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Things I Wish I Knew Before Coming to College

Some things Fátima wishes she had known before coming to Carleton.

Some things Fátima wishes she had known before coming to Carleton.

I may not have done a *ton* of research before applying to college, but in the summer before coming to campus I made up for it by reading as much about Carleton as I could get my hands on. I pride myself on how many student handbooks, FAQ pages, and Admissions Blogs (yes, this very Admissions Blog) I went through. I thought I knew everything there was to know… boy was I wrong!

Ever since I first came to Northfield, every day has presented me with yet another fact I didn’t know about, another club I had never heard of, another funding opportunity I wasn’t aware of. So, in the hopes that you will not go through the same, here are some of the things I wished I had learned about earlier than I did.

Music Money

Selfie of the author, sitting at the piano and giving a thumbs up.
Throwback to freshman me, during one of my first-ever practice sessions.

As part of the Liberal Arts practice, every Carleton student has to fulfill 6 credits of Arts Practice. Though these generally translate to one full-term course, they can also be completed through other venues, including private music lessons!

Music lessons are offered in a variety of instruments (including your voice) and are open to everyone, regardless of prior music experience. They generally entail weekly half-hour or one-hour meetings with your instructor, are never graded (but you take them for credit), and can be juried if you want to get more serious feedback on your progress by performing in front of a panel of judges.

When I first learned about this, I was worried since I knew I could not afford the $300 fee that most music lessons have each term. That was when a dear friend of mine stepped in to let me know that you could apply for funding that would cover the entire fee! I did as he advised, and have now been taking piano lessons each term since my freshman spring. I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to learn a new skill without worrying about its cost and wish I could have taken advantage of it a lot sooner.

Eating at St. Olaf

A major concern of a lot of incoming students is the food options available on campus. Though Carleton has three cafés in addition to two well-equipped dining halls, many still wish that there were more alternatives for us to choose from. Well, fret no longer, for I am here to tell you that your dining plan does indeed include a third (kind of secret) dining venue: St. Olaf’s Stav Hall!

Our neighboring college and old frenemy, St. Olaf College has its own dining hall, which we Carls are free to access with the same dining plan that we would use on our campus. Since St. Olaf is just a bus ride away, it is common to see students from both colleges crossing the river to eat at each other’s dining halls, attend each other’s events, and take advantage of the many resources available at both campuses! 

St. Olaf's semi-empty dinning hall.
St. Olaf’s dining hall, Buntrock Commons, where Carls can occasionally be found.

You don’t have to take Calculus if you don’t want to

I have a little of an embarrassing confession to make. The summer before my first year, when registration time came around, I knew little to nothing about academic requirements (yes, even after my extensive research!). Assuming that all students were required to fulfill some sort of mathematical reasoning requirement, I signed up for Calculus 1. I didn’t really want to take the course and I did not need it for anything other than the imaginary requirement I had made up. Boy, was I shocked when I learned that I never actually had to take the class!

We do have to fulfill the Formal and Statistical Reasoning requirements, and that may sound a lot like math, but it encompasses so much more than that. Statistics, computer science, linguistics, and even some religion classes all fulfill the same requirement!

Although my experience taking Calculus 1 was not at all regrettable and I ended up having a semi-good time in the class, I would eventually take several other courses that not only fulfilled the same requirement, but I genuinely enjoyed, was interested in, and were relevant to my major and academic pursuits. So yeah, the main takeaway: read the requirement guidelines carefully, and don’t take a class you don’t want to take if you don’t have to!

A screenshot of the author's final research paper for Introduction to Statistics.
My Introduction to Stats class was super fun! For our final project, I got the chance to do use data from the Guatemalan internal conflict, which I found fascinating.

I hope you found this slightly informative and insightful. These are just three of the things that I learned about through (occasionally uncomfortable) experiences and wish I had been made aware of a lot sooner, but there are many more! Who knows, maybe one day I’ll dive into some of the others.

As a junior, Fátima (she/her) is excited to continue her pursuit of a SOAN major and (hopefully!) Educational Studies, Latin American Studies, and Cross-cultural Studies minors. Outside class, she enjoys her leadership roles with Fellowship in Christ and the Undergraduate Journal for Humanistic Studies. In her free time, Fátima likes spending time with her mentee, poorly playing the piano, watching cartoons, and desperately missing her dog, Cosmo. Meet the other bloggers!