To get to Deep Springs College, you take a one-way bus from Las Vegas that drops you off in the parking lot of the Cottontail Ranch, a brothel in Lida Junction, Nevada.
You ride for hours through the barren Nevada desert. When the Deep Springs van picks you up in Lida Junction, it climbs over the easternmost peaks of the Sierra Nevada, into California, and descends into the Deep Springs Valley, population 42--the students and faculty of the college, plus a few hundred head of cattle.
Deep Springs is probably the most remote college in America. The nearest town is an hour off--not that it matters, because students agree to a self-imposed "isolation policy" during the school term.
It is also one of the most innovative. In addition to a traditional academic curriculum, the 13 men in each class run the place--they make policies, hire and fire faculty and even admit their successors. They also cook, clean and tend a working farm and cattle ranch.
After two years in "the valley," most students enter elite four-year universities as juniors to get their degrees.
Harvard draws more of them than any other school. Eight former Deep Springers--more than a quarter of the student body--currently attend Harvard.
"Harvard is the biggest halfway house there is," John M. Gravois '01 says.
But it isn't always an easy transition from the high desert to the banks of the Charles.