• As predicted, SLAC day (this year, Friday, March 17th, with a few stragglers Saturday morning) was a blood bath.
  • Still, to spoil a bit, DC1 ended the weekend with a couple more amazing possibilities.
  • In order.
  • Williams:  Reject
  • Bowdoin:  Waitlist
  • Haverford:  Waitlist
  • Swarthmore:  Reject
  • DC1 was feeling pretty down at this point.  Zie had fallen in love with Haverford during the supplemental essays.
  • Carleton:  Accept!!!!  Only 2K/year scholarship though.
  • Oberlin:  Accept!!!!  30K/year scholarship!!!!
  • Case Western:  Waitlist
  • So this complicates DC1’s decisions quite a bit.  Macalester, Oberlin, and Union would all be about 50K/year (plus or minus a few thousand and probably going up a couple thousand each year).  Carleton is almost full price– over 80K.  We told DC1 to ignore prices, but man, 120K is so much money.  (Still, we are going to ignore prices, and if DC1 chooses Carleton, then Carleton is where zie will go.)
  • DC1 had completely fallen in love with Macalester– the bagpipes, the blue plaid, the city, the food, etc. etc. etc.
  • But Carleton is consistently a top 10 SLAC (this year #6).
  • Carleton is also ranked as one of the best SLAC schools for computer science (but… so is Claremont McKenna and … they don’t really have much CS and HMC and Pomona are both cracking down on CMC students in their classes– I assume CMC will devote more resources to in-house CS and pair up with either HMC or Pomona for a joint major, but..)  (Really, either Pomona or HMC should restructure and CS should become a 5C major like math, but I digress.  And I understand why HMC might not want to do that.).
  • As Leah pointed out, Carleton is also Bon Appetit and has excellent food.
  • And Carleton is across the way from St. Olaf which is a wonderful place for music. (You can cross register, but the Carleton trimester only matches up with the St. Olaf semester one trimester per year and it delays you going home and defrosting during winter.)
  • But… also really hard to beat Oberlin for Music.
  • It’s crazy how much Oberlin has dropped in the rankings since I was in high school.  The right-wing media also seems to have chosen them as a whipping boy for manufactured anti-left outrage.  (They should pick on Reed who would probably get great joy out of the manufactured controversy and fight back!  Which is likely why they don’t.)
  • Oberlin has a cafeteria service I’ve never heard of:  Avi.  I haven’t figured out how they’re rated because of the aforementioned manufactured right-wing controversies about a Vietnamese International student complaining that the Bahn Mi was not actually Bahn Mi and shouldn’t be called such.  But unlikely to be at Bon Appetit level, hopefully sodexho level, but who knows.
  • Carleton offers a 20/week meal plan which is all the meals they offer plus some additional Carleton cash (which has some fancy name) that can be used at the cafes on campus.  Also they share their meal plan with St. Olaf.
  • There’s no Poke in Northfield, MN.
  • But it is 50 min away from a poke place in St. Paul.  I wonder if there are uber drivers in Northfield.  (Surely there are enterprising college students with cars?)
  • Carleton is on trimesters, which I find confusing.  They say it’s an intense 10 weeks and if you get sick, it’s especially difficult.  Only 3 classes per trimester (and unlike Union, they don’t recommend more, unless you’re taking a lab which adds about 1/3 of a class in terms of credit hours.)
  • DC1 is planning on exploring the CS options, the music options, how easy it will be to double major or minor (including how many credits are allowed from AP/college classes), etc. etc. etc.  Also what students say on places like Niche.
  • Apparently Union accepted DC1 early– their official date for releases was also SLAC week.  No wonder there were only 78 kids on their accepted students forums!
  • We are so relieved and elated though.  These acceptances are all WONDERFUL schools and we would be happy if DC1 chose any of them.  Even with the extra $120K in tuition (I tell myself it’s going to fund a low income kid like college-me was).  Such an abundance of options.
  • I did tear up at the Oberlin scholarship– I really was not expecting any money from them.  We don’t need it (it’s the difference of just using up the 529 or also cash flowing 30K/year, which we can do so long as we’re both working full time, and we have money in savings and stocks that we could still use in the event of a jobloss).
  • To forestall the question:  No, we will not be visiting any of these.  I have never found college visits to be helpful beyond what’s in the Fiske guide and just talking to people, and sometimes they are actively misleading.  (Caltech, I’m looking at you!)  More importantly, DC1 is taking Calc 3 at the university MWF and can’t miss any classes (and we didn’t have these acceptances in hand until after Spring Break).
  • Still waiting for Wesleyan (they decide on a different weekend than all the other prominent east coast SLACs) and Vanderbilt.  If zie gets into Vandy, I have no idea where to even go with that.  Still, it’s not my decision.

