Carleton and St. Olaf

<p>Okay, I'm curious to hear from people who know about both schools. I realize that Carleton is ranked considerably higher than St. Olaf in U.S. News. If one were to visit both campuses, would it be clear that one is "better?" I am sorry to say that I'm somewhat impressed by rankings and yet quite skeptical at the same time. We visited Carleton (and liked it) but didn't get a chance to get over to St. Olaf. Now I'm hearing some great things about it and I'm wondering how people compare them.

<p>They are such different schools that determining which is "better" is fairly impossible. </p>

<p>Both small schools, St. Olaf is nonetheless larger by 1000 students which doubtless has an impact on campus life. It is also Lutheran, a fact which manifests itself in a variety of ways-- the alcohol policy, the religious (and, by extension, ethnic) composition of the class, and political climate. And, let's not deny it, St. Olaf has a reputation for a better-groomed, better-looking, slightly more <i>normal</i> student body than Carleton.</p>

<p>You would get a wonderful education at St. Olaf for sure. It's worldclass in music and if Norwegian's on your college wish list then you should look no further. However...Carleton does have somewhat of a reputation for turning out future Ph.Ds (notably in the sciences) and its academic offerings are pretty fierce. I haven't taken any classes at St. Olaf, but from my (admittedly limited; I'm a freshman) experience, Carleton fosters a slightly more academic atmosphere.</p>

<p>Granted, it parties more too, so who knows?</p>

<p>At any rate, there are SO many differences between the schools environmentally that comparing them is rather difficult. They each are wonderful for a different type of student.</p>

<p>Depends on the student. Lots of student espirit at Carleton, very informal, intensive personal attention, more intellectual challenges everyday, and the Carls are a fairly cohesive, long term floating network. Carleton is the more academically recognized school, "Where do you want to be from in 20 years?"</p>

<p>Music and Chemistry are long recognized departments at St Olaf but I think St olaf is generally less academically stressful and grades are likely to be higher for the same effort (ahem, premeds). </p>

<p>St Olaf might be a better choice for a high capability, high performing student that is stressed by not being on top, in certain majors, perhaps more religiously oriented, and/or slightly more conservative politically and in dress.</p>

<p>Both are fine schools.</p>

<p>Thank you both for your thoughtful replies. They were very helpful!</p>

<p>Jay Gatsby went to St. Olaf's, but was bored of it after two weeks.</p>

<p>The Daft Hands guys went (goes?) to Carleton.</p>

<p>I think the winner here is clear.</p>

<p>Carleton has been viewed as a very top academic school for a long time. Its record is well-established and unassailable as a serious (in the best sense of the word) school. Think of Carleton as a more stolidly egalitarian Williams or Amherst, a kind of midwestern Swarthmore. </p>

<p>St. Olaf has always been academically solid. Lately it appears to be on a steep and rapidly rising trajectory. Last month, for instance, two of its students won Rhodes Scholarships. There are many fine departments beyond music and chemistry including classics, math, philosophy, religion, history and dance. My cousin, a very good student and dancer has applied for 08. </p>

<p>Another important element of the St. Olaf experience is that religious faith is an open, active and cool part of the conversation at the school and there is a deep commitment to the whole person and to the spiritual side of life. My cousin who is half Jewish/half pagan loves this about it. Think of St. Olaf as a Bates or Colby but with a whole lot of Lake Woebegone mixed in.</p>

Think of St. Olaf as a Bates or Colby but with a whole lot of Lake Woebegone mixed in.


<p>That's one of the best/funniest descriptions I've seen!</p>

<p>Grandson here of both Carleton and St. Olaf alumni. It's definitely true that St. Olaf suffers in selectivity in comparison to Carleton when seeking students who desire a private liberal arts college experience in a county seat town in Minnesota, but St. Olaf is the REAL DEAL for math majors (one of its most common majors) and is generally an academically solid college. It's definitely worth shopping around at both if you like that region of the country and like the liberal arts college experience.</p>

<p>Tokenadult, would you give the tip to math at St. Olaf over math at Carleton? My daughter's a little turned off by the perceived homogeneity at St. Olaf but I have read a lot of good things about the math department.</p>


<p>Please see the attached linked on the Baccalaureate Origins of Female PhDs. </p>

<p>St. Olaf rules in Mathematics for women.</p>


<p>St. Olaf's math department is solid, but I would not say it's better than Carleton's as far as quality of instruction goes. For whatever reason more St. Olaf math majors choose to pursue graduate study than Carleton math majors, and you see that in the Reed data. I don't have any explanation for that, but I will say that math is probably the most popular major to have as a double major and that many of the math majors at Carleton choose careers/grad study more related to their other major (computer science, economics, physics primarily). If a math PhD was your goal, either school would put you in a good position to do that, and I'd go with whichever environment you prefer (provided you were admitted to both).</p>

