The program provides the curriculum necessary to obtain an Associate of Arts degree. Learning is pursued to solve real problems, both practical and social, for the joy of intellectual understanding and humane action.
During the regular academic year, students take two or three full courses at a time. There are typically nine courses offered. The Curriculum Committee maintains a balance of course offerings within the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Courses range from Introduction to Quantum Physics to Art and Politics in Twentieth-Century China. While the curriculum includes introductory courses from the major disciplines, it is common for classroom discourse at Deep Springs to cover material reserved for upper-division or graduate seminars elsewhere. In addition, students commonly pursue independent or directed studies, with permission from the Curriculum Committee. There are only three required courses at Deep Springs:
The Summer Seminar is the introduction to Deep Springs academics for each incoming class. Often taught by an interdisciplinary team of professors, the course focuses on issues of ethics and governance. Students read and discuss diverse works of literature, philosophy, and social sciences.
Although the Writing courses vary in their specifics from year to year, students learn how to write well and how to offer constructive criticism to others. Particular attention is paid to crafting cogent arguments and giving due consideration to a written piece's audience.
All students take Public Speaking throughout their time at Deep Springs. The campus community meets each week to listen to speakers practice their rhetorical skills. Afterwards, the speakers meet to receive feedback on their performance from peers and professors. Each student gives two graded speeches per semester.
Courses at Deep Springs are intensive, student-driven, and small. Classes usually have between four and twelve students. In most courses, the majority of class time is spent in seminar-style discussions. (Other forms of class structure, including those based in the lab, studio, or field, also regularly appear within the curriculum.) There are no majors or concentrations, and students are encouraged to explore various topics in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
The Deep Springs academic program's distinctive quality is that it treats students not as consumers but as creators of their education and as stewards of a joint intellectual project. The Curriculum Committee (staffed and chaired by students) selects the college's professors. The Student Body determines each semester's curriculum by choosing courses from various proposals submitted by each professor. Classes rely heavily on student participation; thorough preparation and robust engagement are seen as students' responsibility to the entire class. Students drive most class conversations and are also responsible for thinking critically on how each course can improve, attempting to improve their own participation, giving feedback to other students and the professor, and often helping decide questions of class structure.
Maintaining the Deep Springs ranch and farm operation year-round requires an academic schedule that covers the entire year. The academic year is divided into six terms with one- to three-week breaks between them. Each term consists of seven or eight weeks. Fall and Spring semesters consist of two terms with a one-week break between them. Courses during the Fall and Spring semesters usually run for two terms. All terms except the Summer Session begin on Tuesday of week 1 and end on Thursday of week 7 or week 8.
The facilities and resources at students' disposal include a fully equipped science lab, a library with over 30,000 volumes, a museum and archive with rich historical material from Deep Springs and the local area, an art studio, a music studio, and a collection of musical instruments including a Steinway grand piano, a darkroom, and more.