college’s mission and enhance the overall educational experience.

Extracurricular activities at Thomas Aquinas College are also essential in shaping well-rounded individuals. Students can participate in a variety of clubs, sports, and volunteer opportunities that allow them to develop their interests and talents while forming meaningful connections with their peers.

From the choir and drama club to intramural sports and service projects, these activities help foster personal growth and encourage students to use their gifts in the service of others.

Upon graduation, Thomas Aquinas College alumni enter various fields, including education, law, medicine, business, and religious vocations. Around 40% continue their education past the undergraduate level; 10% have chosen a religious vocation. The college’s unique education has a lasting impact on its graduates, equipping them with the intellectual and moral tools necessary to make a meaningful difference in the world. The strong sense of community and shared values among alumni foster lifelong connections and continued engagement with the college.

Overall, the reputation of Thomas Aquinas College as a leader in liberal arts education has been firmly established over the years. As a testament to its dedication to academic excellence, the college has consistently ranked among the top liberal arts institutions in the nation.

The transformative power of the Thomas Aquinas College experience is evident in the lives of its graduates, who serve as ambassadors of the college’s mission and values. By imparting the wisdom of the past and cultivating a deep sense of intellectual humility, the college prepares its students to be critical thinkers, responsible citizens, and faithful witnesses to the truth in an ever-changing world.

How Hard is it to Get Into Thomas Aquinas College?

Gaining admission to Thomas Aquinas College can be competitive, as the college is known for its rigorous academic program and unique educational philosophy. So, how hard is it to get into Thomas Aquinas College?

The admissions process is holistic, meaning that the college considers several factors beyond just grades and test scores when evaluating applicants. The acceptance rate at Thomas Aquinas College has historically fluctuated between 70-80%, which suggests that the admissions process is selective but not impossible for well-prepared and dedicated students.

College student looking away from the camera.

Academic performance is an important factor in the admissions process. Thomas Aquinas College seeks students who have demonstrated a strong aptitude for learning and the ability to excel in a challenging academic environment. Successful applicants typically have a solid foundation in subjects such as literature, mathematics, and the natural sciences. Although the college does not have a strict minimum GPA or standardized test score requirements, a competitive academic record is essential for demonstrating preparedness for the Great Books curriculum.

Letters of recommendation also play a crucial role in the admissions process. The college requires recommendations from a high school counselor, a teacher, and a non-academic source, such as a coach, employer, or clergy member. These letters should provide insight into the applicant’s character, work ethic, and ability to contribute positively to the Thomas Aquinas College community.

As a Catholic institution, Thomas Aquinas College values the spiritual and moral development of its students. While applicants do not have to be Catholic to be considered for admission, they should demonstrate an openness to exploring the Catholic faith and integrating it into their educational experience. A commitment to personal growth, service, and the pursuit of truth is highly regarded by the admissions committee.

Prospective students are encouraged to visit the campus and participate in the college’s High School Summer Program or High School Study Days to gain a better understanding of the unique educational experience that Thomas Aquinas College offers. These programs provide an opportunity for students to experience the Socratic method, engage with the Great Books curriculum, and interact with current students and faculty.

What Kind of Students Does Thomas Aquinas Accept?

What kind of students does Thomas Aquinas accept? Thomas Aquinas College accepts students who exhibit a range of qualities and characteristics that align with the college’s mission, values, and unique educational philosophy. While academic achievement is certainly important, the college also seeks individuals who possess intellectual curiosity, a strong moral compass, and a genuine desire for personal and spiritual growth.

Here are some key attributes that Thomas Aquinas College values in its students:

Intellectual curiosity: The college’s Great Books curriculum and Socratic method require students to engage deeply with the works of history’s greatest thinkers. Successful applicants will display a genuine interest in exploring these texts and a willingness to grapple with challenging ideas across various disciplines.

Dedication to the college’s mission: Thomas Aquinas College is committed to upholding the Catholic intellectual tradition, and it seeks students who resonate with this mission. Applicants should demonstrate an openness to exploring the Catholic faith and integrating it into their educational experience.

Strong academic background: As the college’s curriculum is rigorous and demanding, students need a solid foundation in subjects such as literature, mathematics, and the natural sciences. Successful applicants typically have a competitive academic record, showcasing their aptitude for learning and ability to excel in a challenging environment.

Good character and moral values: Thomas Aquinas College places a strong emphasis on the development of the whole person, which includes cultivating virtues such as honesty, integrity, and compassion. The college seeks students who exhibit a strong moral compass and a commitment to personal growth.

Critical thinking and communication skills: The Socratic method, which is central to the college’s pedagogical approach, requires students to engage in active discussions, ask insightful questions, and develop reasoned arguments. Applicants should exhibit strong critical thinking and communication skills, which will enable them to thrive in this interactive learning environment.

Collaborative spirit: As the college fosters a tight-knit community, it values students who work well with others and contribute positively to the campus culture. Applicants should demonstrate a collaborative spirit and a willingness to engage in respectful discourse with their peers and faculty.

Commitment to service: Thomas Aquinas College encourages students to use their talents and education in the service of others. Successful applicants will display a dedication to helping their communities and making a positive impact on the world around them.

Openness to personal and spiritual growth: The college provides various opportunities for students to develop their faith and nurture their relationship with God. Prospective students should be receptive to participating in spiritual activities and striving for personal growth throughout their time at Thomas Aquinas College.

Ultimately, Thomas Aquinas College accepts students who possess a combination of academic aptitude, intellectual curiosity, moral values, and a commitment to the college’s mission and values. By embracing the unique educational experience offered by the college, these students are well-prepared to excel in their studies and contribute meaningfully to the campus community.

Want to learn more about getting into Thomas Aquinas College? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.


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