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International First-Year FAQs


  • What do you mean when you say Macalester is a “liberal arts” college?

    liberal arts education provides students with a broad foundation of knowledge in the natural sciences, mathematics, the social sciences, the humanities and the fine arts. Students also focus on a field of study (a “major”) and demonstrate mastery of the intellectual building blocks and methodologies of that academic discipline. In contrast to an education that emphasizes narrow technical or vocation training, a liberal arts education will develop the critical thinking and communication skills that will equip graduates to adapt to a rapidly changing world.

  • What degrees does Macalester offer?

    Macalester College offers programs leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in 39 areas of study as well as 40 minors and 10 concentrations. Students are not required to officially declare a major until the end of their second year. For detailed information on areas of study go to Academics at Macalester.

  • Is it possible to receive credit from Macalester for International Baccalaureate, A level, and/or advanced placement exams?

    International Baccalaureate and Cambridge A-Level students
    Macalester will fully recognize the calculated results that the International Baccalaureate Organization and Cambridge International/Pearson EdExel will issue in Summer 2020 in lieu of exam results. These results will be awarded credit as in previous years (and outlined below).

    2020 AP Exams
    Macalester will fully recognize submitted AP scores taken in 2020. Scores will be awarded credit as in previous years (outlined below).

    Macalester will accept credit for no more than the equivalent of twenty Macalester credits from courses earned prior to matriculation at Macalester. (The only exception to this limitation applies to students who have achieved the equivalent of twenty-four Macalester credits solely through College Board Advanced Placement Examinations.) Credits earned through Advanced Placement Exams, International Baccalaureate or GCE A-Level examinations cannot be used to meet the college’s general distribution requirement.

    Students whose scores on Higher Level Examinations of the International Baccalaureate Program are 5, 6, or 7 may receive the equivalent of four or eight semester hours of credit for each such examination. Credit is determined by the appropriate academic department on an individual basis. No credit is awarded for the Standard Level Examinations.

    Students who have completed A-Level Examinations in order to earn a General Certificate of Education (GCE) receive the equivalent of eight semester credits for each A-Level Examination with a score of A, B, C, or D. No more than the equivalent of twenty semester credits can be earned in this manner.

    Students who have taken the College Board Advanced Placement Examinations may be eligible for advanced placement and appropriate credit. Scores of 3, 4 or 5 may result in credit. Academic departments have determined which scores result in credit. More information on Transfer of Credit. Some departments require the student to discuss their scores with the department chair before a credit determination is made. First year students who wish to have their AP scores considered should have them sent directly to Macalester College by the College Board. You may visit the AP Exams website at or call 888-225-5427 to request your scores be sent directly to Macalester College – use 6390 for the college code.

    Students who have studied at international secondary schools that use similar exams (CAPE, French Baccalaureate etc.) may also receive credit based on exam results. The final determination on eligibility for advanced standing based on such exams is made by the Registrar.

  • How does Macalester provide academic advising to its students?

    Each student has one faculty member designated as their primary advisor. The advisor is responsible for monitoring the progress of the student through their career at Macalester. In a student’s first year, they will register for a First-Year Course as one of four first-semester classes. First-year courses are for first-year students only, are limited to sixteen students, and the instructor of each course is the academic advisor for the students in that course. Students are encouraged to change advisors to someone in their primary academic area of interest at the end of the second year.

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  • I am an international student attending high school in the United States. How will my application be evaluated?

    Macalester’s Admissions staff read applications based on the secondary school a student is attending/attended at the completion of their secondary education, regardless of their citizenship status. International students completing their secondary education in the United States will be read primarily by the admission officer responsible for the state or region in which a student’s high school is located. Find your admission officer.

    If a student has not spent all four years of high school in the U.S., they will need to provide transcripts from their school/s overseas, translated into English if necessary, along with their transcript from their current high school in the U.S. In the event students present transcripts from a school not in the U.S. as part of their academic record, the admission officer responsible for the application will work with a member of the international admissions team to ensure they understand the proper context of the student’s overseas curriculum.

  • I am a U.S. Citizen/Permanent Resident attending school overseas. Am I considered an international applicant?

    Macalester’s Admission staff read applications based on the secondary school a student is attending/attended at the completion of their secondary education, regardless of their citizenship status. U.S. citizens/permanent residence completing secondary school overseas will be read by the international admissions team. This policy ensures the student’s transcript and education experience is understood within the proper context of their curriculum.

