Northwestern vs Carleton: A Comprehensive Analysis

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Young woman looking at a laptop while smiling.

Northwestern vs Carleton: A Comprehensive Analysis

When it comes to choosing the right university, it’s important to consider all the factors that will contribute to your overall experience. Northwestern vs Carleton College are two prestigious institutions that have a lot to offer, but how do they compare? In this comprehensive analysis, we’ll take a deep dive into every aspect of student life and academics at each school to help you make an informed decision.

Location and Campus: Northwestern vs Carleton

Northwestern University is located in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. The campus is spread across 240 acres and is situated along the shores of Lake Michigan. Carleton College, on the other hand, is located in Northfield, Minnesota, a small Midwestern town. The campus is much smaller than Northwestern’s, spanning only 955 acres.

While Northwestern is situated in a bustling city, Carleton offers a more rural atmosphere. The Northwestern campus is surrounded by shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions, whereas Carleton is in a more secluded setting. Those who are seeking an urban environment and all that a city has to offer may prefer Northwestern, while those who enjoy a quieter and more laid-back lifestyle may gravitate toward Carleton.

Despite their differences in location and campus size, both Northwestern and Carleton offer a variety of extracurricular activities and opportunities for students. Northwestern has over 400 student organizations, including clubs for sports, music, and community service.

Carleton also has a diverse range of clubs and organizations, with a focus on sustainability and social justice. Both universities also offer study abroad programs, internships, and research opportunities for students to gain real-world experience and enhance their education.

Academic Programs: Northwestern vs Carleton

Northwestern University is a large research institution with a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs. The university offers 124 undergraduate programs and 145 graduate and professional programs across 12 schools and colleges. Carleton College, on the other hand, is a small liberal arts college with a focus on undergraduate education. Carleton offers 33 majors and 31 minors across several academic departments.

University students checking something in a notebook.

While Northwestern certainly has a more extensive range of programs, Carleton is known for its rigorous and challenging curriculum. Carleton students are required to complete a general education program in addition to their chosen major, which fosters a well-rounded and multifaceted education.

It is worth noting that Northwestern’s size and resources allow for a greater variety of research opportunities and specialized programs. For example, the university has a highly regarded program in journalism, as well as a unique major in cognitive science. Additionally, Northwestern has a number of interdisciplinary programs that allow students to combine multiple fields of study, such as the Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences program.

On the other hand, Carleton’s small size and emphasis on undergraduate education means that students have more opportunities for close collaboration with faculty members. The college also offers a number of unique programs, such as the Environmental Studies concentration, which combines coursework in biology, geology, and economics to explore issues related to sustainability and environmental policy.

Faculty Quality: Northwestern vs Carleton

Both Northwestern and Carleton are known for their high-quality faculty members. At Northwestern, there are 3,400 full-time faculty members, around 500 of whom are tenured. Northwestern professors have received numerous accolades, including Pulitzer Prizes and MacArthur Fellowships.

Carleton’s faculty is similarly esteemed, with 206 full-time faculty members who hold terminal degrees in their fields. Carleton faculty members are dedicated to teaching and scholarship and prioritize student engagement and interaction.

While both schools have skilled faculty members, the differences in size and focus lend themselves to different teaching styles. Northwestern’s large research institution setting means that professors may have less time for one-on-one interactions with students, while Carleton’s smaller, liberal arts focus tends to emphasize intimate class sizes and professor-student relationships.

Another factor that sets Carleton’s faculty apart is their commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and research. With a curriculum that encourages students to explore multiple fields of study, Carleton professors often collaborate across departments to create unique and innovative courses.

This approach allows students to gain a more holistic understanding of their chosen subjects and prepares them for a rapidly changing job market that values versatility and adaptability.

On the other hand, Northwestern’s faculty members are often at the forefront of cutting-edge research in their respective fields. This means that students have the opportunity to learn from experts who are actively shaping their disciplines and contributing to new discoveries.

Additionally, Northwestern’s location in the Chicago metropolitan area provides students with access to a wealth of professional opportunities and networking events, which can be invaluable for those looking to launch their careers after graduation.

