Harman Patil (Editor)

Carleton College

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Former names
Northfield College

Acceptance rate
20.6% (2015)

+1 507-222-4000

Total enrollment
2,014 (2015)


738.1 million USD (2016)

Undergraduate tuition and fees
47,736 USD (2015)


Carleton College

Declaratio Sermonum Tuorum Illuminat (Latin)

Motto in English
The Revelation / Announcement of Your Words Illuminates

Steven G. Poskanzer, J.D.

1 North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, USA

Notable alumni
Thorstein Veblen, John F Harris, Anthony Downs, Jane Hamilton, Barrie M Osborne

St Olaf College, Macalester College, Oberlin College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Bowdoin College


Carleton college

Carleton College (/ˈkɑːrltn/ KARL-tin) is a private liberal arts college in the historic town of Northfield, Minnesota. The college enrolled 2,014 undergraduate students and employed 245 instructional faculty members in fall 2015. Carleton is one of few liberal arts colleges that runs on the trimester system.


In its 2017 edition of national liberal arts college rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Carleton seventh-best overall and first for undergraduate teaching

The 1,040-acre rural campus is located next to the adjoining 880-acre Cowling Arboretum, which became part of the campus in 1920. The school's location in Northfield places it 40 miles from the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan complex. The architecture of campus buildings ranges from Collegiate Gothic to contemporary, with the first building built in 1872 and the most recent in 2011.

From 2000 through 2016, the institution has produced 122 National Science Graduate Fellows, 112 Fulbright Scholars, 20 NCAA Postgraduate Scholars, 22 Watson Fellows, 13 Goldwater Scholars, and 2 Rhodes Scholars.Carleton is also one of the largest sources of undergraduate students pursuing doctorates per one hundred students for bachelors institutions. In 2015, the school was designated a "Top Producer of Fulbright Awards for American Students at Bachelors Institutions" with 4 grants awarded that year, ranking it tied for 29th for undergraduate student awards.

Computer science at carleton college


The school was founded on October 12, 1866, when the Minnesota Conference of Congregational Churches unanimously accepted a resolution to locate a college in Northfield. Two Northfield businessmen, Charles Augustus Wheaton and Charles Moorehouse Goodsell, each donated 10 acres (4 ha) of land for the first campus. The first students enrolled at the preparatory unit of Northfield College in the fall of 1867. In 1870, the first college president, James Strong, traveled to the East Coast to raise funds for the college. On his way from visiting a potential donor, William Carleton of Charlestown, Massachusetts, Strong was badly injured in a collision between his carriage and a train. Impressed by Strong's survival of the accident, Carleton donated $50,000 to the fledgling institution in 1871. As a result, the Board of Trustees renamed the school in his honor.

The college graduated its first college class in 1874, in which the first two graduates, James J. Dow and Myra A. Brown, married each other later that year.

On September 7, 1876, the James-Younger Gang, led by outlaw Jesse James, tried to rob the First National Bank of Northfield. Joseph Lee Heywood, Carleton's Treasurer, was acting cashier at the bank that day. He was shot and killed for refusing to open the safe. Carleton later named a library fund after Heywood. The Heywood Society is the name for a group of donors who have named Carleton in their wills.

In its early years under the presidency of James Strong, Carleton reflected the theological conservatism of its Minnesota Congregational founders. In 1903, modern religious influences were introduced by William Sallmon, a Yale Divinity School graduate, who was hired as college president. Sallmon was opposed by conservative faculty members and alumni, and left the presidency by 1908. After Sallmon left, the trustees hired Donald J. Cowling, another theologically liberal Yale Divinity School graduate, as his successor. In 1916, under Cowling's leadership, Carleton began an official affiliation with the Minnesota Baptist Convention. It lasted until 1928, when the Baptists severed the relationship as a result of fundamentalist opposition to Carleton's liberalism, including the college's support for teaching evolution. Non-denominational for a number of years, in 1964 Carleton abolished its requirement for weekly attendance at some religious or spiritual meeting.

In 1927, students founded the first student-run pub in the nation, The Cave. Located in the basement of Evans Hall, it continues to host live music shows and other events several times each week.