What would you choose if it were you (and your parents were wealthy) and why?  Union College (NY), Macalester College (MN), Carleton College (MN), or Oberlin College (OH).  Also what would you look into and what questions would you ask?


74 Responses to “RBOColleges”

  1. Maya Says:

    Oh, that’s quite a lovely haul!! Congrats to DC1!!

    I remember taking the older one to Oberlin for a tour and the guide talked about how they wouldn’t have bananas in the cafeteria because of problematic harvest practices.

    Re. the scholarship are you planning to decline it? Would DC1 be ok with that?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      No, if DC1 chooses any of the three schools with scholarships we will be more than happy to be paying 50k/year instead of 80k/year. If zie chooses Carleton we will pay the extra 120k over 4 years.

  2. SP Says:

    Congratulations on the great options! Not that my opinion matters at all, but I vote for Carleton. :) Hooray!

  3. CG Says:

    Congrats to DC1! And thanks as always for sharing the journey with us. I have a special place in my heart for Northfield, having been to music camp at St. Olaf as a kid. Just super nice people. One of my Ph.D. cohort went to Carleton and loved it. I remember their literature touted their high marriage rate among classmates, which I thought was an interesting selling point. I had a lot of friends go to Oberlin but I decided not to apply there as I felt it was sort of exhaustingly political. No idea how it has or hasn’t changed since then. I still remember Macalester’s recruitment literature because it had this beautiful image of a turning maple leaf on the front of it. I was not in a SLAC frame of mind in HS and didn’t apply there either. In retrospect, I probably would have liked a SLAC. It’s great that ze has at least four excellent choices!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Carleton does have the most equal sex ratio of any campus DC1 got into (I think 48/52) and possibly the most equal of any place zie applied. There’s also an active LGBTQ+ presence, if that ends up being relevant. DC1 isn’t interested in romance, but that may change in the next 4 years, who knows. Marrying one’s first significant other is a tradition in DH’s family (though not in mine!)

  4. Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

    I will just say that while I was in college, my undergrad institution went from quarters (trimesters) to semesters, and it was such.a.relief. Totally true that the 10-week term is intense and if you get sick it’s very, very hard to catch up.

  5. Steph Says:

    Ranking is less important than what students are actually doing with their degrees afterwards. All of those are well-regarded names among SLACs, so I think zie will be fine at any of them.

    Personally, the quarter/trimester system sounds like a nightmare, but I also know many people who’ve done it happily so *shrug emoji*

    Ask what students do on weekends, look into clubs, presence of greek life, what do students actually eat when the dining hall isn’t open, can you survive without a car, other lifestyle questions. Classes are classes. The make-or-break for the college experience is often what’s outside of classes, and whether a student can actually make friends and easily find things to do at night. (I do actually think visits are valuable, even if you don’t get the full picture. But in lieu of a visit, you should get in contact with multiple current students to ask about these things.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      A lot of well-meaning people agree with you. Personally I have never found them valuable to the candidates as someone going to them, someone involved with them on the recruiting side, or someone observing them as a disinterested visitor. They repeat what is widely available in the Fiske guide/Niche/virtual tours/online/etc. at best and are misleading at worst. I could probably do a deliberately controversial post on the topic.

      • CG Says:

        Ooh, please do!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Maybe after all the dust has settled!