    The major difference for U.S. citizens/permanent residents living overseas involves the process of applying for financial aid. Unlike non-citizens, students holding U.S. citizenship/permanent residency will file the FAFSA as well as the CSS Profile since they are eligible for U.S. federal financial aid funds. Learn more on our financial aid website.

  • I am an undocumented/DACA student. Can I apply to Macalester? What is Macalester’s admissions policy?

    Macalester’s long-standing commitment to internationalism and multiculturalism includes supporting and fully reviewing applications from students who identify as undocumented or who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. Visit our Undocumented Students page for more information about application requirements, admission policy, and financial aid for students who are undocumented or hold DACA status.

  • I am a student who identifies as a refugee/displaced person/asylum seeker/stateless person, but I do no have legal refugee/asylee status in the United States. Can I apply to Macalester?

    Macalester welcomes all students who have experienced the effects of displacement to apply and will ensure applications are given full consideration regardless of their official status.

    In line with the United Nations, Macalester acknowledges differentiations beyond students with official status as an asylee or refugee in the United States, including students who identify as a:

    Refugee currently residing in a country outside of the United States
    Someone who has been forced to flee their country because of persecution, war, or violence and is recognized by their current country of residence as having official refugee status.

    Displaced Person
    Someone who has been forced to flee or leave their home or place of habitual residence as a result of armed conflict, internal strife, repeated violations of human rights, or natural and humanmade disasters. This can include an Internally Displaced Person who has not crossed an international border but was forced to move to a different region within their own country to flee conflict.

    Asylum Seeker
    Asylum seekers say they are refugees and have fled their homes as refugees do, but their claim to refugee status is not yet definitively evaluated in the country to which they fled.

    Stateless Persons
    A stateless person does not have a recognized nationality and does not belong to any country. Statelessness situations are usually caused by discrimination against certain groups. Students who do not hold an official refugee or asylum status visa within the United States should select “I do not hold a currently valid US non-immigrant Visa” on the Common Application. In keeping with Macalester’s values, we encourage students who self-identify with any of these definitions to indicate so on the Common Application. Students can identify themselves by providing documentation with their application such as proof of status in their current country of residence; scan of a United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) card; and/or personal narrative within the Common Application essay, Additional Information section, or Macalester supplemental questions.Students with questions or concerns about how to submit their application should contact

  • What does Macalester look for in deciding which international students will be offered admission?

    The competition for admission to Macalester is very keen; our overall international student admit rate for the Class of 2025 was 11%. We are seeking students who have the potential to thrive in our rigorous academic program and will also be engaged and contributing members of the Macalester community.

    Academic Factors

    Review of your application will begin with a thorough analysis of your academic preparation and secondary school performance. School systems vary a great deal and we always look at an applicant’s secondary school record in the context of the system in which they were educated. Whatever the system, we look for evidence that the applicant has performed at a very high level academically and has taken a rigorous curriculum.

    Since there are multiple educational systems around the world with unique grading structures, we consider the transcript requirement on a case-by-case basis. The standard requirement for transcripts to include grades (marks) for years 9 through 12 and available external exam scores. Please direct any questions about transcripts to

    Personal and Engagement Factors

    Many other things are considered as we evaluate an applicant’s potential to be a successful and engaged member of the Macalester community, including personal qualities, experiences and background, talents, etc. We will look for that information in your application, essays and recommendations, among other things.

    Other Factors

    The admission round through which a student applies can play a role in admission decisions as well. For example, acceptance rates for international students tend to be a bit higher in the binding early decision rounds due to the relatively small size of the ED pool and the knowledge that Macalester is a first-choice school. Information about Early Decision.

    Financial need also plays a role in admission decisions. This is necessary in order for Macalester to make sure our financial aid budget meets our promise of meeting 100% of demonstrated need for every student we admit. International students with the highest levels of financial need (contributions of less than $30,000 USD) face the greatest levels of competition in the selection process. In recent years, Macalester has given extra consideration to international students needing significant financial aid who apply in early admission rounds (particularly Early Decision). While competition for admission remains quite high, Early Decision can provide a small edge.

  • Does Macalester require that applicants submit SAT exam scores?

    Macalester has a permanent “Test Optional” policy; meaning applicants are not required or expected to submit ACT or SAT results when applying for admission.

    Students who have taken the SAT or ACT and wish to have them considered along with their other application materials may choose to do so. Students who choose NOT to submit SAT or ACT scores will be evaluated on all other application materials and will be given the same consideration for admission and merit scholarships as students who choose to submit scores.

  • How will Macalester use SAT or ACT exams if I choose to submit them?

