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Why I Chose Carleton: Looking Back

Aidan describes reflects back on why he chose Carleton and how it measures up three years in.

Aidan describes reflects back on why he chose Carleton and how it measures up three years in.

It has been a while since I partook in the college application process. After serving as an admissions fellow this past summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I chose Carleton. As a tour guide, I had to give my abridged explanation at the end of every tour, but that is too short to say how I really feel. I will share with you all today a little bit more about why I chose Carleton, diving into the nitty gritty whether you like it or not!

aidan during his college search project
Throwback! Me and my dad back from when I was touring colleges. Photo credits my mom.

The TLDR; (My Abridged Speech)

For all of you short of time, I will start off by giving my abridged speech.

“Carleton was never really on my radar when I was picking schools. My mom dragged me here while we were visiting my aunt in Minnesota, but I am so glad she brought me here. It did suck that there was a blizzard and -30 degrees during my campus tour. I ultimately fell in love with Carleton because it truly felt like home to me. Every single person I engaged with on my visit to campus was so friendly and really seemed happy to go here. The collaborative learning environment really spoke to my academic interests and it just ended up being the perfect fit for me.”

Yes, the weather for my campus tour was objectively terrible. But I still ended it wanting to go here! We can break this seemingly odd choice down into two primary reasons: the people and the academics.

february blizzard picture
A picture from a blizzard this year! I definitely didn’t come here for the weather. Photo by Kallie Rollenhagen

The People


Simply put, every person I met was lovely. On my tour, almost everyone we passed had a smile on their face. Even beyond that, a couple of my tour guide’s friends told me “You HAVE to go here”. I hadn’t received this much enthusiasm at any other school. It was shocking to me that people seemed happy and earnest to be attending school when the weather outside made me personally want to cry.

Carleton students are also super academically motivated. When choosing a school, I really wanted a student body that put learning first, and Carleton definitely provides that. Whether it be a specific field of study or a niche academic interest, all Carleton students love learning. I really love how going to class is fun and interesting because each student is so motivated to learn. Don’t fret. Of course, we still have social activities, but the emphasis on learning was super crucial for me.

students at farmstock
Me and some of my student comedy friends!


The relationship between professors and students also struck me. Students described experiences of their friendships with professors in a capacity I had never seen before. Whether it be sharing weekly coffee with their professors or being hired to walk their dogs, relationships with professors are remarkably close. Being able to talk to my professors about my struggles and successes was extremely important to me. Since being here I have forged close relationships with many of my professors and am pleased to share with you all that those experiences are real and normal.

The Academics

Collaborative Focus

Beyond Carleton’s continual ranking as #1 in undergraduate teaching, I was excited to be in a collaborative learning community. I do not thrive in competitive situations. Carleton is thankfully very nearly the opposite. I don’t know my friend’s GPAs, and I don’t want to. We celebrate each other’s successes and aid each other when we falter. There is no incentive to try and beat others. Carleton is at its best when we all succeed.

students in class
My friends Amalia and Anoushka in action! Photo by Harry Pound

I Needed Time

Coming into college, I had almost no clue what I wanted to do. I thought I’d probably do something in STEM because it came easily to me, but I didn’t want to swear off the humanities yet. Having two years to explore my academic interests allowed me to discover fields I had never considered studying. I needed that time to figure myself out. Not being forced to declare my major right away was paramount. 

The lack of general education requirements also appealed to me since I could take each and every course that appealed to me. This freedom allowed me to blossom into the amateur intellectual I am today.



Aidan (he/him) is a junior from Batavia, IL coming back to Northfield after a semester off-campus in Paris. He is a Religion and French and Francophone Studies double major with a passion for ceramics. Outside of class, he enjoys spending his time cooking, hanging out with his housemates in the Culinary Interest House, and performing in Carleton’s sketch comedy group. You can often find him at the campuses’ two dining halls chatting with other students while working as a student dining hall manager.