Macalester College Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?


Classes are small. Unless you are in the rare large introductory lecture, students and professors will likely notice if you aren't there. Professors may invite you over for dinner or to the bar. Chatting with them in the halls or outside of classes is very common. Some students can be quite competitive, depending on the department. More often, students are just determined to do well and make a change (which can cause a lot of stress, especially around finals). I was expecting a more laid back attitude towards academics, where learning is more important than performance, but it seems Macalester is increasingly becoming more "professionally focused". Either way, Macalester students are known for being very outspoken and argumentative (in a good way, usually). I've taken philosophy, biology, sociology, geography, art, political science, chemistry, environmental studies, french, international studies, and math classes at Mac, while still having time to graduate with a major and two minors. Double majors are actually quite normal. My biology department seems to train people to become academics; I considered going on to graduate school before realizing academia isn't for me. Macalester is primarily a teaching school (with a comparatively large amount of research for a liberal arts school), so that is so bed expected You can take other classes at the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities (ACTC) schools in the area.


Small classes with caring professors make Macalester a place of deep learning. On top of my professors who are excellent educators, my classmates are brilliant. I need not be in class in order to have intellectually enriching conversations, because my peers and I initiate them either way. Professors are genuinely interested in my life and are invested in my success. Because of this, academics here at Macalester are singularly rigorous; professors here know we are capable of great things and push us accordingly.




Professors usually know your name by the end of the first week and class participation is expected. Students are genuinely excited to be here and committed to the material, which is reflected by many late night intellectual conversations. There's no getting around it, Macalester students spend the vast majority of their time with their nose in a book. However, were never cut throat. I'm a Biology major and geography minor. As a premed, I was concerned that the competitive coursework would bring out the worst in my piers. Fortunately, students want to see their piers succeed and you often make friends with others in the class. This goes for your professor as well, it is common for professors to have their entire class over for dinner.


At Macalester, many of the classes take Oxford-style learning approaches with lots of student participation. Also, professors are always accessible. My Japanese instructor had the whole class over for sushi and wii, TWICE! Although many Mac students may not think too hard about post-graduation job opportunities, the resources are there. I'm not even an econ major and the econ department always sends me emails of internship opportunities! The physics department here is small, but great. I'll hopefully be able to start doing undergraduate research after my sophomore year, which is an advantage over larger universities (for the most part). Intro physics the class size was 22, which is impressive considering how many people want to take the class.


The academic life is intense, and that is definitely the priority on campus, but there are plenty of ways that students balance study and fun. Everyone here participates in and outside the classroom which is a huge indicator of the activeness of the students and faculty.


Top-notch: is in second tier in midwest schools (after UChicago, Northwestern, WashU, Notre Dame)


Macalester's classes are small and so this facilitates good teacher-professor relations. Students tend not to compete with each other because we all know that we had to be among the best to be at Mac anyway. The academi standards are very high at Mac and good grades dont come easy.


The academics at Macalester are fabulous. Professors are really enthusasitic and eager to build relationships with students and facilitate interesting discussion in class. The work load is fairly heavy and most students are fairly academically focused but if you do the work and go to class it is definitley managable.


Gotta pick and choose your classes carefully. Not too much deviation between classes for a major. You basically have to take all the classes to be that major. Competitiveness is really between the big majors, like Econ or Chem


