College Spotlight: Carleton College
Sophomore Year Update
By Lauren Michael
If you are considering Carleton you have probably already looked through their website at the pictures of students happily baking cookies or of a professor smiling while explaining what looks like some pretty complicated equations on a chalkboard. The website is good at giving the big picture, but I don’t want to be another source that tries to tell you everything and in doing so really tells you nothing. Instead, my goal here is to describe who a Carleton student is.
First off, Carleton has no dress code. If you want to walk to class barefoot, even in the dead of winter, that’s fine. You’ll see a lot of flannel but you’ll also see a lot of everything else. No one would look twice if you went to the dining hall in pajamas.
As far as getting around campus goes, you’ll see people walking, biking, riding on scooters, skateboarding, long boarding, or even roller blading. Whatever mode of transportation you decide to use, however, you have to always be on the lookout for flying Frisbees. It’s common knowledge that on the whole Carleton students love to play Frisbee. As a result, the entire campus has been unofficially designated as a Frisbee golf (frolf) course. When you are playing, it’s great. As a pedestrian though you have to be careful not to be hit (In my two years I have been hit twice).
Carleton students are busy and hardworking in everything they do. I am involved in club soccer, volunteer at the elementary school, am on the board of the mental health awareness collective, and tutor at the high school. On top of school work it can be overwhelming, but most people I know do just as much. I think that students at Carleton do so much because they care so much. People are passionate about different things but everyone is passionate about something. I have a friend who organizes bus trips to divestment rallies all over the Midwest. Another student goes through much of Carleton’s waste and pulls out items that are recyclable or still usable. Not every cause has to be working towards saving the planet of course. One of my friends started a smash bros club just because playing the game made him happy. He teaches beginners to play and holds tournaments.
Just as every student is passionate about something outside of school, every student is also passionate about his/her education. People really do talk about what they are learning outside of class. Once my roommate wrote down a cool math problem on a napkin in the dining hall and made me try to solve it while I was eating my cereal. The subjects are great, but every class is hard which translates into a lot of stress. Carleton students are good at sympathizing when people talk about late nights and long hours in the library. We’ve all been there.
Of course not every Carleton student is the same and everyone’s experience is different. These are just a few more things to consider if you are tired of reading about small classroom sizes and personal relationships with professors.
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Northfield, 35 miles south of the Twin Cities, is a fabulous college town and home to two private, liberal arts schools, one of which is the highly-ranked, wind-powered Carleton College. Of the 1,000 acres on campus, almost 900 acres are filled with lakes and trails that are part of the Cowling Arboretum. Many students come to Carleton with the expectation of spending their free time outdoors – running, cross country skiing, skating, hiking, and yes, the ever-popular winter sledding.
Carleton operates on a trimester system, so students take nine classes per year rather than the traditional eight classes. The ten-week pace ups the intensity of each course and allows student athletes to study abroad without forgoing an athletic season. The academic atmosphere at Carleton is a collaborative one, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1. Carleton professors are receptive to student involvement in their research projects. In fact, U.S. News and World Report has ranked Carleton as #1 in undergraduate teaching amongst the national liberal arts colleges. In the past, Carleton students have worked with renowned faculty members to translate a French 17th century calculus textbook, conduct psychological studies on the correlation between nicotine dependence and panic attacks, and assist in the preparation of professional art exhibits. Amongst similar colleges, Carleton boasts one of the best records of undergraduate students who pursue PhD degrees.
About 70 percent of Carleton students participate in off-campus study programs as part of their yearly tuition. Each year, Carleton sponsors 16 to 18 term-long seminars and winter/spring break programs, designed and led by Carleton faculty members. The summer Economics Seminar at the University of Cambridge has been a core feature of Carleton’s economics program since 1983. It’s one of a diverse group of programs run by Carleton faculty members in off-site locations. For the 2015-16 school year, faculty members will be leading programs as varied as Studio Art in New York City and Irish Literature in Ireland.