Student Life: Northwestern vs Carleton

Student life at Northwestern and Carleton is unique in different ways. Northwestern has a diverse student body of over 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students and offers over 500 student organizations and clubs. Student life at Northwestern is vibrant and active, offering a mix of social, cultural, and athletic opportunities.

Group Of Multicultural First-Year Students Walking Near University Building Outside.

At Carleton, the student body is smaller, with just over 2,000 undergraduate students. Despite its size, Carleton has a bustling student life scene, offering over 240 student organizations and a robust athletics program. Because of its focus on undergraduate education and community, Carleton fosters a sense of closeness and camaraderie that can be a hallmark of a small, tight-knit college.

One unique aspect of student life at Northwestern is its location in Evanston, a suburb just north of Chicago. This provides students with easy access to the city’s cultural offerings, such as museums, theaters, and music venues. Additionally, Northwestern has a strong tradition of Greek life, with over 40 fraternities and sororities on campus.

Carleton’s location in Northfield, Minnesota, also contributes to its unique student life. The town is small and quiet but offers a charming downtown area with local shops and restaurants. Carleton’s commitment to sustainability is also evident in its student life, with initiatives such as a student-run organic farm and a bike share program. The college also has a strong tradition of student-led activism and social justice work.

Admission Processes: Northwestern vs Carleton

The admission process at Northwestern and Carleton is similar to other universities and colleges. Both schools require an application, transcripts, test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation. Northwestern is known for its highly-selective admissions process, accepting just over 9% of applicants. Carleton’s admissions process is similarly selective, accepting around 20% of applicants.

However, Carleton offers an Early Decision option for students who know that it’s their top choice school, which can improve their chances of admission. Northwestern doesn’t offer Early Decision but offers Early Action instead, which is a non-binding option for students to receive an admission decision earlier.

In addition to the differences in Early Decision and Early Action options, Northwestern and Carleton also have different approaches to standardized testing. Northwestern requires students to submit either the SAT or ACT, while Carleton is test-optional, meaning students can choose whether or not to submit their scores. This allows students who may not perform well on standardized tests to still have a chance at admission to Carleton.

Financial Aid and Scholarships: Northwestern vs Carleton

Both Northwestern and Carleton offer financial aid and scholarships to eligible students. Northwestern offers need-based aid and merit-based scholarships to students who qualify. In the 2018-2019 academic year, around 49% of students received need-based aid, with the average award being $46,736. Northwestern also has the Northwestern Guarantee, which ensures that students who receive need-based aid won’t have to take out loans to pay for tuition.

SCHOLARSHIP sketch on notebook

Carleton also offers need-based aid and merit-based scholarships. In the 2018-2019 academic year, around 52% of students received need-based aid, with the average award being $46,746. Carleton also offers the Carleton Access Scholarship, which provides financial support to first-generation and low-income students.

However, when it comes to the generosity of financial aid and scholarships, it is difficult to determine which school is more generous. Both Northwestern and Carleton have similar percentages of students receiving need-based aid and similar average award amounts.

Additionally, both schools offer unique programs to support students with financial needs. Ultimately, it is important for students to research and compare the financial aid and scholarship options at each school to determine which one is the best fit for their individual needs.

Career Opportunities and Outcomes: Northwestern vs Carleton

Graduates of Northwestern and Carleton are highly sought after by employers. Northwestern has a strong alumni network and has produced many successful graduates across a range of industries. In the 2020 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” ranking, Northwestern was ranked #23 for Best Undergraduate Business Programs and #9 for Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs.

Carleton graduates are similarly successful, with a high acceptance rate for graduate and professional schools. In the 2020 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” ranking, Carleton was ranked #2 for Best Undergraduate Teaching and #7 for Best National Liberal Arts Colleges. Carleton’s focus on undergraduate education and experiential learning prepares students for successful outcomes post-graduation.

