Everything’s Alright with Evergreen

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George Means in his classroom.

Ethan Brickell , Editor

Evergreen State College, located in Olympia, Washington, is a promising offer for prospective Olympia High School students wanting to earn a degree while taking a variety of classes without straying too far from home. A number of OHS students are planning on attending next fall, and some OHS teachers even earned their bachelor’s degree at Evergreen before applying to a graduate program elsewhere. 

At Evergreen, students can either choose to pursue a Bachelor of Arts or Science, however, they are not locked into fulfilling numerous course requirements. Instead, students have much more flexibility in which classes they can take. “You get to focus on what you have an interest in,” says George Means, a social studies teacher at OHS who earned his Bachelor of Arts at Evergreen. As a result, it “also requires a whole lot more self motivation,” he says. Means says, “you’re learning from each other as much as you’re learning from the faculty and the material,” as the small classes are structured to be conducive to socratic seminars and collaboration between peers. 

Lilly Ingrassio, senior at OHS, likes Evergreen in part for this reason. “I got to pick classes that will get me towards my degrees that I want but I got to pick how I wanted to get there,” she says. Ingrassio, who just registered for classes the morning of the interview, was also admitted to WWU, UOO, OSU, CWU, and UOP and is pursuing a career in education at Evergreen. 

While Evergreen offers a unique pathway to earning a degree, the college also stands out from other universities in their method of evaluation. Instead of traditional letter grades, “We use context and explanation to evaluate performance…Detailed evaluations highlight your work and provide specific examples of your progress,” as stated on the Evergreen website. However, because of this, “So many people go in thinking it’s going to be easier, no grades. But it’s actually really difficult to motivate yourself,” Means says. This system of evaluation worked well for Means, and allowed for him to focus much more on learning at the graduate level than worrying about grades. 

Evergreen is a bit of an oddball college in many respects, and because of this, people in Olympia don’t always view it in the most favorable light. “I think people don’t really appreciate it for what it is,” says Chris Brewster, a senior at OHS who will be attending Evergreen next year. “I think it does have a lot of potential and it has helped people get into a lot of other really good schools,” he adds on. Means learned firsthand while studying at WSU that graduate programs actually prefer Evergreen transcripts, because they show so much more about the student than letter grades ever could. 

“Evergreen gets better the further away you are from Olympia,” Means says. “From people in Olympia, it seems like Evergreen culture is…it’s hippie, it’s weird,” Ingrassio says, but that shouldn’t deter prospective students from exploring the option because “It’s not just like a factory…it’s more tailored to people and their individual goals,” Ingrassio adds on. 

Wherever people decide to go to college, it is important that they do their research to arrive at the best option for themselves. Ingrassio states that “It’s important that people make the best decision for them…emotionally and financially.”