In 1942, Carleton purchased land in Stanton, about 10 miles (16 km) east of campus, to use for flight training. During World War II, several classes of male students went through air basic training at the college. Since being sold by the college in 1944, the Stanton Airfield has been operated for commercial use. The world premiere production of the English translation of Bertolt Brecht's play, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, was performed in 1948 at Carleton's Nourse Little Theater.

In 1963 the Reformed Druids of North America was founded by students at Carleton, initially as a means to be excused from attendance of then-mandatory weekly chapel service. Within a few years, the group evolved to engage in legitimate spiritual exploration. Meetings continue to be held in the Carleton College Cowling Arboretum.

President Bill Clinton gave the last commencement address of his administration at Carleton, on June 10, 2000, marking the first presidential visit to the college. The school saw an increase in applicants in 2001, with over 4,000 applying for entry into the institution.


Carleton is a small, liberal arts college offering 32 different majors and 17 interdisciplinary concentrations, and is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Students also have the option to design their own major. As of the 2016-2017 school year, the college has no minor programs. Students may pursue a Certificate of Advanced Study in Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Arabic, Latin, or Greek. The academic calendar is unusual in that it follows a trimester system not commonly seen in institutions of higher learning, where students usually take 3 classes per term.

In order to graduate with a degree from Carleton, students must take classes in a first year Argument & Inquiry Seminar, a writing course, three quantitative reasoning encounters, language, international studies, intercultural domestic studies, humanistic inquiry, literary/artistic inquiry, arts practice, natural science, formal or statistical reasoning, social inquiry, and physical education.

The average class size at Carleton is 17, in which 22.3% of all classes have 2-9 students, 48.6% have 10-19 students, and 19.8% have over 20-29 students, and 9.3% have 30+ students. The most popular areas of study are biology, political science & international relations, economics, chemistry, psychology, English, and computer science, respectively.


Admission to Carleton has been deemed "most selective" by U.S. News & World Report with the most recent incoming class of 2019 admitting 20.6% of applicants, making the institution the most selective in Minnesota.

For the Class of 2019 (enrolled fall 2015), 211 of the 689 early decision applicants were accepted (30.6%) and 1,177 of the 6,033 regular decision applicants were accepted (19.5%). A spot on the waitlist was offered to 1,350 applicants, of whom 442 accepted and 16 were ultimately admitted (3.6%). Enrolling freshmen numbered 491, making the yield rate (the percentage of accepted students who enroll) 37.0%. Of the 224 who applied for transfer admission, 14 were admitted (6.3%), and 3 enrolled.

Carleton has a strong history of enrolling students who are in the National Merit Scholarship Program, often enrolling more than any other liberal arts college in the nation. Its Class of 2016 included 79 National Merit Scholars.


Carleton consistently ranks high among liberal arts colleges in the nation, ranking as high as 3rd in 1988 by the U.S. News & World Report. They have also ranked Carleton in the top 10 for 25 years since 1984 with its 2016 ranking placing it 8th. The 2016 U.S. News & World Report high school counselor rankings place Carleton tied for 13th place among liberal arts colleges In 2016, Washington Monthly rankings — using criteria of social mobility, research, and service — ranked Carleton 14th best college in the liberal arts college category. In the 2016 Forbes magazine ranking of American colleges, which combines liberal arts colleges and national research universities, the college is ranked 27th.

Business Insider ranked Carleton as the 7th smartest liberal arts college based on SAT scores and 26th smartest college overall in 2014. Kiplinger's Personal Finance places Carleton at 12th in its 2014 ranking of best value liberal arts colleges in the "United States. Carleton was ranked 5th in the 2015 Brookings Institution's list of "Four-Year or Higher Colleges With the Highest Value-Added With Respect to Mid-Career Earnings", with Carleton adding an estimated 43% in value, raising the predicted mid-career salary of $76,236 to $117,700. In a 2012 study of higher education institutions, Carleton was listed as the number one peer institution among liberal arts colleges, followed by Oberlin and Bowdoin, as well as number one overall followed by Princeton.

