College Spotlight: Carleton College

Jack (left), our British tour guide, and (right) a freshman tour guide trainee from Maryland answer our many questions about life at Carleton.

Jack (left), our British tour guide, and (right) a freshman tour guide trainee from Maryland answer our many questions about life at Carleton.

As Jack, our warm, friendly British student tour guide with awesome Ace Ventura-like hair, introduced himself to our group, I couldn’t help notice the line on his hanging name tag that communicated his preferred pronouns. He had written, “Him, His, He.”

That’s the first thing you get about Carleton - the culture is one of inclusion, respect, and a little quirkiness. One stop on our campus tour was the Cookie House. Jack stopped to explain. Apparently, a woman who lived in a Victorian house with a welcoming front porch right on campus stipulated in her will that when she died she would leave her house to Carleton, but only if they promised that the house would be open 24/7 and it would always be stocked with cooking-making ingredients. A baking enthusiast who often fed students, she wanted her home to be a place where students could stop in at any time they felt like it and whip up a batch of cookies. It’s become a popular tradition at Carleton.

We walked along the campus green on that early April day but all we saw was white because Northfield, Minnesota had experienced a bout of cold, snowy weather in recent days. But the students we passed were upbeat and energetic, and Jack pointed out the two pop-up ice rinks on the green and described how students are often out playing broomball (like hockey, but you use a broom and you don’t wear skates). He had no idea when he decided to come to college in America that he would become a fan of broomball!

And then there is Ultimate Frisbee. For some reason, Carleton has become the pinnacle of the college Ultimate Frisbee world. Both its men’s and women’s teams are often national contenders. Jack said that he’s never thrown a frisbee so much in his life - and he’s not on any of the club frisbee teams! Frisbee is a “thing” at Carleton.

We were there on a Thursday, when lunch was super crowded because of scheduling, as a current junior explained to us. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, there is a time period during the lunch hour when no classes are meeting - which means that everyone flocks to the cafeteria at once. It was also accepted students visiting week - and the first week of Major League Baseball (the Minnesota Twins had played their first game in the snow the day before), so the cafeteria had made all its dishes with a “ballpark” theme with a twist. I tried the fried cheese curds, which were delicious, as well as the hot dog with traditional mustard and sauerkraut, along with healthier options from the nicely equipped salad bar. Another consultant in our group was not as big a fan of the veggie burger, which was an odd green color, but she too gave the cheese curds a thumbs up.

Eye On Admissions

Our group met with Jaime Anthony, senior associate dean of admission, who described Carleton’s academic culture like this: “The life of the mind is very important here.” He said that Carleton seeks students who like to learn and go deeper in many subjects - and can demonstrate that intellectual curiosity in their application. He emphasized that for excellent students who may be a little light on extracurricular activities, (like those who prefer to spend time at home reading or working on individual projects) Carleton may be a good fit.

He also mentioned that crossover schools students apply to include Haverford, Swarthmore, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Oberlin, Washington University in St. Louis, Brown, Tufts, Pomona, Macalester, Whitman, Harvey Mudd (for more science-focused students), and University of Chicago.

Learning Support At Carleton

While you write a lot at Carleton, you also get a lot of support!

While you write a lot at Carleton, you also get a lot of support!

We spoke with Chris Dallager, the director of disability services, who is has been in the job about a year. He said that for students with learning differences or anxiety, Carleton offers traditional accommodations with the most common ones being deadline extensions and testing with extra time in a non-distracted environment. He mentioned that Carleton’s writing center has robust support. Assistive technology is widely available to students and there is a group of students trained in assistive technology that supports LD students by providing individual training on the use of Smartpens, Kurzweil, Dragon Naturally Speaking, and other helpful software and apps. Dallager said that after receiving his UCLA certification in Young Adult Socialization, he had attempted to create a socialization group (with dating guidance) for students with a nonverbal learning disability or Asperger's with peer leaders serving as mentors, but it hadn’t been a success. He was going to try again in the fall with the hope that a combined group with neighboring St. Olaf college might be more successful.

One thing to note about Carleton: because it runs on a 10-week trimester system where students take three classes at a time, the academic pace is quite fast. Students do need to have good organizational skills in order to keep up.

Other important things to know about learning support:

  • Documentation for LD/ADHD must be less than three years old

  • For accommodations for psychological diagnoses, a detailed letter from a therapist is necessary

  • Getting a foreign language waiver is possible but not common (only 4 students in the incoming class are exempt) and requires clear evidence of LD impact and a history of trying and struggling with a foreign language