How to Get Into Carleton: Admissions Stats + Tips
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- How Hard Is It to Get Into Carleton?
- Average Academic Profile of Accepted Carleton Students
- What is Carleton Looking for?
- How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Carleton
“Carleton College is committed to providing a true liberal arts education—a curriculum that challenges our students to learn broadly and think deeply.”
A liberal arts college based in Northfield, Minnesota, Carleton prepares students to engage in lifelong learning. Since 1866, it has encouraged students to “develop the knowledge and skills to succeed in any walk of life.”
Wondering if Carleton is right for you? Here’s what to know — and what it takes to get in.
How Hard Is It to Get Into Carleton?
In the 2020–2021 admission cycle, 6,892 students applied, and 1,460 were admitted, for an admissions rate of 21.2%.
While this may seem intimidatingly low, keep in mind that your personal chances of admission depend on your unique profile. We suggest using our free admissions calculator to find out your odds of getting in, using your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and more.
Average Academic Profile of Accepted Carleton Students
Carleton does not publish the average GPA of accepted students, but you should aim to get all A’s in the most challenging classes available.
For the class of 2025, 52% of matriculating students submitted SAT scores and had a middle 50% range of 1330-1520. Meanwhile, 59% submitted ACT scores and had a middle 50% range of 30-34.
Of those who submitted class rank, 70.1% of students were in the top 10% of their high school class, and 92.5% were in the top 25%.
What is Carleton Looking for?
How active have you been in your school and community? Have you been involved in sports, student government, or your religious community? Are you someone who will lead? Do you have a sense of humor? Can you rise to a challenge?
These are the questions Carleton asks when reviewing your application. While there is no “ideal” student, the college seeks students with diverse interests and passions who are leaders in their chosen pursuits.
The strongest candidates have taken:
- Four years of English (three years minimum, writing emphasized)
- Three + years of mathematics (two years of algebra and one year of geometry)
- Two + years of science (at least one year of laboratory science)
- Three + years of social science
According to Carleton, most students exceed the minimum, and those who do — or those who have unusual abilities or interests — are stronger candidates.
How Carleton Evaluates Applications
According to Carleton’s 2020–2021 Common Data Set, Carleton considers these factors “very important” in the admissions process:
- Rigor of secondary school record
- Class rank
- Academic GPA
- Application Essay
- Extracurricular activities
- Character/personal qualities
Meanwhile, these are “considered”:
- Standardized test scores
- First generation
- Alumni/ae relation
- Geographical residence
- Racial/ethnic status
- Volunteer work
- Work experience
These are “not considered”:
- State residency
- Religious affiliation/commitment
- Level of applicant’s interest
How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Carleton
1. Achieve a high GPA while taking the most challenging classes available
Carleton expects students to have a high GPA. Beyond that, they should be taking the most challenging courses available to them.
“Most Carleton students go well beyond this minimum,” the college says. “The admissions committee is usually attracted to candidates who do honors or advanced placement work, when available.”
If you aren’t able to take AP, IB, or honors courses because they’re not offered at your school, don’t worry. The adcom will evaluate your application in the context of your high school.
If your GPA is lower, and you’re earlier on in your high school career, check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, it will be harder to increase your GPA, so the easiest way to increase your Academic Index is to get a higher test score.
2. Aim for a 1520 SAT and 34 ACT
You should aim for the 75th percentile for test scores at Carleton — 1520 SAT and 34 ACT.
In light of COVID-19 test-optional policies, we advise students to take the SAT or ACT if they can do so safely and submit scores if they fall at or above the 25th percentile for Carleton students (1330 SAT and 30 ACT). Get recommendations on whether to apply test-optional using our free Chancing Engine.
Looking to improve your scores? Check out these free CollegeVine resources:
- How to Get a Perfect 1600 Score on the SAT
- How to Get a Perfect 36 Score on the ACT
- More SAT Info and Tips
- More ACT Info and Tips
3. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”)
Carleton looks for students with diverse interests, as evidenced by their extracurricular activities. According to the school, the freshman class has engaged in the following:
Community service 87%
Paid job 45%
Social activism 30%
Varsity athletics 67%
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to pursue any of these activities. You can have completely unique passions, too — just as long as you have some impressive ECs on your resume.
Consider the 4 Tiers of Extracurriculars. Tier 1 is the most exemplary and unique group, while Tier 4 is the most common. You’ll be a more competitive candidate if you have at least 1-2 Tier 1-2 activities. Moreover, you should aim to group your extracurriculars around one or two specialties — otherwise known as developing a “spike.”
4. Write engaging essays
Your essays are one way to set yourself apart from other talented applicants. They help the adcom go beyond your test scores and grades to learn more about you as a person — your goals, your passions, your personality, and your character.
Learn more about how to tackle the 2021–2022 Carleton essays.
5. Apply Early Decision
Carleton doesn’t publish its ED acceptance rate. However, generally speaking, students have a better chance of getting in by applying ED than RD, even when controlling for profile strength.
Before you commit to applying ED, though, remember that this plan is binding, meaning you’ll be required to attend the college if you’re admitted. Keep in mind the limitations of applying ED, too.
6. Secure strong teacher recommendations
Carleton puts a lot of emphasis on teacher recommendations in the admission process. We suggest asking teachers who not only know you as an exemplary student but know you as a person as well, so they can speak to your qualities, passions, and goals.
How to Apply to Carleton
Early Decision I
Early Decision II
- Common Application or Coalition Application
- High School Counselor Recommendation
- Two academic teacher recommendations
- SAT or ACT scores (currently optional)
- Arts portfolio
Learn more about Carleton