        As a disclaimer, one of my colleagues keeps pressuring me on this topic even though she knows exactly what these visits are like. (And won’t take: DC1 cannot skip a college class as an answer. Go on the weekend, she says. But the only useful thing you can get out of a visit that you can’t get anywhere else is attending a class, and they don’t have classes on weekends! And she agrees, and then forgets we ever had that conversation and brings it up again the next time we talk.)

      • Jennifer Says:

        I would love to see your post on the topic!
        It’s interesting because for me, the visits were critical in deciding where I even wanted to apply, in terms of the vibe (I don’t like that term but I am not sure what else to say). My eventual top choice and alma mater wasn’t even on my list until my father stayed in the town for business and suggested it was a Me Kind of Place. (He knows me well and he was right.) I was so surprised when I talked to classmates who never set foot on campus before registration. But I think it’s one of those things that is important for people like me, who already thought it was important, and it’s silly to try persuading someone who doesn’t have that same need.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Plus there’s so many places to find out about campus vibe that are equivalent to or less superficial than the college visit.

        College Confidential has some interesting comments from parents whose kids made extremely superficial snap decisions based on the tour.

        I think the trick is that these top schools are, for the most part, all wonderful and they will seem wonderful if you go to a campus visit or not. (Again, exceptions for places like Caltech which does a fantastic job of fooling people during pre-frosh weekend, or at least did 20 years ago.)

      • Socal Dendrite Says:

        Can you expand on what happened at Caltech? I’ve seen you mention it in a negative light multiple times and am curious! Full disclosure: I’ve had a connection there since 2007 – I spent 8 years there as a postdoc (with little interaction with the undergrads during that time), and then several more since then teaching a lab class to undergrads and grads. My husband was also an undergrad there 25 years ago and had a good experience, though two of his friends ended up dropping out (one because he tried to do a double major, against everyone’s advice, which didn’t go well). It sounds like they did some kind of bait-and-switch with you?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Oh, not with me, I just feel extremely guilty about all my friends who I encouraged to go. (I did get into Caltech, but didn’t go. But a lot of my friends did, and literally none of them are still working in STEM.) It was not a great place for minority women. It also took me a long time to stop feeling guilty about my ex-boyfriend.

        The biggest thing is the lack of adult figures in the housing system. MIT is much much better for mental health and safety.

        When you visit it seems like a really fun place. Pre-frosh weekend is amazing.

        It’s great for grad school though. Amazing social sciences (/experimental econ).

      • Socal Dendrite Says:

        Thanks! Yeah, I have no experience of the housing side or whether that has changed. They’re certainly trying to improve things for minority women but I don’t know how successful the attempts are (very unscientific anecdote: my class of 14 students had 9 women, 6 of whom were minority, all of whom seemed to be doing well). I do remember following up on one student a few years ago who mysteriously stopped turning up for my lab class or responding to emails, even though he had been (to all appearances) enjoying it and getting good marks. I think I asked the dean if someone could check on him. Turns out, he was indeed having some sort of crisis and was able to get through it with support. He thanked me later for noticing and caring, which was nice, but made me worry about other students who perhaps go unnoticed.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The difference between MIT and Caltech in that respect is insane. At MIT they have at least three different paths, two of which are automatic, all of which involve actual adults, through which that kid would have gotten help. (The third path is for kids who are already in the system.) At Caltech there’s like a junior or senior sort of in charge who is likely undergoing his own crises (see: my ex-boyfriend). (Granted, the person in charge at my SLAC was also an underclassperson, but my SLAC wasn’t as hardcore as Caltech or MIT.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Just had that conversation again with my colleague. It ended exactly the same way as it always does! (A college class, [Colleague’s name], zie can’t skip a college class!)

    • CG Says:

      Based on my own experience at a very large institution, I’d also ask how they facilitate first year students’ forming connections and making friends. I remember very well the move-in weekend events which included things like a giant picnic for literally 5000 kids where I got a hot dog and talked to no one. That turned out to be a pretty good preview of my how my freshman year went. I realize it may not be so hard at a smaller school, but I would personally still ask about that.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        DC1 is definitely an introvert! I’ve been doing a lot of, “You need to put yourself out there” and “everyone else is in the same boat as you” but some facilitation would probably be good. Personally I would have LOVED the giant picnic over the stupid getting to know you exercises we had to do at freshman orientation, but I’d also been at boarding school for 3 years and plenty of summer camps and was good at striking up conversations with people. (Less good now! It’s so much easier when everyone is new.)

