What Does it Take to Get Into Carleton College?

Strategies by School
May 28, 2020
Carleton College Is A Small Liberal Arts College Located In Southern Minnesota...

Carleton College is unique due to their immersive liberal arts classes, highly regarded professors, and non-traditional activity groups that cater to students from all backgrounds. Carleton is a great college for students who are looking for a well-rounded education with super personalized housing and classroom experiences.

Keep reading to find out how to get into Carleton College through a stellar college application!

What You’ll Find In This College Guide:

Carleton College's Ideal Student

The average GPA and standardized test scores for incoming Carleton freshmen are:

  • GPA: 3.9
  • SAT: 1440
  • ACT: 32

Carleton College is a relatively small college when compared to most liberal arts schools, but their academic requirements are in the same range as some Ivy League colleges. With an average GPA of 3.9, incoming Carleton students need to have exceptional grades and test scores. These impressive results serve as the foundation for any Carleton application, which students will then need to build on using their unique background and interests.


Carleton College uses a liberal arts curriculum to accomplish their mission of sending well-rounded students out into the world. The curriculum stretches over several areas including the arts, history, politics, and science, so Carleton College’s ideal student should be interested in a liberal arts education and understand why it’s important for their growth.

  • How did you attempt to round out your education in high school?
  • Why is a liberal arts education vital to your success during and after college?
  • What kind of college classes are you most excited for?


Although Carleton places a strong emphasis on liberal arts, they operate somewhat like a research university when it comes to practical applications inside and outside the classroom. Several of Carleton’s class requirements will include group projects and presentations as well as supplementary research that requires collaboration.

  • Do you think you work well with others? If not, what do you think will help you improve in that area?
  • Describe a time in high school when you had to participate in a group project.
  • In collaborative projects, do you gravitate towards leadership or following?


Carleton is a college that celebrates non-traditional ideas, so they want to hear each applicant's perspectives on politics, social issues, and the little details that make them different from the rest.

  • What is a social issue that you’re passionate about?
  • What is a detail about yourself that might be viewed as non-traditional?


Lastly, Carleton can’t function without their close-knit community. Students should show Carleton admissions how they plan on taking advantage of Carleton’s thriving campus life and social activities.

  • What part of Carleton’s campus culture are you most excited about?
  • How did you take advantage of your community in high school?
  • What specific student activity groups are you interested in joining?


Because of their focus on liberal arts, Carleton’s top-ranking programs stretch over several departments.

In each program, students take classes in opposite areas alongside their focused degree. Art students will still participate in a science class, and history majors are given plenty of opportunities to exercise their passion in other mediums like media or theatre. At Carleton, you’ll become a versatile student in your very first semester.  


Carleton College’s ideal student has a deep appreciation for liberal arts and the importance it holds for their growth as a student. Keep in mind that a lot of Carleton’s classes include collaborative efforts, so students should be honest about whether or not they enjoy group projects. If they gravitate towards working alone, applying to Carleton is a great opportunity for them to explore how they can better work with others.

Students should get creative with their applications and include their own unique perspectives. Carleton isn’t a traditional college so it’s looking for non-traditional students! Lastly, students should do some research on Carleton College’s campus culture and find the student activity groups that they’re excited about. If they show interest in being a part of the Carleton community, they’ll deliver a great application.

What You Need To Get Accepted Into Carleton

Carleton College’s requirements are designed to help applicants showcase their best qualities while still sharing the abilities that need refining and shaping. As students are filling out the application, they must remember to find a balance between showcasing their personality while meeting all requirements.

Last year, 7,092 students applied to Carleton and 1,407 were accepted, making this college one of the most competitive schools in Minnesota with an admission rate of 20%. Keep reading to find out what students need to include on their application!


Students can use any of the following application platforms to fill out their Carleton application:

The first portion of the application will give students a chance to input all of the general information that colleges require. The following sections will include Carleton-specific questions that will give students a chance to highlight why they chose this college.


Students will need to provide Carleton College admissions with their official transcripts, senior year class schedule, and standardized test scores.

Note: For students applying to start Carleton in Fall 2021, standardized test scores will be optional. The Writing sections of either the SAT or ACT are optional as well if students choose to self-report their scores.


Applicants must obtain three letters of recommendation from two teachers and one counselor. These letters should be from teachers that taught the student’s favorite classes or subjects closely related to what they plan on studying in college. The recommendation from their counselor is considered the “School Report” by Carleton College admissions, which gives them a better perspective of the student’s overall school involvement.


When students are writing their Carleton essay, they should keep some important factors in mind, like what Carleton College is looking for in each applicant’s writing. Overall, they want to read an essay about something the student genuinely cares about, complete with their own opinions, perspectives, and hopes for the future. Students should use their own authentic voice, and not try to guess what admissions officers want to read.

Students should also keep their essay as succinct as possible, and include their sense of humor where appropriate. Admissions officers read hundreds of applications in very little time, so if a student can get their point across in a short essay, this will definitely make a difference for the reader’s experience.


Applicants who are talented in the arts or athletics should consider submitting a portfolio along with their application. Artistic supplements can include images of artwork, videos of performances for musicians, dancers, actors, and singers, along with a resume and personal statement.

