Macalester College Top Questions

What should every freshman at your school know before they start?


There is one piece of advice I would give myself, and dear God, I wish I had followed it my senior year of high school: "Calm. Down." College is not just a phase of life, a transitional period from teenager to adult. It is not a time to be rushed through or to have unrealistic expectations about. Maybe it won't be "the best time of your life." But you know what it will be? It will be a time of learning--true learning, learning not only from books, but about the things that you truly care about. You will learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible--and some of it will shock you, and some of it will impress you. Don't worry about grades (you are going to do FINE. Your grad-school career will not be ruined by a B or even a C), you will feel so much more fulfilled and content if you do your best in the classes that don't interest you and truly make your mark in the areas that do. Do this, and when college is done, you will have grown into the best person you can be.


I never thought about reflecting on my transition from high school to college for fear that I would regret something in my past. Not having finished my college career I am in a unique position to look back at the beginning and to look forward to its completion. When I was in high school I would ponder incessantly where I would be once I got my high school diploma. I would tell my high school self that nothing I would do would cause great agony as I believed it would. I would ensure myself that I would find my place on my own and that I should not look to others for guidance. I would surprise myself by knowing that in college I would find time to do community service and get involved. Overall, I would remind myself not to focus and agonize much on the transition process, and instead focus on making sure that those around me are aware that I am happy with my decision. Finally, I would shake my younger self by the arms and make sure that he understood the importance of forging new relationships wherever I go and deepen the ones I already made.


In my college experience I've learned that the important things to remember from my college classes are not necessarily specific facts; instead, it's the way of thinking--the way of learning. In my future, I will need to be trained (and retrained if I change my occupation), and the specific facts I learn in my classes won't help much with that--although they may help me pass a midterm at the present time. What will be useful in my future will be knowing how to learn and think in order to accomplish any goal I set for myself or my job or others set for me. Thus, making connections between facts and their applications is most important to gain a full understanding of the subject and of the surrounding world. Self-motivation and determination are vital in college as well as beyond the college experience. The learning mindset I gained will stay with me for the rest of my life.


I have gotten a lot out of my college experience. I have been challenged in my ways of thinking and I have learned a lot from every course I have taken so far. In high school, I've been used to always been given the answer but in college I have had to learn to think for myself and while it's frustrating at times because it's a hard habit to break, it's also refreshing. While the academics have been the most valuable reason to attend Macalester College, I have to say that extracurricular activities are the next best thing. With my involvement in The Bonner Scholars Program, not only have I met other students with the same passion for service in the community and who come from all walks of life, I also had the opportunity and the privilege to work as a tutor for third and fourth graders at an elementary school freshman year and to now work at a nonprofit organization for the latino community as a tutor and teacher assistant. The fact that I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans for a learning service trip during my freshman year was also amazing.


I didn't think terribly hard about what college would do for me when I was a student. I loved being surrounded by people -- both faculty and fellow students -- who challenged me and made me think differently and critically, who expected my best work, who encouraged me to try new and different things. This kind of intellectual development led fairly automatically to some of the richest connections I have with people still today. Now that I'm a PhD student and teach undergraduates, I see a lot more focus from students on their future professions -- everyone wants a degree to get a job. While this is great, I think that college provides its most valuable effects in the communities it builds, and in the ways in which it teaches students to think and express ideas. Getting a degree is just one part of your future plans. If you want to stand out, you learn how to work in a team, how to articulate original ideas, and you build relationships with the people who are not just your friends but also your future colleagues. Education is so valuable, and that value increases exponentially the more you actively engage in learning.


