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Why Carleton’s Liberal Arts Requirements Are Paramount

Stella highlights several of Carleton's liberal arts requirements and considers why they're important.

Stella highlights several of Carleton's liberal arts requirements and considers why they're important.


As the seventh week of every trimester approaches, the student body begins to rumble with conversation of what classes the next term will bring: registration is here. As a liberal arts college, Carleton maintains a wide variety of graduation requirements. In this blog post, I have decided to individually look at some of the liberal arts requirements and provide some context to their purpose. I also consider their role in constructing a broader form of education that proves to be so valuable.

Students smile in class while a professor leads a lesson
Carleton’s liberal arts curriculum will broaden your horizons and push you outside your academic comfort zone.

Argument and Inquiry Seminar

It is important to remember that college is an adjustment—especially academically. Because Carleton knows this, every single first year student in their fall term will take an argument and inquiry seminar. This is a class of approximately 15 first years. The course serves to aid in the adjustment to Carleton rigor, writing, and pace. These courses are particularly crucial to the Carleton experience because it demonstrates the value of and emphasis on academic support. Typically, the professor of your A&I seminar will also be your liberal arts adviser. They will be a valuable touchpoint for your first two years.

Arts Practice

Some of us are not as artistically inclined as others (and yes I am referring to myself). That being said, the initial idea of an arts practice credit scared me. However, there are so many ways to get these credits. In my personal experience, I have always maintained a passion for theater. Because of that, I was able to take a Directing course through the Carleton theater department and gain an amazing experience.

A variety of equipment used for filming and film productions
Carleton students who take CAMS classes have access to a big collection of equipment!

Formal or Statistical Reasoning

Math was my jam until about my junior year of high school—when I stopped understanding calculus. But formal or statistical reasoning does not need to be a math class, especially for people like me. I ended up choosing an introductory statistics course. This helped educate me later, in executing statistical analyses for my political science classes.

Language Requirement

I entered Carleton with Spanish fluency reflected in my high school AP score, so I did not have to take the introductory level language courses. However, my passion still remains, so I have taken plenty of upper level courses on language, culture, and history. This is what motivated me to seek out a minor in Spanish.

Writing Rich

Being a humanities major, I can assure you that I do plenty of writing. The writing rich courses serve to engage new students in college writing, which is why the A&I seminars fulfill one of the two. After having taken the preparatory classes, students are prepared to take on a high level of writing across a wide span of fields.

Quantitative Reasoning Encounter

The school acknowledges the opportunity for quantitative reasoning to be a crucial aspect of the liberal arts education, which is why there are three courses required. I managed to fulfill these credits in my first year by taking Politics in America, Genes Evolution and Development, and Introduction to Statistics. But so many kinds of courses will qualify as quantitative reasoning. In my 2 years I’ve taken 8 QRE classes!

Physical Education

This is the requirement that might scare the most students. When most kids coming out of high school hear the words PE, flashbacks of dodgeball tend to come to mind. Here at Carleton, dodgeball is an opt-in activity (considering we offer it as a course). PE credit can be anything from juggling to scuba diving, from club sports to varsity participation. This is because we believe that physical activity contributes to physical and mental well-being, something important to college students.

rec center
In the rock climbing class, students can take advantage of our 200 foot wall as well as our bouldering cave area.

Ultimately, there are so many different kinds of courses that you will take in your four years at Carleton. 4 years on the trimester system at 3 classes per term means that there are 36 opportunities to explore yourself and your academic interests.


Stella (she/her) is a rising Junior from Minneapolis, MN. She is a Political Science major with minors in SpanishNeuroscience, and Public Policy. Stella is a member of our varsity volleyball team and can explain at length how being an athlete is just one part of her identity at Carleton, not all of it. Around campus, you can find Stella having fun with her coworkers in Admissions, hammocking in the Arb (when it’s not cold), or hanging around in Sayles. She loves to explore the town of Northfield, and tries to find new places to visit as often as possible – especially for some good eats. Meet the other Bloggers!