Athletes that are interested in playing on one of Carleton’s Varsity sports teams should go through their athletic department and submit a recruiting questionnaire.


There is no application fee for Carleton College. Here are some key dates that students should keep in mind:

  • Early Decision: November 15th
  • Regular Decision: January 15th


As students are working on their Carleton applications, they should remember that Carleton wants to receive their application! They want their job of choosing the next year’s class to be difficult so they can find the students that round out their campus the best. So, students should use that as encouragement to make their application a great reflection of their strengths, weaknesses, and why they think they belong at Carleton College.

Carleton's Campus Life

Carleton College’s campus culture focuses on community, team effort, diverse experiences, and most importantly, having a good time. Since Carleton is one of the most prestigious academic institutions in Minnesota, they understand the stress and pressure that classes can put on students. When students start their college experience at Carleton, they should make sure they really immerse themselves in the whole campus experience. There’s plenty to get involved with!


When students are deciding which of Carleton’s 200 student organizations they want to be a part of, they should remember their main reasons for getting involved in Carleton’s campus culture. They will want a place where they can relax after challenging classes, make new friends, and grow a new skill.

Carleton College is known for having some pretty unique clubs and student groups, so don’t be afraid to get creative! Some of their most interesting groups include the Folk Music Society, Independent Filmmakers Club, Juggling, Fencing, and even a group that spends quality time with local Alzheimer’s patients.


Carleton’s athletic department offers students 18 Varsity sports teams, 23 club sports, and 17 intramural sports. Student athletes at Carleton have positive experiences with world-class coaches, flexible schedules, and plenty of opportunities to grow and improve in their sport, thanks to Carleton’s recreational facilities.

Any Carleton student can take advantage of their athletic fields, gymnasiums, cross country running trails, and their pool. And if competitive sports aren’t their forte, any of Carleton’s club and intramural sports will give students a great community and the occasional workout.


Carleton’s housing program strives to give students a safe, supportive, and affordable group of housing options that will enhance their experience on campus. Students can choose from 11 dormitories and 32 off-campus houses and townhomes. Students are also strongly encouraged to check out Carleton’s Interest Housing options, which cater to specific faiths, worldviews, gender identity, and race.

With their meal plan, students can dine at any of Carleton’s five dining locations. Carleton offers three dining halls and two cafes which are included in any of their four meal plans. Depending on which one the student chooses, they will receive a certain number of meal swipes to use on campus as well as a cash card to use for retail dining locations.


Carleton College loves their traditions, and they have three that are particularly fun and interesting. Firstly, Friday Flowers give students a chance to order a bouquet of flowers and have them sent to anyone’s campus mailbox. Then, the week before finals, students can join in the Silent Dance Party in which students meet in the library and dance to the same music playlist in their headphones, all at the same time.

Lastly, the tradition of stealing the Friedrich Von Schiller bust has been around since 1957. Schiller was a German poet, and his bust was always kept in Carleton’s reading room until it was moved into a storage space, and was stolen by a student. Since then, stealing the bust from its most recent owner is an ongoing joke on Carleton’s campus.

From Application To Career: What You'll Experience At Carleton

Carleton College admissions knows that their job spans across more than just the beginning of a student’s first year. How a Carleton student begins their experience will ultimately affect how they finish school and enter the professional workforce. From questions about their application to finding summer internships, the people at Carleton will help students submit a solid application, choose the right classes, find a great job, and graduate with confidence.


On their Carleton application, students should highlight some key qualities that Carleton admissions is looking for in their incoming freshmen. Students should have a strong interest in obtaining a liberal arts degree, and understand the importance of having one in relation to their career field.

Then, students should draw connections between Carleton’s curriculum and their personal goals. They need to be honest about how well they work with others, so they shouldn’t be afraid to share their own unique views, and highlight a few parts of Carleton College’s campus culture that excites them.


The Carleton essay is the perfect chance for an applicant to showcase their personality, sense of humor, and specific goals within their academic and professional journey. Students should use their authentic voice, and be true to themselves. This kind of openness and honesty is exactly what Carleton College admissions is looking for in applicants.


While they’re studying at Carleton, students should be careful to not get caught up in the day-to-day motions of going to class and doing homework! Students should take advantage of every single opportunity Carleton College’s campus culture can offer them, like joining one or more of their unique student groups, learning a new skill, and enjoying the charming town of Northfield.


Carleton’s career center is a great resource for students of all levels. The career counselors here help students craft and polish resumes, find internships and jobs, and help them seamlessly transition out of college life.

In 2017:

  • 69 percent of students graduated with full-time employment secured  
  • 17 percent were enrolled in graduate school

Your Future At Carleton

Carleton students receive one of the greatest liberal arts experiences in the U.S. Regardless of interests, degree, or dream job, the student who works hard on their Carleton application and takes advantage of every connection and opportunity on campus will have a solid foundation to build their future career on.

Of course, Carleton is also a highly competitive school. If Carleton applicants need assistance writing their essays or making sure they have everything they need to make their applications shrine, consider reaching out to one of WeAdmit’s professional counselors. Our counselors regularly conduct one-on-one sessions with students to help them polish their college applications and prepare themselves for everything college life has to offer!



Need more Information?

Gain all the information you need by getting in touch with our admissions team or booking a free 30-minute counseling session.