Founded in 1866, Carleton College is a small, private liberal arts college in the historic river town of Northfield, Minnesota. Best known for its academic excellence and warm, welcoming campus community, Carleton offers 32 majors in the arts, humanities, natural sciences/mathematics, and social sciences.

Carleton at a Glance

  • Location: Northfield, Minnesota, population 20,000
  • Nearest cities: Minneapolis and St. Paul (40 miles)
  • Enrollment: 1,995 students from 50 states and 35 countries (9% international)
  • Demographics: 53% female, 47% male; 24% identify as people of color
  • Calendar: Trimester (Three ten-week terms)
  • Areas of study: More than 1,000 courses in 32 majors
  • Degree awarded: Bachelor of Arts
  • Student/faculty ratio: 9:1
  • Faculty: 205 full-time; 94% hold the highest degree in their field
  • Average class size: 16
  • Campus: 1,040 acres including an 880-acre arboretum; 96% live on campus
  • Off-Campus: 75% study off-campus, both domestically and internationally
  • Financial Aid: 100% of demonstrated financial need is met for all admitted students
  • Religious affiliation: None
  • Accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools since 1913

A true liberal arts education

Carleton College is committed to providing a true liberal arts education, a curriculum that challenges our students to learn broadly and think deeply. Instead of training for one narrow career path, Carleton students develop the knowledge and skills to succeed in any walk of life.

"Education is a really powerful tool, and it has the ability to impact people's lives in many different ways," says Maraki Ketema '15. "At Carleton, you are given the opportunity to learn not only for yourself, but also for society."

"This place allows you to work a bit outside your comfort zone. You definitely have to do that in academics. The liberal arts focus forces you. But it’s not a thing that anyone at Carleton dreads," says Nate Livingston '16, who majored in chemistry.

The most important thing our students gain is how to learn for a lifetime. Critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, effective communication: these are the tools that transform a collection of facts and figures into a way of understanding the world. Learn more about academic life at Carleton.

Faculty passionate about teaching

Carleton's faculty members are highly respected scholars, researchers, and practitioners in their fields. But above all, their first priority is teaching.

"Without knowing what it would be like when I arrived at Carleton, I feel lucky to have always felt like I was immediately let into this special scholarly world by professors," says Luisa Rodriguez '16. "Students don’t feel excluded. Even in my classes, there has always been a dialogue as opposed to the typical passive student-teacher dynamic."  

Every course at Carleton is taught by a professor, not a teaching assistant, in classes small enough to offer individual attention for our students. A student-faculty ratio of 9 to 1 ensures that Carleton students have plenty of opportunity for interaction with their professors.

"I’m the kind of student who wants a little more attention from professors. I value that relationship," says Kifaya Taha '17 of St. Paul. "It’s why I feel comfortable in class. I know I can go to see them during office hours. They’ll know my name, tell me how I’m doing. I can also ask as many questions as I want. That relationship exists here."

Students passionate about everything

Carleton's student body is notoriously difficult to categorize, but if we had to choose just one word to describe them, it would be curious. They're an intellectually insatiable group that approaches learning with enthusiasm, energy, and a uniquely Carleton brand of playfulness. Broad-ranging interests are common, and friendships seem to cross all traditional boundaries.

"Inclusive, respectful, eclectic, and slightly idiosyncratic people who didn't necessarily click in high school tend to bloom here," says Marielle Foster '16, who served as student body president. "There is a niche for everyone, and the most wonderful thing is to meet people who combine very different social circles and activities."

"I was really blown away by the level of engagement from everyone. Students here had so many passions I hadn’t even anticipated,” adds Hannah Nayowith '16. “That can certainly be intimidating when you’re trying to find your way, but more than anything, it motivates you to follow a couple different trajectories.”

A close-knit community

When people visit Carleton, they're often surprised by the warmth and closeness of the campus community. Somehow they expect a leading liberal arts college to feel more formidable and competitive.

But as our students and alumni will tell you, there's just something different about Carleton. Maybe it's our small size (2,000 students). Or maybe it's the round-the-clock proximity of so many creative minds (most students live and socialize on campus).

Whatever the reason, Carleton is a place where students are likelier to cooperate than compete—and where working hard doesn't mean forgetting how to play. Learn more about about Carleton campus life.