Criticism of college rankings

Carleton College is part of the Annapolis Group, which has issued a group statement asking members not to participate in ranking surveys. President Emeritus Robert Oden stated in 2007, "We commit not to mention U.S. News or similar rankings in any of our new publications, since such lists mislead the public into thinking that the complexities of American higher education can be reduced to one number."

The school also responded to a 2003 Wall Street Journal ranking of 50 undergraduate institutions who are "feeder schools" to 15 elite MBA, law, and medical schools, in which Carleton did not rank. Carleton issued a statement asserting that the school's "emphasis is not on sending students specifically to elite graduate schools. Carleton is a top-notch liberal arts college first and foremost, not a pre-professional school. Our hope is that any Carleton graduate who goes on to graduate school finds the program that is the best fit for him or her."


Among American liberal arts institutions, Carleton College is one of the highest sources of undergraduate students pursuing doctorates per one hundred students. It has also been recognized for sending a large number of female students to graduate programs in the sciences. In the 2013-2014 school year, Carleton graduates had an 18% success rate in attaining Fulbright program grants with 6 of 33 applicants awarded. Among liberal arts colleges, the school is a "Top Producer of Fulbright Awards for American Students".

Of those who applied, 75% of students are accepted to medical school and 90% to law school. 20% of students immediately pursue postgraduate studies, yet nearly 75% of all students will attend a graduate institution. The 15 most common graduate or professional schools attended by Carleton students are University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, University of Wisconsin–Madison, University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, Harvard, University of Chicago, University of Washington, Columbia, UC Berkeley, Northwestern, NYU, Yale, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, and University of Iowa. The most commonly pursued graduate programs are law, medicine, education, history, business administration, and chemistry.

Carleton graduates with only a bachelor's degree have an average mid-career salary of $117,770, making its graduates 7th highest paid among liberal arts college graduates, and 15th overall according to self-reported data from PayScale.

Student body

Carleton is an undergraduate-only institution of higher learning, with enrollment typically between 2,000 and 2,100 students. The undergraduate population is 49% men and 51% women, with a student to faculty ratio of 9:1.

24.4% of the total student population are domestic students of color, 11.3% are among the first generation in their family to college, and 82% of students are from out of state. Comparatively, Northfield's demographics for 2010 were 88.8% White, 8.4% Hispanic, 4.0% other, 3.5% Asian/Pacific Islander, 2.2% multiracial, 1.3% African American, and 0.2% Native American.

International students numbered at 208 or 10.4%, with the most represented countries being China (3.7%), South Korea (1.1%), Canada (0.7%), India (0.5%), and Japan (0.3%).

Extracurricular organizations

The school's nearly 240 active student organizations include three theater boards (coordinating as many as ten productions every term), long-form and short-form improv groups and a sketch comedy troupe, six a cappella groups, four choirs, seven specialized instrumental ensembles, five dance interest groups, two auditioned dance companies, a successful Mock Trial team, a nationally competitive debate program, seven recurring student publications, and a student-run KRLX radio station, which employs more than 200 volunteers each term.

In five of the last twelve years, Carleton College students received the Best Delegation award at the World Model United Nations competition. In the 2013-2014 academic year, the school's team ranked among the top 25 in the nation.

The College's format-free student-run radio station, KRLX, founded in 1947 as KARL, was ranked by the Princeton Review as one of the nation's "Ten Best College Radio Stations". KRLX broadcasts continually when school is in session.

In 2009 two Carleton students founded the only comics magazine at Carleton, the Carleton Comics Journal (now known as the Carleton Graphic). It releases an issue once every two weeks and has been generally well received by the Carleton community.

The school has several a cappella groups. The oldest is the all-male Carleton Singing Knights, which has toured and recorded extensively over its more than 50-year history. The Knights performed a version of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger". Their video on YouTube has received over 6 million views. It was this cover that prompted a student to make a video for the song, titled Daft Hands. The video became an internet sensation and has been viewed almost 62 million times on YouTube and resulted in the student's appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show for a reprise performance.