Profs always know your name. Always. Even in the big lecture classes like General Chem - they will know who you are. My favorite class has been with Professor Raymond Robertson, International Economics. It was just brilliant - I learned so much and usually looked forward to class because the prof did; he is one of those guys that just really, really loves his job and it shows in the quality of his teaching. My least favorite has been the introductory philosophy course - the lectures were just boring and our prof hardly ever engaged us with the material, though I'm told it was just her. Study habits vary by individual, but generally, if you don't study, your grade will show it. So - study. People are usually passionate about the classes they take, so there's a lot of intellectual discussion outside of class, but it's fairly easy to sidestep that and move on to what's going on this weekend if you need a break. The only department in which I've seen actual competition is in econ, and that's a very select few types of people that will be competitive no matter where you put them. The coolest class I've taken has been International Human Right with Professor James von Geldern. Amazing class, amazing prof - the legalese of the course is easily accessible through him, and you get a great grasp of recent and current HR issues. I'm a double major, econ and poli sci - the department are very different. I've found Poli Sci the more welcoming of the two, but Econ is geared much more toward students who will be in the accounting side of things once they graduate (which I will not be) and many have found it warm as well. You see more Poli Sci profs with their doors open than Econ ones though, with a few exceptions. The students in both tend to be similar as well - PS are social-welfare minded, while econ tend to be the type to check the stock indices every hour. Mac has recently expanded its grad requirements and I don't like them, flat out. I think there are too many "distribution requirements," so many that many incoming students who end up screwing around their first semester (which is most of us) will end up being unable to take the classes they want because they have to fulfill requirements. As a liberal arts college, I respect that we have general requirements, but I think some are just unnecessary; if the college insists on mandating so many, the least they can do is make it easier for us to transfer credits in from classes we take over the summer or winter, or they could open up summer sessions for non-physics students so we could get to things we like instead of scraping by with what we have to do. It's especially hard for science and double majors.


It is hard work, but definitely doable. It's nice that teachers mostly know you're name and I have taken advantage of going to see teachers during their office hours way more than I was expecting myself to. They are very nice and friendly here. I haven't found that students are competitive at all-- only one person has asked me what grades I've gotten. Education is geared toward learning for its own sake, but then making a difference with the information you've just learned. Joining orgs or doing field work during J-term or the summer is encouraged.


Very good. Some bullshit courses & professors, like anywhere else, but generally, very good.


I am a hardcore science nerd so I spend all my time in the science building, Olin-Rice. I am a Neurobiology major with a Psychology minor, which is the largest major the school offers. The workload is extremely heavy, but manageable if you are willing to study hard. I have yet to take a class I didn't like or find a professor I didn't think belonged at the school.


Academics at Mac are quite rigorous. Your professors and peers will expect your best from your first week on campus. However, the academic environment is NOT cutthroat. Students often work together outside of class, and there is relatively little competition. I would not be as successful as I am without the help of my friends and classmates. Students do a lot of homework here, though it certainly varies by department. Chemistry, biology and econ students frequently spend six or seven hours a day studying, while dance and english majors probably spend far less. The econ department is very rigorous, with low test scores and heavy curves. But the students all help and support each other, and some of the professors are truly amazing. Classes are very small - often 10 to 20 students - and professors always learn names. They encourage out-of-class meetings and some professors frequently respond to student emails at 11pm within two minutes of receiving the message. I have great relationships with my professors outside of classroom settings, and I know that these relationships have enhanced my academic experience. Professors very much care about student success - they will often spend far more time than is necessary outside of class ensuring that success. Every discipline emphasizes critical thinking, cultural and social knowledge, and global citizenship. Academics are geared towards preparing Mac students to be world leaders and changers - It is no coincidence that Kofi Annan is a Mac alum. If you are not prepared to critically analyze and question the current social/political/economic status quo, don't come to Mac.


Since most classes are small enough, professors usually have no problem learning and remembering your name. One of my favorite classes was an introductory acting class. I acted in high school, so I have a love for theater. The acting class was incredibly fun, because all it is playing, but it also challenged me to be better and helped me realize that there's always room for improvement. My least favorite class was an introductory Asian history class. It was on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which meant the class was an hour and a half long. The professor was incredibly dry, and often seemed to be a bit confused about where he wanted to lead the class. It was unbearable to sit through that class and attempt to learn something. The Geology Department and Macalester is very prestigious. With five professors, it is small, but most of the professors are incredibly effective teachers. Only one seems to have trouble with helping students learn. The rest know how to motivate and challenge students. The department is also incredibly cohesive and intimate. Students address the professors by their first names, there is a lot of professor/student interaction outside of class, especially when it isn't crucial to the learning process. Not only are the professors teachers and advisors, but they're close friends. Outside of class, students very often engage in intellectual conversations. Some might argue that it is the leading cause of procrastination. Depending on who you're talking to, you can gain wonderful insight from another's views and and knowledge. It plays a very important role in the learning and social process.


