What We Look For In an Application

What does it mean to be an Ole?

What does it mean to be an Ole?

Oles want to be contributors and find St. Olaf to be a dynamic community full of possibilities.

To foster our community we look for multifaceted people from diverse backgrounds who have all kinds of talents and interests. Those who want to pursue their passions both in and out of the classroom.

Our process is holistic, which allows us to admit students from a range of backgrounds and who bring a range of experiences. These include enrolling students who:

  • Are interested in academic challenges across the breadth of our curriculum,
  • Thrive in a classroom environment that encourages discussion, argument, and disciplined thinking,
  • Display a wide range of talents – musical, artistic, athletic, and cultural,
  • Demonstrate curiosity and pursuit of excellence
  • Contribute to a campus community that values and supports collaboration and cooperation.

Demonstrated Interest: We Want to Get to Know You!

The St. Olaf Admissions Office values relationships with students and families. We want you to engage with us in the ways that feel authentic to you and that help you get the best sense of the college; in turn, we remember you and your story, learn about why you’re interested in St. Olaf, and get to know you better throughout the process. In the spirit of transparency, we do consider your engagement with us throughout the application review process — here are a few ways to make yourself stand out in a meaningful way:

  • Visit St. Olaf: Schedule a visit to St. Olaf, virtually or in-person. We offer a variety of ways to engage with us in-person individually or during a visit day program. We also offer virtual tours, conversations with professors, and chances to connect with current students. visits for students. Think about what you need to see and learn to get the best sense for how you can get the most out of the St. Olaf experience.
  • Interview with us: We travel around the U.S. and the world and offer in-person interviews throughout the fall. Additionally, the Admissions staff offers virtual interviews via Calendly — find your Admissions Officer to see availability and sign up. The word interview sounds more intense; we approach these as conversations with you. Prepare to talk about your academic interests, how you engage in the community around you, any events or experiences that positively or negatively impacted your high school career, and about your college search process. And ask us questions! 
  • Meet us when we visit your area: If we travel to your area, meet us at a college fair, CBO visit, or at your high school. Some of our most memorable interactions with future Oles happen at these meetings — even if you only have a few minutes to say hi and ask a question before you head to class.
  • Write a great St. Olaf Writing Supplement: The Supplement’s questions are specific to your interest in and knowledge of the college. When we review applications, this is the best place for us to hear from you — in your words — why you’re interested in St. Olaf. Take time with the short answer questions and additional essay. Be yourself, take care with your writing, and let your personality shine. Some of our most memorable Supplement responses are remembered year after year.
  • Submit your application materials on time! This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re attentive with submitting your application on time — including your need-based financial aid, fine arts, and nursing applications (if applicable) — this gives us a good sense for your level of interest in St. Olaf.

This list is also not exhaustive. We want you to engage with us in the ways that make sense for you, and we promise to meet you there. All is all, we want to be yourself as you apply and ultimately decide where to enroll. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you have questions about demonstrating your interests or other parts of the process.  

We know this process can be stressful and that you already have a lot on your plate. Trust us when we say that you taking the time in this way means so much to us and speaks volumes. We hope that getting to know more about us and engaging with our Admissions staff leads to a deeper understanding of all you can gain from and add to our community. 


ACADEMIC PREPARATION: what we require and why

We read and consider every application; there are no minimum requirements for GPA and test score. Students’ academic engagement in high school gives us the best sense for how well-prepared they are to thrive at St. Olaf. To get a sense for students’ academic preparation, we take the following into consideration.

High School Academic Environment: We recommend students take 4 years of English, science, social sciences, math, and 3-4 years of international language to best prepare for the rigorous liberal arts academic environment at St. Olaf. These are recommendations, not requirements, and schedule conflicts or situations such as taking five years of math and three years of social science. If the high school offers rigorous classes, we like to see applicants who take a reasonable amount of rigor throughout high school.

High School Transcript — we review:

  • AP/IB/PSEO classes (if offered): frequency, breadth, performance
  • Grade strength in particular classes
  • Grade trends
  • Disruptions in academic performance
  • The average GPA of recent admitted classes is 3.68 (unweighted)

Writing: we look for strong writing throughout the application. The personal essay (found on the Common Application or Coalition Application), as well as the Writing Supplement are where applicants get the chance to tell us about themselves and what’s important to them. Essays and short answers are our chance to hear an applicant’s story in their own words. The Supplement helps us get a sense for an applicant’s familiarity with St. Olaf and how they would best engage with the community as an Ole. We highly recommend applicants write the optional essay.

Letter of Recommendation: We require one letter of recommendation from a teacher who has taught the applicant in class in a core academic subject (English, science, social sciences, math, international language). This teacher should be able to speak to the student’s conduct in the classroom and wider community beyond the letter grade they earned. Applicants are welcome to submit an additional letter of recommendation if they feel it will add dimension to the application.

Test Scores: For students who submit test scores, our median range for the ACT is 25-31 and the median range for the SAT is 1150-1400. Test scores may be sent from the test center or high school; but students may also self-report test scores. We do not require subject tests. As of Fall 2020, we are test optional. Applicants should submit test scores if they feel they are representative of their academic ability.


St. Olaf is an active, vibrant, residential community, so we want Oles who will engage with the community in and outside of the classroom. When we read the Activities section of the application, talk with applicants, and review writing in the application, we want to get a sense for what students do to engage with their community, focusing on breadth and depth in various activities.

Some examples include:

  • Fine Arts
  • Athletics
  • Volunteerism
  • Clubs
  • Employment
  • Family Responsibilities