Adjusting to College Life

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It’s probably fair to say that few people think of going to the cold north of Northfield, Minnesota for swimming, but in a sense, that’s what Jake Winter did. Jake is finishing his first year at Carleton College and is happy as can be, but Carleton certainly wasn’t his first thought. When it was time for Jake to begin thinking about college, a friend’s sister who attended Carleton suggested he might want to go there. At the time, Jake didn’t know anything about the school, and so he laughed at the idea. As he pursued his college search in the ensuring months, however, the name of Carleton kept resurfacing, and before long, he was taking the idea very seriously indeed.

One thing that was important to Jake was finding a school with a solid swim team. So once he began seriously looking at Carleton, he decided to visit and check out the swimmers in action. He liked what he saw, met the swim coach, and knew the program was a good fit for him. Over time, he realized that he liked everything that Carleton had to offer, and so he applied ED 1 and was delighted to be accepted.

Jake’s freshman experience began with Carleton’s New Student Week, a program for which he has been grateful ever since. It was the first time that he realized what a big change college would be, and the week’s activities helped him meet people, become oriented to the campus, and begin to feel acclimated both to Carleton and to college life. By the end of the week, he felt ready for the real deal.

The real deal, as it turned out, began with his Argument and Inquiry seminar class. It was taught by a liberal arts professor and presents liberal arts subjects with a “funky take” that is different and interesting. One area that received a good bit of emphasis was philosophy, and Jake found that he loved it. Maybe he shouldn’t have been surprised, because both his dad and grandfather majored in philosophy during their college years, but until that class, Jake hadn’t thought about it. Now he’s considering it seriously: he says he is headed for a double major in philosophy and cognitive science, which has been a long-term interest.

Coming from Walt Whitman High School, Jake felt well prepared academically, but he has still found the academics at Carleton to be a big step up. His classes require a lot of reading and a lot of writing. Even his geology course required a 7-8 page paper, and one class assigned 150 pages of reading to be completed between Monday and Wednesday. To keep up, he spends an average of 5-6 hours a day studying, but he still finds time for the college debate club, for writing columns and articles for two student publications and, of course, for fulfilling his obligations with the Carleton swim team.

Jake pours most of his extra time into on-campus activities and says that most of Carleton social life is found on campus – unless you count the nearby arboretum, which has 750 acres of trails for hiking and cross country skiing. Northfield’s opportunities are limited, but students are hardly isolated. The twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are less than an hour away.

Jake has found it easy to meet people and make friends in this “Minnesota-nice” community, and he has been very impressed with his classmates. He describes them as just as bright as Whitman’s brightest but, as a group, less competitive, and he sees those qualities particularly on display during class discussions. Jake also likes that so many (70%) bring perspective gained from study abroad participation, something he plans to do next year. Jake hopes to go to Kyoto, Japan in the spring of his sophomore year. Like the majority of his peers, he’ll likely sign up for a Carleton program. They are good programs and, in any event, Carleton’s trimester schedule doesn’t mesh well with conventional semester timetables.

Between classes, study time and outside activity, Jake has a lot to keep up with, but then he always has swimming as an outlet. In fact, much of this summer will be taken up with his work as a swimming instructor. Sounds like another perfect choice.

Like all students, Jake began his college journey by looking for a school that was a good fit him. There’s no question he found it at Carleton.

We’re delighted for you, Jake. Thanks for sharing your story with us.