Carleton vs. Swarthmore or Amherst, ED for Fall 2021 (Class of 2025)

I am a Seattle native with a rising Senior son and am looking at LAC’s for my son (will be class of 2025). My son is interested in pursuing a Pre-Med track for his undergrad. He has a Unweighted 3.93/4 GPA, ACT Score of 35/36 and plays Varsity baseball & Tennis. My son has lived in the Liberal bubble of Seattle his entire life. I would love to understand how does Carleton compare to Amherst or Swarthmore or Middlebury from a quality of education, potential research opportunities and help him work towards a MD degree. I would love for attend Pomona or one of the Claremont colleges, but he wants to be away from the West coast if possible. Other LAC recommendations that might be a good fit for him is also appreciated. Thanks in advance.

In regards to quality of education, potential research opportunities, etc, Carleton is equivalent to any of the top Liberal Arts Colleges in the country. It has a different character, and is in rural farmland in the Midwest, rather than in the rural hilly woodlands of the NE. However, academically, it is as good as any of the others you mentioned.

What is your son looking for in a LAC?

My son attends a Private School and is used to a very low Student to Teacher ratio. He likes the Open Curriculum at LAC’s as he feels it will provide him limitless areas to explore besides just focusing on Pre-medical curriculum. He is a an Anti-me in this respect :slight_smile: (I came to the US to go to College, got my Masters in Computer Sciences in record time and moved on to get a Job at one of the leading Software companies in SEA). I am assuming Carleton will provide him the Liberal, Open environment that he thrives in.

Also any stats on acceptance rates into Med School from Carleton is also appreciated?

Since you named four LACs (Swarthmore, Carleton, Amherst and Middlebury) from an online site, “The 25 Best Colleges for Pre-meds,” it might make sense for your son to consider the orher coeducational liberal arts colleges listed:


Note that relatively few LACs offer notably flexible curricula. Nonetheless, Amherst, Hamilton and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Grinnell offer among the most flexible curricula available nationally across colleges of any type.

Thanks. Yes, we saw that list too. The ones in the list is what he seemed to like based on Virtual tours and talking to his seniors. I would rather he stay in the West Coast and go to Pomona which is also in the list merc81 shared. Having spent all his life here in Seattle, my biggest worry is how he’d adjust to living in the mid-west or NE area? How liberal is Northfield, MN as a town?

Carleton and Swarthmore are chalk and cheese as college experiences. Swarthmore is famously intense academically. Using introvert/extrovert in the most simplistic stereotypical sense, Swarthmore tends to the intro, Carleton to the extro. IMO, Carleton students are quirky, smart and fun. I think that both Swarthmore and Carleton are ‘fit’ schools- that is, they have strong ‘cultures’ or ‘personalities’ that tend to either really suit- or not- any given student. I think Amherst is more well rounded (that is, a broader range of personalities will feel ‘at home’ there) and is probably the ‘safest’ choice for a student who can’t visit. Direct info obviously is more helpful, so if your son knows people at any of these schools that is great.

As for pre-med prep, any of the selective colleges will be able to do a great job. That list of ‘Best’ is fine- but CC’ers could make another list at least as long. It’s not magic :slight_smile:

OP, is this your first to go to college? If so, separating your worries about your chick flying away from what will meet his academic needs to what environment will be happiest for him will make this part of the process easier.

Kids can adjust to any weather (if they want to!). All of these college experiences will be plenty ‘liberal’ and welcoming. IMO, experiencing a very different part of the US (and let’s be honest, it will be a very small experience, b/c the college bubble thing is real) can only be good for him, and if he is pushing for it and you can afford it I would let him spread his wings.

Thanks Collegemom3717. Yes, my son is the eldest and so this is our first experience plus he’s lived a pretty sheltered life until now (chauffeured by the wife or I everywhere and never had to worry about anything; He is a very well mannered, non-controversial and super smart kid). Hence the worry. I went to LSU - ain’t nothing liberal there. From my experience is so not like Seattle, hence the worry but your words are comforting indeed. Thanks again

Of those listed, Williams probably has one of the strongest “pre med” programs in terms of depth of course offerings, research opportunities and stipends for research generally. The school has the resources of a larger university but is focused on the undergrad experience.

