- Class: Junior
- Major: History
- Gender: M
- High School: North Hollywood High School (Zoo Magnet)
- Transfer Student: N
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.
Do professor's know my name? Yes. Do I sometimes wish I got to know them better? Of course. It often takes time and is easier when you have smaller classes (and depends on how open the prof is). However, I have had profs invite me over to their houses, I've turned in a final paper to a prof at the local bar, and I've generally found profs to be very friendly and willing to get to know the students. Class participation is common and often invigorating, though there are definitely students who talk for the sake of talking or thoe who shy away from discussion. And yes, Carleton students definitely talk about intellectual subjects outside of class. Their whole speech is charged with intellectualism! We joke about our classes, what we're learning, who we're reading, etc. People will dress up as paramecium for Halloween, we'll make jokes about Michelle Foucault, etc. You learn tons of things outside of class and through your interactions with your friends. My favorite classes have probably been my intro to poetry class, my Israili-Palestinian history class, and my intro to prinkmaking class. All three opened up a well of knowledge on subjects I knew only scant amounts of infomation on. They all had fun, dynamic profs with very different styles. The first had strong engaging discussion where the students got to take center stage with interpretation. The second pushed me to think beyond overly simplistic views of middle east history (and created my desire to major in this field). The third allowed me to work closely with a prof at developing a strong set of artistic skills while teaching me to recognize their application in various works of professional art. Ironically, my worst class may have been my most unique. It was a class that sounded good: explore the life and works of mathematician and father of the computer, Alan Turing, while working on the play The Lovesong of the Electric Bear and analyzing other works of art that dealt with either the complexities of Turing or other aspects of science. In reality, the class just wasn't structured very well and often tried to do too much with too little time. I also realized that I didn't have quite enough experience with math or desire to make the extra effort to gain said experience to make the class worthwhile. This taught me that it is often better to take a class in a subject a prof knows well than to take an experiment that seems great at the time. One quick thing on the grad requirements. If you don't continue with the foreign language you're working on in high school (or test poorly on the placement exam) you'll have to start from scratch and take at least 4 courses (5 for Japanese and Chinese) to complete the language requirement. While this might not seem like a lot at first, these classes can quickly get in the way of other classes you may have hoped to take. So unless you REALLY want to work your butt off on this new language, stick with what you know and make time for other priorities
As I said before, the biggest problem at Carleton is its lack of diversity. It's easy for minority groups to feel like small enclaves and to become invisible to the rest of the student body. There is a fair amount of self-seggregation that occurs which in many ways may be a product of students with similar interests and backgrounds gravitating towards one another. This means that not only do various ethnic groups tend to hang out with one another, but also the atheletes, the theater kids, the comedy kids, the activism kids, etc. These groups are, of course, porous and many people move between them or are connected to them without being apart of the defining characteristic. However, they do exist to a certain extent. That being said, there are also plenty of people who are united just out of general common interest, you don't need an activity to find friends. I think that, on the whole, most Carleton students are still very open and friendly, and that any separation is not out of exclusion. I'd say that most students are fairly left but not extremely so. There is a fairly strong activist community but it often feels a little insular. I think we all wish more students would get involved in issues but realize that they, like us, are very busy with school work and extracurricular activities. It can be easy to get tons of students to sign a petition but a lot harder to get them to actually show up at an event. I'd say that a large number of students come from upper-middle class families with a few from very money families as well as a large number on partial or full financial aid. Carleton is expensive, and this is represented to a certain extent in its students. However, no one really talks about how much money their parent's make, what sort of stuff they have or show off where they've traveled to. Honestly, I don't really know the range of kids on financial aid compared to those off it. Carleton is almost entirely need blind, so I'd imagine that a fair number get accepted without having the means to pay for it. I also think that many kids from the richer pivate schools on the coasts are generally attracted to the preppier East and West coast schools.
The Best Things
The smart, silly, friendly students; the amazin professors
The Worst Things
The lack of diversity; the freezing cold in mid-winter