Carleton College Northfield, MI: I know you’re wondering why aninhabitant of central Massachusetts would journey seven states and overone thousand miles to rural Minnesota. Well, my incentive was CarletonCollege, and the trip was well worth it.
Due to my PSAT scores, Ihave been receiving Carleton paraphernalia since the tenth grade. Atfirst the information request slips and viewbooks kept flying straightfrom the mailbox to the recycling bin. After all, who in their rightmind would spend four years in Minnesota, the land of year-roundsweaters and trout fishing? But one day during my junior year, I glancedover the fact sheet. That’s when I discovered the four-hundred-acrearboretum filled with walking, biking, and skiing trails (I love toski), and the special Environmental Studies program (I loveEnvironmental Studies). That same week I talked to a friend whosebrother had transferred from Yale to Carleton. I was impressed.
Istarted requesting departmental information, but I still wasn’t totallyconvinced. Then this summer at the Massachusetts Advanced StudiesProgram I met an intern from Carleton. She was originally from Ithaca,New York, the setting of Cornell University, my original dream school.Although she was an English major, I talked with her a lot about theenvironmental science department when we went on a day trip to the BlueHills. The more I found out about Carleton’s programs, the moreinfatuated with the school I became. So, as our family planned thetwo-week college visit/uncle’s wedding/family vacation to the midwest,Carleton was placed on the list of places to visit.
We arrived inNorthfield at three in the morning after some interesting detoursthrough cornfields and construction sites. My tour was scheduled for 1:00 p.m., the interview at 2: 00. After some much-needed sleep, Iprepared myself by skimming the viewbook and headed out.
TheAugust air was hot and heavy as usual; no sweaters in sight. The spireof the Skinner Chapel glittered in the sun, and freshmen and footballplayers dotted the campus. My tour guide was an economics major from LosAngeles who had survived three Minnesota winters and was very proud ofthat fact. She provided great insight on which dorms had better food andwhat brand of bubbles one must buy to blow at the faculty during openingand closing convocation in the chapel. The campus is average in sizewith lots of room for Frisbee, and is only a minute’s walk from thecenter of Northfield.
Housing options are plentiful at Carleton.Everyone is guaranteed housing in a coed residence hall, an off-campusgroup house, the school’s own farm co-op situated in the arboretum, oreven in a loft under the bleachers of the stadium.
The food atCarleton is more than edible … it’s good! The cafeteria offers tons ofoptions, and there are co-ops on campus that specialize in vegetarianand ethnic dishes.
Carleton is a community. Weekends are spenton campus or are filled with excursions to the twin cities, Minneapolisand St. Paul, only a half hour to the north. Over 90% of the studentslive on campus, and most are out-of-staters. Over 70% of Carletonianswere in the top ten percent of their class, the others were in the toptwenty percent. There are no graduate students, and the enrollment isusually around 1700. This allows for a very personalized education and astudent/faculty ration of 11: 1. The earth sciences and English areCarleton’s strongest departments. Many research options are available inEngland, Japan, Australia, Zimbabwe, Brazil, and elsewhere with otherstudents and faculty.
Carleton students are active in theirstudies, their community, and their fun. For me, my experience atCarleton was better than any of the other colleges I have looked at. So,next time you go to throw out information about a college that’s athousand miles away, read the pamphlet. You might be surprised!
Reviewed in 1993