Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What is the comprehensive fee for 2014-15?
For 2014-15, it will increase to $51,200. In addition, we anticipate students will spend $1,000 on books and $900 on personal and incidental expenses per year. The costs of travel to and from St. Olaf may also be factored into an aid award.

What is the difference between merit scholarships and need-based aid?
Most aid at St. Olaf is based on each applicant’s financial needs. This is called “need-based” aid. St Olaf takes many factors (such as income, assets, family size and others) into consideration when looking at a family’s eligibility for need-based aid.
Merit scholarships consist of scholarships that are awarded to students for specific talents or accomplishments: e.g., academic and fine arts (music, dance, theater, art and art history). They are awarded without regard to a family’s ability to pay for college.

Can international students receive financial aid?
There is limited financial aid available for international students, and no full scholarships are offered. International students are encouraged to contact Jenny Howenstine at howensti@stolaf.edu for more specific information about aid and admissions. Also, check out the International Student section of the Financial Aid website.

Does St. Olaf offer any athletic scholarships?
No. We are an NCAA Division III school, which prevents us from offering any scholarships tied to athletics. However, many of our student-athletes have qualified for other scholarships or grants, including academic scholarships and need-based aid.

When are bills sent out for tuition and fees?
St. Olaf bills twice per year. Fall semester bills are delivered electronically in mid-July with payment due in mid-August. Spring semester bills are delivered in mid-December with payment due mid-January.

Applying for Aid

Is there a way to get an idea of how much financial aid my family will qualify for before I apply?
Yes. Your family can use the St. Olaf College Financial Aid Estimator to estimate what your cost might be to attend St. Olaf. This is only an estimate. Due to the holistic nature of our merit scholarship awarding process, the estimator cannot completely predict your eligibility for our varied merit aid programs, nor can it take into account any of your family’s special financial circumstances that might be considered during the need-based aid application process.

How do I apply for financial aid?
Prospective students can find more detailed information here on the application process. The Financial Aid Application deadlines are slightly different for each type of student (Early Decision, Regular Decision, Transfer and International). You can find those deadlines on our website.

What is your FAFSA code?
The FAFSA code for St. Olaf is: 002382.

What is your CSS Financial Aid PROFILE code?
The CSS PROFILE code for St. Olaf is: 6638.

Are there special application instructions for divorced parents?
Federal and state regulations require that the custodial parent (and stepparent, if custodial parent is remarried) complete the application for financial aid. For the purposes of state and federal financial aid, the parent that the student has lived with the most in the past year is considered the custodial parent. It does not matter who claimed the student as a dependent on a tax return, nor do any stipulations in the divorce agreement. For consideration of need-based financial aid from St. Olaf, a Noncustodial PROFILE is required in cases where the applicant’s biological/adoptive parents are separated or divorced. When a student and custodial parent submit the PROFILE, the student will be sent instructions about how to file the Non-Custodial Profile. Each parent’s ability to pay for college expenses will be evaluated in determining eligibility for St. Olaf need-based aid.

How do I apply for financial aid as an independent student?
Contact the Financial Aid Office before completing your financial aid application. Most sources of financial aid require that you be at least 24 years old in order to be considered an independent student. Please follow the link for more information about the US Department of Education’s definition of an independent student.

When will I hear if I’m eligible for aid?
Assuming that your applications (Admission, CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, and FAFSA) are completed by the deadlines, notification will depend upon the type of aid for which you are applying. Most academic scholarship notifications will come shortly after the admission decision. (Early Decision applicants may receive revised awards based on merit scholarship award processes.) Need-based financial aid awards are mailed one week following the admission decision. Please note: Some need-based financial aid awards may be delayed until merit scholarship decisions are finalized. You can find more information on financial aid dates and deadlines on our website.

How can I be sure I get the best aid package?
Answer the questions on the CSS PROFILE and FAFSA as accurately as you are able. Families with similar circumstances will get similar awards. We do not negotiate packages based on what another college or university has offered. We want to ensure, however, that we use the most accurate and up-to-date information available to determine your award. If you have notified another institution about an unusual circumstance affecting your finances, be sure that we have that information as well. To provide extra information about your financial situation, you may use the “special circumstances” section of the PROFILE or send appropriate documentation and letters directly to the Financial Aid Office.

Does applying Early Decision help or hurt my chances of getting financial aid?
Absolutely not. The Financial Aid Office makes no distinction between Early Decision and Regular students when awarding aid.

Are there other ways to pay for school besides grants and scholarships from St. Olaf?
We encourage students to apply for outside sources of aid, especially through your local community, high school, church and community organizations. Also, check with your parents’ employers to see if they offer scholarships for children of employees. Researching and applying for private scholarships is time-consuming but it can really pay off (last year St. Olaf students received over $2.5 million in private scholarship aid!). Talk to your local high school guidance office for possible scholarship sources and conduct your own internet search of possible sources. While the large online scholarship databases, such as Fastweb can be really helpful, your best chances of winning a scholarship is at the local level. The best way to find out what scholarships you have the best chance of winning is to talk to your teachers, counselors and even older friends who may have won the scholarship in the past.

Must I reapply for financial aid every year?
You are required to apply for need-based aid every year, but you do not have to reapply for merit scholarships. To reapply for need-based aid, complete a FAFSA and a St. Olaf Online Financial Aid Application. You will not need to complete the PROFILE form in your returning years at St. Olaf. Merit scholarships are automatically renewed each year, assuming you have met the minimum GPA and/or fine arts participation requirements outlined in your original scholarship offer.

