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Tips for Success

First Year

  • Spend your first year exploring the curriculum.  Learning about new fields and broadening your horizons is at the heart of a liberal arts education. It is also the best way to confirm your intended major or to find one that you didn’t know existed before coming to Mac. Most courses meet general (divisional) distribution requirements, so you’ll also be making progress toward graduation while you’re exploring. Ask your advisor to show you DegreeWorks, the electronic tool that monitors your progress in meeting requirements.
  • Be bold, adventurous, and intentional in selecting involvement beyond the classroom. From student organizations on-campus to service opportunities off campus, there are dozens of ways to find your niche and get connected with the Mac community. We encourage you to try something familiar, something you’ve always wanted to explore but haven’t yet, and something completely new that you’re not quite sure about.
  • Spend time reflecting on what you learn about yourself and your experiences. Share your insights with your academic advisor, your professors, and professional staff. They can often point you in the direction of opportunities and resources to make your time at Mac meaningful.

Second Year

  • Talk with faculty members in the fields you are considering as majors. Major declaration is required in April of your sophomore year and you’ll want to make well-informed and strategic choices during both fall and spring pre-registration. If the advisor from your First Year Course (FYC) isn’t in the department(s) you’re considering, talk with them about how to identity someone you can ask to serve as your official advisor. Switching official advisors is normal; you can still receive advice and guidance from your FYC advisor even if that person is no longer your official academic advisor.
  • Continue to monitor your progress in meeting graduation requirements through DegreeWorks. Don’t forget to use the “what if” function to learn which courses you’ve taken or are considering that meet requirements for majors, minors or concentrations.
  • Talk with your advisor about study abroad plans. Study abroad applications are due annually in December and require a four-semester plan. Be sure you have adequate language preparation for the programs you are considering. Careful planning is essential to a successful study abroad experience.
  • Deepen your involvements outside of the classroom and consider taking on a leadership role. Surveys done of undergraduates nationwide suggest it is the integration of academic and co-curricular activities that leads to a meaningful college experience. Internships, whether for credit or pay, are often good ways to bring these different types of interests into focus. Make an appointment with the Internship Program to discuss the possibilities. It is also a good time to visit the Career Exploration office to begin thinking about what comes after Mac.

Third Year

  • Establish a solid relationship with your major advisor. That person is in the best position to recommend courses that match your interests as well as point you in the direction of research opportunities and internships. They can also connect you with alums. MacConnect, Macalester’s alumni database, is a terrific networking resource available to all current students.
  • Start to make plans for what you will do after you graduate. Most graduate and professional schools require you to complete special entrance examinations (the LSAT, MCAT, GRE, etc.) and students who plan to enter graduate school immediately after graduation will take these tests early in their senior year. Those considering full-time work will want to begin, or intensify, the search process.
  • Consider applying for national scholarships. Applications for the Beinecke (graduate study in the arts, humanities or social sciences), Truman (careers in public service), Goldwater (science research) and Udall (environmental policy) are due in the junior year. Make an appointment with the Director of Academic Programs and Advising to discuss the opportunities and the process.
  • Consider undertaking an honors project.  Completing an honors project is an ideal way to demonstrate your ability to do graduate level work; it can also help you decide if doing original, independent research is your true calling. Most departments require submission of project proposals in the spring of the junior year. Consult your major department chair regarding the GPA eligibility guidelines and application process.
  • Identify individuals who can write recommendations. Whether you’re applying for an internship, a job, graduate school, or national scholarships, you’ll need people who know you well and can write on your behalf. Cultivate relationships with faculty and staff, as well as work supervisors on campus and in the community. Checkout the Letter of Recommendation Tips on the Academic Programs and Advising website.

Fourth Year

  • File your Intent to Graduate form with the Registrar’s office and make an appointment to review your degree requirements. If DegreeWorks doesn’t reflect the courses actually taken to complete requirements, update your major, minor, or concentration plan with the appropriate person.
  • Solidify post-graduation plans, whether that is full-time employment, graduate school, travel or community service. Make more trips to the Career Exploration office!
  • Consider applying for national scholarships. Applications for graduate study in the UK (Rhodes and Marshall), independent research and travel (Fulbright and Watson) and positions as junior research apprentices (Gaither Fellows) are due early in the senior year. Make more trips to Academic Programs and Advising!
  • Stay Connected. Your relationship with Macalester doesn’t end with graduation. Young alums often need letters of recommendation and advice for several years after they leave Macalester. Current students will look to you for after-Mac advice; become the kind of alumni mentor that helped you find your way after graduation.

People and Web Resources

Academic Programs and Advising
215 Weyerhaeuser:  meaning of a liberal arts degree; graduation requirements; major decision making; academic difficulty; national scholarships; honors program.

Student Leadership and Engagement
2nd floor of Campus Center:  student organizations; Program Board; integrating curricular and co-curricular experiences; honing leadership skills:

Career Exploration
Kagin Commons:  major decision making; connecting majors with careers; job search; graduate school process and test information.

Community Engagement Center
Markim Hall:  community based learning and work; reflecting on being an engaged citizen; integrating curricular and co-curricular experiences; honing leadership skills.

Internship Program
Kagin Commons:  career exploration; identify interests and develop skills; apply theory and learning from the classroom; network with employers and professionals.

MAX (Macalester Academic Excellence) Center
Kagin Commons:  time management; study skills; subject specific tutoring; assistance with writing papers in all subjects and all levels; tutor training; assistance with graduate school test preparation and applications.

Registrar’s Office
77 Mac:  AP/IB/A-level exams and corresponding credits; graduation requirements; registration; transcripts/enrollment verification; academic calendar; college catalogs; class schedules; final exam schedules.

Residential Life
Campus Center or your hall office: Hall Council involvement; exploring your role and responsibility in your community; building relationships; communicating across difference; apply to be an RA; student travel grants.

Student Affairs Office
119 Weyerhaeuser; Macalester College Student Government (MCSG); student rights and responsibilities; student leaves of absences or permanent withdrawals.

Center for Study Away
Markim Hall:  information on study abroad programs; education abroad advisors; cross-cultural departure and re-entry considerations.