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Navigating the College Search Process

Relax. Carleton staff members are available and eager to help you throughout the college search and application process. Here we address some common concerns.

Getting Started | Location | Size | Cost | Applying | Campus Visit

Getting Started

Make your own college list!

Carleton has a great reputation nationally, and we love when people talk about us to their friends and family members. Nonetheless, we caution against getting too caught up in comparing college lists with other parents and students. Every student is unique—so a college that's a perfect fit for a classmate or best friend may be all wrong for your child. We encourage you and your child to compile a list of top school choices that fit his or her specific needs and decision factors.

Put your child in charge.

The college search process is a great opportunity for young adults to begin to discover who they want to become. Encourage your child to explore his or her interests and take the lead in researching the many options. Show enthusiasm for your child’s choices and offer your opinions when prompted. Ask how you can help. You are an important mentor and influencer, of course, and always will be. But it's your child who will live with the results of this college decision for the next four years.

Take your time.

Start the search process early enough so that your child has time to explore his or her interests, visit colleges, and discover what factors are really important to him or her. Once your child has narrowed down the college list, allow enough time to complete applications carefully and thoroughly.


How far is too far from home?

Whether you’re sending your child across the state or across the continent, it’s impossible not to worry. Rest assured that we’re here to help your child adjust to living away from home. Beginning when students first arrive on campus and lasting throughout their first year, they can participate in a variety of organized (and spontaneous) activities that will help them make friends and adjust to their new environment.

Staff members in our dean of students office, chaplain’s office, and Wellness Center—as well as faculty advisers and student peer leaders—are always on hand to help your child navigate this exciting and important time.


Small colleges mean big opportunities.

Our enrollment of fewer than 2,000 students is one of our greatest assets. Among other things, it means that Carleton students have:

  • Small classes
  • Personal attention
  • Enriching student-faculty collaborations
  • Guaranteed college housing
  • Access to all Carleton programs regardless of their academic major


Look past the sticker price.

Your child’s education is one of the most important investments you’ll make. Take time to learn why a Carleton education is worth the cost. At Carleton, your child will study with stellar faculty members and extraordinary students; live, study, and play in top-notch facilities; and have access to numerous academic and extracurricular programs on and off campus. What’s more, we’ll work with you to make it affordable through our comprehensive financial aid program.

Cost isn’t necessarily a barrier.

We realize that many families need assistance in covering college costs. Consider that 52 percent of students entering Carleton last year qualified for need-based aid, and the average award per student was $36,142. Our financial aid program puts a Carleton education within reach.


Test scores aren’t everything.

Carleton looks at the whole person, not just their ACT or SAT scores. No single component guarantees or prevents admission. That said, the most important factor is the student’s transcript, including classes taken and grades earned.

You can apply with an Undecided major.

Carleton students don’t declare a major until the end of their sophomore year. We encourage our students to develop a variety of interests and, even after they declare a major, to explore the curriculum throughout their college years. They don’t need to have everything figured out right now. Being Undecided never counts against an applicant.

Campus Visit

We’d love to meet you!

Visiting campus is the best way to get a sense of whether or not Carleton is a good fit. During a visit, your child can experience firsthand what it’s like to attend a private liberal arts college in a small town in Minnesota. If possible, also check out the vibrant cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul while you’re here. They’re only 45 miles from campus and well worth a visit. Learn more about scheduling a campus visit.

But it’s OK if you can’t visit.

We understand that it may not be practical to visit every college your child is considering. Our print and online materials will provide you with most of the information you need. Request more information at

Don’t hesitate to ask questions.

We're here with help and answers. Contact us at 800.995.CARL (800.995.2275) or visit our FAQ page.