The thing I would tell myself most, over and over, is to be more outgoing and to take advantage of the programs like oreintation that the school provides to help you get to know people. While it is definitely important to keep your high school friends, I think I made the mistake of being too shy my first year of college and not making as many new friends as I could have. That first week, everyone's in the same boat - not knowing anyone. It's a lot harder to make friends after the first year because everyone seems to have their own groups already. I'm also very independent and like to do things on my own or be by myself a lot of the time, but I would tell myself to sacrifice that sometimes in order to make friendships that could be lasting. Along with that, I would remind myself not to rule out getting to know certain people because I'm afraid I won't be friends with them forever. You never know who will become a close friend, and sometimes you have to let yourself take that leap and let people in.


Get ready. You are about to do things you never thought you would have the chance to do. You are about meet people that are more amazing than you can imagine. You are about to be challenged and pushed constantly. Take advantage of everything! There are going to be times when you will cry uncontrollably, and times when you will laugh uncontrollably. Even though you will wonder sometimes why you ever made the decision you did, there will undoubtedly be times when you know you made one of the smartest decisions you could. So be ready. You will be afraid a lot of the time, but know that where your fears are, also lay your potential greatest triumphs. Find comfort in small things, like coffee in the morning and the sun over the trees. These consistencies will help pull you though the challenges you'll face. Saying goodbye is never an option. It is always 'see you later'. With this in mind, be ready for the unexpected. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be excited for the new. Be open to the unexplored. You'll do just fine.


Recently, I have had feelings of insurmountable doubt. Not related to my original choice in applying to Macalester, I?m very glad I was able to get in to my first choice school, and even more appreciative to know I would not have done it any other way. My issues of recent uncertainty extend from not being sure about my academic path. When choosing classes, but I still can?t help thinking, ?Is this the right choice?? and ?How will this course benefit me later in life?? The advice I would pass on to my high school self would simply have to be, relax and enjoy the learning process. Though it seems like a simple piece of advice, appreciating a course and pursuing your interests is what college is all about. It?s easy to have doubt about the path you are on, but always know that deviation from your path is allowed, even if you only slightly intrigue your senses along the way. Who knows, maybe your diminutive travels through the underbrush can open into a field that you will appreciate for the rest of your life, or at least until you find something new to chase after.


I would tell myself to prepare for the best four years of my life that are to come. I would tell myself to erase the label I was given in high school and to be my true self, as this is the beginning of a new chapter in my life in which I can become any person I want to be. I would tell myself to remember my parents, as they are the two people who supported me throughout my entire life. I would tell myself to keep in touch with my friends from high school as best as possible, but there is a possibility that some will slip away. I would tell myself to be open to new experiences and opportunities becuase there will never be a better time to figure out the person you are. Finally, I would tell myself to not hold back, and to give my all in every situation becuase these four years go by very quickley and it would be unfortunate to enter the real world with regrets.


Look at many different kinds of schools, because your preferences may change throughout the college search and application process. Don't pick your college to impress anyone. Pick the school that feels like a good fit socially--you can get a degree anywhere, but the people you meet at college are what can make the experience amazing. Once you get to college, be outgoing. You may be intimidated by your classmates, but chances are they're friendly, and ready to be your friend. Everyone's looking for friends in college, so you've got nothing to lose by striking up a conversation with someone. There aren't cliques in college like there are in high school. Don't strike someone off your Possible Friends list because they don't look or act like the people you hung out with in high school. People tend to be open in college, and making friends with people you wouldn't normally spend time with can open your mind and give you access to all kinds of new perspectives. Most of all, don't try to model yourself after anyone else--the point of college is to figure out who YOU are.


Even if you're struggling with the class, go to class every single day to show the professor you have true effort in learning the material. If you do not like the class or program in the first week, most likely, it's not going to get better. Do not feel bad that your friends are not interested in the same things you are, they will still be there to support you when you need it the most. Family issues will always be there, just remember, you're at college, not at home. Do not feel obligated to be worry about the issues at home. Focus on school and you'll do fine. If you want that A for Chemistry, make sure you come up with a very good study plan because it is nothing like AP chemistry in high school. There will good times and there will be bad times. Remember them and take the good from every experience, this way you'll grow to be a happier and more understanding person.


