Our team was supposed to have taken a trip to the Midwest a few weeks ago to visit colleges. We had organized a bit of a logistical feat, with flights and rental cars and hotels, 7 of us coming from three states and we had planned to visit 8 colleges in four and a half days. We’d lined up meetings with students and admissions counselors, and even had a meeting scheduled with one of the college presidents. And then, we had to cancel the whole shebang.
But here’s perseverance for you: in an effort to try to learn something about the colleges we had intended to visit, we scheduled Zoom meetings with some of them. We did back-to-back sessions with the University of Minnesota and Carleton College one day, and with Marquette University and Lawrence University another day. We still have a few more to go to complete our “trip,” but we thought we’d share some highlights of the colleges we’ve met with recently to help you learn more about some colleges that may not be at the top of your mind (or your list) right now.
I’ll start with the Minnesota colleges we had planned to tour, Carleton and the University of Minnesota.
We met with Art Rodriguez, the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid and also a Carleton College alumnus. After spending some time in the admission offices at Pomona College and Vassar College, he returned in 2019 to his alma mater.
Located in Northfield, MN, a small town of about 20,000 people about 45 minutes from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Carleton is a small liberal arts college on a trimester calendar. With just 33 majors – fewer than most small colleges, Carleton plays to its strengths in the liberal arts. Popular majors include cognitive science, biology, economics, English, math and computer science, and Carleton has a strong geology department as well. Additionally the school offers good support for students who wish to create their own major. All students are required to do a Senior Comprehensive Project in their major, or Comps, so while some students take on a minor or two, few double major, because it would require doing two Comps, which are a major undertaking.
Carleton is quite an international place; students speak 55 different languages at home. The College supports their diverse community with interest houses, in which students can live and learn with others who share their interests. Here are just a few examples: CANOE is for students who love the outdoors, which sponsors student-led trips for hiking, camping, snow shoeing, skiing, dog sledding, canoeing and climbing. There’s a Farm House, whose students tend their own organic garden. There’s a culinary interest house, a science fiction house, houses for students exploring their faiths, including separate houses for Christian, Jewish and Muslim students, houses supporting students of Asian and Hispanic heritages, and a house to support students exploring gender identity issues.
Carleton is focused on sustainability; it has geothermal heating throughout campus and 2 wind turbines provide 30-40% of campus electricity. If you visit, ask about the “bald spot” – it’s a big patch of grass that freezes over the winter, so they use it for broomball, and then it melts in spring and looks brown in summer before returning to green grass in the fall.
For an aerial view of Carleton College and some videos highlighting academics, campus culture and more, visit Carleton’s YouTube channel.
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Just like UCLA, you’ll find a big, sporty and spirited campus right in the middle of a city at the University of Minnesota. But here, you’ll also get all four seasons, the opportunity to live in “Dinkytown,” and you’ll learn the “Gopher Way” of getting around campus and the Twin Cities, using underground and skyway tunnels in the cold winter months.
This might surprise you, but Minneapolis/St. Paul is one of the top metropolitan areas for young people. UMTC grads have started over 19,000 companies and the school is known as a “patent powerhouse!” The Carlson School of Management is ranked #15 in the country, and with dozens of Fortune 100 companies in the Twin Cities area, students have immediate internship and job opportunities.
Student life is active at UMTC. About 17% of students join a social fraternity/sorority, and there’s an active LGBTQIAA+ community as well.
UMTC has over 150 academic majors in 8 direct-admit colleges. Nursing is highly competitive and direct-admit; starting as a first-year is the only way to complete this program (there’s no way to transfer in). The medical school and hospital facilities are right on campus. Students are automatically considered for UMTC’s merit scholarships and honors college.
Now, let’s head to Wisconsin, where we were planning to visit Lawrence and Marquette.
A small liberal arts college and one of the Colleges That Change Lives, Lawrence is located steps away from downtown Appleton, Wisconsin. It’s not a big town, but with 75,000 people in Appleton and 250,000 in the metropolitan area, it’s definitely on the map! The most popular major at Lawrence is biology, and their students enjoy 100% placement into medical school. Because of its small size (1500 undergraduates, no graduate students), Lawrence is a great place for STEM students, who get lots of research opportunities with professors.
Lawrence is also well-known for its Conservatory of Music. Students don’t have to major in music to take music courses, and a quarter of the students at Lawrence are involved with music in some way. There are lots of cultural activities on campus involving music as well. Lawrence has a campus in London.
Fun fact: why is a small liberal arts college called a university? Because Lawrence has a separate Conservatory of Music. Any time a school has multiple “colleges” under one umbrella, it’s called a university.
Lawrence is on a trimester calendar, so after starting your academic year in early September, you’ll be done by Thanksgiving, and you’ll get a 5-6 week break until after the new year starts. In our current situation, this gives Lawrence the flexibility to push their start date by a few weeks, if necessary, and this is something they are currently considering. Lawrence is very proud of the community they build on their liberal arts campus, which has actually translated well into distance learning. You can learn more about how they’ve succeeded here. You can also take a virtual tour here.
Marquette is near the beach – the “beach” of Lake Michigan, that is! A mid-sized Jesuit school right in the heart of downtown Milwaukee (“a miniature Chicago!”), Marquette has 8300 undergraduates and 11,000 students total, including students in the dental, law and graduate programs.
Marquette’s general education program is unique – students take 10 courses in three tiers over all four years. There’s lots of flexibility and opportunity for students to choose courses that fit their interests.
- Tier 1 is five classes all students take – English, Math/Data related, 1 theology, plus 2 more
- Tier 2 is the “Discovery” segment; students take four classes around a theme of their choice, then one class in Social Sciences, one in Natural Sciences, one in Humanities, and one additional of their choice, all of which pertain to the theme
- Tier 3 is the culminating part; students take a discussion/problem solving class that works with their ‘theme’
Marquette’s health sciences programs are especially strong: they have a 6-year direct-entry Doctor of Physical Therapy program. You must complete all six years and start at the beginning (no transferring in). The nursing program is especially robust and they guarantee a four-year graduation.
The Engineering Program incorporates three different co-ops, which are a paid semester in a full-time working position. This means engineers take 5 years to graduate but they’ll have three semesters of work experience – and likely a job offer – when they graduate. You don’t pay tuition when you’re doing a co-op. Like all of Marquette’s programs, engineering is direct-admit.
Applicants to Marquette are automatically considered for merit scholarships, which range from $10k-$25k. Tuition is often less in the Midwest; Marquette’s total cost of attendance, including tuition, room and board, is about $57,000.
You can take a virtual tour of Marquette University here.
You should be doing these virtual meetings with college admissions folks too! Now’s a great time – they are happy to connect with you. Sign up to receive e-mails from colleges, reach out to your admission counselor, and do some deep research to help build your balanced college list. We have a few resources, including a guide on what to look for when you research a college’s website and a printable chart to help you keep track of what you learn, in this post.