What the Guidebooks Say

Colleges That Change Lives

CollegesThatChangeLives200x260St. Olaf College is again included in the latest edition of the best-selling Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College, a guidebook written by New York Times education editor Loren Pope and revised by Hilary Masell Oswald that promises an in-depth look at 40 colleges that “prepare you for life and all the things life comprises.”

The revised edition praises the college’s popular study-abroad programs, renowned Music Department, and robust science and math programs. The authors also note St. Olaf’s strong ranking among baccalaureate colleges in the number of graduates who go on to earn doctoral degrees and impressive medical school acceptance rate.

Pope and Oswald discuss St. Olaf’s unique and rigorous curriculum, highlighting its four Conversations programs. The authors call the Conversations “a hallmark of a St. Olaf education — and a shining beacon of what liberal learning ought to be,” and note that the programs “give an added layer of life to an already vivacious campus.”

The book is equally enthusiastic about St. Olaf students themselves, saying that “they’re self-assured but not pretentious or cocky. They’d probably cringe at the word ‘wholesome,’ but it’s apt: Students display a genuineness that teeters on the edge of wholesomeness.” Read more …

The Best Value Colleges: 2014 Edition

PrincetonReviewBestValueColleges200x260St. Olaf is one of the nation’s “best value” colleges and universities, according to the Princeton Review. The education services company profiles St. Olaf in its book The Best Value Colleges: 2014 Edition.

In its profile of St. Olaf, the book’s editors praise the school for its strong programs in science, math, and music. St. Olaf “offers exceptional students with a civic mindset a rigorous college experience in a positive community atmosphere,” the book notes.

The guide also praises the college’s Piper Center for Vocation and Career, noting that it “offers a staggering number of vocational services to students across their four years.”

“The school is serious about its commitment to study abroad and postgraduate education, and its graduates often enjoy much success in their pursuit of competitive postgraduate fellowships,” the 2014 edition states. Read more …

Kiplinger’s “100 Best Values in Private Colleges” 2014

KiplingersMagazine200x260St. Olaf College ranks 45th in the latest edition of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine’s listing of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the nation. The rankings seek to measure academic excellence and affordability, with quality accounting for over half of the total score.

Each year, Kiplinger’s assesses quality according to measurable standards, including the percentage of students who are admitted out of those who applied, the test scores of incoming first-year students, the ratio of students to faculty members, and the four- and five-year graduation rates. An additional important factor studied is the amount of both need-based and merit-based aid offered to students at liberal arts colleges that may otherwise have a larger sticker price.

“I think the Great Recession reset the whole understanding of affordability, access and price elasticity,” says David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. “These colleges are absolutely determined to drive down their operating costs.”

St. Olaf College placed in the top 50 because of a high four-year graduation rate, low average student debt at graduation, good student-to-faculty ratio, excellent on-campus resources, and overall great value. Read more …

Fiske Guide to Colleges

FiskeGuide200x260The Fiske Guide to Colleges, created by a former education editor for the New York Times, Edward Fiske, provides profiles of “more than 300 of the best and most interesting institutions in the nation.”

The guide also offers selective listings of colleges and universities with “unusual strength” in one of nine pre-professional areas. St. Olaf is cited among the small colleges and universities strong in music as a performing art and international studies. Fiske praises the college for cultivating “an international agenda for its students and faculty” and creating “the largest international studies program in the country among liberal arts colleges.”

In its profile of St. Olaf, the guide notes that it is “a school where students work hard, are encouraged by good teachers, toughened by Minnesota winters, and nourished by strong moral values — in addition to hearty Scandinavian food.”

The campus climate is portrayed as “Minnesota nice,” and described as a great place “for those yearning for a school where spirituality and scholarship exist on the same exalted plane.”

The guide also praises the “outstanding” Division III athletic programs, the rigorous general education requirements, the engaging faculty members, and the “meticulously landscaped” 350-acre campus. Read more …

U.S. News Best Colleges

USNews200x275The U.S. News “Best Colleges” 2015 edition evaluated more than 1,400 of the nation’s public and private four-year schools using a variety of indicators to determine academic quality: assessment by administrators at peer institutions, retention of students, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, alumni giving, and high school counselor ratings of colleges and “graduation rate performance.”