        It’s insane that 3 of these schools are about the same size as DC1’s high school, but they fit the entire high school population into one building. $ is pretty amazing.

      • CG Says:

        In my case, as an out of state student at a big midwestern state school, everyone was not in the same boat as me! Many of them had come with what seemed like half their high schools. So that was a challenge. That school now has a much higher proportion of out of state students than it did when I went there. But now everyone is there with half their high school from New Jersey. :)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Oh, definitely. #2 lived with high school friends throughout college, which was also a university flagship. It wasn’t 50%, but it was literally 40%. (The non-boarding school I went to also sent 40% of the college going students to our state flagship. It’s probably less now.)

      • Socal Dendrite Says:

        PS In case it’s not clear, I’m not intending to get into an argument, just genuinely curious :)

      • Socal Dendrite Says:

        Oops, added my extra comment to the wrong thread, sorry. Was meant to be an addendum to my question about Caltech.

  6. undine Says:

    All great options! Union or Oberlin would be great, but these are all fantastic choices.

  7. Debbie M Says:

    I think of the trimester system as being like having summer school year round. My mom loved the shorter courses, with fewer courses to focus on. I preferred the longer courses, where I could switch between more courses when my brain got overused by one of them.

    I deliberately picked a school that was highly rated, small, liberal arts, 50/50 male/female ratio, no football, no fraternities/sororities. But I think I would have been just as happy with my flagship state school that was large, 50/50, plenty of football, fraternities, and sororities. It was big enough I could have easily found my own niches.

    What ended up most important to me were: smart students to make friends with, (mostly) good teachers, and 50/50 ratio, plus having good degree requirements, good electives available, good extracurriculars, and I also enjoyed how being in another part of the country was sort of like a study-abroad program. Plus I went to school near Boston and could take a train into Boston or Cambridge and see the sights (museums, Freedom Trail, Harvard Coop bookstore, ice cream places that were like salad bars, but for ice cream, etc.).

  8. MG Says:

    I grew up a few blocks away from Macalester and came very close to attending Carleton, so I’ve been there several times, though not recently. I also know many people who did go to Carleton or to St. Olaf, but only one person who went to Macalester (too close to home, I think). They’re very different feeling campuses, as Northfield is a classic small college town, and Macalester is in the middle of the city, with access to all of the things cities have (food, music, theatre, people, internships, etc.). It’s possible that this impression is out of date, but I always felt like Macalester was a better fit for the arty side of the liberal arts and didn’t take it that seriously as someone interested in the sciences, whereas Carleton grads seem to be wildly disproportionately represented in my STEM field- I run into them constantly. They all loved Carleton and have nothing but wonderful things to say about it.

    As for the quarter/semester distinction, I really liked being an undergrad on the quarter system, as you can focus more closely on just a few classes, but it is true that a poorly timed illness can really be a problem. As someone who got sick a lot in college, I’m not sure that it really made it harder to catch up, just that it seemed more likely to hit at a bad time. There was a pretty noticeable difference in my GPA between quarters where I stayed relatively healthy and those where I got sick and had to take all of my midterms while barely coherent. The semester system has a bit more down time, but I also teach more generously and always let my students drop at least one exam so that students like me don’t get screwed over just by getting sick at the wrong time. I think that’s more common now than it was 20 years ago?

    Congrats to DC1 on having some good options!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Macalester has definitely improved on the sciences. It’s is pretty well known for econ (one of my colleagues was just telling me that one of his grad school friends coasted through the first year on the basis of his Mac foundation, and he’s not the first colleague who has had great things to say), and also (I think?) chemistry and CS — not Grinnell levels, and Carleton is ranked higher for CS, but still solid.

      It will be a big switch for DC1 switching from 7-8 classes/semester to 3-4 classes/quarter or semester! And I am nearly certain that zie will catch all of the colds and flus zie has been avoiding since Covid. (Zie picked up a cold over Spring Break at the dentist’s office!)