<p>Now that all said, I'm surprised that anyone would seriously consider both Carleton and St. Olaf. Yes, they're both liberal arts colleges in the same town with strong academics, but the students and school cultures are quite different, and not in a way where they would appeal equally to many people.</p>

Both St. Olaf and Carleton can boast top 20 national rankings in math PhD production. The reason St. Olaf's raw numbers are slightly ahead of Carleton's is actually pretty straightforward. As tokenadult points out, math is much more popular at St. Olaf with, proportionately, about 50% more students declaring the major there. Per math major, Carleton actually produces a somewhat larger number of PhDs.</p>

<p>But this and, I’d argue, the discussion of Carleton’s much greater selectivity and higher ranking, remain almost beside the point. The real issue here is fit. I strongly agree that these schools are SO different in personality it's hard to imagine a student visiting and having trouble figuring out which one feels right. Mirroring balletgirl’s analogy, when asked I’ve also usually described Carleton as a Midwestern laid-back version of Swarthmore (with a heavy dose of humor and playful fun spirit thrown in). St. Olaf tends to be a more traditional, more conservative, more religious, less individualistic, and less diverse place that certainly offers a great, nurturing home with excellent academics to students seeking this environment. </p>

<p>I’d argue the real question should always be not which is the “better” school, but rather, for any individual student, which is the better fit.</p>

<p>Gang, when you get this high up on the quality scale of US higher ed, you have to really be splitting hairs to even consider which school is better than another. There is only "better fit" for a given student. Broken record, here. Can a CD actually be broken in such a way that it skips backwards a few seconds?</p>

St. Olaf's math department is solid, but I would not say it's better than Carleton's as far as quality of instruction goes.


<p>That would be my summary of the situation too. Both colleges in Northfield, Minnesota have strong math departments. For some reason math is a much more common major at St. Olaf (which produces more eventual Ph.D.s in math than any other college in Minnesota, including the U of Minnesota).</p>

<p>I guess one of the things we're looking for is a LAC with a healthy math culture going on, an active major with a good selection of courses, creative energy, etc. Every LAC offers a math major, it's not hard to get a read based on their course catalog, but the intangibles of where the math kids fit in the overall school culture is a bit harder to know at a distance.</p>

<p>As for the fit comparison between these two schools, we're actually Lutheran but the liberal variety. I could see my daughter at either school, though I think she'd prefer Carleton. Does anyone know if Carleton students can take part in the music groups at St. Olaf?</p>


<p>There is cross-registration between the two colleges, but I don't know if it extends to participation in out-of-class music programs at St. Olaf.</p>

<p>Minnesota's</a> Private Colleges - St. Olaf College</p>

<p>Carleton is great -- brainy and zany -- but it's kind of old news. </p>

<p>St. Olaf is really on the rise. The fact that it is a "college of the church where conversations about faith are part of daily life" is enormously powerful, particularly if you believe, as I do, that the struggle to embrace modernity without abandoning faith is one of the central fault lines of our time. Coupled with the beautiful music and performing arts environment, St. Olaf has a real community that is increasingly rare today on college campuses in the US. It shouldn't be dismissed.</p>

<p>As to the strength of the math department, I would not assume it is weaker than Carleton's.</p>

<p>In the end, your daughter will determine what's the best fit for her.</p>

<p>I know they sometimes share music prof-tutors for specific instruments.</p>

<p>Fit is king. One at Carleton, one at Olaf. The Ole had the higher SAT. At almost 20, her Olaf credentials got her tours and in-class audits (very rare at that stage) in top 10 & 20 medical schools. You could not peel the Carl out with a jackhammer. Actual success and happiness with the school, and the department, for the particular student are what count.</p>

<p>Overnight and auditing several classes should settle any questions, as my Carl did. My Ole, then "overseas", went sight unseen but with intensive research and personal Olaf contacts.</p>

<p>crispie, what do you mean by</p>

<p>You could not peel the Carl out with a jackhammer</p>


You could not peel the Carl out with a jackhammer


<p>I took this to mean "The Carleton student is so fond of Carleton that nothing could persuade him to leave." Is this about right?</p>

<p>I have never really heard of any Carleton kids participating in St. Olaf music groups (there used to be a combined acapella group between the two schools, but it is now exclusively Carleton students), but for the most part, you really wouldn't need to. Carleton actually has some excellent music groups and 25% of the students there participate in the music program.</p>