Excellent. Academics are excellent. Professors are excellent, know students' names, work with students, facilitate great class discussion (Mac students like to participate!), often invite students to do research with them. The quality of academic life is very high and the number of students really taking advantage of it is striking. I cant say enough nice things. My only two reservations are as follows: Students are pretentious often but so are professors - it is sort of the nature of the academy and academia... you are sitting in a room dissecting and criticizing the world. That is sort of pretentious to begin with and students hop on the professor bandwagon of using absurd terms that they don't know the meaning of but generally, the students are intellectual powerhouses - even the ones that occasionally succumb to sesquipadalian verbiage, so to speak. My only really concern with Macalester is one that I sense as an emerging trend among liberal arts schools: students and professors are forgetting the roots and often ideals of liberal arts education (to create freedom of the mind) and becoming too fixed in their disciplinary/departmental studies and pursuits, unable to see the value of cross-collaboration. I think this is mostly a problem with professors but I see it manifesting itself in the student body.


With the exception of a few absentminded professors, every class I've ever been in the professor has known my name. Lectures are never bigger than 60 students, and if they are, they aren't really taught as lectures - small group discussion, and opportunities for class interaction with the professor is constantly provided. Macalester in general has a good way of melding the intellectual with the social, and I would say that students find ways to have intellectual conversations in contexts that don't make them seem nerdy - discussions about current events abound, as do those about more heated class discussions. My favorite class was my first year course, People & the Environment, an anthropology class about environmentalism. It was specific without being obscure, the professor assigned large amounts of reading but was always quick to explain his opinions and ask for ours, and the size of the class allowed for almost constant discussion of issues both in what we read or learned, and in current events. The professor invited the class to his home for a lunch of authentic Sri Lankan food, which he cooked himself. The size of the school does mean that some departments end up being smaller than others. However, this in my experience has NOT deterred from the quality of the classes, nor the breadth of topics that are taught each semester. Sure, at a school of 40,000 you might have 50 times the amount of classes to choose from, but somehow each semester when scheduling comes around, I manage to be incredibly conflicted about what to take. Certain majors seem to lend themselves to being more "workplace friendly" (economics, computer science, etc) but the emphasis is on learning for it's own sake, which I find slightly idealistic, but also am very appreciative of. The school makes up for it with its HUGE career development center, which arranges a litany of internships (which can count for credit, work study, or neither).


The academics at Macalester are very rigorous but the students are definitely supported in the challenge by the professors. In many of the social sciences there is not much emphasis on quantitative thinking which is unfortunate. The material is always current and the professors come from very strong backgrounds.


Professors here are great. I am on a first name basis with nearly every professor I've had and they really make an effort to get to know you as a person. There is some competition academically between students, but not nearly to the degree that I have heard my friends talk about at their schools. The Geography Dept at Macalester is top-notch. We have the best faculty, most fun students, its generally a good time. It is a very relaxed environment which comes from a genuine interest in Geography by staff and students alike.


My favorite class-Religion and Revolution My professors are wonderful. Class participation is not as important as I thought it would be but the professors certainly take notice of it. In other words, it only helps to participate. Education at macalester is geared towards making us quazi-prophets. I.E after graduating, we will bring peace in the world by inducing Hezbollah folks and the Jews in Jerusalem to make out.


Here most of the professors know your name. The biggest class I've had this year was a 40 person class for a general science lecture course. Even at that size it was very personal and easy to ask questions. Students definitely participate in class and discussion is encouraged. Mac's academic requirements are somewhat of a pain but are do able. The International Studies major (what macalester is famous for) is somewhat different than one might expect. If you want to learn about political science in IS (without doing a political science minor or major) don't go to Mac. Most of the IS classes are about conflict or Human rights not political science or history.


Overall, my academic experience at Macalester has been incredible. I've taken classes, such as US Environmental History, that have opened my eyes to new issues that I never cared much about previously, and placed me in situations that have allowed me to form and state my own opinions to my peers. I feel that my writing has improved immensely, and I have learned to think analytically. While some of my professors have been less than satisfactory, I have been extremely impressed with most of my professors' level of expertise and past experiences. For example, my bio professor has worked with several people who won the nobel prize and my human geography professor played a role in many urban planning projects around the world.


The academics at Macalester have a good reputation. This is what drew me to the school in the first place. The average class is small enough where the professors are accessible, but not too small where if you decide to skip one day to go play frisbee you will be noticeable.


Small class sizes make for lovely prof-student and student-student interactions. The Music and theater depts are strong, though small. English is very good, as well. History and Hispanic studies is hit or miss.


Macalester's academic level depends highly on the individual student, as well as the major the student chooses. The college is generally academically rigorous to an extent, but it is definitely possible to slide by with a minimum of work and still retain decent grades. Generally, the difference between a B and an A is the difference between maintaining a minimum of work and being fully engaged in a class. However, this also varies by professor and department. In general, Chemistry and Economics are the hardest departments at Mac, although the workloads for both are still definitely manageable. Also, the sciences tend to have larger loads as far as classroom hours, because labs do not count for extra credits - a science major can spend nine hours a week more in class than a humanities major, but both will be taking the same amount of credit hours. This is somewhat made up for with time required for readings, but it is still not an even split. Regardless of major, however, it's possible to spend huge amounts of time either partying or volunteering off campus and still keep good grades, but it's also possible and rewarding to be engaged fully in classes.


All professors I have had know my name, and most of the class I take (humanities) are 20 people or less. Students' study time and GPA depends completley on their major. As an English major, if I go to class, pay attention, particpate in discussion, put forth effort on my essays, it is most likely that I will receive at the very least a B. In science classes, according to friends who are bio or chem majors, it's a very different story. I had heard a lot about the competitiveness of Mac students before I came here, but I have honestly seen none of it in my two years there. I love the English department, and my advisor. Every professor has their own focus and interest, and I feel like even the more general, "survey" type classes I have taken, have always been geared toward a specific topic or theme, which I think is very helpful. I think that an education from Mac is certainly learning for its own sake, but also many of my professors and my advisor have given me very good, extensive advice on post-graduate programs, careers, etc.


Macalester's academic environment is challenging yet compassionate and not particularly competitive. Students are motivated, work hard, and genuinely express interest in their classes. Debates rage inside the classroom and continue long after: in the dorms, at Cafe Mac, and even on facebook! It is truly a place of learning and intellectual debate and discussion. The main advantage of being a small liberal arts college is that the focus is entirely on the undergrad, and individuals matter to professors and administrators. Professors care about their students- they know more than just names! It is not unusual for small classes to meet for coffee or lunch, or to have dinners at their professor's house. This creates a real learning community, where the professors are accessible and ideas are constantly being discussed.


Since Macalester is a smaller college, all your professors know you by name! The school environment really allows for students and teachers to interact and work together. I'm a bit bias being a Psychology major so of course, Psychology courses are my favorite. The class sizes are very small and allows for many opportunities to ask questions and get answers from classmates and professors. There are always many intellectual conversations outside of the classroom. The campus is always bustling with activities planned by different student organizations that allow for many conversations. Macalester's educatio is geared towards getting a job AND learning for its own sake. We're always aware of the issues and the environment around us as we continue and further our education.


The intellectual conversations do continue outside of the classroom and that's a really nice aspect of Macalester. I was often annoyed that people studied too much because I was never one to study a lot. Students aren't very competitive, at least not in the subject areas I took classes in--humanities, arts, languages etc. I took a Hip Hop Performance class where we had local hip hop artists of all sorts come and perform and speak and hold workshops, we also learned the history of hip hop and I think that was probably the best class just because I was so interested in the topic. Macalester was also nice for me because I took classes in all different subject areas. I appreciated being able to take a lot of studio art classes even though I wasn't a major. Education is definitely just learning for its own sake--unless you're an Econ major.


HARD! But worth it.


One of my classes had seven students in it last semester, which is not uncommon at Macalester. My biggest class so far has been 41 students, and that is considered huge. The professors always know your name, and are good about making themselves available and helping out. Students aren't that competitive, it is simply understood that most people at Macalester are really intelligent and enjoy learning, so there is respect but not much competititon.


At my time at Macaleser, all of my professors have known my name, and I try not to stand out in any class. Macaleser has two different type of students... on one hand there are those who study all the time and work to get their grades. on the other there are those who are smart enough to get through college without doing much of the work... while there is sometimes some friction between the two groups, frequently they get along. I have only once been asked what I got in a class or on a paper, so while students are competitive, they do not get too frustrating. I have often been invited over to professors houses and the like


Macalester is a very tight knit community and this is reflected in the academics. Professor's know your name and students have relationships with professors beyond the classes that they take--they do research together, networking, or just have coffee and talk about current events.