  9. Matthew D Healy Says:

    Across from St Olaf could be amazing for somebody who loves music.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Definitely– but St. Olaf vs. Oberlin…

      • Sarah S. Says:

        Wonderful options! However, I would recommend asking questions about how music access will actually work for a non-music major (coming from another campus in the St. Olaf case). Sometimes schools with amazing programs can actually be harder to access because there is a lot of demand from majors/conservatory students and other students are not the priority. A friend of mine attended St. Olaf with a piano scholarship and then had a lot of trouble getting lessons and practice times when she decided to be a premed biology major. A cousin attended Oberlin and had a wonderful time in the conservatory (and is now a professional violinist) but I have no idea how much access a CS major would have to those resources. Lots of caveats, since this was almost two decades ago, I have no idea how good your child is or what they really want out of music, etc…..but I think it is something to investigate. Just because an amazing program or facility exists does not mean every student will have access.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Complete access at Oberlin according to their materials, at least for DC1’s specific interest (not going to be a concert violinist), which is more composition and music technology. St Olaf probably not for classes because it had to be a class Carleton doesn’t offer and the trimester/semester thing is difficult. Still people do do it primarily for languages and some music.

  10. i forget my handle Says:

    Just want to say its entertaining to follow this, as I started reading your blog when I was a student at Macalester.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ooh, what would you pick?

      • i forget my handle Says:

        maybe Macalester again, despite me having very specific complaints, mostly because I really liked being in the city (I still live in StP, 10+ years later). i.e. I took the bus to take dance classes down the street, and love biking in MSP. There just aren’t a lot of SLACs in cities.

        Since I know you’ll ask, some of my specific complaints were – at the time, there was very poor support to help people get jobs. I majored in chem, and kinda felt like they didn’t have any post-grad help for me if I wasn’t going to grad school. I know that has changed, but that was my experience and my partner’s experience. Also, the chem dept has changed massively since then. I also ended up being interested in environmental science, which is just too specialized for such a small school. (They have environmental studies.) The library is also too small, and they music dept didn’t get appropriately soundproofed when it got rebuilt like 10 years ago. They also ran out of student housing in the middle of the housing lottery during my sophomore year, so I had to find off campus housing for junior and senior year. (Ended up working out for me ok, but I just lived with some other random students). But they seem to have handled covid relatively well – a decent percent of people on campus are wearing masks, and based on my co2 meter reading in one room of the music dept, I think they increased the ventilation.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Ooh I wonder if the Carleton alum could comment on this!

        Running out of housing is not ok for a private SLAC. When my undergrad over-enrolled they made doubles into triples and rented part of a hotel.

      • Minnesnowtan Says:

        Hoping this gets threaded correctly. I’m not sure exactly which “this” you’re looking for comments from a Carleton alum on, so let me know if I miss the point you were looking for.

        On the housing front, Carleton has built a lot of housing in the last 10 years so I’d be very surprised if anyone who wanted on-campus housing couldn’t get it.

        On the covid front, I really haven’t heard much about how Carleton handled it, though I have friends with kids there now so could inquire.

        As far as my complaints at the time … honestly the biggest one was the less-than-stellar facilities for music which has since been addressed (in spades). Also the food service at that point was not good, but I’ve had the current service at alumni events and it is quite good. (And the student workers at those events told us that while it was “fancier” than what was served normally, their normal service was quite good.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Definitely the housing!

        Bon Appetit is a fantastic food service company. I’m not sure they could do better.

        Carleton sent a huge amount of info today that I went through instead of working for a couple hours and I gotta say I kind of wish I could be a student at Carleton right now. Also I’m getting an interesting picture in how Carleton and Macalester answer the same common parent questions. Before they seemed more similar but now differences are definitely emerging. It will be interesting to compare with oberlin when/if we get their info dump. And more interesting to see what DC1 thinks and prefers.

