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“What’s your GPA?” and other questions you WON’T be asked at Carleton

Chase underscores a key feature of Carleton student culture: a relative lack of competition between students.

Chase underscores a key feature of Carleton student culture: a relative lack of competition between students.

“So what’s your GPA?” “What’d you get on that last exam?” “Did you hear that (insert name) got a B+ in chemistry?” “What’s your class rank?”

Questions like these plagued my high school years, to the point in which I had my friends’ ACT/SAT scores, GPAs, and number of clubs they were president of memorized. This created a toxic environment in which students like me would constantly compare themselves to others, and with numeric stats like those, it makes it appear that some students are “better” than others. Then I arrived at Carleton in fall of 2015.

At Carleton, I have rarely been asked these questions. When a student receives a grade back, the result is usually kept private or only divulged under certain circumstances to friends you can trust. The dean’s list at this school is also low-key, in which the top 10% of each class year is listed on a pamphlet and asked to stand at opening convocation. But other than that, I haven’t witnessed an enormous amount of competition to be on that list.

In terms of competitiveness, the petty competitions between friends and students I witnessed in high school have largely been replaced with competitiveness against yourself to be a better student. When you get a B in biology, your first thought isn’t out of spite for the other students who got As, but rather that you can improve in the next bio course you take – or perhaps that you realize bio just isn’t for you.

Ultimately, if you come to Carleton, you’ll be surrounded by students who were as high-achieving as you were in high school. You’ll be among students who scored in the highest percentiles on standardized tests yet don’t feel compelled to brag about it. Getting used to this new environment can be tough, but the overall lack of competitiveness between students aids the transition.

Chase is a junior linguistics major and is more than glad to exchange the year-round California heat for some Minnesota seasonality. In his free time, he enjoys directing K-pop dances for Karl-Pop, playing guzheng, and cycling around Northfield. When Chase doesn’t have free time, which is often, he’ll be in the libe or Sayles with a cup (or cups) of chai tea in hand.