Additionally, both Northwestern and Carleton offer extensive career services to their students and alumni. Northwestern’s Career Advancement office provides resources such as career counseling, job and internship postings, and networking events. Carleton’s Career Center offers similar services, as well as opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience through internships, research, and community engagement.

Furthermore, both schools have strong entrepreneurship programs that have produced successful startups and entrepreneurs. Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management offers courses and resources for students interested in entrepreneurship, and the school has produced notable alumni such as Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell.

Carleton’s Entrepreneurial Studies program provides students with the skills and knowledge to start their own businesses, and the program has produced successful ventures such as the sustainable food company Tiny Footprint Coffee.

Alumni Networks: Northwestern vs Carleton

Both Northwestern and Carleton have strong alumni networks with connections across a range of industries and fields. Northwestern’s alumni network is global and extensive, with alumni events and networking opportunities around the world. Carleton’s alumni network is similarly active, with alumni events and regional chapters across the United States.

Students sitting next to each other while studying.

However, because of their different size and focus on academics, the alumni networks at each institution may have different strengths. Northwestern’s large and diverse alumni network may offer more opportunities for students in certain industries or locations, while Carleton’s close-knit alumni community may offer more personalized connections and mentorship opportunities.

In addition to industry connections and mentorship opportunities, alumni networks can also provide valuable resources for job searching and career development. Northwestern’s alumni network, for example, offers a robust online job board and career services for alumni and students alike. Carleton’s alumni network, on the other hand, may offer more specialized resources for students interested in pursuing careers in the nonprofit or public sectors.

Another factor to consider when comparing alumni networks is the level of engagement and involvement of alumni. While both Northwestern and Carleton have active alumni networks, Northwestern’s larger size may make it more challenging for alumni to stay connected and engaged. Carleton’s smaller size, however, may foster a stronger sense of community and encourage more active participation among alumni.

Athletics and Extracurricular Activities: Which School Offers More Options?

Northwestern has a robust athletics program, offering 19 varsity sports teams that participate in the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference. In addition, Northwestern has over 500 student organizations and clubs, ranging from special interest activities to performing arts groups and volunteer organizations.

Carleton has a similarly strong athletics program, with 20 varsity sports teams that compete in NCAA Division III. Carleton also offers over 240 student organizations and clubs, including unique student groups like the A Capella Choir and the Knit Wits knitting group.

Campus Resources: Comparing Libraries, Laboratories, and Other Facilities.

Northwestern and Carleton both offer a range of campus resources to students. Northwestern has a number of libraries and research centers, including the world-renowned Northwestern University Library. Northwestern’s research facilities are state-of-the-art and offer opportunities for students to engage in cutting-edge research across a range of disciplines.

Carleton also has excellent facilities, including the Gould Library, which has a range of resources and services for students. Carleton emphasizes undergraduate research and hands-on learning and has facilities that support those priorities, including the Center for Community and Civic Engagement and the Digital Humanities Center.

Diversity and Inclusion: How Do These Two Schools Measure Up?

Diversity and inclusion are important factors to consider when choosing a college or university. Northwestern and Carleton both prioritize diversity and inclusion and have initiatives and programs that support those values.

At Northwestern, there are over 60 cultural and identity-based student groups, and the university has a Diversity and Inclusion Office that works to foster a more inclusive community. In addition, Northwestern is located in a diverse and vibrant city, which offers a range of multicultural experiences and opportunities for students.

four students at the hallway smiling for the camera

At Carleton, the college has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion and has implemented a range of programs and initiatives to support those goals. Carleton has a Bias Response Team that responds to instances of bias and discrimination and also offers a range of resources and support services for students from diverse backgrounds.

Student-Faculty Ratio: Which One is Better for Students?

The student-faculty ratio is an important factor to consider when choosing a college or university. At Northwestern, the student-faculty ratio is 6:1, and at Carleton, it is 9:1. While both schools have a low student-faculty ratio, Carleton’s smaller community and focus on undergraduate education may offer more intimate and personalized relationships with professors.

Campus Safety: Comparing Crime Rates and Security Measures.

