St. Olaf College - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
St. Olaf College
St. Olaf is a liberal arts college grounded in Lutheran tradition. The college supports...

St. Olaf College

Northfield, Minnesota

St. Olaf is a liberal arts college grounded in Lutheran tradition. The college supports the growth of each student through personal educational experiences including study abroad, residential learning, and community service.

Student Profile

Fall 2015 Enrollment
3,046 undergraduate students
99% of undergrad students are full time
43% male — 57% female

Faculty Profile

2015-2016 Academic Year
248 full-time faculty
91 part-time faculty
12 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Residence Life

92% of students live on campus.

Retention Fall 2015

93% of students began in Fall 2014 and returned in Fall 2015 (full-time, first-time freshmen)

6-Year Graduation Rate 2015

87% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 8%
Hispanic/Latino 5%
Black or African American 2%
White 74%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 6%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 4%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 1%

Student Goals

St. Olaf recognizes that an undergraduate experience is more than taking classes and doing homework. College is about student development, both academic and personal. Involvement in extra curriculars is vital to growth, and St. Olaf considers its community the perfect place to participate. Within this mission, St. Olaf has defined 8 learning goals for students.

  • Self-Development
  • Vocational Discernment
  • Critical Thinking
  • Integration and Application
  • Broad Knowledge
  • Specialized Knowledge
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Responsible Engagement

International and Off-Campus Study

International and off-campus study mixes academics with experiential learning. While away from campus, students encounter the social constructs and culture of both domestic and international locations. This study away opportunity allows students to act as engaged and thoughtful members of our global society.

Academic Civic Engagement

St. Olaf embraces academic civic engagement and provides students with tons of opportunities to get involved. This educational practice, often referred to as service learning, allows students to make an impact on the community. Through courses and organized projects, students and faculty come together to integrate academics into service. St. Olaf offers courses that specialize in service learning, and promotes the many benefits of participation. Students enrolled in community-based learning draw connections between their schoolwork and the needs of the less fortunate. Often times, these courses push students to recognize their privileges and their position of power to enact social change.

Public Affairs Conversation

Public Affairs Conversation is only open to juniors and seniors. The yearlong program consists of two courses and a paid internship that takes place in the summer. In the first course, participants learn about American politics and the ideals that have formed the foundation of our nation. The second course is an exploration of public policy. The program is a mixture of academics and co-curricular activities.

General Education Requirements

Unlike many schools that require students to take a number of distribution courses, St. Olaf’s classes are directly related to desired outcomes. Course proposals are sent to the Curriculum Committee, and it is decided whether or not a specific class should count as a general education requirement.

First Year Writing Requirement
All first year students are enrolled in a mandatory writing course that explores the foundations of the writing process. Students learn the basics of research and citing, as well as how to develop a thesis. It’s important that students learn these skills early on, as schoolwork will increase in difficulty every year. An individual may bypass the FYW requirement if they received a 5 on their A.P test or at least a 5 on the International Baccalaureate exam. Students entering St. Olaf with 15 credits are also exempt from the course.

Foreign Language
Students must take the equivalent of four semesters of a foreign language. The rules change slightly between areas of study. Students talking Spanish, French, or German must complete the language through the fourth semester, as indicated above. However, those wishing to take Greek, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Latin, or Norwegian are only required to take three semesters worth of the language.

Students may opt to test into an advanced course instead of starting the language from the beginning. Advance placement is determined by high school preparation, a proficiency test, and/or standardized test scores.

Oral Communication (Satisfied by 1 course)

Abstract and Quantitative Reasoning
The Abstract and Quantitative Reasoning course deals with concepts of mathematics, statistics, and computer science. Readiness for these courses are decided by placement tests. Students that do not need to take calculus for their major should wait until their sophomore year to satisfy the requirement.

Studies in Physical Movement
Physical Movement courses (SPM) explore topics of healthy life choices, exercise, and overall well being. Students must take two different courses in order to satisfy this requirement. St. Olaf urges students to complete both of their SPMs before the start of senior year.

Core Studies

  • Historical Studies in Western Culture: 2 courses
  • Multicultural Studies: 2 courses
  • Artistic and Literary Studies: 2 courses
  • Biblical and Theological Studies: 2 courses
  • Studies in Natural Science: 2 courses (1 course—Scientific Exploration and Discovery; 1 course—Integrated Scientific Topics)
  • Studies in Human Behavior and Society: 2 courses
  • Ethical Issues and Normative Perspectives: 1 course

Faculty-Led Study Abroad

St. Olaf has designed a handful of abroad programs to integrate faculty instruction. These programs provide the amazing opportunity to learn from St. Olaf professors, while discovering a new city. In a way, the faculty-led programs preserve the St. Olaf education by allowing it to leave campus limits and explore new places. There are currently five different faculty-led options available at St. Olaf. They are: Biology in South India, Environmental Science in Australia, Global Semester, Mediterranean Semester, and Term in China.


St. Olaf strongly recommends that each student completes an internship experience prior to graduation. Individuals that have interned, especially within their field of study, are much stronger candidates when it comes to securing a job. Oftentimes, employers use internships as a recruiting tool, recognizing the hands on experience as a valuable asset to their company. St. Olaf has plenty of resources to help students find and secure intern positions. One such useful tool is the Online Alumni Directory. Students can log on and use the directory to network and discover employment opportunities.

The Piper Center for Vocation and Career

The Piper Center is available to all students and serves as the top resource for navigating questions about career options and life after graduation. The center works with individuals to help them identify their skillset and a career that might compliment their talents. Most importantly, the Piper Center strives to prepare every student for life after college, whether that be in a career or professional school. Students have access to one-on-one career coaching, internship and networking opportunities, and assistance with resume building and interview tactics.


Admissions Fall 2015

7,571 Total Applicants 
2,723 Total Admissions 
763 Total Freshman Enrollment

35.97% of applicants admitted

Freshman Profile Fall 2015

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Critical Reading 560 710
SAT Math 580 700
SAT Writing    
ACT Composite 26 31
ACT Math 26 33
ACT English 26 31
ACT Writing    


Net Price Calculator



Tuition $42,940
Room and Board (on campus) $9,790
Room Only $4,720
Board Only $5,070
Estimated Total On Campus $52,730


Financial Aid Breakdown 2014-2015

92% of full-time, first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid
57% of full-time, first-time undergraduates awarded student loan aid

$26,917 Average amount of federal, state, local, or institutional grant aid awarded
$6,587 Average amount of student loan aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduates