Matt - Carleton College - Class of 2014
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What was so debatable in my application that made Carleton accept me but Colorado offer me a spot on the waitlist?

The fact that my twin brother was also in his own college search process made some things easier, but others harder. College was constantly talked about at home. If I wasn't working on a college application, he was. Also, people would constantly ask us, "Are you going to the same college?" Each time it was the same answer: "No." Ironically, my brother and I were both waitlisted by Grinnell. Our parents think that if just one of us had applied, he would have had a better chance to get in.

Hometown: Mendota Heights MN

High School: Public

GPA: 3.91

ACT: 31

Major: Linguistics (formerly biology)

Goal: Meet people, discover my interests, study abroad



Carleton CollegeAttending
Colorado CollegeWaitlisted
Grinnell CollegeWaitlisted
Illinois Wesleyan UniversityAccepted
Kalamazoo CollegeAccepted
Knox CollegeAccepted
Pomona CollegeDenied
Rice UniversityDenied
Freshman Year Update

I had some bouts of loneliness at first. I just felt uncomfortable living in a new environment. Fortunately, I soon discovered that I love the people here. Everyone has similar goals and visions of what they expect to get out of college. I've come to enjoy trying new things, and I am glad to say that most people here are very open minded. In fact my biggest advice is to stay open minded even if you are certain of your major. Take classes in subjects that you have never studied. I have gone from being a probable biology major to being a probable linguistics major.

Sophomore Year Update

Sometimes, I feel this is the wrong college for me, but I think that is mostly due to stress. Ironically, my hardest classes have been intro-level classes in subjects that I thought I could handle easily. I should have taken some of these classes pass/fail. This year, things are up. I am now studying abroad in Japan as a sophomore. I have gotten to know my professors on a more personal level. I have just declared linguistics as my major, but I have no idea what I will do with it! However, I have two more years to decide that, so I am just going to enjoy those years.

Junior Year Update

I was a little sad to leave Japan, but it was nice coming back to campus and getting back into the swing of things. A major up has been feeling that Carleton is actually my home and that I belong here. There are a few things I don't like about this college, such as they don't have minors and they only let a small number of people live off campus. I didn't think these things would be issues when I was looking at colleges. Graduation is getting close, and I still don't know what I want to do with my life! I feel like I just got here and that I'm not ready to leave. I will try to make the most of the time I have left.

Senior Year Update

The best part of this year has been spending time with my friends before we all graduate. I get pretty sad when I realize my time here is almost over, but I've often wondered if the academic climate was too intense. The campus community, however, has been very supportive. Students help each other, and there's free counseling and RA-sponsored "study breaks." If I had to choose another college, I would ask students if they have time to sleep, or if many people take leaves of absence or transfer because it was too stressful. A school can be intellectually stimulating without being too intense. After graduation, I might teach in Japan or go to grad school for linguistics. But I change my mind about these plans almost every day.

Looking for what I should look for

I had a very difficult time figuring what I wanted in a college, other than I wanted a small college. I had no major or sport interest to help me sift out likely candidates. Thanks to college visits organized by my brother and parents, I found three colleges that I liked. But none of this was from my own initiative.

Finally I decided that, after size, the next most important factor was location. I knew that cozy Midwest college towns such as Northfield, Grinnell, and Galesburg would help me with my anxiety about living on my own. Also, I think I am more laid-back than most East Coasters. So I eliminated the East Coast. Surprisingly, this got rid of a lot of colleges. After reading through guidebooks one last time and visiting websites and online forums, I found 11 colleges I was serious about, and then applied to eight of those.

The college next door turns out to be the one

For me, the stress of decision time was almost as great as application time. In March I got acceptances from Knox, Illinois Wesleyan, and Kalamazoo. All three offered me merit aid. So far so good. The next school I heard from was Colorado College, and I was waitlisted! This was discouraging, to put it mildly, because I thought it was the least selective school out of the colleges that I was still waiting on. I began to believe that I would not get accepted from any of my other schools and that I'd attend one of my safeties.

Then I received my acceptance letter from Carleton. I could not fathom, after studying so many guidebooks and looking up the ACT/SAT ranges, average freshman GPA, and selectivity percentages, that this scenario would happen. What was so debatable in my application that made Carleton accept me but Colorado offer me a spot on the waitlist? Within the span of four days, I received no's from Rice and Pomona, and a waitlist from Grinnell. Although I was accepted to four colleges that I liked, it was hard to accept these three rejections without a lot of disappointment, especially from Grinnell.

Although Carleton is a great school, it was not originally my top choice because it is only 40 minutes from my home. But I would be lying if I said that the prestige of Carleton was not persuasive when it came down to deciding. The community aspect also turned out to be a big part of my decision. Students seem to have lots of school spirit, such as their passion for ultimate Frisbee. I saw many students from the same dorm floor doing homework together in the lounge.

My ups and downs

I have always had a difficult time writing papers for school, so I knew writing essays would be no different. It would be even more challenging, I thought, because I had to write about myself. I never believed that my essays were as strong as they could be, and for that reason alone, I ended up missing two early action deadlines so I could spend more time on the essays.

The best experience of this whole process was visiting Carleton this month and experiencing the excitement of knowing I was going to spend four great years there.

What I learned

The college search is pointless when you don't know what you're looking for. Although guidebooks helped me learn a lot about different schools, it got me nowhere in the search process. I laugh now at how I wasted time reading the descriptions of big schools like Michigan, Texas, and Clemson. Once I came to the realization that I'd be better off at a small school in the Midwest, it was much easier to search. So my advice is to find what you want in a college, then search.

The money factor

It was hard to turn down the merit aid that Kalamazoo gave me, especially since Carleton gave me none. My parents told me that if I was undecided between schools, then we could add the money factor in the decision, but they didn't want to tell me I couldn't go to my top school. My parents will be paying for most of the cost. I will also be working during school.