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Criteria for Admission

We're not looking for a specific GPA or test score. When we evaluate your application, we take into consideration many different factors.

We're not looking for a specific GPA or test score. When we evaluate your application, we take into consideration many different factors.

When we read your application, we want to learn about your academic achievements and personal strengths. You can rest assured that at least two members of the admissions committee will carefully read and consider your application. Here are some of the things we’re paying attention to.

High School Preparation

The strongest candidates for admission to Carleton have taken:

  • Four years of English
  • Three or more years of mathematics
  • Two or more years of science
  • Three or more years of social science

Applicants should have at least:

  • Three or more years of English (with a stress on writing)
  • Two years of algebra and a year of geometry
  • Two years of social science
  • One year of a laboratory science

Most Carleton students go well beyond this minimum. The admissions committee is usually attracted to candidates who do honors or advanced placement work, when available. We also expect students to take two or more years of a foreign or classical language, unless it is not offered at their school.

Students who take more courses in the subjects listed above are generally stronger candidates. But we may offer admission to an applicant of unusual ability and interest who has not taken all these courses. When we do, it is on the basis of his or her school record, scores on standardized tests, and recommendations of school officials.

Standardized Tests

Carleton adopted a test-optional policy for first-year applicants applying for admission for entry in Fall 2024 and 2025. This means results of the SAT or the ACT are not required, but you may still submit them.

We require TOEFL, IELTS, or DET (DuoLingo English Test) for students whose primary language of instruction (or first language) has not been English.

The results of standardized exams helps the admissions committee judge candidates’ academic abilities. For applicants who elect to submit test scores, they will be reviewed holistically, in the context of other application materials and indicators of academic ability and promise. For those unsure of whether to submit test scores, applicants are encouraged to consider if their standardized test scores represent their academic ability and potential.

If you decide to submit test scores, Carleton requires the full results of the SAT or the ACT. We also require TOEFL or IELTS for students whose primary language of instruction (or first language) has not been English.

For students submitting scores, the deadline for receipt of these test scores is February 1 (for Early Decision 2 applicants) and March 1 (for Regular Decision applicants).

Important: students can self-report SAT and ACT scores in lieu of sending an official score report from the testing agency.

Personal Factors

In selecting each class, the admissions committee considers many qualities beyond academic promise. The committee asks questions such as: How active have you been in your school and community? Have you been involved in sports, student government, or your religious community? Are you someone who will lead? Do you have a sense of humor? Can you rise to a challenge?

Arts and Athletics

We recognize achievement in the arts, and we encourage you to submit samples of your work for review by our faculty. You can share these samples through the Portfolio section of the applicant status page after you submit your application. We encourage athletes to fill out the recruit questionnaire and to contact our coaches for more information.

Interviews and Visits

Interviews give us an opportunity to chat with you more about your interest in Carleton. Interviews are completely optional, plenty of Carleton students are admitted without an interview. If you are interested in an interview, you should register for and attend either an in-person or virtual information session and/or campus tour, after which you can expect information via email on registering for an interview. More information is on our interview page.

Beyond Grades and Test Scores

Yes, grades matter. So do the kinds of classes you’re taking in high school. But what happens in the classroom isn’t the whole story when it comes to college admissions. Selective colleges are also keen to see what you’ve been doing outside of the classroom. In fact, strong extracurriculars can make the difference between students with similar academics.

Quality over Quantity

You don’t have to do dozens of activities just for the sake of participation. We can usually tell who’s just joining to fill a résumé.

Do What You Love

You'll shine if you pursue activities that you genuinely care about. Join existing organizations (or create them!) that match your passions.

Seek Out Leadership

We know that leadership takes many forms: it's not just about the title. We look for students who will help shape our society's future.

Muscles and Muses Welcome

While not everyone has these talents, we'll take notice if you've dedicated time to excel in sports or the arts (or maybe both!).

Variety is the Spice of Life

We're looking for little of everything. Avid jugglers, dedicated volunteers, and competitive chess players are all welcome.

Caring for Others

Many students forgo school activities to take care of siblings, grandparents, and loved ones. Don’t be afraid to share this in your file.

Work Experience

Whether you’re helping to pay the bills, earning some spending money, or just really like making coffee: tell us about your part-time job!

Involved in Your Community

Have you devoted your time to helping others? Tell us about your volunteer work and civic engagement.

New Perspectives

We strive to admit students from a variety of cultural, socioeconomic, geographic, and political backgrounds. How might you contribute?

Eager to Learn

Going to college is about growing. Seeking out challenges. Becoming a better version of yourself. Are you ready for that?