In 1974, the country was in turmoil with the Watergate Scandal that would eventually lead to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. Despite this turmoil, Naropa University began its first summer sessions that year in an old bus station in Boulder, Colorado. Five hundred students were expected to enroll in the first two sessions yet there were 1,500 who enrolled. The initial session was interesting, however.
The school, founded by Tibetan Buddhist scholar and lineage holder, the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, along with Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, John Cage and Diane di Prima as the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute, began the same night that President Nixon resigned. It is believed that many of those who arrived that night thought it was a celebration for the resignation while others came because it was billed as a “Concert with John Cage.” The school thrived, however, offering a second summer session in 1975.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wanted to create a university where students could study Eastern and Western religions, writing, psychology, science and the arts while also learning contemplative and meditation instruction. The school is modeled after Nalanda University, a Buddhist institute that flourished in India for six centuries. The school is named for Naropa, a Buddhist scholar and saint, who embarked on a spiritual journey to find the meaning behind the texts he studied at Nalanda University. Naropa allows students to find deeper meaning in their disciplines and artistic work through meditation and contemplative practices.
In 1976, the school added a Master of Arts degree in Buddhist and Western Psychology. They also began offering certificates in Dance, Theater and Poetics, but still only held sessions in the summer. Year-round study began in 1978 when the Buddhist Studies graduate degree was offered in January. Offices for the college were located at 1111 Pearl Street over a Chinese restaurant and classroom space was rented throughout Boulder.
In 1983, the school moved to the former Lincoln School building on Arapahoe, sharing the space with Shambhala Training. A $1 million anonymous gift guaranteed faculty salaries for the first time, although the donor was later revealed as Martha Bonzi who also donated property west of the school with five to six small buildings for its use, an act that kept the school from closing. In 1987, Naropa purchased the Lincoln campus from the Boulder Valley School District.
Naropa University Accreditation
Naropa University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Regional accreditation indicates that the university meets or exceeds standards that the Commission has determined represent quality and accountability in higher education.
Naropa University Application Requirements
Because Naropa University offers a highly personalized and challenging academic environment, they search for students who will thrive in their unique educational setting. The following are criteria used to determine which students are admitted to Naropa:
- Ability to adapt to change and seek help when needed
- Academic history
- Commitment to social justice
- Interest in attending and contributing to the Naropa community
- Letters of recommendation
- Passion to make a difference in the world
- School activities and community engagement
- Writing skills
At Naropa University, there is nothing standardized which is why they have a test-optional admissions policy. They seek students based on who they are and not how they test. Therefore, the SAT and ACT are not required as part of the admissions process. Students may send test scores but they are not required.
Students must provide official high school or GED transcripts as well as an application that may be completed online, printed and mailed or students may use the Common Application. Students must submit a 250- to1,000-word statement explaining how they plan to participate in the unique Naropa community and how their goals could be achieved through their attendance. Only one letter of recommendation is required.
Transfer students must submit official high school transcripts as well as official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. Students who have less than 30 transfer credits must reside at Snow Lion, the on-campus dorm, for one semester.
Each graduate program has its own admission requirements. Students can review those requirements online or contact an admissions counselor to determine what they will need to apply.
Naropa University Tuition and Financial Aid
Full-time undergraduate tuition at Naropa University is $15,500 per semester or $995 per credit hour. Graduate tuition is as follows:
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology - $28,471 annually
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Somatic Counseling Body Psychotherapy - $25,545 annually
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Somatic Counseling Dance/Movement Therapy - $25,545 annually
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Mindfulness-based Transpersonal Counseling - $22,560 annually
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Transpersonal Art Therapy - $22,560 annually
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy - $27,140 annually
- Contemplative Education - $18,990 annually
- Creative Writing - $20,520 annually
- Creative Writing and Poetics - $24,730 annually
- Ecopsychology - $19,645 annually
- Master of Divinity - $22,570 annually
- Religious Studies - $20,570 annually
- Theater: Contemporary Performance - $25,740 annually
- Religious Studies with Language - $22,560 annually
- Resilient Leadership - $18,580 annually
Financial aid is available and 74 percent of undergraduate students receive some type of aid. In addition, 64 percent of undergraduate students are awarded grants or scholarships while 18 percent of undergraduates use work-study opportunities to offset the cost of their education. The average number of assistantships offered to Naropa graduate students is 40 and 37 percent of graduate students receive a scholarship, fellowship or assistantship.
In order to apply for undergraduate or graduate financial aid, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and provide their tax information. Students may be eligible for grants, scholarships and loans if they are undergraduate students while graduate students may qualify for assistantships.
Naropa University Degree Program(s) Available
Bachelor’s in Contemplative Psychology
The Contemplative Psychology program at Naropa University differs from traditional programs which begin with external theories. Through contemplative practice, students discover the riches of self, using the study of Eastern and Western approaches to healing the mind and body. Students are also provided practical fieldwork to give them a hands-on approach that leads them to better help others. Graduates may continue their studies in counseling, teaching, holistic health, medicine and law.
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Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
The Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling provides students with the knowledge Naropa believes is essential to counseling others. Naropa blends the best practices in the field with contemplative as well as mind/body integration to create students who are instruments of healing. Students learn to cultivate self-awareness and sensitivity to work with diverse populations and build a sense of lifelong service through the caring community, socially engaged student body and the leadership skills they develop in the program. The Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is available in the following concentrations:
- Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology
- Somatic Counseling Body Psychotherapy
- Somatic Counseling Dance/Movement Therapy
- Mindfulness-based Transpersonal Counseling
- Transpersonal Art Therapy
- Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy
Naropa University offers students a unique, mind/body experience while preparing them for various careers or to further their studies in graduate school. Students at Naropa University gain an understanding of self while also developing the skills and knowledge they need to advance in a current career or move into a new career.