Campus safety is an important consideration for any college or university. Both Northwestern and Carleton have various security measures in place to ensure the safety and well-being of their students.

Northwestern has a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan, and the university’s police department is committed to ensuring a safe and secure campus environment. According to the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, Northwestern had no incidents of murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide in the past three years.

Similarly, Carleton has a robust safety and security program, which includes 24/7 patrols, crisis response teams, and emergency response training. According to the college’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, Carleton had no incidents of murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide in the past three years.

Tuition Fees and Cost of Living: How Do They Stack Up Against Each Other?

The cost of attending a college or university is an important factor to consider when making a decision. Northwestern is a more expensive option, with a tuition rate of $58,701 for the 2020-2021 academic year. Room and board fees add an additional $17,079, bringing the total cost of attendance to around $75,780.

Carleton is also a costly choice, with a tuition rate of $60,479 for the 2020-2021 academic year. Room and board fees add an additional $14,848, bringing the total cost of attendance to around $75,327. However, both Northwestern and Carleton offer financial aid and scholarships to students who qualify, which can help to offset the cost of attendance.

Class Size and Teaching Approaches: Which School Offers a Better Learning Experience?

The class size and teaching approach of a college or university can greatly affect the learning experience of students. Northwestern and Carleton have different teaching styles and approaches to education that may appeal to different students.

At Northwestern, the class sizes can be larger, due to the size of the university. However, the university also offers small, seminar-style classes that allow for more personal interaction with professors. Northwestern emphasizes experiential learning, and professors often incorporate real-world examples and hands-on learning into their courses.

Carleton’s class sizes are smaller, due to the focus on undergraduate education. The college emphasizes a collaborative and interactive teaching approach, and professors often use active learning strategies to engage students. Carleton also prioritizes undergraduate research opportunities, and students often have the opportunity to work closely with faculty members on research projects and experiments.

Graduate Programs Offered and Their Popularity

Northwestern offers an extensive range of graduate programs across a range of disciplines, including business, medicine, law, and engineering. These graduate programs are renowned for their quality, and attract students from around the world. With 145 graduate and professional programs, Northwestern offers an array of options for students to continue their education and explore their interests.

Group of students talking in a table.

Carleton doesn’t offer any graduate programs, instead focusing solely on undergraduate education. While this may not be ideal for students who are interested in continuing their studies, Carleton’s undergraduate education program is renowned for its rigor and the opportunities it offers students.

Research Funding Opportunities Available at Northwestern vs Carleton

Northwestern is a research-focused institution and has numerous resources and funding opportunities available for students who are interested in pursuing research. The university has a dedicated research office that provides funding and support for students in all disciplines. In addition, Northwestern has partnerships with numerous industry leaders and research organizations, offering students unique opportunities to engage in cutting-edge research.

Carleton emphasizes undergraduate research and offers numerous opportunities for students to engage in research activities. The college offers research funding and support to students, along with faculty mentorship and experiential learning opportunities. Despite not being a research-focused institution, Carleton provides its undergraduates with an immersive research experience that can prepare them for future academic and professional pursuits.

Study Abroad Programs Availability, Opportunities & Experiences Offered at Northwestern vs Carleton

Study abroad opportunities can greatly enrich the undergraduate experience, providing students with the chance to experience new cultures and languages, and gain international perspectives. Both Northwestern and Carleton offer numerous study-abroad opportunities to their students.

Northwestern has a dedicated office for study abroad, which helps students find and apply to programs across the world. The university also has partnerships with numerous international universities, which allow students to take courses and engage in research activities abroad.

A woman smiling at the camera in front of her laptop.

In addition, Northwestern has an array of international campus locations, including in Paris and Doha, offering students unique opportunities to study abroad in culturally rich environments.

Carleton also has a study abroad program and offers numerous opportunities for students to engage in global experiences. The college offers programs across the world, including in Asia, Europe, and Africa, and emphasizes language immersion and cultural integration.

Carleton’s focus on undergraduate education and experiential learning means that students who study abroad can gain unique perspectives that can inform their academic and professional pursuits.

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

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