Shimer students participating in class discussion

The Montaigne Scholarship Event

Join the conversation!

Do you like to read - and have intelligent conversation with fellow readers? Is every new book a chance to dig into questions that really matter? If so, the Shimer Great Books School at North Central College may be the perfect place for you. We want to help open the door.

Shimer students and faculty

Montaigne Scholarship

The Montaigne Scholarship provides substantial tuition relief for students seeking to join the Shimer Great Books School at North Central College. It also offers a taste of what students do in the Shimer School, where we read, discuss and write about the “best that has been thought and said in the world.”

Shimer Students studying

Montaigne Scholarship Event

  • Read a personal essay in the tradition of Michel de Montaigne.
  • Write an original response
  • Participate in a seminar discussion with peers

We think of the Shimer School as part of a “great conversation.” The Montaigne Scholarship Event is our invitation to join that conversation and carry it on with all of us in the Shimer School.

shimer students and faculty

Who is Montaigne?

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533–1592) was a French diplomat and civil official in the region of Bordeaux, France. Montaigne is widely credited with the invention of the modern personal “essay,” which term he gave to the written “attempts” (essais in French) he made later in his life to understand both his world and himself as honestly and unflinchingly as he could. Between 1571 and 1587 Montaigne published three books of essays on topics as various as drunkenness, cannibalism, vanity, friendship and aging. Montaigne was very well traveled, both as a diplomat during the height of France’s bloody wars of religion as well as in search of cures for physical ailments that followed him through life. He was elected Mayor of Bordeaux twice and led the city through an outbreak of plague late in his term. His essays thus often portray a dim tableau of human existence, but are marked above all by his abiding skepticism and the openness of mind characterized by his personal motto “Que sçay-je?” or “What do I know?”

The Montaigne Event

Join your peers in reading and discussing one of Montaigne's many essays. Both writing and discussion exercises are part of the annual event which is designed to reflect a typical Shimer classroom experience in order to determine which students will thrive at our great books school. Students write an essay based on their reading of a work by Michel de Montaigne. All students who submit a successful essay will then be invited to visit the Shimer School and meet current Shimer School students and faculty for a discussion of their essays. Essays that have been discussed in recent years include Montaigne's On Education and Of Cannibals. 

Students reading in class

The Montaigne Scholarship

The scholarship events are free to enter and open to any prospective student interested in the Shimer Great Books School. Selected recipients will receive the Montaigne Scholarship of up to $5,000 annually in addition to their current academic scholarship. Scholarships are renewable at the same dollar amounts and do not increase in subsequent years. The whole process of registering for the scholarship, participating in the event and getting the results takes place within one month.

Student reading in book in shimer class

Sophie Juhlin

Montaigne Scholarship Recipient

"The Montaigne scholarship served a dual purpose for me—it was a crash course in the mechanics of a Shimer discussion, and a chance to get to know my future classmates in their natural habitat. It was really on the day of Montaigne that I fell in love with Shimer. It’s such an invigorating challenge to describe and defend your interpretation of a text. And like any good Shimer discussion, your understanding lies somewhere between yourself, what you read, and the people you share it with." 

Shimer student Sophie Juhlin in a classroom


Montaigne Event Days

The first requirements for participants is to compose an original essay on the basis of questions concerning an essay by Michel de Montaigne (for details on procedures see “Guidelines” below). This year’s Event will feature Montaigne’s essay entitled “Of Books.” Once your essay has been received, you will be able to join one the Montaigne Event

students studying


All events will be held in the Eric Nicholson Lounge of Seybert Hall on the North Central College Campus, 208 North Loomis Street, Naperville, IL, 60540.

You may attend any one (but only one) of these Event Days provided you have successfully submitted your essay. On whichever Day you attend, you will participate in a seminar discussion about Montaigne’s essay with other participants.

Shimer students hanging out in lounge

What happens after the event?

Before and after the seminar on each Event Day, you will have a chance to meet current students and faculty of the Shimer School, as well as past recipients of the scholarship.

Students unable to attend a seminar may apply to substitute for it an extended interview with a Shimer School faculty member. No other aspects of participants’ academic records will be taken into account when determining awards.

Shimer students hanging out

Guidelines and Submission Procedures for Essays

In an essay of your own of between 750 and 1250 words (three to five typed pages, double-spaced), respond to the following questions regarding Montaigne’s essay "Of Books":

“What is Montaigne’s general attitude towards books? What are they good for in his opinion?  For you, what is the value of books?”

Note that in both your essay and in the Event Day discussion, you will take Montaigne’s essay as your starting point, but you will also be encouraged to offer your own views of the subject under question.


You may read the copy of Montaigne's essay supplied here or any other published translation. Please cite the translation you use at the end of your essay. You should use a standard citation style.  For guidance on how to cite your translation and any other sources you use in preparing your essay, you may consult the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) website here.


You must type your essay and submit it in .pdf or .doc/docx format to Dr. Stuart Patterson at The subject heading of your email should state: "Montaigne Essay" and your name. Anyone unable to type their essay or submit it electronically in either format should contact Dr. Patterson for instructions. If a student unable to send your essay via email , you may bring a hard copy to the Shimer Great Books School on the Event Day you choose to attend.


Awards, of which there may be more than one at varying amounts, will be based solely on the quality of the essay submitted and, to a lesser extent, on participation in the seminar. Again, if a participant faces undue hardship in attending an Event Day seminar, they will be allowed to hold a phone or video conference interview with a faculty member instead.  


Only students who plan to enroll in the Shimer Great Books School as their major course of study at North Central College may participate in the scholarship event, though scholarship recipients will be free to complete any additional major or minor courses of study they choose while at North Central.


Winners will receive the Montaigne Scholarship of up to $5,000 annually in addition to any other academic scholarships they receive. Scholarships are renewable at the same dollar amounts and do not increase in subsequent years. Awards will be made separately for each of the event days, and will be announced to all participants within a month of the Event Day they attend.

All Are Welcome!

On the Montaigne Scholarship Day, participants can look forward to finding out more about the Shimer School and its programs, including from past recipients of the Montaigne Scholarship. We encourage parents and even other family members to attend these events as well. 

table in shimer classroom

Questions? Contact us!

Still have questions about our Montaigne scholarship or the event? Contact us and we will give you a closer look to what it would mean for you to broaden your horizon within the Great Books School.

Shimer Books in book shelf