There are things that are important in your day to day life that are easy to overlook when college searching. Details like comfortable beds, good desserts in the cafeteria and TV's in front of the tred mills in the gym seem to fly out the window when a school's reputation for academics, athletics or social events get in the way. So don't forget the little things, they will make your school more like home.


A campus visit is vital to selecting the right college, it is the onlly way to truly get a feel for the campus community and allows prospective students to meet with potential classmates, professors and facilties. Getting the most out of college starts with orientation; so what if the pre-arranged activites seem stupid, it is a great way to meet people and make friends. Getting the most from college means finding the right balance between academic work, social life and budget, a balance that is unique to each student. The goal should be to never regret doing or not doing something. When somebody knocks on your door at midnight and says "Come on, there's capture the flag in the library!" go with them!


You should really think about your own values. Just as you play a role globally as a consumer by which stores you shop at locally, the college you attend impacts, not just your life, but the lives of others. If you value science, if you value the environment, if you value a particular religion, the college you choose can represent these sets ofvalues. Be mindful of what school you patron, and how that decision impacts society. And then once you're there, smile. Understanding and compassion can be college's most important lessons.


Listen to students, not admissions offices.


When choosing a college, look past the brochures, test scores, sports, while it seems like those are the things that make up the school, its the students and the professors. When choosing you must try to visit and see which school you feel most comfortable in. It is very important to not get overwhelmed right away, while in high school you were expected to read every page assigned and complete every assignment impeccably, in college you must learn to manage your time better, skim, and read between the lines to what you are supposed to get out of the assignment, without necessarily doing it all. Most people who drop out do so because they feel ovewhelmed, but really they just havent learned how to manage their time better. Also, it is very important to find your niche, either by getting to know the people in your classes, in your dorm, or by joining a club. College can be unbearable and lonely if you are still hanging on to those experiences and friends you had in high school, so you have to try as hard as possible to find a new life and new friends now that you are there.


Make sure you know what you want for a college experience. Don't rely on the opinions of other people because only you know what you desire. That's the only way to increase your odds of finding the right experience.


I would highly recommend doing overnight stays with a current student if possible; not only will it allow the prospective student to see what it's like at the school, but it will get them away from their parents and will be more likely to relax and act like themselves. Being able to do the overnight stay was what helped me choose between two great schools. I would advise to always trust your gut feeling; go with where you feel comfortable but know you will also be challenged and encouraged to grow. Once in college, get involved! Whether it's with a club at the school or in the community. Keep trying new things and take full advantage of all that's offered because you're probably never going to get more experiences handed to you than your time in college.


Look for a school that offers the classes or the major you are most interested in, then when you've narrowed your list down, visit the campuses if you can. That will tell you a lot about the school and the people you will be attending it with. A college is about equal parts learning and socializing, so pay attention to both the class structures and the social stuctures. And remember, your college experience is what you make of it. Every school will have partiers and serious students.


When searching for the right college, do your best to ignore all the pressure to go to the "best" schools. Look for a school that fits your needs, your personality, and your style. You will be much more successful at a slightly lower ranked school where you are comfortable than at a higher ranked school where you feel intimidated or out of place. Once at college, try to be open to new experiences, both socially and academically. If you were always shy in high school, try going to a party or joining a club. If you are politically conservative, try attending a lecture by a liberal speaker. If you are sure you want to major in biology, try taking a literature class. College is the place to find yourself, and no matter how sure you are of your identity, you may discover a new passion or a new facet or your personality that brings you great joy.


Once you have gone through the books and talked to people about schools, it's important to realize and keep in mind that there isn't one perfect school for everyone. Once you narrow it down a bit, you will more than likely be able to find people you like, classes you want, and activities you enjoy at a variety of schools, so don't stress out about finding that one place. The same goes for when you get to school. Try a lot of different activities, try to meet as many people as you can, step out of your comfort zone, and just focus on learning and discovering yourself.


