FAQs for All Students
How will the admissions committee review my application?
Macalester Admissions practices holistic admission review. Factors such as academic performance in context, recommendation letters, essays, leadership experience and potential, and extracurricular involvement are thoroughly reviewed by the Admissions Committee. The most important part of your application is something you’ve already been working on throughout high school: your performance in high school! It is this performance that is the best predictor of success in college.
How will you review transcripts, considering grading policy changes and distance learning due to COVID-19?
We understand that some school districts modified their grading processes to a Pass/Fail system, while other districts continue to use their Letter Grade system. We review applications on a case-by-case basis and are very intentional about understanding the context of a student’s high school experience. We will review your transcript within the context of how your school district responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We know some students were challenged by the transition to virtual class sessions and this may have impacted their ability to be successful. We encourage those students to let us know about their experiences with virtual learning in the Common Application, under the Education Progression section and/or the Additional Information section.
What if my non-academic pursuits were affected by COVID-19 or distance learning?
We recognize that many students are unable to pursue internships, volunteer opportunities, jobs, and other experiences due to the pandemic. Rest assured that we will evaluate your application carefully, fully aware that 2020 and 2021 endeavors were impacted.
Do you require test scores?
Macalester adopted a permanent Test-Optional admissions policy, starting with the Fall 2021 first-year class. This includes ACT, SAT, SAT II, AP, and IB.
We aim to reduce the anxiety many students experience regarding standardized exams and hope to provide applicants more freedom and flexibility in presenting their best selves to the Admissions Committee.
There will be no penalty for students who choose not to submit test scores in the selection process or distribution of merit scholarships. You can learn more about our Test Policy here.
If you believe your standardized test scores will add another positive layer to your application file, then please submit your scores to our office or self-report them in the Common Application.
Should I interview?
Admissions interviews at Macalester are recommended, but not required. Interviews are conducted online by Admissions counselors, interns, and interviewers, and usually take 30 minutes. Seniors who wish to interview must do so by February 1 of their senior year. Each student may only interview once.
We view the college interview as an opportunity to learn more about the experiences, backgrounds, interests, and fantastic personalities of high school students. We also want the interview to be a time in which students can learn more about Macalester. During interviews, students can expect to be asked questions about their high school environment, extracurricular activities, and other interests. Students will also have time to ask their own questions about the Mac community. In the end, our hope is that each interview is more like a conversation over virtual coffee than a job interview.
What classes should I take in high school?
The best preparation for college is a balanced and rigorous high school curriculum. For balance you should take classes in all five academic core subjects: English, mathematics, history or social science, laboratory science, and world language. Students should challenge themselves by taking the advanced curriculum available at your school. Some examples include, honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. Most applicants will complete at least 20 academic core courses by the time they graduate high school.
If you’d like the perspective of an admissions staff member on your course selection in high school, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I receive college credit for classes I’ve taken? Can I use these credits to place out of classes at Macalester?
For students admitted to Macalester through the first-year admissions program, Macalester will accept for credit no more than the equivalent of twenty (20) Macalester credit hours earned from a college or university prior to matriculation at Macalester. Summer session college credits, Minnesota Post-Secondary Education Options Program credits, International Baccalaureate credits, General Certificate of Education (GCE), and AP Program credits are included under this limitation. For more information refer to the Registrar FAQ.
How selective is Macalester?
Macalester is a highly selective liberal arts college. In a typical admissions cycle, Macalester seeks to enroll 545 incoming first-year students. For Fall 2021 entry, 9,046 students applied for entry as first-year students and 31% of all applicants were admitted for the fall of 2021.
To help choose the application round that’s the best fit for a student, helpful dates and details can be found here.
Do you have a minimum GPA?
Since school systems vary a great deal, we look at an applicant’s high school record in the context of their school system, rather than listing a minimum GPA. We also recognize that many school systems around the world do not report a GPA or rank in class, and in those cases that information is not required. Whatever the system, we look for evidence that the applicant has performed at a very high level academically and has pursued a rigorous curriculum.
What advice would you give to sophomores and juniors?
Congratulations on starting your search early! Academically, sophomores and juniors should focus on their classes, paying attention to the recommended secondary school curriculum mentioned in the question “What classes should I take in high school?” and take advantage of the rigor available to them. Continue your involvement in extracurriculars you care about that are available. We encourage you to keep an open mind and start thinking about what your priorities (college size, setting, particular majors or extracurriculars, etc.) are for college. Then connect with the staff and students at those colleges to get a taste of the college experience before narrowing down a list. Macalester’s programming and visit opportunities can be found here.