Macalester College Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?


Academic life is hard. Outside of the basic intro classes, it's tons of reading, tons of writing, and usually tons of class dicussion. But the classes are small, never bigger than 50 students and usually hovering between 15 and 25, so profs know your name after a few weeks. We're always studying, either in the library, Coffee News, the campus center, or the link that's open 24 hours just for that purpose, but we're not a super-competitive campus. Only the econ majors seem to discuss GPA with any frequency, but everyone tries to out-smart one another in super-intellectual conversations outside of class. My favorite class thus far was Latin American Politics, with my adviser Paul Dosh. His MO is very empowering for students, we lead a lot of class discussions and do a whole lot of simulations, so instead of just reading about the current crisis between Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador, we hold a mock meeting with students pretending to be Uribe, Chavez, and Correa, along with representatives of the FARC, France, and the United States. It's a very exciting way to learn (plus, we go out for Mexican food and salsa dancing at least once a semester). A Macalester education provides you with such a vast array of itellectual resources, but the profs are also pretty well-connected and can help you get that job or internship you really want, so it's the best of both worlds.


Classes at Macalester are hard - you have a lot of reading to do and papers to write. There are a lot of classes to choose from though, and you can easily find classes that are extremely interesting and rewarding. There's a good variety of classes - there are many classes on random topics. I took a wonderful class on the Post-Soviet Sphere and spent a semester writing papers about Uzbekistan. Professors are usually very nice and informal with their students. Most professors tell you to call them by their first name. Many of them invite you to their houses for dinner or tea at the end of the semester.


Academics at Macalester are great. Classes are challenging, and you end up studying a lot. Nevertheless, most people tend to find a balance between studying and other activities, and once you find your own method of studying, harder classes become even easier. So far, all professors have known my name. They go to great lengths to do this. Professors with which I've taken one class a year ago, still remember my name, and always say hi at corridors. Class participation is quite common, and is expected from you, although the extent of it depends on the department you're in (Social sciences tend to participate more than Math, which is quite understandable). My department, the Econ department is probably one of the most competitive ones because your grade is based on how well the other people have done. Nevertheless, this attitude doesn't stick to the students as they all help each other, study together, and encourage one another. Other departments I feel are less competitive, and getting help from fellow students is quite normal. Most departments I would say, are mostly geared towards academia, although the Econ department I feel does also a good job at directing its students towards jobs. That's why there was an Econ Departamental T-shirt that read "Econ students: we get jobs". Its true, both the T-shirt and the "we get jobs" part.


I'd say the classes here are mostly discussion based (with the exception of science intro classes). But profs will know your name and a fair amount about you. I call most of my teachers by first name but that is unique to my depts (psych/ music).


Don't believe in the whole crap they give you about, it's okay if you don't know your major when you come. If you don't better find out what you want in the first semester. from experience of many of my friends the most successfull students are those who knew what they wanted when they got here, or latest by the end of their freshmen year, so that the following three years they used all the resources available to get to their goal, whatever it may be. Don't be scared to take 2-3 majors, it's not as difficult as it sounds, but make sure what you want and figure out what you want QUICKLY! spend the summer before college figuring this out by working, interning whatever! find it out before you come, or at latest before your sophomore year. Otherwise, professors here are all great, wonderfull, highly qualified in their fields.


Some of my professors have known my name, only to forget it later. Class participation is relatively low; I expected more students to be engaged and open. Students are not very competitive, I'd actually say there is just the right amount of competition on campus. I do not spend much time with professors out of class; the professors I'm most familiar with are not very social. I think Macalester enforces a good set of academic requirements, and if anything, they could be tougher. I know that many intelligent students struggle with math and science, but many here don't even make an effort.


Not so bad; you can get at least a 3.5 if you put just a little effort in.


Academics at Macalester are definitely challenging and of high quality. The professors are generally very knowledgable, interesting, approachable, and really take time to get to know the students. Most of my classes are small and heavy on the discussion, which I really enjoy. I'm a double major in Religious Studies and Hispanic Studies, and while both departments are really different, they are both really great, and by my junior year i feel like they are both "home" to me. I feel like you really have to be motivated to enjoy and do well in classes at Macalester. Usually the work load is very heavy. In my classes I have a LOT of reading to do and write quite a few papers as well. But i do think it's worth it to do the work because generally you really get a lot out of the classes due to the quality of the professors and the level of interest and intelligence among the students. Some of my favorite classes have been Sociology of Sexuality in the Sociology Department, Japanese Religions in the Religious Studies Department, and Dictators, Revolutions and Insurrections in the Hispanic Studies Department.