If you think you're introverted, go to a smaller college. If you're extroverted go to a bigger college generally. Get involved in something on campus. Even if it isn't your deepest passion, you may meet some amazing people. Don't be afraid to change your mind, transfer schools, change majors, boyfriends, etc. Now is the time to do what you want with no appologies.


As a tour guide, I always tell the prospective students that they will find the right place for them. In my experience, finding the right college is more about finding a place to call home for four years. You have to be somewhere where you feel comfortable and could see yourself. You have to find a school where the people engage you and you feel motivated to try new things. Under these circumstances everyone can succeed. The best thing about college and making the most of the college experience is that you can get out of the experience what you put in. So if you devote yourself to your academics, your personal life, and your extracurriculars, you will get the most out of your experience. It's all up to an individual what they choose to do and what type of life they choose to live.


If it is in any way possible, visit your top two choices and any nearby colleges that you are applying to. You can read about everything else online or in college guidebooks, but that won't tell you what the place feels like. Guides especially don't communicate enough about the surrounding area - and since you're not going to be contained on campus for four years, this is going to be important. Once you're there - join one club that seems interesting and do the assigned work and reading for class. If you are stumped on something, ask, ask, ask. Ask your teachers, ask your fellow students, ask people who have already taken the class. Even at large universities, if you are persistent and polite, someone will help you. Another note - persistence and politeness will serve you in good stead in college no matter what.


You must first understand within yourself not just what you want out of a school but who you are and what kind of relationship you want to have with the school. Some schools encourage different themes, perspectives, ideologies and mission than others. Research often, pay attention, don't be fooled by the pretty pictures - every school is gonna make themselves look really good. Don't forget to see if the school have the program(s) you want, and also the support system such as multicultural or career exploration. Visit schools, stay overnight (be safe, no partying, absorb the school, not the social atmosphere even though that part is important). Do interviews, take it as a chance to interview the school instead of the other way around. Good Luck!


I transferred to Macalester College from McGill University, which was quite a transition. You can't go to college with a specific ideal of what you expect college to be, otherwise you might always be searching for it. You have to make the most of wherever you go. It's important to find a school that will bring you to your full potential academically, and have a social environment where you will feel comfortable.


Make sure you have yourself in mind. It may be tempting to go to the school with the highest carreer placement in some high paying field or the place with a nationally ranked football team, but unless you really are passionate about that carreer or really like football it isn't going to do anything for you. Go to a school that suits you, one where you really feel comfortable. It is your home for the next four years and you should be nurtured there. College is a time to discover what your ideal area of study is, not to shove you into some program that may or may not make you happy. Go to a school where the classes sound interesting and the people can challenge you or paying all that money wasn't worth it.


To parents I say, be supportive but not overbearing. It is in fact your child that will have to attend the university in the end, even if you are paying for it. Allow the student to search out schools that seem right for him or her and let them direct the process. To students, I say, start early and visit the schools. You can only tell so much from numbers and cute quotes from the school. You will never know what a college is really like until you visit. The school I go to now, I visited twice before I decided to go there. You really learn the atmosphere and what it will actually be like to attend the school: go to classes, talk with professors, scope out the social scene, and explore the surrounding area. Then you will know if you will really fit in and enjoy your college experience.


Don't be concerned with name-brandness. Just figure out what is important to the student and go with that.


Choosing the right school is no easy task, but it is important understand what type college experience you desire and what you hope to gain from your college experience. Understanding these concerns will allow you to identify schools, which would be a good fit for you and provide you with the experience you desire. It is important to do your research on every school you are considering; visit the campus if possible, speak with current and former students, keep in mind location, size , and cost. These are things that will help you narrow your search. Overall, college is an incredible experience that is far more than attending classes. College is an environment that facilitates personal and intellectual growth and this growth often is a direct reflection of the type school you attend. That being said once in college take chances, try new things, and embrace the diversity that exists on your campus. It is also important for you to forge relationships with faculty, staff, and fellow students, so get involved in an organization, sport, or activity, after all you will be spending four years with these people so you might as well make a few friends along the way.