The Knightingales, one of the all-female groups, are the second oldest a cappella group on campus. They performed on a special radio performance hosted by Garrison Keillor at Dacie Moses House in 2001.


Carleton has numerous student traditions. These include painting the college's water tower. Notably, a likeness of President Clinton was painted on the tower the night before his commencement speech in 2000. Early the following morning, college maintenance quickly painted over it. The administration's view of this particular phenomenon have changed over time. For liability-related reasons, climbing the water tower is now considered a grave infraction.

Since 1990, Carleton students have played "Late Night Trivia", a game show broadcast over the college's radio station, KRLX, during the annual Winter Term exam period. Students compete in teams to identify songs and answer questions as well as participate in a variety of non-trivia challenges, the specifics of which vary greatly year-to-year.

Schiller bust

A bust of Friedrich Schiller, known simply as "Schiller", has made regular appearances, though briefly, at large campus events. The tradition dates back to 1956, when two students absconded with the bust from Scoville Library during the process of vacating books from there to the new library. "Schiller" resided in their dorm rooms for a period, only to have the bust taken from them in turn. Possession of the bust escalated into an elaborate competition, which took on a high degree of secrecy and strategy.

Schiller's public appearances, accompanied with a cry of "Schiller!", are a tacit challenge to other students to try to capture the bust. The currently circulating bust of Schiller was retrieved from Puebla, Mexico in the summer of 2003. In 2006, students created an online scavenger hunt, made up of a series of complex riddles about Carleton, which led participants to Schiller's hidden location. The bust was stolen from the winner of the scavenger hunt. At commencement in 2006, the holders of the bust arranged for Schiller to "graduate". When his name was called at the appropriate moment, the bust was pulled from behind the podium and prominently displayed.

In March 2010, the bust of Schiller appeared on The Colbert Report. The appearance was organized by custodians of Schiller who contacted Peter Gwinn, a Carleton alumnus who was a writer for the program. The bust also appeared on a Halloween broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion on Minnesota Public Radio.


The college campus was created in 1867 with the gifts of two 10-acre (4 ha) parcels from local businessmen Charles Goodsell and Charles Augustus Wheaton. The 1040-acre school campus is on a hill overlooking the Cannon River, at the northeast edge of Northfield. To the north and east are athletic fields and the Cowling Arboretum, which were farm fields in the early years of the college. Open land beyond the 880-acre Arboretum is still largely devoted to agriculture. The campus and arboretum combined comprise around 1920 acres total.

The center of campus is an open field called "the Bald Spot," which is used for ultimate frisbee in the warmer months and flooded to form an ice rink for skating and broomball in the winter. Most of the campus buildings constructed before World War II surround the Bald Spot.

The 1/4-acre Jo Ryo En Japanese Garden is located behind Watson Hall in the center of the campus.

Campus buildings

Several of Carleton's older buildings have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Willis Hall, the first building on campus, was constructed from 1869 to 1872. Originally the hall contained the men's dormitory, classrooms, library, and chapel. The building was gutted by fire in 1879, after which it was entirely rebuilt within the existing stone shell. The original front of the building became the rear entrance with the construction of Severance Hall in 1928. As new buildings were constructed, various academic departments cycled through the building. Beginning in 1954, Willis served as the college student union, until it was replaced in 1979 by the Sayles-Hill Student Center, a converted gymnasium. It currently houses the Economics, Political Science, and Educational Studies offices. The college's clock bell tower and the main college flagpole, along with the radio tower for KRLX, are located on the roof.

Goodsell Observatory, also on the NRHP, was constructed in 1887 and at the time was the largest observatory in the state of Minnesota. It was named for Charles Goodsell, who donated land for the campus. From the late 19th century to the end of the World War II, Goodsell Observatory kept the time for every major railroad west of the Mississippi River, including Northern Pacific Railway, the Great Northern Railway, the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad, and the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba railroads. Goodsell served as the headquarters of a state weather service from 1883 to 1886.

Scoville Hall (originally Scoville Memorial Library), completed in 1896, is on the NRHP. Replaced in function by the Gould Library in the 1950s, Scoville was adapted for use as the Cinema and Media Studies department, the media center, and the academic support center.