    These exams are often very different from the exams that international students have taken previously. We recognize students overseas have fewer opportunities to prepare for and take the SAT or ACT multiple times. Therefore, Macalester does not have a minimum score nor do we rank applicants on the basis of their SAT or ACT scores. Register for the SAT on the College Board website. Macalester’s code for the ACT is 6390.

  • Are SAT subject exam (SAT2s) required?

    Macalester does not require that students submit results from SAT Subject exams (sometimes referred to as SAT2 exams). However, many international students choose to submit the results of SAT Subject exams because these results may demonstrate their knowledge and ability in those academic areas.

  • Are all international applicants required to submit TOEFL exam results?

    Macalester’s classes are instructed in English and only students who have a strong command of the English language (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) will be offered admission.

    If your first language is English and/or you attend a secondary school where the primary language of instruction is English:

    Applicants may request that the TOEFL requirement be waived by completing the ENGLISH PROFICIENCY Testing Waiver Request Form in their Applicant Portal.

    If English is not the first language or the primary language of instruction:

    Applicants are required to submit one of the following exams in order to demonstrate proficiency in English.

    Self-reported test scores for IELTS and internet-based TOEFL will be accepted in the selection process. Admitted students who decide to attend Macalester will be required to submit official score reports.

    Scores for TOEFL Essentials and Duolingo English Test must be submitted directly from testing agencies. Testing Policy page.

    Concerned about access to an exam? The Duolingo English Test is a cost effective option for students who do not have access to IELTS or TOEFL.

  • What is the minimum TOEFL score required for admission?

    Macalester does not have listed minimum score requirements for the TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo (DET) tests. Most international students who are offered admission to Macalester have scored 100 or higher on the TOEFL iBT 7.0 or higher on the IELTS, or 120 on the DET.

  • What is Macalester’s minimum SAT score?

    Macalester has a permanent Test Optional policy, meaning applicants are not required or expected to submit ACT or SAT results when applying for admission.

    For students who choose to submit SAT or ACT scores, Macalester does not have a minimum score requirement for the SAT or ACT, nor does it rank applicants on the basis of SAT or ACT scores. The value of the SAT or ACT results varies significantly from case to case and it is always only one piece of information among many that we use in evaluating an applicant’s potential to thrive academically at Macalester.

  • If I take a standardized or English proficiency exam (ibTOEFL or IELTS) in December, will those results be considered as part of my Regular Decision application? What about my Early Decision I or Early Action application?

    Any standardized exams (SAT or ACT) or English proficiency exams (ibTOEFL or IELTS) results received by the third week in January will automatically be considered as a part of your Regular Decision application. We recommend that you self report your December scores to Macalester as soon as they are available. Learn more about our Testing Policy.

    Results from December standardized tests or English proficiency exams (ibTOEFL or IELTS) taken in December will not be received in time to be considered as part of an Early Decision 1 or Early Action application. 

    Students who need English Proficiency exam results quickly  to complete their application are encouraged to take either the Duolingo English Test (DET) or TOEFL Essentials test. Results for both tests are available to send to Macalester within days of completion.

  • If I take the SAT and/or TOEFL in December, will those results be considered as part of my regular decision application?

    Any SAT and/or TOEFL exams results received by the third week in January will automatically be considered as a part of your Regular Decision application. We recommend that you self report your December scores to Macalester as soon as they are available. Learn more about our Testing Policy

  • Must I submit official SAT/ACT and English Proficiency Exam reports directly from the testing agency?

    The submission of official scores for the ibTOEFL and IELTS tests may present a financial barrier to some students. As we do not wish to constrain an applicant’s ability to apply to a diverse set of institutions, we will accept self-reported test scores for these tests. Admitted students who decide to attend Macalester will be required to submit official score reports. 

    Students taking the Duolingo English Test or TOEFL Essentials test must submit official results through the testing agency. There is no additional fee to submit DET or TOEFL Essentials results to Macalester. Learn more about our Testing Policy

  • If I have been taking O Level / A Level type curriculum, are A level results required?

    Students who have only completed the O Levels will not be considered for admission to Macalester. A Level students must submit final O, AS (where available) and A Level results for evaluation. If final A Level results are not available by the application deadline, predicted scores must be submitted instead. This requirement also applies to students who have been educated in countries with similar exam-based educational systems.

  • Should my high school transcripts and letters of recommendation be submitted in the original language or translated into English?

    Every applicant must submit official transcripts with the school seal stamp and official signature sent directly by a school official. If the transcript is not in English, the applicant must also submit English translation of the transcript with the name and position of the person who translated the document. If we have any concerns about any school documents, we will contact the school in order to verify the authenticity of the credentials.