      • i forget my handle Says:

        In terms of housing, this is an issue related to them trying to know how many acceptances to send out. Some years, they end up with a freshman class that is too big. But, Macalester might have done something to address the need for more housing or adjusting the incoming class numbers…

        I just googled it, and it looks like they now rent out a new big apt building right across the street https://themacweekly.com/80104/news/administration-pays-for-students-to-live-in-off-campus-luxury-apartments/

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Oh good. That’s what my undergrad does too.

  11. First Gen American Says:

    If I was in DC1s shoes, I’d email or call the career development center and ask who the top employers are for CS majors that graduate from these schools and the job placement rate. That can be telling. If the top recruiter is the federal government, what does that say about a place? (One of the engineering schools was like that and we didn’t even apply).

    Also, many companies recruit regionally from colleges so would DC1 prefer to be on the east coast long term or one of these other places? What about the blueness of the locations? How would the areas rank on a voting map?

    So many good options and I’m jumping for joy on the inside for all of you, but god, it shouldn’t have been that hard for a gifted student.

    We also have a similar predicament with a six digit swing between certain schools in terms of merit aid. Would the decision be swayed if that delta could be used for a new car when they’re done or a house down payment?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Since DC1 is only going to be 20 when zie gets out, we’re assuming there will be graduate school, probably a masters degree.

      That said! Both Macalester and Carleton send people to the top 5 CS places on the west coast, although the top 5 do not actually recruit there. Carleton CS people are more likely to go on to grad school (Macalester also sends people to grad school) and Macalester people intern in the twin cities and often get jobs in the twin cities after.

      Minnesota just passed a law affirming gender affirming care. Minnesotans are lovely. Ohio is pretty backwards on human rights. Union is in NY, though Schenectady is not NYC.

      We promised DC1 that zie would not have to worry about college finances because we saved for it. I think giving a kid a 120K incentive really isn’t fair in that respect. And it really is the difference between a Tier 1 school and a Tier 2 school for someone who can afford to pay full freight. (Carleton is actually more generous than Macalester or Oberlin for need-based aid– they don’t need to attract high quality rich kids with merit.) If we hadn’t saved, that might make sense, and the quality/prestige difference between Carleton and the other schools probably isn’t worth 120K to most people, but we did save for it and we can afford it. So if DC1 doesn’t choose Carleton I want it to be for non-monetary reasons.

      I don’t know that I’m upset about the difficulty for a gifted student as zie only needs to get into one school! I was very worried back when it looked like zie would have to major in econ, but zie could have gone to other state schools with a CS major for free(!) because of national merit, zie just didn’t want to. (That would have saved 200-320K! But what’s the point of being rich if you can’t buy a boutique college education if your kid wants one?)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Oh, and DH also went through all the different CS majors and declared that Carleton, Macalester, and Oberlin are all good. Union CS is really weirdly outdated and small, which is bizarre because their BME program looks solid.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Haha came home and macalester sent a great infographic with answers to all your employment questions.

      • First Gen American Says:

        Awesome about Macalister. RIT had sent a great infographic as well w Nile back. I fully support splurging on education if it comes to that. For our peer group, total cost starts to matter once you have 3 or more kids.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Apparently FAFSA just got rid of the sibling discount (!). Makes my decision to have kids 5+ years apart seem prescient.

  12. Turia Says:

    Everything about this process blows my mind. The complexity, the stress, the cost, everything! I really appreciate this series of posts – I’ve learned a lot.

    I can’t comment on the schools as I hadn’t even heard of most of them (I’m not great with the SLACs) but I’m thrilled that you’re thrilled that DC1 has good options.

    My one maybe useful thought is checking what percentage of teaching is done by full-time faculty as opposed to adjuncts. There are good and bad teachers in both camps obviously, but if a high enough percentage are teaching huge loads at multiple places to try to pay the bills, that does start to impact campus culture, ime.

  13. Minnesnowtan Says:

    Carleton alum here with some (ahem) “completely unbiased” thoughts:
    * I did a lot of music at Carleton, and its music department is phenomenal in its own right. Also, while the quality of the music facilities was an issue back in my day, that is absolutely not the case anymore.
    * The trimester system does indeed have the drawback of illness mattering more. The flip side is that you can concentrate on fewer classes at a time, and for some that is a massive plus. To this day I can’t imagine juggling 4 or 5 college courses at once — shudder.
    * The Carleton CS department truly is something special. (I majored in math which was and is closely connected.)
    *We in the math department had some contact with our counterparts at Macalester, and I always had the impression that Macalester was also a great place for both math and CS.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Great information! Do you have anything specific to say about music composition? DC1 is specifically interested in video game music, I think.