The largest class I ever had was 40 something people, the smallest was six people. Every professor I've ever had knew my name then and still does. I often drop by in my professors offices and I see my advisor at least twice a week. He knows my future plans, my hopes, my dreams, my interests - everything except my social life outside of class. And all that allows him to really narrow in on the advice he gives me. It doesn't hurt, either, that I've had two classes with him. Departments are all different from one another with regard to their ethos and social strata. I'm in Sociology, which is a tight knit group of professors and students, and other departments are like that as well, while some have larger classes, more students and a different ethos all together. There's a lot of varriety in that way, and a lack of gen ed classes means you can experience a lot of it.


I have not had a class where the professor does not know my name, which is unexpected in the larger classes. My largest class had about fifty classes in it and my smallest class at Macalester had only eight students. Participation is generally good, especially in the social sciences where discussions dominate over lectures. Intellectual conversations are certainly not limited to inside the classroom. It is not weird to hear arguments over politics and liberalism during dinner, nor is it rare to hear people speaking their foreign language outside of the classroom. And while the courses are academically challenging, the professors are fantastic and are truly committed to the students.


Class participation is common and expected in all disciplines (including natural sciences). Mac students have intellectual conversation outside of class. The workload is not too much, but there are high expectations. For example, you may only have one big (10+ pages) paper per semester, but it had better be the best damn paper you have ever written... so you may spend the amount of time that a 20 page paper normally requires.


Academics at Mac is good, probably on the same level as you'll find anywhere. The education here can be shaped into whatever you want to get out of it; if you want to gear towards a profession or grad school and have extensive research experience, all you need to do is ask. If you'd rather float through and take it easy, a kind of $160,000 pleasure cruise, you can do that too. It is what you make it. Discussion classes that actually have pertinent, engaging discussions are fairly hard to come by, although whether that's due to the students or professors I can never tell. Most of the time people just make dumbfuck remarks because they like the sound of their own voice. That might be a little harsh, because I just got out of one those classes 20 minutes ago and am still grating my teeth over another wasted hour, but people do have a propensity for stupid comments. I have had good discussion classes, one in particular taught by Professor Cooey called "Jesus, Dissent and Desire" was extremely interesting and Paula fostered very good discussions. Professors at Mac are, by and large, extremely good and very open, friendly and helpful. I don't have a bad thing to say other than that some of my professors have been pretty boring, but those ones have been kind enough to let me sleep through class. Geology (which is my primary major, followed by German) is the most amazing department at Mac, the professors are hilarious and great.


Professors do know students names, because class sizes are so small. Professors tend to get overwhelmed if there are more than 25 students in a class. Students are engaged with their academics, they aren't afraid to bring their questions to professors or to talk about them in the cafeteria. It really is a model for a liberal arts institution, where intangible skills and thinking are emphasized more than jobs, unless you are an economics major.


Academics are generally good at Macalester. Professors usually know each student and are willing to personally spend time them. Every class has a different dynamic, depending on the department. Science classes tend to be more focused and down-to-earth. Humanities classes are often full of people that talk to hear their own voices. Some classes are more open to differing opinions than others. I dislike Macalester's academic requirements. They are heavily biased toward humanities, especially toward things like poli sci and international studies. The requirements for "quantitative thinking" are pathetic in comparison. The large number of general education requirements, in addition to a major, make it difficult to take courses that interest you but aren't required for graduation.


Our classes are large for a school of our size, primarily because we don't have very many permenant faculty. Our profs are switching to a system that allows them to go on sabatical (a year off w/no teaching/campus interaction for research) once every 3 years instead of once every seven. This means more visiting profs (who are actually mostly grad students from the U of M - other schools would call them TA's), lower academic standards and the guarantee that if you do find a mentor at Mac they'll be gone for one full year during your 4 years at Mac. Other schools provide a much higher quality of education, Mac's is only getting worse.


