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Like any institution, Carleton College has its strength and weaknesses. For my part, I believe the strength of Carleton College is its professors. They are very approachable and always willing to help any student. I have witnessed professors writing strong recommendations for students they hardly know. As for weaknesses, in the past, I believed the school administration was not very sympathetic to low-income students. However, this appears to be changing as Carleton College's New Access Scholarship, which will be implemented during the 2008-2009 school year, will be a major help to low-income students. A continuing weakness of Carleton is a lack of school pride for sporting events. There seems to be a large divide between the student athletes and the rest of the student body. One experience that I will never forget is the Halloween fight over the bust of Friedrich Schiller. At Carleton College, there is an ongoing competition to capture a bust of Schiller. Often, the group that has the bust will bring "Schiller" to special occasions such as the Halloween Concert in 2005. The competition to grab Schiller lead to an all-out tussle (not an excessively violent tussle though) in the street, which was broken up by Northfield police.
I most appreciate the human relationships I've been able to develop with other students. Some of the most inspirational and beautiful people I know, I met at Carleton. I would change the general apathy and lack of activism in Carleton students, starting with higher expectations of applied knowledge within the curriculum. Social activism is completely a choice, both in ideology and in deed. I don't mind the number of students at Carleton, though I wish more of them were conscientious and more engaged with their complete learning experience. Few people know about Carleton outside of a privileged group within the US - the response is therefore either 'impressed' because they have heard and believe the elitist rhetoric that surrounds schools like this one, or disinterest because they have no context for the College. I spend most of my time at work (15 hours per week), doing homework and with friends. Northfield (our College town) is a perfect example of small, Midwestern farming communities becoming suburban - some hate this and others adore it. I don't cherish the smell of cow dung and Malto Meal cereal that is particular to the area ... The administration is, unfortunately, more interested in maintaining a status quo that photographs well and can be published in promising brochure paragraphs than it is in investing in the holistic education of all students. Carleton struggles consistently with racial issues, hidden sexual assault, drug ab/use and one of the worst retention rates of men of color in the nation. Many of these stem from an institutional preference to ignore these problems, allowing them to fester, instead of a dedication to healing dialogue about them.
I think Carleton is the perfect school for me. However, it isn't for everyone. I like that it is small and in a small town. I do feel proud to go to Carleton and, at least in my major (which is geology), Carleton is pretty well-known as being a good school. I love my department because the people are open and welcoming and we laugh and relax together. I also love my major because it is something that makes me happy in a way that nothing else can. I am very interested in the history of Earth and how everything connects to everything else. But I also have a lot of other interests - like languages, books, math, astronomy - and being at a liberal arts college has allowed me to pursue those. On campus, I am all over the place. Since I live off-campus a long ways, my base is generally the geology building. But, depending on my other classes, I work in other buildings too. A lot of geo majors chill in Mudd, but many other students study in the Libe or Sayles (I think). As for the administration...I don't really know. I mean, I think some people are boring, old, white guys who really don't have a clue. But some people are cool and understanding and concerned about the students. I think Carleton is so big on continuing its "reputation" that some people, ideals, etc. fall through the cracks. Res Life sucks though. Totally NOT helpful with students' needs.
Best parts about Carleton are the professors and academics as well as the academic atmosphere. You get what you paid for in a lot of senses. Minnesota is cold and Northfield is small but there is plenty going on on campus and it doesn't bother people much, even people from the city like me. If we could change one thing, we'd figure out how to convince more attractive females to come. The school is big enough that you meet new people often. There's a fair amount of school pride but it is more often reflected outside of sporting events.
Carleton's student body is quite small, which is great. The profs always know who you are, even in "big" lecture classes, and encourage students to come to office hours. One of my profs helped me get an internship this summer, something I was not expecting to happen out of my freshman year. It's easy to meet great people, but I suppose it might be a problem if you were trying to avoid someone. Luckily the students are all intelligent, friendly, and welcoming. Northfield a few good restaurants very close to campus, which is especially important during winter term. I personally like Sweet Lou's Waffle Bar, which is owned by one of the profs and stays open until 2am on weekends. If you're looking for city life, Northfield is not for you, but if you want to be able to eat out a few times a term and buy a few groceries, then the town is fine. The biggest recent controversy was over the new dining workers' contract. We're switching to a new food services company next year, and the dining workers were worried about losing their ac***ulated benefits. Some students protested outside the temporary office of the new company and posted signs around campus about it. The new company had a meeting to explain their plans so I think it all got worked out.
The best thing about Carleton is by far the students. I've already mentioned the accepting, intellectual, and silly atmosphere and I think if you're looking for that, you'll feel at home. The professors are also amazing. There are definitely a few who aren't quite as good as others, and there's always a risk with taking a class from a new prof, but on the whole they are incredible! I'm always blown away by their level of knowledge and ability to address tough issues in the texts. The best way to ensure a good class is to talk to people and find out who they like, who they don't like, and who they've had a life changing experience taking a class from! The small size of Carleton (and of Northfield) is both a good and bad part of the Carleton experience. One the on hand, you walk around and see tons of people you know, you know most of the professors in your department, you know most of the kids in your classes, and you often can get into things like theater, music, and other organizations without having to worry about people majoring in them taking all the spots (this gives you a chance to build up some skills in this stuff!). On the other hand, this small size means that Carleton (already plagued by its small town, white, Midwest, and high cost reputation) has extremely low diversity--unless you're white, you'll probably know every single person in your ethnic group by the end of the first term. Alsol, it can sometimes mean a pretty small dating pool, which gets almost miniscule if your gay or lesbian. Northfield is tiny but with some charm. It has a nice historic mainstreet and a fair amount of individuality. Many people complain that it's too small that there aren't enough places to eat, but then it's a town of 10,000, there were never going to be too many geat places to go (that being said, we have two delicious Indian places, a good sandwich shop, a few pizza joints, and a waffle house. The main bar has a good selection of beer though the prices are a little high). I didn't come to small town Minnesota from LA expecting to find cheap burritos and take out Thai on every corner, I came looking for a place where students put their energy inward to create cool events on campus during the weekends, where I'd have a patch of nature to go exporing--The Carleton arboretum is gorgeous, a wonderful place to go to take a break with a run or to have a work study job restoring native prarie! The weather is really cold. During the winter, people complain about it more than the food (which is generally pretty terrible, though we're changing our dining service so we'll see . . .) Winter is frigid and often below zero. However, if your like me and have always wanted to live in a winter wonderland, have snowball fights, go sledding, and learn ice hockey, then it often works out nicely (except when it drops down beyond bearable in February!) We also have beautiful Falls and Springs where all the leaves change or regrow in beautiful unison.
Robert JuniorReviews provided by: Unigo