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Four-year private college

Admission difficulty: High

Size: Small. You can walk corner-to-corner without breaking a sweat.

Typical freshman: The kid who would've gone to Harvard if he hadn't smoked pot/had a life/been so lazy in high school.

Known for producing: Liberal idealists soon to have all hopes dashed by a tough, cruel world.

Pros: Nationally recognized economics and international studies programs; politically active, vegan, anti-hegemonic, atheistic, crusading student body; potential for a roommate from a former Soviet satellite; chance to meet Kofi Annan or Walter Mondale and embarrass yourself asking your friend, "What'd he do again?"

Cons: Having to learn the word heteronormative; having a roommate who speaks three more languages than you and refers to you as "that simple American"; being called an imperialist when you refuse to sign a petition to outlaw bottled water; learning that any meat can be replaced by tofu by an inventive cafeteria staff; even Stalin wouldn't have the heart to send political prisoners into a Minnesota winter.

Scene: Rugby house on the corner of Macalester and Grand substituting for real parties; dances hosted by a student group of every national/ethnic/sexual/political persuasion; debates at Cafe Mac between those who believe gender-segregated bathrooms are a product of homophobic social constructs and those who don't really understand what a social construct is.

Sports: State-of-the-art athletic center used to train the worst organized sports teams Division III has to offer.

What other people think of when they think of Macalester: Hippies, war protesters, stoners and communists.

What Macalester students think of when they think of Macalester: Hippies, war protesters, stoners, communists and one of the most challenging liberal arts curriculums in the country.

Distance from home: about 1,600 miles NW

Nathaniel French graduated from Gibbs in 2007 and attended Macalester in 2007-2008.