Small classes mean you know your profs and peers. You can always tell who the smart kids are and who applies themselves or is a total flake. I've absolutely loved some profs (Joy Laine, Jim Laine, Lin Aanonson) and hated a couple others (Eric Wiertelak, Susan Fox), just due to differences in teaching style. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to take classes outside my major (Neuroscience) such as intro to dance, religions of india, and cultures of human exhibition. Classes tend to be challenging but rewarding. I sometimes felt stunted as a scientist because the labs were so small and not as productive as labs at a large university. However, I was able to spend three years as a student worker in two neuroscience labs. This experience enabled me to secure a full-time research position upon graduation. PS. If you're considering a neuroscience major at mac you should really check out the Bio major with neurobio focus. I regret taking the path of least resistance and wish that the neuroscience major would have required more vigorous science courses. My only insecurity applying to jobs and grad school is my lack of organic chem and biochemistry. A number of my friends took O chem as a summer class somewhere else cuz its SOOO ridiculously hard at mac.


one of the best things about macalester is that it is much less competitive than many liberal arts colleges on the east coast. People set high standards for themselves, but do not base their sense of satisfaction in comparison to others. I have taken several courses where community involvement is stressed and gained the most from them. Professors often host dinners at their house once a semester and are almost always available to talk and offer guidance.


Professors make an effort to not only know students' names but get to know the people behind them. Classes are generally small and discussion-based, though this depends on the department and course. My favorite classes have been topics courses like "French Cinema and Cultural Politics", "Race, Class, and Gender in American Art" and "Imagining the American West." Perhaps the most I have learned, however, is from conversations outside of class with other students both spurred by class and not.


Classes are small and mostly discussion oriented. One of my favorite classes was a Chicana feminist class in which part of the class was volunteering at an organization, helping teach english to immigrants or helping organizations with publications in English or giving visibility to them.


Academics at Macalester are world renowned for how awesome they are. Professors make you think hard, write better, speak better, make connections you never would have made, and laugh even (that's important too!). The workload is deceptively heavy sometimes, but I think it's always worth it. I've learned so much since being here. A weirdly awesome Mac attribute is that often when you get to talking about what you're learning with your friends you'll find the methods of discourse to be similar even though you're taking different classes. You'll have some great conversations at all hours of the day (and not always about school stuff either... this is college, remember, we still laugh at farts).


I do like the small class size. Some professors seem really accessible, which is awesome, but some not as much. There are some people that spend all the time in the library and some people that seem like they never have to do work. I feel like people are much less competitive than at my high school-there it was all about GPA and class rank and how many AP classes, etc. I feel that the academic requirements, also based on major, can be challenging, but very doable.


All of my professors know my name. This is because the classes are small, and also because I sit in the front of all my classes and go to office hours all the time. You get to know your professors naturally pretty soon after you realize that they are on your side, not like high school teachers, and they are interested in what they are teaching you. Classes are really different depending on department, and you will figure out what's what soon enough. I have had a few inspiring professors already, and it's just been a year. I look forward to my classes.


For the most part, professors are very invested in their students academic lives. The class sizes are great. Even with demanding academic shedules, students are strongly encouraged to volunteer, have jobs, and participate in other activities. Things can get pretty hectic. Students often have intellectual discussions outside of class. Even though everyone at Mac is fairly intelligent, there is not a lot of academic competition. Everyone wants to see everyone else succeed. Academic help is not hard to find.


Academics at Macalester are highlighted by our fabulous professors and our 10:1 student/faculty ratio. The average class size is 18, so professors know the names of their students because their top priority is teaching the students despite their pursuing their own academic interests. Professors often invite students over to their houses for discussions or out for drinks. Our top majors are political science, biology, and economics, but we are known for our International Studies department. Macalester students take academics seriously, but we know that it is the experiences that we have in college that shape who we are. As a result, there is not really any competition between students because we are more laid back. Macalester offers a broad liberal arts education and has no required classes. We have general distribution requirements, but we can tailor those to our own interests.