  • My school does not have a “University Counselor,” so who should complete the secondary school report?

    Your high school/secondary school principal, head of school, or other designated school official may complete this recommendation form. This individual should identify their official role at the school. The form should not be completed by an agent or anyone other than a school employee.

  • May I submit my academic credentials by mail? Must all application materials be submitted at the same time?

    All applicants must apply online and use the upload feature in their Applicant Portal to send any supporting materials and financial aid forms.

    It is preferred that secondary schools submit credentials (exam scores, transcript, letters of recommendation, admissions exams) digitally. Only materials sent directly from the high school/secondary school and testing center may be sent by mail. Credentials sent by mail will require longer processing times. Check your Applicant Portal for the status of your credentials. You may submit all of your documents at once or as they become available. Make sure that each document includes your name as it appears on your application.

  • My mid-year grades will not be available by the application deadline – will that be an obstacle to my admission?

    Secondary schools around the world run on a wide range of academic calendars and in many cases the mid-year grades may not be available by the application deadline. 

    Early Decision and Early Action: Early Decision and Early Action applicants must request that a school official (counselor or registrar) send us their first-term senior grades (e.g., first quarter or first trimester).

    For international students in a non-US style curriculum, this requirement could be filled by available mock exams for the most recent term, an unofficial progress report, or (if applicable) predicted results for final graduation exams (IB, A-Levels, etc.) submitted by your counselor/school official/head teacher. 

    Regular Decision: Students should have their school submit the mid-year grades as soon as they become available, preferably by the end of February. If that is not possible, email us at and explain when they will be available.

  • May I submit supplementary materials with my Macalester application?

    In most case the required application materials are sufficient for an applicant to convey the information we need in order to evaluate their candidacy. However, we welcome additional writing samples, recommendations and other items if you feel they will supplement the information in your application in any important way.

  • Are admissions interviews required? What is the purpose of an interview?

    An interview can be a great way to help the Admissions Committee learn more about an applicant beyond the written application. Limited virtual interviews with a Macalester Admissions Officer are available from August through February. Admissions interviews are not required for admission and applicants who do not participate in an interview are not at a disadvantage in the admissions process.

    Macalester accepts InitialView interviews and Vericant interviews. Though also not required, these options can add a more personal dimension to an application for students who are unable to interview with a Macalester admissions counselor.

  • How do I decide whether to apply early decision or regular decision?

    Applying Early Decision (E.D.) to Macalester is appropriate if, after extensive research about your college options, you decide that Mac is the college that will best meet your academic and personal goals. As an E.D. applicant you are committing to withdraw applications to other colleges and enroll at Macalester if offered admission and (if applying for financial aid) your family finds it affordable. In order to be considered for admission under an E.D. process you must submit the Early Decision Agreement, signed by you, a parent and a high school official by the application deadline.

    There are three possible outcomes to an E.D. application: you may be offered admission, you may be denied admission or a decision on your application might be “postponed” to the Regular Decision round. We sometimes postpone E.D. applicants to the Regular Decision round because we want to have the opportunity to compare the applicant to the students who apply in the Regular Decision pool, or because the student requires a substantial financial aid award and we do not yet have a clear picture of how many large scholarships we will be able to offer. We often end up offering admission in the Regular Decision round to students who were postponed from E.D., so a student who is postponed should not give up hope. However, the student should keep applications to other colleges active in case they are not offered admission to Macalester. We use the same methodology to determine eligibility for financial aid in both decision periods, so you would receive the same award no matter which process you used.

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  • I will need financial assistance in order to be able to attend Macalester–does that hurt my chances of admission?

    Macalester’s broad international representation is made possible in great measure by a significant institutional commitment to providing financial assistance to international students. Approximately two out of three of the international students who enroll at Macalester receive financial aid awards. We are committed to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of every student we admit. Unfortunately, our financial aid budget is not unlimited.

    International students with the highest levels of financial need (contributions of less than $30,000 USD) face the greatest levels of competition in the selection process. In recent years, Macalester has given extra consideration to international students needing significant financial aid who apply in early admission rounds (particularly Early Decision). While competition for admission remains quite high, Early Decision can provide a small edge.

  • How much financial aid does Macalester offer?

    Macalester is committed to meeting the full demonstrated need of every enrolling student. In 2020-2021 Macalester provided $10.3 million in financial aid for international students. The average aid awarded to international students was $49,157.

  • Does Macalester offer Merit Scholarships to international students?