Four nineteenth-century buildings have been demolished. Gridley Hall (1882) was the main women's dormitory for many years, and was demolished in 1967 for construction of the Music and Drama Center. Williams Hall (1880) was the college's first science building; it was demolished in 1961. Seccombe House (1880) was used for music instruction until 1914, and was located near the site of the current Skinner Chapel. The first Observatory (1878) was replaced by Goodsell Observatory in 1887, and the facility was demolished in 1905 to make way for Laird Hall.

Laird Hall was built for science classes in 1905; the classical-revival building now houses the English department and administrative offices, including the President's office. Sayles-Hill was built as the first school gymnasium in 1910, and converted to a student center in 1979.

The eclectic styles of the eight buildings that made up the college in 1914, when Donald Cowling became president, were replaced by a uniform Collegiate Gothic style for the nine buildings erected during his tenure. Skinner Memorial Chapel, completed in 1916, is on the NRHP. Three connected western dorms were built for men: Burton Hall (1915), Davis Hall (1923), and Severance Hall (1928), and two residence halls were built for women: Nourse Hall (1917) and Margaret Evans Hall (1927). Evans Hall was notable for decades for its subdivision into adjacent columns of rooms off stairwells, rather than the more typical arrangement of floors of rooms on hallways. In the fall of 2012, Evans was heavily refurbished to modernize the internal layout and increase overall occupancy. Music Hall was built in 1914, and since the construction of the Music & Drama Center in 1967 has been referred to as Old Music Hall. Laird Stadium which stands at the site of the football and track field, was built in 1927. Leighton Hall (1920), originally built for the Chemistry department, now houses academic and administrative offices, including the business office.

The Great Depression and World War II essentially ended the construction boom for two decades. Boliou Hall was built in 1949 in a modernist style, using yellow sandstone as a major element. It was enlarged using a similar style and materials in the early 1990s. The Library was built in 1956 in a similar style, but was expanded in a brick-based style in the mid 1980s. It was renamed the Gould Memorial Library in 1995 for former President Larry Gould. Musser and Myers Halls were built in 1958 as men's and women's dorms respectively, in a bare-bones modernist brick style.

Minoru Yamasaki, most famously the architect of the original New York World Trade Center, designed five buildings at Carleton in the 1960s. Olin Hall of Science (1961) has a distinctive "radiator" grill work on the exterior. Goodhue (1962) and Watson (1966) Halls were built as dormitories. Watson is the tallest building on campus at seven floors. The West Gym (1964) and Cowling Gym (1965) were built to replace Sayles-Hill for indoor athletic facilities, originally for men and women respectively.

Carleton built a new 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) Recreation Center in 2000. A full indoor fieldhouse is located above a fitness center, which includes a climbing wall and bouldering wall.

In the fall of 2011, the Weitz Center for Creativity opened up in a renovated middle school. The Center includes a cinema and a live theater, and is the new home of the Cinema and Media Studies (CAMS) department, and the associated recording and production studios. It is also the home of Presentation, Event and Production Services (PEPS).

Cowling Arboretum

The Cowling Arboretum, "the Arb", was initially created from lands purchased in the 1920s by President Donald J. Cowling. As the college was having difficult financial times, it was first called "Cowling's Folly" but later became his legacy. After Carleton Farm was closed, its acreage was added to the Arboretum.

Since 1970 acreage has been removed from cultivation in sections. The Arboretum has approximately 880 acres (360 ha) of restored and remnant forest, Cannon River floodplain, bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) savannah, and tallgrass prairie. The Arboretum is divided by Minnesota Highway 19 into the larger Lower Arb to the north (so called because it includes the Cannon River valley) and the smaller Upper Arb. Pedestrian trails are located throughout the Arb, as well as the school's cross-country running and skiing courses, and a paved mixed-use bicycle/running trail in the Upper Arb.


