Macalester vs UW Madison

I’ve recently been accepted to Macalester and UW Madison, among a few other schools. It looks like my final decision will come down to these two. I’m notoriously awful at making important decisions, so I’m trying to gather as much information on the distinctions between Mac and Madison as possible.

I live very close to Madison, so I know the area very well. I’ve toured both colleges and though I appreciate both locations, I find Madison’s campus to be a bit more aesthetically pleasing than Mac’s campus. I’m a little worried about how urban Mac’s campus is, and our tour was cut short by a blizzard so I didn’t get to spend very much time in the area. I’d appreciate any more information on Mac’s location!

I’m pretty undecided in what I want to study, but something along the lines of political science, anthropology, international development, history, english, religious studies, or urban studies. I’m planning to minor in spanish or studio art, though this could change.

Here’s my pros/cons list for each school

UW Madison
Pros:

  • cost is only about 17K/year as I qualified for Bucky’s tuition promise
    -more beautiful campus, next to a lake
    -from what i’ve heard, food/dorms are good
    -I would be able to study abroad twice if I wanted to

Cons:
-Madison is known for its party/greek scene, and I’m not into either of those things. worried that I would struggle to make friends if I’m unwilling to party/drink.
-Not interested in the game day/tailgate culture
-I’m worried that because I know the area and have friends attending Madison, I’ll be set in my ways and won’t branch out, try new things
-bigger class sizes
-less diverse than Mac
-no spanish minor/certificate

Macalester
Pros:
-small class sizes, more stimulating discussions/better relationships with professors
-more opportunities for internships, concerts, art museums, etc.
-diverse (for the midwest). mac has more domestic racial diversity than uw-madison
-more my ~vibe~ as students are liberal, socially-conscious, less inclined to party hard
-could minor in spanish!
-don’t want to be vain, but would probably be prouder saying that I went to Mac

Cons:
-cost is 49K/year (!!), parents say anything over 35K/year will be taken out of my inheritance
-slightly worse food/dorms (not 100% sure this is true?)
-small, not super impressive campus

Obviously, Mac is much more expensive than Madison. Not sure if I can justify this cost. Any help/information would be greatly appreciated!

My first impression was to suggest Madison because it is less expensive, but it sounds like your parents have the money for Macalester. The fact that $14K a year will come out of your inheritance - that is an odd thing to consider. If your parents live a long time they may spend all of your inheritance. Macalester does have strong programs in your areas of interest.

@CheddarcheeseMN I think it almost would have been easier if they would have said Mac was too expensive. You’re right - borrowing against future-me is a difficult thing to think about.

My husband and I went to UW, and my daughter is at Macalester. Both great schools, but very different. Madison is MUCH more of a party school. On the other hand, it is huge, so even if most people are partiers, you can find a critical mass of people who are not. In fact, you can find pretty much any type of person at UW.

Teaching, in general, is much better at Macalester. Profs there very much want to teach, classes are much smaller, especially in intro classes, and profs very much take students under their wing. My daughter has received fellowships and presented at conferences because professors pointed her to programs that they thought would be a good match for her. You can’t really fly under the radar at Mac, though, which can be a pro or a con.

I don’t know that Mac is actually more diverse than UW, although it may be more racially diverse. My daughter has been a bit disappointed that students are more the same than she thought they would be. They tend to be wealthy and from mostly white suburban high schools. (She went to an urban, low income high school, so felt pretty out of place for a while.) UW may be less racially and geographically diverse, but it is more socioeconomically and politically diverse. There are also more public school urban and rural kids at UW. Mac has a lot of private high school kids. I think the two schools are diverse in different ways.

Both Madison and St. Paul are great places to go to college. Madison is more of a college town feel, whereas St Paul is a city with lots of off campus things to offer. It just depends what you are looking for. We live in NY, so she is used to city living, but Mac’s neighborhood is very safe and residential. Public transit is easy, and she has been able to take advantage of all sorts of things the Twin Cities have to offer, such as internships, volunteer work, great public libraries, concerts, bike trails, author talks, etc. Most of these things are not aimed at students, so, again, it depends if you want full immersion in campus life or a chance to not be totally surrounded by it all the time.

If you were my kid, this would be difficult. I would lean toward UW because of the cost issue, but if you are a very serious student, you will get so much out of Macalester. I feel like whichever you pick, you will be fine.

I attend a LAC( not Macalester) but I have been to both the UW-Madison and the Macalester Campus. Not entirely sure but I believe political science/international studies area is pretty good at Macalester (Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general was an alumni). UW-Madison is huge so there’s no doubt you can find your people there. UNYMOM hit it right on in terms of diversity. Macalester probably has one of the best locations among all LACs in the country. Lots of do in the Twin Cities and also good if you want to go to college further from home. Madison is obviously a great college town but if you aren’t really into tailgating/watching college sports then I think there’s no need to go to a college town. tbh I would chose UW Madison. Macalester is great but imo not worth paying 32k more per year. That’s 128K over 4 years!!!