      • Minnesnowtan Says:

        Justin London, who taught music theory among many other things in my day, is excellent and I believe he’s still teaching. He’s also very interested in how people perceive music and how it influences emotions so I could see him being a good resource for video game composition in particular. There may well be a composition specialist on faculty as well — in my day it was Prof. Rhodes who is now emeritus.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Nice! I was just looking at the Carleton page and there’s a video game music class, although it’s taught by an assistant professor who is on leave next year. Carleton sent a HUGE info dump this morning and I am afraid I’ve spent a bit too much time sorting through it today. (And comparing to the info dump Macalester already sent.)

        Apparently the CS department has started a new course match program to limit students to ensure that students can take at least one advanced course (but no more than one course unless there is extra room) per trimester. I wonder how other colleges are handling excess demand for CS courses.

      • Ewan Says:

        Cornell CS is not an issue (at least so far, for our EE/CS major). Plenty of availability. My guess is that this is less of an issue at schools that have a history of strong CS. [Also, to be fair: we have been *very* impressed with Cornell in general, in case anyone’s considering there: supportive, truly outstanding profs and opportunities, lots of career-promoting networking, blah blah. Probably even worth the money, it turns out.]

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Its definitely an issue at our state schools that have a history of strong CS! The way they’ve dealt with it is by capping the major (which is why DC1 didn’t get in to our flagship for CS), giving majors priority, and having a strict/high GPA cutoff for the major.

  14. Ewan Says:

    You said “MIT is much much better for mental health and safety.” Which blew my mind – I know a LOT of MIT folks, and none of them had anything positive to say about MIT housing or student mental health care.

    Sorry, sidetrack. I work at UAlbany, so Union is one of our closest SLACs… I have not been impressed with the (few) students they have sent to local conferences/poster sessions/whatever. They do get a bad local rap for being a privileged party school a bit, and that feels real, but there’s definitely some real science there also.

    I know nothing about the rest, sorry. Son1 applied ED at Cornell and got in, one-and-done. [Next choice would have been Olin, and that definitely impressed us all.]. Son2 is a freshman so we have this about to resume. From what I have read of your postings, though, my sense is that Macalester feels best for you.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m not disagreeing about MIT being brutal. CalTech has all the same problems PLUS no adult net. Your friends don’t know the counterfactual. Though that’s interesting about the housing— each hall is different and a vastly different experience. Do you know where your friends lived? For example, EC is less expensive and quirky whereas WC has better more expensive facilities and more … well rounded kids. From what I understand they’ve also gotten rid of what was essentially a rush week which has to be a plus for mental health as well.

      That’s good info on Union.

      Why Macalester over Carleton or Oberlin? Right now we know more about Macalester because they’ve had an extra week to love bomb us.

      • Ewan Says:

        Fair point on the unknown unknown. Some Senior Haus (and boy are they mad about the destruction of that culture), some Random, some MacGregor, a bunch of other smaller groups – I go to the MIT Mystery Hunt each year and almost the whole team are alums.

        *I* have no data on Macalester vs e.g. Oberlin; that was just my gestalt of your comments.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Ah, then I would not take it seriously— macalester has been providing information and cute bagpipes for a week whereas we just got the first recruiting emails from oberlin and Carleton yesterday. They haven’t had a chance to make their cases to DC1 yet.

        Yeah, those are generally east campus— lower quality less expensive housing, stronger nerd culture, Senior and some EC with drug culture. And Random is pretty isolated. West campus is more preppy, fewer (literal) cockroaches etc.

        I wonder if they have soap in the dorm bathrooms yet.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Finally got some virtual confetti from Carleton this morning, something that had been seriously lacking from the original acceptance letter.

  15. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Congrats, DC1!

