Admission to Carleton is based on several considerations. Of importance are superior academic achievement, as demonstrated in the applicant’s school record and scores on the required entrance examinations; a depth of personal qualities and interests; participation in extracurricular activities; and potential for development as a student and a graduate of the College. The Committee on Admissions weighs all factors to ensure that those students offered admission are not only adequately prepared for the academic work, but also will benefit from their total experience at Carleton and add significantly to the College through their individual talents and personal qualities.

Carleton strives to enroll a diverse student body in the fullest sense: varied racial, gender, ethnic, socio-economic, religious, cultural and political backgrounds, as well as geographic origins of its students. The College believes such diversity promotes spirited classroom discussion, provides an opening to a variety of viewpoints and life experiences, helps prepare students for a diverse and more inclusive workplace, and develops interpersonal skills for a pluralistic world. 

There is no composite Carleton student. They possess a variety of qualities not measurable in test scores: warmth, openness, a sense of humor, an active interest in social service and in community involvement, initiative, resourcefulness, motivation and personal courage. Although many applicants rank in the top tenth of their high school classes with SAT critical reading or math scores above 700, or an ACT composite score above 32, many attractive candidates do not. A significant number come from secondary schools where such numbers are not made available on transcripts, or emerge from contexts where such restrictive quantitative measures do not adequately assess the human characteristics which are so important to student success in Carleton’s residential liberal arts environment.

Application for Admission: Students interested in applying for admission should visit Carleton’s Admissions website. Each applicant is responsible for providing the admissions office with all items requested.

Early Decision: Those who decide that Carleton is their first choice college are encouraged to apply under the Early Decision program. Early Decision is a commitment to attend if accepted. Students may submit applications to other colleges or universities, but not under another early decision plan. Those accepted will be expected to withdraw all other applications.

Early Decision candidates are reviewed at two different times of the year, but whenever the student applies the criteria for selection are identical. Students electing the Early Decision option should submit all necessary materials by one of the following dates:

  • November 15. Applicants will receive decisions by December 15, and admitted candidates will have until January 15 to submit the $300 confirming deposit.
  • January 15. Applicants will receive decisions by February 15, and admitted candidates will have until March 1 to submit the $300 confirming deposit.

Regular Decision: Application deadline is January 15. Applicants on Regular Decision will receive notification from the College by April 1 of the senior year. Those offered admission will have until May 1 to make the $300 confirming deposit.

Application Schedule for Fall Term Admission

All Application Materials Must Be submitted by: Complete Testing by: File CSS Financial Aid Profile Application by: Notification of Admissions Decisions On or Before: Applicant’s Reply Date
Fall Early Decision Nov. 15 Nov. 15 Nov. 15 Dec. 15 Jan. 15
Winter Early Decision Jan. 15 Dec. 31 Jan. 15 Feb. 15 March 1
Regular Decision Jan. 15* Feb. 1 Jan. 15 April 1 May 1
Transfer March 31* Feb. 28 March 31 May 15 June 1

* Applications may be submitted after this date, but priority will be given to those applying on or before the deadline.

The initial $300 payment will only be refunded in case of illness which makes it impossible for a student to enter the College at the time for which he or she has been accepted.

Late Applicants: Students who submit applications after January 15 each year must recognize they are applying on a space-if-available basis. In some years, the College is able to offer admission to late applicants; in other years, the first-year student class may be filled and students to whom we would like to offer admission must be placed on a waiting list to see if vacancies occur in late spring or early summer.

Early Admission: Each year, a number of students apply for admission following the junior year of high school. Some may be graduating early, others may be willing to forego the senior year to begin college early. The College will consider such applications with the following understanding: Successful Early Admission candidates almost always display a high degree of social and emotional maturity, present unusually strong academic credentials and have exhausted their secondary school curricular possibilities.

Deferred Admission: Deferred admission is not for an alternative college academic experience. If a deferred student chooses to study elsewhere, credit will not be transferred to Carleton. Deferred students who take post-secondary courses elsewhere cannot do so on a full-time basis or as a degree-seeking student without violating the terms of their deferral.

Candidates who wish to defer college for a year (a gap year) following completion of secondary school may apply for undergraduate admission during their senior year. The request for a gap year is submitted after an offer of admission has been accepted, and should be accompanied by a statement describing the candidate’s reasons for desiring a gap year, plans for the interim year and perceived benefits of the delay. Such requests should be made by May 1.

Transfer Students: Carleton accepts a number of transfer students for each fall term. Students wishing to apply for the fall term should submit applications prior to March 31 and will be notified of the Admissions Committee’s decision before May 15. To qualify for the Carleton degree, students must spend at least two years in residence including the senior year.

Requirements for Admission: The strongest candidates for admission to Carleton have taken four years of English, three or more years of mathematics, two or more years of science and three or more years of social science. At a minimum, applicants should have three or more years of English (with a stress on writing), at least two years of algebra and a year of geometry, two years of social science and one year of a laboratory science. Most Carleton students go well beyond this minimum, and the Admissions Committee is usually attracted to candidates who take advantage of the opportunity to do honors, advanced placement work, international baccalaureate work, or other equally rigorous coursework. Normally, students will be expected to take two or more years of a foreign or classical language unless it is not offered in the school. The greater the number of courses in the subjects listed above, the more the applicant’s qualifications for admission are strengthened. An applicant of unusual ability and interest whose secondary school program does not include all of these courses may be granted admission on the basis of his or her school record, the scores on standardized tests, and the recommendations of school officials.

Carleton recognizes achievement in the arts and encourages students to submit an art portfolio of their work with their application. Once a student has applied to Carleton, they will receive a link and password to their own application status page. They can submit supplementary material on their application status page at

By mid-August, enrolling students must provide a final high school transcript, or its equivalent, showing successful completion of their secondary course work. Additionally, students must have maintained an academic and personal record consistent with the records on which their admission to Carleton was granted.

Admissions Testing: Carleton has adopted a test-optional policy, in the belief that Admissions Committee can and does make sound judgments about candidates’ academic abilities and ability to succeed at Carleton without such data points. Candidates for admission who wish to share their test scores may do so, and they will be taken into account. However, it is not an application requirement.

Students whose first or native language is not English should submit official scores from either the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System), or DET (DuoLingo English Test).

Interviews and Visits: When possible, each applicant may have a personal interview with a member of the admissions office staff, an alumni admissions representative or a designated representative of the College. Information on campus visits is detailed at our website The admissions office is open for appointments on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m., and during the academic year on many Saturdays from 8:30 12 noon. From June through September, the office is closed on Saturdays. The admissions office is located in Scoville Hall, 100 South College Street (GPS address: 105 College Street North, Northfield, MN).

Rooms: In the summer, all new students are assigned rooms which will be held until the first day of registration. The College reserves the right to change students’ room assignments whenever such changes are deemed advisable and to use student rooms for its own purpose during vacation periods.

Financial Assistance: Carleton’s financial aid policy is based on the premise that the family has the primary responsibility for meeting the expenses associated with attending the College, to the extent they are able. Families applying for financial aid will undergo a “need analysis” to determine their ability to contribute. The difference between the cost of attendance, as set by the College, and a family’s expected contribution equals the demonstrated financial need, which Carleton will endeavor to meet through grants, loans and work-study.

There is no separate Carleton application for financial aid. Carleton requires financial aid applicants to complete both the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the College Board’s Financial Aid CSS Profile form.