S1 was recruited by Swarthmore , Carleton(we live 45 min away), and Midd. BIL and SIL were profs at UMASS Amherst, and know the school and town very well. S1 is a well rounded good, very smart but not brilliant, social but not a party animal…I would say that his best attribute is the ability to understand and communicate with a large variety of people. He comes from a large public HS that is quite liberal for the midwest. I would call him more of a Andrew Yang centrist politically rather than leaning left or right.

  • He liked the Swarthmore campus, and the people that he was introduced to, but was turned off by a very vocal, and visible SJW minority. He didn't want to go around campus for the next 4 years apologizing for being a baseball player. He also found it a bit small. Superb school, very rigorous.
  • SIL considers Amherst to be the most PC town she's ever lived in, and she has lived just about everywhere, and is quite left leaning herself. Again, great school. Son was turned off by personalities there that had nothing to do with the school as a whole. It did feel like the school was more fragmented socially, but I would've sent him there in a flash if he had liked it. Very good school for his field of interest, Econ.
  • He loved the weight room at Midd! Otherwise, the school seemed a bit more relaxed than the above two, and again, vg rep for Econ. Quite spread out. I think the difficulty of getting to the school worked against it.
  • Carleton was his final choice among the LAC's after playing footsie with the above schools and a few more. It seemed to be more laid back, less class conscious. He liked the coach, the self effacing players (who tend to get their ass kicked year after year), and the overall smart, liberal, but friendly vibe. He also like that the school had a few more students than some other LAC's, and that Northfield shares the town with another LAC, St. Olaf. The only thing that he didn't like was the language requirement...which is kind of ironic because he ended up going to McGill, which is smack in the middle of the second biggest French speaking city in the world after Paris.

All of these schools have beautiful grounds, and are at the very top of the LAC food chain. I am partial to Carleton because it has a bit more of an egalitarian vibe, but I am perhaps more sensitive to class issues being brought up in the NE. They have miles of trails through the arboretum, fishing in the Cannon river, and a pleasant, genteel(for Minnesota) town. If your son is interested in Medicine, Rochester and the Mayo is about 45 minutes away to the south, and I would imagine that Carleton would have some sort of pipeline there for internship opportunities. The Twin Cities are 45 minutes to the north, with all they have to offer.

Swarthmore would be the warmest of all schools in terms of climate. Midd and Carleton would be about the same, Amherst a tad milder. MN tends to get more hours of sunshine than most places in the NE in the winter, and less snow than Midd, probably. Midd has it’s own ski hill!

I can’t speak to the premed piece but if he wants liberal politics + open curriculum, Wesleyan would tick both boxes. Vassar might also appeal - distribution requirements are minimal - 1 freshman writing seminar, 1 quantitative course, and a foreign language requirement, which can be fulfilled through AP or SAT II results or placement test or 1 year of college level FL instruction.

If he’s casting about for a safety, St Olaf (same town as Carleton) does well with med school placement. Muhlenberg is also good for premed. At both he’d be well positioned for merit scholarships.

@Bvriyer1 - I see you are from Western Washington - and we may have crossed paths on the same work campus too? For Carleton think of the downtown area of Northfield to be a smaller version of Walla Walla. I am guessing your son’s private school sends kids to Carleton every year (I know Lakeside and the others do) and it seems to be a great fit for PNW kids that don’t want the West Coast schools or the East coast vibe. Does he know any of these kids and can he speak with them or can his college advisor introduce you?

Beside visiting last Fall, we have attended quite a few online Carleton presentations including a panel with current parents - quite impressive and one parent was a professor at Vandy (if I am remembering correctly) and the enthusiasm for the school by the community seems genuine. I think they are doing a lot online presentations to provide your family with a really good idea of the school.

My child will not be applying - but it is a bit heartbreaking, as the school is a great fit except doesn’t go deep enough into creative majors. If my child was more STEM/Science - the ED app would have been in already.

Thanks coffeeat3. My son got into Carleton via ED and also is going to play Baseball (he was recruited). I am super excited. Thanks for the tip (sorry, I didn’t reply sooner). BTW, We visited Carleton in October to meet with the Coach & also met many students. We loved the college campus - so beautiful in Fall. Thanks again.