    The Charles J. Turck Presidential Honor Scholarship is awarded to a limited number of international students who demonstrate special potential to excel academically. The scholarships range from $12,500 to $15,000 per year. Every international applicant is automatically considered for the Turck Scholarship regardless of whether they submit SAT/ACT scores or not – no special application is required.

  • When will I hear if I will receive financial aid from Macalester?

    Students who are offered admission to Macalester will receive information about any financial aid they have been awarded at the same time they are notified of the admissions decision.

  • What are the components of a financial aid package?

    It is difficult for us to give you a specific number for the amount of aid you would receive. We review the financial aid paperwork that you submit to us and if you are admitted you receive an award along with your admittance letter. Macalester is committed to meeting the full demonstrated need of every enrolling student. In 2017-2018 Macalester provided $11.2 million in financial aid for international students. Below is further information about the financial aid package.

    A financial aid package from Macalester College will usually include:

    Grants (gift aid): Grants make up more than 80% of the financial aid distributed by Macalester. The vast majority of these grants and scholarships come from Macalester, primarily funded by gifts from alumni and friends of the college. Grants do not need to be repaid.

    Student Employment: Students typically have the option to work approximately 9 hours per week on campus and earn about $2600 over the course of the year.

    Student Loans: Small loans are usually a component of an international student’s financial aid package. Repayment of the loan does not begin until six months after you cease being a Macalester student, and students may request that the payments be deferred if they go on to graduate school. In some cases, students who return to their home country after graduation may request that the loan debt be forgiven. Our experience is that most of our international students are able to get jobs upon graduation and pay off the loan without undue difficulty since they have 10 years in which to complete payment.

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  • If I have questions that are not answered by the Macalester website, who should I contact?

    We strongly encourage prospective international students to complete our online Information Form. This will make it easier for us to share information with you quickly and efficiently. If, however, you have a question that has not been answered on our website or by the communications we send you once you have filled out the online inquiry form, please email us at Include your full name, country of citizenship and your high school in your email.

  • If I don’t have any additional questions, why should I get on the Macalester mailing list?

    Getting on our mailing list not only makes it easier for us to provide you with important information about Macalester, it will make it possible for us to notify you if an admissions officer or other member of the Macalester community will be in your area.

  • If I do get on the Macalester mailing list, how will you communicate with me?

    Our experience is that the most efficient and reliable means of communicating with international students is through email. If you prefer to receive hard copies of some of materials, you may request them by emailing

  • Is it possible for me to contact a current Macalester international student?

    If you would like to communicate with a current international student, please email

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  • How “International” is Macalester?

    Macalester is one of the most culturally diverse communities you will find at any undergraduate college in the United States. In each entering class approximately 12% to 15% of the students are international and the student body includes citizens of more than 95 countries. Macalester’s US domestic students are often bi-cultural or have spent a significant amount of time living in a country other than the U.S. The academic program also is infused with many opportunities to study other languages, literatures, histories, religions and political systems.

  • How do international students adapt to being part of the Macalester community?

    Macalester’s international students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and each student’s transition is unique. The College has a strong support system in place to help students as they adjust to life in the U.S. and at college. Key among these support systems is the department of International Student Programs. It is worth noting that 91% of the international students who enroll at Macalester complete their degree.

  • Do all Macalester students live on campus?

    All first- and second-year students are required to live on campus. Students have the option of moving off-campus for junior and/or senior year.

  • If I can’t return home during breaks, can I stay on campus?

    Residence halls remain open during short breaks such as fall break in October, Thanksgiving break in November, and Spring Break in March.

    Winter Break: The residence halls close over winter break for two weeks, starting on the day after finals end until usually January 2nd. For these weeks, it is easy to find housing off campus.

    After January 2nd all international students who apply at the end of fall term for January housing may move back into the dorms. 

    Summer Break: Macalester does not offer a Summer Academic Term. However, many students remain in the Twin Cities to take advantage of summer research, internships, or on campus employment. Many off-campus options are available and International Student Programs can help direct students to resources like the Macalester Housing Facebook page.

    Traditionally, on campus housing has been available for students participating in Macalester sponsored research, internships, or campus employment. Due to health and safety concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, on campus housing was not available for summer 2020 and 2021. Whether on campus summer housing is available for summer 2022 will be determined in spring 2022. More about Summer and Winter Break

    Macalester financial aid does not apply to summer breaks. Students remaining in the U.S. should be prepared to support themselves. International Student Programs and Career Explorations can help students regarding employment authorization related to their major.

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Frequently Asked Questions for All Students