Before they visit a single college, parents and students should put together their perfect college, taking into account facilities, academics, social scene, surrounding area, and more, down to the last possible detail. I would tell parents and students to attend classes and stay overnight on campus. This allows a person to understand both the academic and social life on campus. I would also advise students and parents to try the food at the cafeteria, look at the surrounding area of the college, and talk with professors as much as possible. Students should go on a guided tour, but shouldn't be afraid to explore the campus beyond that. Find out what the dorms are like and then ask questions, do you see yourself living there? What are the off-campus housing options? If sports are important to a student either as a player, a spectator, or recreational, they should find out what facilities would be available to them. The same goes for musicians and artists. The most important thing to discover is how students balance their social and academic lives. Is this the balance you were looking for in your perfect university or college?


To determine what the right school is for you, it is vital to make a list of things that are most important to you. Parents can make a list of what they expect from a school for their student, and students can make a similar list. Things such as proximity to home or a city, size of the school desired, cost of tuition, importance of night life, culture, religion, academia, etc should be included in these lists. After determining what is most important, research the schools you are interested in. Make a list of the top 5 schools, and see how they compare with your list of things that are important. If one school doesn't seem to match up at all, throw it out-you won't be happy there. Any remaining schools should be contacted for more information and visited. It is important to visit the school for at least one class day and one weekend day to learn how things work on the campus. Staying overnight with an already matriculated student can help you answer any questions and get the true feel of the school. Be patient and Good Luck!


Pick schools that fit your interests, but keep in mind that a lot of the learning that you do will be on a personal level - academics is important, but it is also important to figure out who you want to be and how you would like to be preceived by other people. Studying is just as important as having fun, and challenging yourself to think outside of what you have already learned makes your college life exponentially more interesting. Make as many friends as you can, work hard, and be satisfied with yourself (because that is the only person that should really matter in the end).


I would definitely stress the importance of the size of the institution. While there are a whole host of areas to consider when looking at schools, the size makes a huge difference in the experience. From classes sizes to the social scene, the number of students dictates how these areas are handled. Smaller institutions offer smaller classes that can benefit certain learning types while some students are more comfortable and sucessfull in larger classes. Aside from that I would also recommend taking a very good look at the surrounding community. The institution is important but its also critical to remember that the student will be living there for at least a year and that their physical environment can play a large role in quality of life. College is the center of life but its important to travel away from it at times and an engaging local community/scene canbe just what a stressed-out student needs.


The best advice I received when looking at colleges was to pay attention to the students' shoes. At Macalester, for example, you will see everything from bare feet and birkenstocks to designer heels, and this very accurately reflects the diversity of the student body. Although the materials provided by the institution are the closest you can get to a detailed representation of the college experience at that school, this information must also be taken with a grain of salt. Schools are trying to attract students of a particular type, and if you fit that type the school will sound perfect to you. However, even the most diverse student body divides itself into factions and cliques, so although the statistics may tell one story, the actual experience of each student will differ. I have no expierience with any other institutions, but at Macalester it is clear that the admissions material does not represent all sides of the story. Having said that, I would also like to mention that almost everyone here loves it. Once you pick a school you start to notice its flaws, but making the most of it is all about enjoying the experience; good things and bad.


Do not overlook or overrule some of the first colleges you look at and apply to a lots of schools to keep your options open. It is also helpful to talk to the students at the school to get a better idea of the programs.


it doesn't matter what college you go to


Students: Don't isolate yourself. Get out into the campus life, go to lectures, club meetings, and parties. You won't remember the nights you stayed in surfing the internet, you will remember the night you went dumpster diving and made abstract art on a whim while out with friends. No one knows when memories will be made, so you have to be there when it goes down.