All my professors know my name and we're on a first name basis for the most part. I don't know a professor who keeps their door closed or strictly abides by their office hours. For the most part, if it's between 9 and 4 you can find them and talk to them without an appointment. Usually class conversations happen directly after class ended on an unusually controversial topic but there have been several drunken evenings when topics from class arise and I've learned information from classes I've never taken due to these unusual circumstances. We're a liberal arts campus so we have a lot of general requirements. Part of coming to Macalester is getting a general education. It's assumed for the most part that most students will go on to graduate school so buckling down to a specific set of core classes is not as necessary as some schools.


Classes are really small, and thats one of the things I really love about Macalester. I think my largest class I've had has been about 35 people. The smallest has been 5. I am always challenged with the amount of work that I have, but I never feel too overwhelmed (except around finals time). On the average weekday, I'll have about 3 hours of classes, and about 4 hours of work to do outside of class. On the weekends, most people do all of their work on Sunday, leaving Saturday as a day of relaxation (or research for some of us). Some of the academic requirements seem silly, but I think they are important for getting a well rounded liberal arts education. it forces you to take classes that you might not take otherwise.


Quite small classes, professors are very approachable, classes can be really demanding and difficult but in most cases there is comprihension from the professors. Many students do research with their professors. The communication with them is quite informal. There is always an emphasis towards finding and applying for a job. A good preparation for that.


I am extremely proud of the level of education I am receiving at Macalester; it is constantly rated among the top liberal arts schools in the country, and it definitely lives up to its reputation. All of my classes are intellectually stimulating and usually inspire wonderful conversation, inside and outside the classroom setting. Teachers are extremely intelligent (almost intimidatingly so), but are always willing to talk to you one-on-one and are not there to talk down to their students; they realize that we have something to say and want to know what that is. Most of the students were in the top 10{4a082faed443b016e84c6ea63012b481c58f64867aa2dc62fff66e22ad7dff6c} of their graduating class in high school - a lot of them valedictorians (Macalester was noted in one of those other college-rating booklets as the place where the students who got rejected from Harvard due to "not enough room" go - I should know, I'm one of 'em). They're not particularly competitive, but they are fiercely intelligent; of course, there are always those kids who make it in based on the fact that their families can tote the hefty $43,000 a year price tag without any financial aid, but I won't go into that....


Most classes tend to be discussion based, though some of the more popular have to be lecture oriented simply for convenience. Professors tend to have high expectations of their students, not merely limited to completing assignments. Students are encouraged to actively participate and lead discussions, offer insights, and occasionally provide ideas for further study. Most students are not too competitive, though they tend to take coursework very seriously. We tend to be more supportive of each other than I have seen at other schools.


Professors are usually wonderful. They know your name, they sometimes actually care about YOU, personally, especially if you make the effort to form a friendship with them. I was told never to expect a college professor to care about me or look out for me, but I wouldn't say that that is the case at Macalester. Students are not generally very competitive. This is very important to me, as I came from a nationally competitive, somewhat maniacally competitive high school. The academic atmosphere is relaxed, but not so relaxed that people fail classes. It is very rare, to my knowledge, for anyone to fail a class. Then again, there is relatively little academic gossip, so I wouldn't necessarily have a very good idea. And i like that. It lets me focus on learning for learning's sake-- for my own sake. That's one of the very important things I've learned to appreciate at Mac. Education at Macalester is not geared towards getting a job. If it is geared towards getting a job, it's usually with an NGO/non-profit (save Economics and a few other majors). Thus, there is sometimes a little panic at the end of senior year. However, the Career Development Center, located among many other extremely helpful administrative organizations in the Kagin Building, is there for you when you need some guidance or trajectory. On the whole, I haven't learned too many facts or figures, I am no better at Mathematics, and I can't really quantify anything, but I feel I am much much closer to understanding the world, how it works, and what my role is in it after 3 years at Macalester. Macalester's rigor is qualitative, in most cases, rather than quantitative.


Academics are very challenging. This is a school for students that want to learn more about not just their major, but the rest of the world. You get a taste of all the deparments with the graduation requirments. Macalester boasts one of the top Economics departments in the country. Besides that, all of the other departments are top of the line. Macalester offers majors from Chemistry to Art to Women's and Gender Studies.