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Frequently Asked Questions

The Lincoln Scholars Program tries to promote intellectual and political diversity by reading and discussing foundational texts in small seminars. That means that the type of person who does Lincoln Scholars is someone who likes talking to people they disagree with and who likes reading, taking seriously, and discussing difficult and quite strange books.

Yes, it is possible to do both programs. But we try to have separate groups of students, both because the programs have different visions and because we want to reach as many students as we can with these programs. So we recommend that you think hard about which program would help you flourish the most as you think about these applications.

The two programs are really quite different. The SPA Leadership program is intended to train you for a career in public service and helps you make use of all the opportunities Washington, D.C. offers. Lincoln Scholars is a program of traditional liberal education. We hope to prepare you to have conversations with people with whom you disagree; and we aim to introduce you to a world of texts and ideas broader than contemporary D.C. The texts we read are challenging and will force you think more deeply about yourself and your own beliefs in the light of fundamental alternatives. Our distinctive value is the opportunity to have an experience similar to what you have get at a small liberal arts college, while also being able to benefit from all the opportunities that come from being in the nation’s capital.

We usually have about 30 students in any class of 1st year students.

Yes. In fact, your resume and a letter of recommendation are both required parts of the application.

Yes, you can put these on your resume. But those things are usually more relevant to your college application than for your application to Lincoln Scholars. We are looking to see how well you will fit into the program, so your essays are more important to us than your scores.

We are mainly looking for fit to the program. That is, we are looking for thoughtful students who have something to contribute to the intellectual life of the program. Show us that you have some distinctive interest and tell us why we should be interested in it as well. We also care deeply about intellectual and political diversity and welcome applications from conservative students, radical students, and students who do not fit into any of the familiar contemporary categories.

The deadline is typically in early May. The specific date will be shared widely once determined. In order to apply for this program you must have submitted your enrollment deposit letting AU know you plan to attend in the fall. You can access the application forms through your Future Eagle page.

For students entering in the fall of 2020, the courses will be:

  • CORE 105 The Problem of Freedom (a Complex Problems course, fulfills an AU Core requirement)
  • GOVT 105 Individual Freedom vs. Authority (Lincoln Scholars students take a special section of this course, which fulfills a requirement for Government and CLEG majors)
  • GOVT 211 Roots of Political Economy
  • GOVT 212 Politics and Literature

Our courses are seminar-style classes oriented toward the close reading of difficult texts. Many classes in the university are lecture-style classes. Our classes, however, are conversation classes in which we sit around a common table (as opposed to having the professor stand in front of the students). To be successful, such classes require that students have read the text closely before they come to class, that they bring their books to class, and that they come prepared to talk about what they have read. In a normal class, we will spend time working through what that day’s text means and discussing what difference it would make to us if that text were true. The discipline of close reading and serious conversation is part of the point of the program; we are trying to train ourselves to be intellectually and morally self-sufficient human beings. For this reason, students who enroll in the program must be prepared to take an active role in their own education.

You may, but it is not recommended. If you were to write about a movie or TV show, bear in mind that you will need to show how that movie or TV show speaks to the goals and spirit of the program.

Yes, definitely. We very much welcome applicants who plan on majoring in schools other than SPA.

Yes. The program offers a number of benefits outside of the classroom, like social events like communal dinners and our annual retreat. Students who complete the program requirements will also receive a certificate that will show up on your transcript. There is also a small fellowship that comes with being part of the program.

We recommend that you take at least one of the 1 credit courses in your freshman year and the other 2 in your sophomore year. But that is not a requirement.

Unfortunately, no. Both programs require their special sections of Lincoln Scholars, and you cannot take two sections of Complex Problems. But bear in mind that the Honors Program is an excellent choice.

After teaching at AU for many years, we faculty of the Lincoln Scholars believe that many students are hungry for opportunities to have serious conversations about moral and political controversies. We believe that a good education is not just about how to get a job, but also about questions like: What should I care about? What does it mean to be a good person? Why do people disagree about the most important things in life? We believe that reading and discussing foundational texts is the best way to explore these questions, and so our program is designed to help you do that while also making the most of being in the nation’s capital.

Every spring we take students on a retreat. The focus of the retreat is a common text, usually something contemporary. We provide all students attending the retreat a copy of the text. Below are the texts used for our retreats

2019: Patrick Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed
2020: Matthew Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft
2021: Zena Hitz, Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life

Below is the current list of authors and texts used during the first two years of the program. These will change over time as the program develops further. Rev. 4/2021

The Problem of Freedom (Fall, First Year)
Martin Luther King, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”*
Declaration of Independence (published version and Jefferson’s draft)
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Dover)
Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro”
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (Dover)
Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Dover)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments”
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Individual Freedom vs. Authority (Spring, First Year)
Plato, Apology, Republic
Aristophanes, Clouds
Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery
W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Michel Foucault, “Panopticism”

Roots of Political Economy (Fall, Second Year)
John Locke, Second Treatise of Government
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Social Contract (selections)
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto, German Ideology (selections), “On the Jewish Question”
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics
John Maynard Keynes, General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (selections), “The End of Laissez Faire,” other selections
Friedrich Hayek, Road to Serfdom (selections), “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” “Why I am Not a Conservative”

Politics and Literature (Spring, Second Year)
James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son
Homer, Iliad
Jane Austen, Emma
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man