I'm pretty sure that It doesn't matter exaclty what school you go to, as long as you go to one that shares your values, and you feel you could be happy at. Honestly, it's the people that you surround yourself with and the choices you make DURING your college career that will ultimately determine how fulfilling your experience is!


It's important to think about how urban or rural an environment you want. When I was applying to colleges, I focused on everything but the location, and I ended up applying to schools in the middle of nowhere, where I know now I would have felt bored and trapped. It all worked out, because the school I ended up at (not my top choice) is in a neighborhood-y part of a city, which is perfect for me. Now that I'm here, I think the most important thing is to study what you're actually interested in, not what you think sounds impressive or what you expected to want to study. It's important, too, to learn about whatever you're interested in outside the classroom as well as in it, by reading on your own or volunteering or whatever you do. That way you always feel on top of your field, and passionate about your subject, or else you're figuring out what you like better.


Don't settle for a place that you don't feel completely comfortable with.


Don't hold yourself back, look outside of your comfort zone, outside of the area that you live in. At the same time, know your limitations; don't reach too far, then find yourself somewhere that you hate, away from everyone and everything that you love.


Visit the campus and make sure it seems right in person


Don't pay attention to all the college rankings. They can give you a ballpark idea about schools, but aren't that useful for differentiating. Focus on finding a school that fits your personality and what you want to get out of your education. There's a huge difference, both academically and otherwise, between large public schools and small private schools, and everything in between. Read the information that a school presents itself to get a feel for what kind of image the school wants to project, this genuinely is important. But also talk to current students at a school to find out what it's actually like. The best way to get a feel for a school is to visit it. When I visited the school I'm at now, it just instantly felt right and I haven't regretted the decision since. Unfortunately, there's no simple way to figure that out, but to boil it down: trust your instincts.


It's OK if you don't know what you want to do with your future. The point of college is to help you figure out what that is. When you look at a school you should feel like that places is going to open up windows of opprotunities that you haven't even dreamed of. Ever school has it's own character, spend time finding out what that character is and whether it's a character that you like. It's like finding a friend. Only, this friend really will change your life forever. Also, keep in mind that your ideals will mostly like change while you are at school. So, take a plunge. I'm sure you've already made a list of schools based on the most important criteria, so don't hesitate to take a chance with one of those schools on your list. Life is full of wonderful surprises, and most of them are found during your college years. Keep an open mind, take that class you never thought you'd take, and live every day to the fullest.


Relax. I can't stress that enough. =]


To choose the college that is best for you your personal views, ideas and morals need to be taken into consideration. Spending a weekend at the school to visit classes and get a feel of the environmaent is best. Take into consideration finacnial aid. Whether or not the college has need blind admissions, the cost of tuition and your personal financial situation. You need to figure out if you can see yourself hanging out with the people on campus otherwise it will be a very lonely 4 years. Also cultural and ethnical diversity. College should be a completely new experience. Exposing yourself to different people things and ideas, not an extension of high school. Going to college with the same type of people that your used to or the same environment can hinder the true effects of college.


Two current foreign students at Macalester talk about their experience


Go on college visits and ask everyone about their experience some people will try to get you to come and lie about their school and say it is better make sure you know what you are getting into before you go to a certain school. Four years go fast make the most of them


Research, research, research! Study the manuals and brochures, memorize the major list, visit the college, talk to professors and students, tour the campus, peer into the dorms. Do everything! College is an expensive but worthwhile decision, and skimping on the research part will hurt you in more ways than you'll know until it's too late. I also suggest that you look at schools outside of your home state. You can still be close to your family if you're across the country, but staying home just so your parents won't cry isn't a good enough reason to choose a school. Do what's best for you to grow and learn, but you can't grow if you're constantly running home at every chance. A little distance will do everyone some good - that way, you learn how it feels to miss and to be missed sincerely.