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Sixth Term

Andriana writes about the busy (yet exciting!) sixth term at Carleton!

Andriana writes about the busy (yet exciting!) sixth term at Carleton!

Hi everyone!

It has been a beautiful, warm fifth week here in Richmond. Additionally, it’s the Friday before Midterm Break, and I am very happy to have a long weekend! While it has been a wonderful term so far, it has also been a bit hectic.

In fact, sixth term is probably one of the busiest and most exciting times for Carleton students! This is the case for three reasons. What are they?

#1: Declaring a Major

In a previous post, I wrote extensively about declaring my major at the beginning of the term. To briefly recap, I officially declared an English major, and I am hoping to declare a minor in cross-cultural studies before the end of the year. While I realized toward the end of freshman year that I wanted to major in English, I couldn’t declare immediately.

Rather, at Carleton, students are not allowed to declare a major until their sixth term, which for most Carls falls during the spring term of their sophomore year. The reason behind this rule is that Carleton, in the spirit of a liberal arts education, wants students to explore different disciplines before committing to a department. Combined with our graduation requirements, this policy is essentially an effort to promote the well-rounded student.

While the declaration process is easy and simple, it can be stressful for students who are still deciding on their major. (You must declare before registering for seventh-term courses, though you can change your major later on.) Since I knew for a while what I wanted to declare, however, this aspect of sixth term wasn’t too stressful for me. I was mostly excited to make official what I had known for a long time.

Post-declaration, very little has changed for me. I was, however, assigned a new adviser, a professor from the English department. (This is standard—once students declare, the department assigns them new advisers from that department.) Additionally, to celebrate major declarations, the English department held a Zoom party this week for newly-declared majors. I really enjoyed this, as it was a great way to meet/reconnect with professors and the other new English majors.

#2: The Writing Portfolio

Sixth-term students* must also submit a writing portfolio to show how their writing has improved during their time at Carleton. Essentially, students must fill six requirements by submitting three to five papers that they wrote for Carleton courses. Since these are papers that have already been written, the process isn’t too labor-intensive. Mainly, students might revise their papers if needed, and they must submit a reflection about their writing education at Carleton.

While I don’t find this too stressful, it definitely makes the term a bit busier. I’m lucky because I like to write, so at least this process involves a subject that I enjoy. I also began to choose pieces to include during fall term, so it helped to start early. (Since the portfolio isn’t due until the seventh week of a student’s sixth term, there is plenty of time to work on it.)

*The only circumstance in which the portfolio is due before sixth term is when students are planning to study abroad. In this case, students might need to submit it during their fifth term.

#3: Reaching the Halfway Point!

Finishing sixth term signifies reaching the halfway point in your college career! Very exciting!

While there’s nothing that actually happens to mark this milestone, it’s a big one. I wanted to include it because I think this point marks a division, at least at Carleton, that goes beyond first two years vs. second two years. Rather, it also distinguishes between the period of exploration and the period of seriously pursuing your degree.

Of course, as I mentioned above, you can, should, and will fill graduation requirements with most classes. This means that by the time you reach the end of your sophomore year, you will have plenty of general requirements completed. But completing a writing portfolio is the biggest requirement that you will fill until senior comps. And after declaring a major, you can shift your focus to specific departmental requirements. (For example, I am currently taking Critical Methods, one of the core courses for the English major.)

When you know what you want to declare, I think it’s a great idea to create a spreadsheet or document to keep track of major-specific requirements. Of course, you don’t need to wait until you officially declare to start planning! Once you declare, though, you’ll have to really be diligent about managing your department’s requirements, especially if you haven’t yet taken many courses for the major.


The greatest take away is that the sixth term at Carleton is a pretty important one! But it’s also very exciting and cause for celebration. Actually, I think sixth term is a good reflection of Carleton’s ethos: Work hard, play hard. Yes, you will work a lot, but you will have plenty of time to enjoy and celebrate your college experience, as well as the many milestones that come with it.

Andriana is a sophomore at Carleton, where she is earning a major in English and a minor in Cross-Cultural Studies. Although she is spending the year at home in Richmond, VA, Andriana is already excited to return to Carleton in the fall. When she isn’t busy studying, Andriana can be found binge-reading, playing music, or watching a favorite movie or show for the umpteenth time. Meet the other bloggers!