Should I Go To Macalester College?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Ruby is a Minneapolis tutor and 2011 graduate of Macalester College. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and tutors several subjects, specializing in Algebra tutoring, SAT prep tutoring, and Spanish tutoring. Check out what Ruby had to say about her time at Macalester College:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Ruby: Macalester College is both urban and safe! The campus is very small, about five blocks across by one or two blocks wide, so you do not need transportation if you want to stay off-campus. There are indoor skyways and tunnels between almost all of the dorms, so students do not have to go outside in the winter to visit each other. Many students choose to explore the Twin Cities via bike or bus. The campus is located on two great bus lines, the 84 and the 63, and they easily connect to the Green Line light rail train. There is a campus organization called MacBike which will help students access and maintain bikes. Do make sure to get a good bike lock! When I was on campus, bike theft was by far the most common kind of crime.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Ruby: Extremely available. Macalester College has very few teaching assistants, and they mostly just help with grading papers in first year courses or observing labs in science classes. The overwhelming majority of classes are taught directly by professors. Most professors are very available and helpful, during both class and office hours. I had to take three weeks off school during my sophomore year when I had mononucleosis, and my professors spent one-on-one time with me helping me get caught up.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Ruby: I had a great experience in the dorms at Macalester College. I am still close friends with many of the women on my first year freshman floor (I lived in Doty Hall, which is gender-segregated by floor). All the dorms are in the same area of campus. The theme houses are mostly on one street on the other side of campus from the dorms. There is only one dining hall at Macalester College, which is nice because it becomes a real social hub, especially during freshman year. The dining hall has lots of options (including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free), and it is very careful about buying local and sustainable ingredients.  

One exciting thing about the dorms at Macalester College is that in almost all of them, the rooms have sinks. This is great for brushing your teeth and washing your face without waiting in a long line.

Many upperclassmen live off-campus. There are lots of great, affordable housing options around the campus, and living off-campus is a wonderful way to transition to living on your own after college.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Ruby: The International Studies department is excellent and well renowned. I personally majored in Linguistics with minors in Environmental Studies and Hispanic Studies (Spanish). The Linguistics department is very small, with only two full-time professors at the time that I attended. There are benefits and disadvantages to being part of such a small department: it is very close knit, and you really get to know the people in your classes, but the depth and diversity of classes is not as good as at bigger schools. I am sometimes jealous of friends at large schools who got to take extremely specialized classes, but there were some great topics courses, especially those cross-listed with other departments (I took an excellent topics course on Spanish in the United States, for example).

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Ruby: Macalester College makes it extremely easy to make friends. You have both an orientation group and a first year course to provide social structures with other first years. There are all kinds of clubs and activities to help people get to know each other. There is no Greek life at all at Macalester College.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Ruby: The Career Center is great and provides a lot of good resources, but you really have to go to them. I have had staff at the Career Center look over my resume and do career planning as an alumna, which is a great benefit for people who stay in the Twin Cities. I was not aware of companies recruiting on campus specifically, but you can get connected with many great organizations and companies through the Internship Office.

Macalester College is definitely well regarded within the Twin Cities, especially in the non-profit community. I have worked with multiple Macalester College graduates at every job I have had.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Ruby: There are lots of great places to spend time. The Campus Center, where the cafeteria is, is a great study-and-relax atmosphere with a lot of people, especially during meal times and late nights. The library is more sedate, with progressively quieter floors as you go upstairs (the top floor is essentially silent). The new arts building is very beautiful, and it has great spaces for doing work. The dorm lounges are nothing to write home about, but they are perfectly serviceable. There are a ton of free and open computers, especially at the library, and I knew a few people who were able to write all their papers and do all their work without bringing their own laptops.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Ruby: The Twin Cities are two great reasons to go to Macalester College. Immediately around campus, there are many great restaurants, an art supply store, a fantastic bookstore, and other similar businesses. Campus is just a quick bus or bike ride away from downtown Saint Paul (which is honestly pretty boring) or many parts of Minneapolis. When I was in college, I spent a lot of time in the neighborhood where I now live.

It can be hard to leave campus, especially in the winter when it is so cold, but it is really up to each individual student. Some people never leave campus; some people are off-campus exploring, enjoying the arts scene, or volunteering all the time.

The most important thing to me about being in a city was that the connections I built up through outside internships and volunteering directly translated into my professional network once I graduated. I know for many of my friends, the internships they did during college were places that would employ them when they graduated. It is a huge benefit that you do not always get at more rural schools.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Ruby: Macalester College has a little over 2,000 people. Particularly being in the Linguistics department, which is so small, I was always very pleased with my class sizes. My capstone class only had six students in it.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

My senior year, I took a class on Community Based Theater with Harry Waters, Jr. It was both experience- and readings-based. Harry would often have us lie on the floor and breathe mindfully, which forced a little bit of reflection and quiet into my days. The class was extremely fun and included visiting In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater in Minneapolis to be a part of their puppet-making workshops for the May Day Parade. I really appreciated that the class, which I took for an art credit, made me get off campus and outside my comfort zone. We got to be in the parade alongside hundreds of other volunteers, and we were able to share the art we had made with an audience of thousands.

Check out Ruby’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.