St. Olaf ranked No. 54 on the U.S. News list of Best National Liberal Arts Colleges. St. Olaf also ranked No. 2 on the list of national liberal arts colleges with “Best Undergraduate Teaching” and was No. 33 on the list of “Great Schools at Great Prices.” In addition, the college was included on a general list of schools with strong study-abroad programs. Read more …

Insider’s Guide to the Colleges

InsidersGuideColleges200x285Compiled and edited by the staff of the Yale Daily News, Yale University’s student newspaper, The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges hails itself as “the most relied-upon resource for high school students looking for honest reports on colleges from their fellow students.” It claims to rely on hours of interviews with current students to give a true sense of each school profiled and its student body.

The guide highlights St. Olaf College’s dedication to sustainability initiatives, pointing out that “the student body has an appreciation for conservation not experienced at many other schools.”

It also touts the number of students who study abroad at St. Olaf and the dedication of faculty members, noting that the faculty goes above and beyond its academic calling to be available for students.

“St. Olaf is a beautiful college where students smile and greet each other whether they know each other or not,” asserts the guide. “The tight-knit sense of community that pervades the campus makes students feel that they are taken care of and part of a larger St. Olaf family.” Read more …

Princeton Review’s Best 379 Colleges

PrincetonReviewBest379Colleges200x250St. Olaf College offers an “academically rigorous education with a vibrant faith tradition,” says Princeton Review’s 2015 edition of The Best 379 Colleges, while noting that the school’s academic reputation continues to steadily rise.

In addition to being named one of the Princeton Review’s “150 Best Value Colleges,” St. Olaf also ranked No. 2 for “Best Science Lab Facilities,” No. 5 for “Best Campus Food,” and No. 17 on the list of “Stone-Cold Sober Schools.”

The guide also touts the popularity of St. Olaf’s study-abroad programs and the accessibility of professors. “Although classes are hard and professors have high expectations, they also genuinely want to see you grow as a student in their class,” notes the guide. Read more …

The Ultimate Guide to America’s Best Colleges

AmericasBestColleges200x250Written by two Ivy League graduates, The Ultimate Guide to America’s Best Colleges has been called “the most honest guide to colleges.”

The 2015 edition recognizes St. Olaf College as “a leading contender in the liberal arts, known for its rigorous programs in mathematics, natural sciences, and music.” The guide notes that with more than 200 student organizations present on campus, “students at St. Olaf never tire of extracurricular activities,” and that the college “does not fail to entertain its lively student body.”

It also touts the popular International and Off-Campus Studies program at St. Olaf and notes that “though the academic spread is demanding, students praise the amount of individual attention they receive.”

“St. Olaf College certainly proves itself a high-achieving academic institution worth the perusal of any serious student,” the guide notes. Read more …

New York Times

NewYorkTimesUpshotLogo200x133St. Olaf is one of the most economically diverse top colleges in the nation, according to the New York Times. In a new ranking published by The Upshot, a branch of the New York Times that presents news, analysis, and data visualization, St. Olaf ranked 60th among all colleges and universities in the nation with a four-year graduation rate of 75 percent or higher in 2011–12.

To measure top colleges’ efforts on economic diversity, The Upshot calculated a “College Access Index” using a statistical technique known as a z-score. The index ranks colleges based on a combination of the net price of attendance for low- and middle-income families and the share of first-year students in recent years who came from low-income families (measured by the share receiving a Pell grant). The Upshot also measured resources available to institutions for supporting economically diverse students, basing their calculations on endowment per student. Read more …

Washington Monthly

WashingtonMonthly200x260Washington Monthly calls its guide a “different kind of college ranking,” — one that “asks not what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country” — and its 2014 run-down of 246 liberal arts colleges ranks St. Olaf No. 41.

The Washington Monthly rankings concentrate on three criteria: social mobility, or how the school recruits and graduates less advantaged students; how the school supports and conducts research and, as in St. Olaf’s case, produces Ph.D. candidates; and how well the school fosters a culture of service. Read more …