In October 2007, the Sustainable Endowments Institute, a Cambridge, Massachusetts organization, recognized Carleton as a leader in overall college sustainability. In the "College Sustainability Report Card 2008", which evaluates the 200 colleges and universities with the largest endowments in the United States and Canada, Carleton received the highest evaluation grade of A-, putting the college in the category of College Sustainability Leader. The Report Card also cited Carleton as an Endowment Sustainability Leader, along with Dartmouth and Williams. A wind turbine located near the campus generates the equivalent of approximately 40 percent of Carleton's electrical energy use; it is configured to sell this power back to the local grid for the most efficient use system wide. Over the life of Carleton’s turbine, it is estimated that the College will reduce CO2 by 1.5 million tons. In late 2011, Carleton installed a second wind turbine that provides power directly to the campus, providing for an additional 30 to 40 percent of the college's electrical energy use.


Carleton is a member of National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III and participates in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), re-joining the conference in 1983. Carleton was a founding member of the MIAC in 1920, but left in 1925. The athletic department sponsors 18 teams, nine each for men and women. All students must take physical education or athletic classes to fulfill general education requirements.

Club sports

The student-run Ultimate frisbee clubs have had the most competitive success; most notably, the school's top men's team, Carleton Ultimate Team (CUT), and women's team, Syzygy, are perennial national contenders in the USA Ultimate College Division. CUT has qualified annually for nationals since 1989, and won the National Championship in 2001, 2009, and 2011. Syzygy has qualified for women's nationals all but one year since 1987, and won the National Championship in 2000. The other men's Ultimate team, the Gods of Plastic, won the 2009, 2010, and 2012 Division III National Championship tournaments, and the second women's Ultimate team, Eclipse, won Division III nationals in 2011 and 2016.

The spring intramural softball league is known as Rotblatt, in honor of baseball player Marvin Rotblatt. Once a year a day-long game, also known as Rotblatt, lasts the same number of innings as the number of years since Carleton's founding. In 1997, Sports Illustrated honored Rotblatt in its "Best of Everything" section with the award, "Longest Intramural Event."

  • Pamela Dean set her fantasy novel Tam Lin (1991) at a fictional "Blackstock College", based on Dean's alma mater, Carleton. Dean's author's note begins, "Readers acquainted with Carleton College will find much that is familiar to them in the architecture, landscape, classes, terminology, and general atmosphere of Blackstock." Blackstock's buildings were given names that reference their counterparts at Carleton (e.g. Watson Hall becomes Holmes Hall, referring to Sherlock Holmes; Burton Hall becomes Taylor Hall, referring to the marriages of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor).
  • Carleton College is mentioned in scene five of Wendy Wasserstein's 1988 Pulitzer-Prize winning play, The Heidi Chronicles.
  • As mentioned, the Schiller bust was briefly featured on the TV show The Colbert Report on March 29, 2010.
  • On June 2, 2010, an unknown group of students transformed Goodsell Observatory into a giant R2D2. Maintenance staff did not respond positively, and the decorations were removed a few hours later, but not before students took some widely circulated photographs and videos.
  • A group of Carleton students set a Guinness world record for the largest number of people spooning (529) on June 4, 2010.
  • Ben Wyatt from the TV series Parks and Recreation is a fictional Carleton alumnus.
  • In the 2014 film Whiplash, the characters Travis (Jayson Blair) and Dustin (Charlie Ian) are depicted as being players on the Carleton Knights football team.
  • Notable alumni and faculty

    Notable graduates of Carleton College include economist Thorstein Veblen (1880), US Supreme Court Justice Pierce Butler (1887), research chemist Ray Wendland (1933), US Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird (1942), NBC television journalist and Meet the Press host Garrick Utley (1961), geologist Walter Alvarez (1962), geneticist Mary-Claire King (1967), United States Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, editor-in-chief of Politico John F. Harris (1985), the singer Laura Veirs and American journalist and television personality Jonathan Capehart.

    Notable faculty have included Ian Barbour, winner of the 1999 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion; Laurence McKinley Gould, Antarctic explorer; and Paul Wellstone, U.S. Senator from Minnesota 1991–2002.

    Points of interest

  • Carleton College Cowling Arboretum
  • Goodsell Observatory
  • The Cave
  • Weitz Center for Creativity
  • References

    Carleton College Wikipedia

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