Academics at Macalester are simply great. Classes are really small (one of my classes this semester has 4 students in it) and you get to know the professors very well, if you feel comfortable doing so. Mac students are not particularly competitive but we LOVE to have long, intellectual discussions on anything and everything, bouncing ideas off each other. Usually these discussions end up being pretty hilarious. The environment in the class room can be relaxed but the level of performance professors expect is very high. I went to visit a friend in Harvard and felt completely comfortable participating in a discussion with people three years older than me. Mac professors don't like it when students just go on about something without substance, they are supportive and love initiative but they expect a high standard of involvement and effort. Professors often eat lunch with students and sometimes hold get-togethers in their homes. I don't feel pressured to decide what to do and have not yet thought of a job when I graduate, but the resources to find internships or a job are available for everyone. I really feel free to explore and learn without necessarily having to ask "am I going to make money with this?" I'm 100{4a082faed443b016e84c6ea63012b481c58f64867aa2dc62fff66e22ad7dff6c} pleased with the academics here.


Most students study a LOT. Most classes here, and certainly upper level classes, require tons of reading and lots of out-of-class work in order to master the material and get a good grade. Macalester students definitely have lots of intellectual conversations outside of class as well. Class participation is common in most classes when it is invited by professors; some classes are more lecture based. My major is Anthropology, which has a friendly department, offering tea and hot chocolate for anyone who stops by, and several computers that students can use, as well as a lounge for doing homework. My minor is Creative Writing, which also has a great faculty.


It's tough, no doubt about that. Expect to spend much more time our of class studying and reading and writing and preparing than you actually spend in a classroom. Mostly, be prepared to think outside of the bubble.


Professors always know your name. Students are encouraged to look for connections between classes, which certainly happens in environmental studies and this makes the department a lot stronger. There are a lot of great professors and a few mediocre ones. Students mostly love participating, sometimes a little too much, which occasionally seems to irritate professors. Students aren't competitive in the traditional sense but they do love to talk a lot and will have lengthy discussions at the slightest provocation. Academics are definitely geared towards learning for its own sake; as a senior I feel totally unprepared for a job but would definitely say that I have a strong understanding of topics related to environmental studies.


know profesors by name favorite class: catholicism least: organic chemistry many intellectual conversations not competitive economics is big/very good/well-known/rigorous been to some professors houses for dinner not geared toward getting job in most cases


I am only in my second semester at Mac and I already feel like I have pretty strong relationships with most of my professors. I have never felt like they didn't know me well enough to ask them for advice or for recommendations. Classes are almost always small enough that profs know all there students names, and normally make an effort to at least get to know a little bit about everyone. Discussions are engaging and readings are interesting. Profs often invite students over to their houses for dinner, and if they are going to an event in the community like an art exhibit, they often ask students if they'd like to come with them. It's been a breath of fresh air since high school where students were always competitive with each other rather than themselves. Although a Macalester decree isn't always the most practical (depending on your major) to get a job, as a community people really stress learning rather than just a career. Although there is a pretty substantial core requirements, most people don't mind getting the oppurtunity to take classes outside what they would normally do.


Hard. Classes are great but it's a lot of work. Not undoable though


Students take academics pretty seriously. Although students are generally not that competitive with each other, everyone wants to do really well in their classes. For the most part, professors are great and are very willing to meet with you individually if you have questions.


the academics are fantastic. there are times when the classroom is a bit too democratic, but the education that you get here is terrific. Professors know your name, where you're from, what you did last weekend, and how you did on your last paper. the departments are not clique-ish in terms of friend groups. that leads to spirited and interdisciplinary discussions about everything from sex, to Kant, to the Environment, to campus politics.


Academics at Mac are great: rigorous and challenging, but not competitive. You can actually talk to students about academic subjects without getting into pissing contests about who knows more about what. Also, the professors are smart and supportive; they won't make you feel awful about not knowing something, but they move quickly and convey a lot of information.


Academics here are very intense, but intense without being too pretentious.