Understanding the Financial Aid Award

How do the merit scholarships I’ve received from St. Olaf fit into my need-based financial aid package?
When we create your need-based financial aid package, the merit scholarships you receive will be used to meet your demonstrated need along with any need-based grants for which you are eligible. A student who has been awarded merit scholarships will have a higher percentage of need met with gift aid. In most cases, students with merit scholarships have the best financial aid packages we offer within our need-based program (i.e., the highest percentages of gift aid and the lowest percentages of loans and student employment).

If I receive an Early Decision financial aid award and later receive a merit scholarship from St. Olaf, how will the merit scholarship fit into my financial aid award?
While most merit scholarships are awarded during the Early Decision admission and financial aid process, there are some (e.g., Buntrock Scholarship, Fine Arts Scholarships, and National Merit awards) that are awarded after an Early Decision financial aid award has been presented. In those cases, merit scholarships will replace all or a portion of the St. Olaf Grant in the award. This means that if the merit scholarship is smaller than the St. Olaf Grant already awarded, there will be no change in the total award. If the merit scholarship exceeds the amount of the St. Olaf Grant awarded, the St. Olaf Grant will be removed and replaced by the higher merit award.

Can I expect to receive a similar financial aid package each year?
Generally, we will renew the need-based St. Olaf gift aid portion of your package each year, and we may increase it to cover a portion of future tuition increases. If, however, your family experiences a significant change in financial circumstances, such as a large increase in income (more than inflation) or a drop in the number of people in the household enrolled in college, your St. Olaf need-based gift aid may be reduced. Federal and state gift aid is determined using a federal formula, so even small changes in income may affect the amount awarded. Commensurate with federal loan limits and guidelines, sophomores, juniors, and seniors can expect increases in the loan amount of their financial aid awards. If you or your parents have specific questions about how your package will look for all four years, we encourage you to talk with your St. Olaf Financial Aid counselor, especially if you know that your financial circumstances will change (e.g., an older sibling is graduating from college or a younger one will start college while you are enrolled). We understand you are making a four-year commitment, and we are happy to provide an estimate of future eligibility.

Do outside scholarships affect my financial aid package from St. Olaf?
Outside scholarships are added on top of the package already offered by St. Olaf. However, when a student has a need-based award, college policy and federal regulations may require us to make adjustments to the package. In those cases, the Federal Perkins Loan will be reduced or eliminated first, and further reductions will be split between student employment and the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan. If a student receives enough outside aid to eliminate the self-help portion (subsidized student loans and work study) of the package and the student’s need has been fully met, only then will need-based St. Olaf gift aid be reduced. Merit scholarships generally are not reduced when a student receives an outside scholarship. In all cases, outside scholarships improve the financial aid package by increasing the total amount of grant and scholarship dollars in your award and sometimes reducing the amount you have to earn and borrow.

I received more financial aid from another school. Does St. Olaf match financial aid packages from other schools?
No. Every school has different financial aid resources and chooses to use those resources differently. We recognize that most families are looking at a range of costs when looking at different schools. Our mission in the St. Olaf Financial Aid Office is to provide access to a St. Olaf education to families of varied economic backgrounds. We administer financial aid programs with a commitment to equity, consistency and transparency in awarding resources. Although we do our best to take into account each family’s specific circumstances, we do not adjust financial aid packages based on the amount of financial aid offered from a different school.

How can I request a reconsideration of my merit based scholarship(s)?
Merit scholarships are awarded by the Admissions Office during the admission application process. Due to this, all questions regarding merit scholarship decisions should be directed to the Admissions Office.

How can I request a reconsideration of my financial aid application?
Families may request a review of their financial aid award when the family’s circumstances have changed significantly. Job losses and major medical expenses (that have already been paid) are examples of circumstances that can be grounds for reconsideration. These requests should be based on the family’s financial situation changing, not other factors. Please feel free to contact us (finaid@stolaf.edu) if you have questions about your family’s circumstances and how to request reconsideration.

Will St. Olaf reconsider my award if it is not enough to make St. Olaf affordable for me and my family?
If your or your family’s financial circumstances have changed since you applied, or if you feel you provided us with incomplete information, you may request a review of the award by writing to the Financial Aid Office. We may adjust your award if the circumstances are both extenuating and documented. Please include specific information and data showing how your situation has changed since you completed the PROFILE.

What if my family’s financial situation changes during the year?
If your family’s financial situation changes at any time we encourage you to contact the Financial Aid Office immediately. We review each situation individually and can make adjustments to your award at any time during the year.

Are students who do not qualify for need-based financial aid allowed to work on campus?
Student employment is primarily a financial aid program at St. Olaf and our primarily goal is to ensure that students who receive need-based aid have the opportunity to work on campus to contribute toward their expenses. With the exception of a few “special skills” positions (e.g., tutoring, lifeguarding, phoning for the Annual Fund), only students who have a work award as a component of their need-based financial aid award are eligible to work on campus.

What happens to my financial aid award if I study overseas?
Any need-based aid or merit scholarships that you receive from St. Olaf will still be available if you decide to study overseas or off-campus through one of our many approved St. Olaf programs. If you choose to attend a program that is not St. Olaf approved, your institutional grants and scholarships will not be available for you, although federal loans may still be utilized. St. Olaf also has additional scholarships available to help defray the extra costs associated with studying abroad on one of our approved semester or year-long programs. You will be instructed on how to apply for these scholarships when you are accepted to a program. Additional loans (for students or parents) will also be available.
How much loan debt am I likely to accumulate?
The amount borrowed by St. Olaf students varies greatly with individual circumstances. For the graduating class of 2012, 61 percent of the students used student loans to finance a portion of their education. The average individual student indebtedness was $27,730 in this cohort.