Colleges That Change Lives

Changing Lives. One Student at a Time.

St. Olaf College

"[St. Olaf] is enlightening, forward-looking, and innovative, the teachers are caring human beings, and the welfare of the student takes priority."
-Colleges That Change Lives


St. Olaf College is one of the nation's leading liberal arts colleges, offering a distinctive education driven by academic rigor, a dynamic residential learning community, a strong sense of global engagement, and a vibrant Lutheran tradition. With 3,100 students, St. Olaf has the size to provide a wide range of programs and resources, but is still small enough to foster close friendships built on shared experiences.

Founded in 1874 by Norwegian Lutheran immigrants, St. Olaf continues to advance the character, values, and traditions of its founders: intellectual rigor, commitment to community, and an interest in global issues. Over the years, the education St. Olaf offers has grown more complex, keeping pace with the needs of society and the interests and skills of students. While traditional departments and majors remain strong, interdisciplinary programs are growing campus-wide. The college encourages and supports student curiosity and initiative.

St. Olaf students and faculty are increasingly diverse in background and outlook, reflecting the changing demographics of the 21st century, the dynamic impact of the world's great religious traditions, and the new frontiers of human knowledge. The college's academic program engages students in a wide range of high-impact educational experiences in and beyond the classroom, including hands-on student-faculty research, internships, volunteer service and civic engagement, study abroad, and special cohort-based learning communities such as the college's signature Conversation programs. 

The combination of strong majors, a broad curriculum, and extensive programs to link learning to "real-world" experiences, means a St. Olaf education prepares students to graduate with clear direction and a sense of purpose. 

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W O R T H   N O T I N G

Located in Northfield, Minnesota, a two-college town of 20,000 people just 35 miles south of Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Olaf has one of the most beautiful and well-equipped campuses in the country. The quality and careful maintenance of the facilities reflects a culture of stewardship that extends to the management of the college's 700 acres of surrounding natural lands. Prairie restoration, wetlands and a student-run organic farm provide living opportunities for hands-on research in a variety of disciplines. 

In recent years, the college has made substantial investments in new, enhanced, or renovated buildings and equipment providing state-of-the-art facilities for all aspects of campus life and learning. 

  • Dittmann Center for the Arts and the newly renovated Hall of Music provide the core of a campus arts quadrant, in which interdisciplinary creative work thrives. St. Olaf's renowned music programs are complemented by equally strong programs in theater, dance, and art.
  • Tostrud/Skoglund athletic complex provides recreation and fitness facilities for the entire campus community. It is an important focal point of student life.
  • Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences is a state-of-the-art, 200,000 square foot building housing the college's interdisciplinary science programs.
  • Tomson Hall, is the home of the college's language programs, study abroad programs, and a wide range of student support services.
  • A recent renovation of Old Main and Boe Memorial Chapel have provided much-needed space to house programs serving a religiously diverse student community actively engaged in social justice issues and programs. 

Academic Reach
St. Olaf provides a first-rate educational foundation for students intending to pursue Ph.D. degrees in a wide range of fields. The National Science Foundation ranks St. Olaf 12th overall among 263 baccalaureate colleges in the number of graduates who earn doctoral degrees. St. Olaf is in the top ten in:

  • arts and music
  • biological science
  • chemistry
  • education
  • foreign languages
  • life science
  • mathematics and computer science
  • mathematics and statistics
  • medical sciences
  • physical sciences
  • religion and theology
  • social service professions

Since 1995, St. Olaf has produced five Rhodes Scholars, 34 Goldwater Scholars, and 103 Fulbright Scholars.

The Institute of International Education ranks St. Olaf as the leading U.S. Bachelor of Arts institution in the number of students who study abroad.

St. Olaf consistently ranks among the leading colleges in the number of Peace Corps volunteers. Since the Peace Corps was founded in 1961, nearly 525 St. Olaf alumni have served. The college has a similar record of success placing students in other volunteer organizations like the Lutheran Volunteer Corps and Teach for America.

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F A C U L T Y   &   A C A D E M I C S

The college's budget reflects its priorities: approximately half is spent directly on teaching, instruction, and academic and student support; a further 30% is spent on need-based financial aid and scholarships.

  • All classes at St. Olaf are taught by faculty; there are no graduate students or TAs. St. Olaf professors take great pride in their teaching. 
  • 94% of the full-time faculty holds the most advanced degree in their fields. 
  • St. Olaf offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in more than 45 majors, more than 20 academic concentrations, and nearly two dozen pre-professional programs.
  • About one-third of recent graduates have earned double- or triple-majors, often pursuing interests in wildly different disciplines: art and physics, music and mathematics, biology and religion, or philosophy and management studies. 
  • A 4-1-4 academic calendar provides students with a January Interim term during which to explore a single subject, or take part in domestic or international off-campus study.
  • St. Olaf offers more than 110 domestic and international off-campus study programs, including programs in 44 countries.
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C A M P U S   L I F E

St. Olaf is an intensely residential community, offering a wide range of activities that create and sustain strong relationships between students, faculty, and staff.

  • Approximately 95% of students live on campus in one of 11 residence halls, five language houses, and 12 community service Honor Houses. All students eat in one main campus dining facility – Stav Hall.
  • St. Olaf is consistently ranked as having some of the best college food in the nation, including locally sourced food from nearby farms or from the student-run STOGROW organic farm.
  • More than 200 student organizations cover sports, politics, religion, service, academics, and social activities for almost any interest.
  • NCAA Division III, Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference: 27 men's and women's varsity sports. More than a dozen club sports and dozens of intramural sports provide recreation, fitness, and fun for student-athletes at all levels of competition.
  • Music programs involve almost a third of the student body. Two orchestras, three bands, eight choirs, and other ensembles offer performance opportunities to music majors and non-majors alike.
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L I F E   A F T E R   C O L L E G E

St. Olaf has a long tradition of encouraging students to apply their liberal arts skills in a variety of professions and careers. The Piper Center for Vocation and Career is a powerful tool for developing strong links between academics and experiences: career planning, coaching, internships and research, and networking with St. Olaf alumni across the country and around the world. 

St. Olaf has been a leader in providing data about the post-graduation activities of its most recent graduates. Through the college's First Destination survey and other information sources, St. Olaf has tracked the activities of more than 90% of the classes of 2011, 2012, and 2013, and has provided a database – searchable by major – of what these recent graduates have done in their first year after graduation. Visit

  • Class of 2011: 64% working or engaged in full-time service programs; 26% attending graduate or professional school; 1% "still working on it;" 1% pursuing "other adventures;" and 8% unknown.
  • Class of 2012: 65% working or engaged in full-time service programs; 26% attending graduate or professional school; 1% "still working on it;" 2% pursuing "other adventures;" and 8% unknown.
  • Class of 2013: 66% working or engaged in full-time service programs; 22% attending graduate or professional school; 2% "still working on it;" <1% pursuing "other adventures;" and 9% unknown.
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A C A D E M I C   P R O F I L E   O F   E N T E R I N G   C L A S S

Of the entering first year class for Fall 2014:

  • 758 new, full-time students, of whom approximately 25 are international students or U.S. students of color.
  • The average ACT score was 29 and the middle 50% scores were 26-31.
  • The average composite SAT score was 1310 and the middle 50% scores were 1210-1410.
  • The average unweighted GPA was 3.63.
  • Students enrolled from 47 states, the District of Columbia, and 35 countries.