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Macalester College

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Date: Mar 21 2006
Major: Biology (This Major's Salary over time)
I graduated from Macalester with a genuine enthusiasm for the experience that I had obtained there. I had a very challenging, but rewarding, academic experience, and I felt, and still feel, that it was the perfect match for me. Life at Macalester is often described as a "bubble," and I am sorry to report that that bubble definately isolated me from some of the "real-world" problems that I would face. At Macalester, individuality, independant thinking, and inquisitiveness are valued and encouraged. This allowed me to be fully engaged in my classes and to explore subject matter outside my major without much judgement.

I am now in the process of applying to graduate programs, and I am finding that what remained of my Mac bubble is popping. It may just be that I am looking into mostly larger state universities, but I am finding that Mac did not prepare me for the nit-picking bureaucracy I am encountering. These universities seem set up only to accept students who have taken very specific, narrow course requirements. I was fortunate enough to take advantage of Macalester's fantastic study abroad opportunity, and spent a semester in Madagascar. This experience, which was "educational" in the broadest sense of the word, does not count to at least one of the programs I'm considering as credit towards my major, even though I spent the semester doing relevant field research that contributed directly to my Senior Thesis.

In another example, upon first graduating, I looked into several state and federal positions related to ecology, environmental research, forest management, etc. and was disappointed to discover that they required specific classes. Basically, in order to work for these organizations you either need to attend a traditional state university or have

equivelant experience
from somewhere else, and liberal arts education doesn't count.

This is perhaps more a critique of the programs I have encountered than Macalester itself, but I do wish to warn prospective students of this very real danger. If you have a very clear idea of your future plans, make sure Macalester (or any small liberal arts college) fits. While you will recieve an amazing education, meet fantastic people, and be exposed to many incredible opportunities, it is still an "alternative" education that may not lead directly to the sort of work you want to do.

That said, I wouldn't trade my experience at Mac for anything. I would rather be guided by enthusiastic professors who are committed to teaching than shuffled through a larger system like so many cattle for branding. The universities I've encountered seem to have forgotten that part of education is inspiring the students to reach for the next level, not squeeze them through an obstacle course only to neglect them at the other side. Macalester spoiled me by convincing me that school could be better than that, and I've yet to find a program that lives up to the standard that they set.

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