Carleton vs Smith

Hi, I previously made a thread on Smith vs Hamilton and thank you for all the responses. But, now I just got the news that I’ve been accepted to Carleton. Does anyone have any thoughts on Carleton vs Smith. For bkgd, I’m an econ major who is interested in going to grad school. I’m concerned about Carleton’s trimester system bc I’ve never had experience with that. How’s the academic rigor at Carleton? Based an Induck it seems like a lot of hard work.

Take a closer look at how Carleton organizes their trimesters. At some places, trimesters/quarters are short, and less material is covered in a class so that what would take two semesters elsewhere is spread out over three trimesters/quarters. At other places each trimester course includes what would be covered in a semester course so things move fast!

If I recall correctly, Carleton College students take just 3 courses per trimester (similiar to Dartmouth College). This alleviates a significant amount of stress.

Before considering less tangible aspects, I recommend you compare student profiles:

ACT Middle Ranges

Carleton: 31–34
Smith: 30–33

SAT Middle Ranges

Carleton: 1380–1520
Smith: 1330–1500

Percent from top 10% of HS classes

Smith: 75%
Carleton: 70.8%

Chances are that you would fit in at both of these colleges, but overall I’d expect Carleton to be more rigorous based on the figures above (particularly since Carleton indicates higher reporting ratios for standardized scoring).

With respect to opportunities related to the study of economics, while neither of these schools appear to be showstoppers, I’d give the edge to Smith because of the potential for cross-enrollment in economics electives at Amherst College:

Economics Rankings, by Faculty Publishing

  1. Amherst
  2. Smith
  3. Carleton

I would ignore those stats. Seriously. Grad schools do not parse so finely the USNWR or relative SAT scores before accepting a student or rejecting them. They know perfectly well that they might find the next Warren Buffet in Oklahoma or Utah as in Harvard Yard. See for example the Harvard Law School list of schools attended by the students it accepted. You can google for it. They range from small religious schools and state directionals to, well, Harvard undergrad.

What matters more is your GPA and GRE and/or GMAT scores, what you bring to the table from your work and/or research, and how you compose your application. Plus who you are as a person and your other intangibles as becomes clear during interview should you have one. So developing your own confident POV about your subject and honing your craft are helpful.

So focus on GPA currently as that’s what’s under your control now. What school would help you achieve your best GPA while also giving you the academics you need?

To my mind the place that makes you happy as a student will help your GPA. Conversely, unhappy students may not perform as well.

Smith is one of the top schools in the country. It is empowering of women esp in STEM fields. Women’s colleges tend to produce leaders disproportionately regardless of the field compared with women who attend co-ed schools. You have several other colleges to branch out to should you decide to do so, including Amherst, UMass Amherst, Mt. Holyoke and Hampshire–and though that college has been going through difficulties lately, they do offer different perspectives on the world. Differing POVs can be very helpful for problem solving–less group think and more creativity.

Best of luck to you.

Have you read the OP’s posts? She has expressed a concern regarding excessive rigor. She would be more likely to avoid this at a school with slightly lower entering statistics.

While this will be repetitious for the OP, consider that at least some of these aspects could depend on department strength. In their paper, “Economics Research at National Liberal Arts Colleges,” Hartley and Robinson commented on the importance of faculty to the student experience:

Both are excellent schools – congratulations!

I think the biggest, obvious difference is whether you prefer a women’s college or not.

By reputation, Carleton is going to have serious but probably less politically-oriented students compared to Smith. Not sure which appeals to you more.

Also, MN is going to be on average a bit colder than MA. (This was important to my D who ended up choosing Davidson over Carleton b/c of the weather and they gave her a little more aid!)

Good luck and let us know!

Did you visit Carleton?

Go where you feel that you - not anybody else, just you- will soar. Both schools will have more opportunities than you will be able to take advantage of in 4 years. Both schools will have some ah-mazing profs- and some duds. Both schools will give you everything you need to get into a great grad school.

And both schools will require a lot of hard work to get there. If you are coming from a typical public school, you have been in with a lot of student of mixed ability and a wide range of goals. At any of the colleges that you are talking about you will have to work hard to stand out, because you are in the big kid’s pool now: there will be few slackers- and a fair few astonishingly clever students.

But here’s the thing: each of these schools is confident that you can do it. And, you will have a lot of control over what you do: *you choose your major- because it is a subject that you find interesting. Not every course will be a thrill- but most of your college classes should be engaging. At all of the schools that you are considering there are classes that will be outside your major that you should take just because they are taught by amazing profs and are super interesting. And when you are interested in what you are doing working hard doesn’t feel ‘hard’.

Anecdotal example: Collegekid2 was a dutiful but not massively engaged HS student- got good grades, though not as good as she would have gotten if she had put her back into it. Hit college, started taking classes that were engaging and challenging and found herself working twice as hard as she ever had in HS- and loving it.

Long story short: don’t let fear of X or Y college being ‘harder’ to get a good GPA overweight your decision. Most people do best when they are happy and challenged.

tl;dr- there are no bad choices here. Trust yourself.

*check out the graduation requirements at each of the schools you are pondering- how many required “gen eds” are there, and how broad are your options in fulfilling them?

Smith has an “open curriculum”. There are no gen ed requirements other than one “writing-intensive” course taken the first year (which can be a first-year seminar or many English classes). This made it very attractive to my child who is now a Smithie. I do not know about Carleton, but it is definitely something to consider.

Perhaps you can also consider travel issues? How far are these colleges from home and how hard/easy is it to get door-to-door? Given current restrictions with flights/trains, this could be a issue that makes a big difference in the short-term, at least.

Both are fantastic schools; I’d give a moderate edge to Carleton for economics, although @merc81 raises a good point regarding cross-registration.

Both are good prep for grad school; Carleton produces a particularly large number of PhDs per capita (usually in the top five).

Carleton is quite a rigorous school, although perhaps not to the same as extent as the likes of a Harvey Mudd or Reed.

My oldest daughter just graduated from Carleton and we can’t say enough good things about the school. Trimesters are great, 10 weeks each and you get the time between Thanksgiving and New Years off. It’s rigorous and the students work hard, but the atmosphere is more supportive than competitive. I agree with whoever said you should choose the school you feel is the best fit for you socially/emotionally (assuming the financial aid is the same). Both are wonderful schools. I’d say that student (and parent) satisfaction with Carleton is higher on the whole.