What We Look For In an Application

Students admitted to St. Olaf have indicated that they want their college experience to be challenging, and that they want to live and learn in a community of other students who have ambition and initiative. “Highly selective” also means we literally do not have space to admit every student who could be successful at the college. 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,
  • Contribute to a campus community that values and supports collaboration and cooperation.

St. Olaf students arrive on campus academically well-prepared. They have taken courses in the core academic areas at the highest level offered by their high schools. When reviewing an application for admission, we look for demonstrations of a student’s ability to succeed in a wide variety of academic subjects and settings. We look for evidence of curiosity and a pursuit of excellence. A high school transcript is the best predictor of academic success at St. Olaf. After all, how students have prepared in high school strongly influences their ability to succeed in college.

Our transcript review considers course selection and grades from 9th through 11th grade, as well as course selection in the senior year. We evaluate both the difficulty of the classes you took and the grades you received in those classes. Applicants who present lower grades in more challenging classes are not at a disadvantage compared to applicants with strong grades in less rigorous classes. Ideally, an applicant will have taken as many honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses as available to them in their school.

We compute an “academic GPA” based on core academic coursework (math, science, English, social studies, and foreign language courses), and weight grades for advanced, accelerated, AP or IB classes. A strong applicant will have an academic GPA greater than 3.80, and the vast majority of our admitted students will have an academic GPA of at least 3.3.

St. Olaf is a community of individuals. We are intentional in creating a student body that reflects a diversity of origins, experiences, and perspectives. We also look for evidence that applicants will be positive contributors to our campus. We do not want 775 identical first-year students. Instead, we seek a student body with a wide array of interests, talents, and personalities.

If you have any questions about these requirements and guidelines, contact your admissions officer.