Let’s Talk College: Macalester College, St. Paul, MN

In order to make the right college choices, it is important to have the right information. The value of a college goes far beyond its ranking. In fact, as I have reported previously, many of the 16 factors used by U.S. News & World Report to rank colleges have little or no significance to the vast majority of families who use the rankings as an absolute measure of a college’s quality or value. While you can be fairly certain that a college ranked in the top 20 will provide your child with an excellent education, far too little attention is paid to the question of whether a college is actually a good fit for a student. In this series of articles, I will provide parents with some insights into some of the lesser-known factors of well-known colleges. It is my hope that by providing this information, I will help parents and students make the right decisions with respect to where they apply to college. 

Macalester College

Macalester is a small, beautiful liberal arts college located in St. Paul, Minnesota, minutes from Minneapolis. It is home to around 2100 undergraduate students, and has a 60:40 female to male student ratio. It is a highly ranked, academically oriented institution with a limited social life, virtually no meaningful intercollegiate sports to speak about, small classes, and a liberal leaning student body. If you are looking for a strong collegiate sports culture, a Greek culture, or a conservative student body, this is not the college for you. If, however, you prefer a very academic vibe, and engage student body, superb professors, and if you are focused on internationalism—the ability of countries to work together to solve meaningful problems—Macalester is absolutely worth your consideration. It is consistently ranked in the top 30 by all ranking engines.  

If you haven’t been to Minnesota you may have a negative opinion about it. You probably believe that it is in a state of perpetual winter. Actually, the climate is not dissimilar from Boston’s, though its winters are bit more extreme. Summers in Minnesota are absolutely gorgeous, as is the landscape. Minneapolis and St. Paul are modern cities. Minnesota itself has a strong academic leaning with some excellent schools and school systems, though Macalester’s student body is made up of only 10% in state students and 90% out of state and international students.

To have a reasonable chance of success in applying to Macalester, you will need a GPA of above 3.5, SAT score of above a 1350, as well as excellent teacher recommendations and essays. Since Macalester’s stated goal is to stress internationalism, students applying to Macalester should consider listing one or both of Macalester’s international programs among their three stated academic interests, and any activities even remotely related to internationalism (Model UN and debate, for example) among the five activities you are asked to list.  

The culture at Macalester is one of collaboration and problem solving. As a small community, small group academic activities are stressed, with much more emphasis on critical thinking skills than on memorization of facts and figures. Many students say that the campus feels claustrophobic after a couple years. Those students stress that you should consider some study abroad options in the third and/or fourth year.  Everyone at Macalester raves about the quality of the instruction and of the professors. So if you are looking for a purely academic experience as well as a small college feel located in the heart of a big city— two big cities actually, then Macalester could be the right choice for you. 

Neil Chyten, Founder, 

VIP College Counselor

NC Global Education, Inc. 

Member NACAC

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