Professors absolutely know my name. My favorite class is American Consumer Culture in the Environmental Studies department with Chris Wells. My least favorite class was 305 in the Hispanic Studies department with a professor who no longer teaches at Mac because he was awful. I'm a Hispanic Studies major, and I highly recommend NOT majoring in it. I've really enjoyed some of the professors and classes, but I would advise that prospective Spanish majors (at any school) think really hard about why they want to be majors. If it's because you want to speak Spanish fluently, then you should go to a Spanish speaking country or make some Spanish speaking friends, not become a Spanish major! Class participation is a survival tactic. If you don't participate you'll get bored because so many classes are discussion based, it will really obvious because classes are small, and it will hurt your grade because most classes have a 25{4a082faed443b016e84c6ea63012b481c58f64867aa2dc62fff66e22ad7dff6c} participation grade. Macalester students LOVE to have intellectual conversation outside of class. The big difference I notice when I go to parties hosted by my friends who don't go to Macalester is the lack of intellectual conversation that goes on. I notice myself taking down my vocabulary a notch when I'm not within Macalester circles, which I think says a lot about the norms of Mac. Students are not that competitive. The most unique class I've taken is probably tied among a few different classes. Right now I'm taking a creative writing class all in Spanish, so even my writing is in Spanish, and suddenly I've discovered I enjoy writing poetry in Spanish. I'm also taking a geography class where we're using GIS (map-making software) to analyze the spatial mismatch of housing and jobs in the Twin Cities. It's a big project that we're doing for the Federal Reserve Bank, and we're going to present all of our findings to the Fed at the end of the semester. Another unique class was also geography - World Urbanization. We learned about cities from all over the world, and for our big project we each had to choose a city and make a web site about it. It was worth more than half our grade, and took a looot of time and effort, but it was so rewarding to figure out how to go about learning everything we wanted to know about a place, learning how to use website software, and then being able to display our newfound knowledge in a creative, experiential way that was very refreshing compared to the normal paper, paper, paper, exam type class. Absolutely learning for learning's sake! Learning is a continuously evolving journey and Macalester is our launching point.


Professors are very good about learning the names of their students. I have never had a class bigger than 20 students. Students spend a lot of time studying but it does not hinder extracurricular activities. I have had classes at coffee shops and I have gone for coffee to chat with professors to address issues in class or experiences over vacations that pertain to their area of study. Macalester's academic requirements are pretty standard and there are a wide variety of classes to fulfill every requirement. I have taken some great classes, including; Natural Catastrophes in Human History (Geology), War Crimes and Memory in East Asia (Histpry), Gender and International Politics, and The UN: Past Present and Future (both Poli Sci).


do professors know my name: mostly yes, but it depends on the teacher and how vocal you are as a student favorite class: my principles of economics class, the teacher is such a quirky fun lecturer that the hour goes by so quickly least favorite: my first year course, the global in the local, the teacher was a jerk and the class was not at all what i thought it would be studying: depends on the student. i study a lot but there are enough people who only study the night before a test. there's not a lot of in between, either you study or you don't class participation: it depends on the class, but generally students are fairly vocal about the things they care about intellectual conversations: all the time competative: not really unique class: intro to statistical modeling... it was ridiculous math on computers using this weird program major/department: lowest GPA other than chem, really interesting teachers. hard. most popular time with professors: it depends on the professor. i tend to meet with all of my profs regularly just to make sure they know who i am and that i care academic requirements: i think they're fine, you can usually fulfill them without trying too hard education: definitely geared towards learning for learning's sake.


Academics are by far the greatest thing about Mac. If you get really involved with one department, you feel really comfortable with all the professors and participating in activities with fellow students and the professors. It's a great feeling to know everybody in your department. Professors often have students over their houses, bring food to class, have outside of class meetings, and are generally very informal and treat their students on equal footing with themselves.


Yes, professors know pretty much everybody's name. Favorite class: organic chemistry Least favorite: Chinese Art and Culture Students study a shit ton, bro (science majors, at least) Class participation is really common, many classes are based solely on this The best thing about Macalester is the learning that goes on outside of class Students are competitive, but not nearly as much as at comparable institutions The most unique class I've taken? Bioinformatics My major department is Biochemistry, it is a cross between the Biology department and Chemistry department: I spend more time on the Bio side (mainly because that's what I am more interested in (but I still take lots of Chemistry to make sure I understand everything at the most fundamental of levels) Sometimes I spend time with profs outside of class - been to many of their houses, in fact (none of them have TVs!) Our academic requirements are reasonable Education at Macalester is geared toward turning you into a logical thinker - someone who would not be dead weight no matter what the situation (yay)


Most professors won't give you the time of day if you aren't a departmental super star. Some teachers will scare you into not participating or assume far too much prior knowledge of social theory (this is based on my experience in the humanities). The education here is definitely geared for the sake of learning.


College is so much more than academics, and although academics are important at Mac, there's a lot more to our lives than classes. We like to intellectualize everything from food to our methods of entertainment. The whole place is one big learning experience.