    Trimesters at my state school felt good and bad. If you hated a class, it went by fast (though THAT could be good or bad!) and you were done with it before you knew it. I had decent professors though, and when my fibromyalgia was so bad that I couldn’t hold a pencil, they were very generous in letting me have plenty of time to recover from a flare up and retake finals when it was bad enough that I had to ask for an accommodation. I don’t know how you’d judge whether a school has rofessors who are decent and human from the outside, though, and I think we know there are always outliers.

    Never having lived away from home for school, I don’t have the least clue to figure out how you choose a place to live and learn for fourish years.

    Good food is a draw. I only know Oberlin’s name because of music, but is that something that DC1 has any interest in for college life?

  16. Jessica Says:

    Ability to get job experience would be a top consideration for me. Does the school that does trimesters have good options for missing trimesters to intern/co-op? My school was very good at helping students find good internships/co-ops, prepping us for interviews/resumes/etc. It made a huge difference to my job prospects, abilities and confidence at work and in interviews, etc, and i know many others who got jobs at top employers because of their internships there which were facilitated through the school.

    This is all assuming DC1 wants to go into industry, which I guessed based on the CS major. Equivalent advice but different focus if zie wants to go to grad school. My school was not super into that path, and I think it shows in terms of typical student outcomes.

    Other than that, obviously vibes are important as other people have mentioned – the opportunity to be around more of “my people” compared to high school was one of the best things about college. And obviously is sounds like you’ve already looked into mental health/ general health support, which is also very important. I don’t care so much about the dining halls as people seem to – I lived in an apartment with a kitchen after freshman year and so did most people at my school.

    This is a super interesting post with all the comments.

  17. hydropsyche Says:

    If your kid is interested in music, Oberlin seems like the obvious choice. They could even do the dual degree option–given that they are starting young, taking 5 years and getting 2 degrees seems fine. It’s also in a walkable town with a lot of food options, which it sounds like the other places are really not.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Oberlin is definitely the best choice for music.

      Northfield is a walkable town with about the same food scene as Oberlin. Macalester is in an upscale residential neighborhood with a ton of diverse food options and students get full bus passes for the twin cities with their tuition. In terms of walkable food in the area Macalester wins easily.

  18. kt Says:

    More coffee options near Macalester. Excellent food. No need for a car, really. A number of Mac students live across the street and down the street from me; they seem to have social lives, and there is a mix of jocks & nerds. Full disclosure when the math and Econ kids across the street were raising chickens, we did trade them beer for eggs (very limited amount, and they were ~21, seniors). The chickens did eventually get killed by raccoons or foxes and the baseball team moved in the next year. Math dept very solid, great folks there.

    Carleton’s math and CS is amazing, yes their CS ppl are super amazing as you observe. You can take the Northfield lines busses up to the Twin Cities, stop at the airport/mall of america/middle of st Paul/the U of MN, at least last I checked. Several times daily, wifi and nice seating. I hired someone from Carleton recentlyish and she’s doing great, straight out of college. I used to have a stereotype that St Olaf students get things done & Carlies are too dreamy, and I’ve been disabused of that notion (having hired both into data sci jobs).

    Between Carleton & Mac, the question I’d ask is, does your kid want a small-town college-bubble experience, or a mildly more cosmopolitan college experience with the chance to break out into city life if desired? Like, if your kid secretly wanted the punk scene or to go to lots of live music at many different venues, Macalester wins. Just hop on the A line or 63. Or if your kid loves MLS soccer, clear choice.

    A fine selection of choices. Congrats.

    I will say that I did go to Caltech and many of my minority-women college friends/acquaintances are still in science, though in even more research-y or data-y positions than professorships (tho one did defect to an Econ/finance professorship). My same-vintage similar-demographic MIT friend is a UX person now… for whatever anecdata that provides… The folks I know who fared worst after Tech, for some value of “worst”, are folks who could not afford to go elsewhere even if Tech was not a good fit for them — the strange trap of generous financial aid. Simply having choices leads to better outcomes. So again, congrats to the kid!

  19. Michael N Nitabach Says:

    I have no useful input, but congrats!!! Sounds like a lot of great options!

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