Carleton College is a prestigious liberal arts college with about 2,000 students located in the small town of Northfield, Minnesota, 30 miles south of Minneapolis/St. Paul. It is consistently ranked in the top 10 of the U.S. News and World Report best liberal arts colleges; as of September 2006, it is ranked at #6.
Carleton has a sparse, tree-filled campus with small buildings and wide open spaces. It is located between the Cowling Arboretum (“the Arb”), a large nature preserve owned by the college, and Division Street, the commercial center of Northfield. There is also an adjacent residential area in which many professors and staff members live.
The center of campus is a quad called the Bald Spot, where frisbee games are often played. During Winter Term, ice rinks are added, allowing students to play hockey and a more informal game called broomball.
The small size of the campus makes it possible to walk from any class to another within 10 minutes. Most students live in dorms located on the edges of campus.
Carleton is very academically focused, and a large percentage of students go on to graduate school. It is also a leading source of Ph.D. recipients, and it has also been recognized for sending an unusually large number of female students to graduate programs in the sciences. The two largest departments at Carleton are Biology and Political Science.
Students enjoy hanging out at The Cave, a student-run bar where live bands perform every Friday. Most of the entertainment on campus is provided by student groups, including several a cappella singing groups and two improv comedy troupes. An additional layer of social life is provided by the interest houses, such as Sci-Fi House and WHOA House, where students live and run events centered around their house’s theme.
Carleton is a primarily national college with a wide variety of students. According to The Princeton Review’ as of September 2006, Carleton’s student population is 73% out of state and 6% international; it is 73% Caucasian, 10% Asian, 6% African-American and 5% Hispanic. According to Carleton’s promotional materials, it has students from all 50 states and 27 countries. It has long strived to maintain a gender balance: 52% of students are currently female, and all dormitory floors are co-ed, with the exception of the Women’s Floor.
The vast majority of Carleton students are traditional, meaning that they completed high school during the previous year. 81% graduate within 4 years, and 86% graduate within 6 years. 22% go to graduate school upon graduation.
Carleton’s admissions process favors creativity and a sense of humor, and prospective students may apply online for free. The median range of SAT scores is in the mid-600s to mid-700s on each subject. 29% of applicants are accepted, and 37% of accepted students enroll.
Carleton students are generally very liberal. For instance, the Carleton Democrats is a relatively large student organization; there is no analogous organization for Republican students. (The Carleton Conservative Union is traditionally more Libertarian-leaning than either of the major parties, and is focused more on its publication, The Carleton Observer, than on direct activism.) According to a poll run by The Observer in 2005, 71% of students identify as Democrat.
Carleton is identified by numerous sources as one of the most gay-friendly colleges in America, and many students are openly homosexual or bisexual. There is a Gender and Sexuality Center, located in the basement of Scoville Hall, and both the college and the CSA support programs for gay students. According to a poll run by The Carleton Observer in 2005, 90% of Carleton students approve of gay marriage.