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, a four-year, residential learning community of 3,100 students. Founded in 1874 by Norwegian Lutheran immigrants, St. Olaf continues to advance the character, values and traditions of its founders: intellectual rigor, commitment to faith and service, and an interest in global issues. The education St. Olaf offers has grown more complex, keeping pace with the needs of society and the interests and skills of students.

It is distinctive among its highly selective peers in being both academically demanding and still committed to encouraging deep exploration of the ultimate questions of faith. 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 St. Olaf academic program engages students in high-impact educational experiences, including hands-on undergraduate research, internships, volunteer service and civic engagement, study abroad, and special cohort-based learning communities such as the college's signature Conversation programs. The St. Olaf learning experience is characterized by close faculty-student interaction.

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W O R T H   N O T I N G
Since 2001, St. Olaf has invested nearly $225 million in new, enhanced, or renovated buildings and equipment providing state-of-the-art facilities for all aspects of campus life and learning. These buildings include Dittmann Center for the Arts and the newly renovated Hall of Music; Tostrud Center, providing recreation and fitness facilities for the campus community; Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, a 200,000 square foot building housing the college’s interdisciplinary science programs; and Tomson Hall, home of the college’s language programs, study abroad programs, and a wide range of student support services.

  • St. Olaf's 300-acre campus is located in Northfield, Minnesota, a two-college town of 20,000 people located 35 miles south of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
  • 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 11th overall among 262 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
  • 94% of the full-time faculty holds the most advanced degree in their fields. All classes are taught by faculty; there are no teaching or graduate assistants.
  • St. Olaf offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in 40 majors, 20 academic concentrations, and pre-professional programs in 18 areas.
  • Approximately half of the college budget is spent on teaching, instruction, and academic and student support; an additional 30% is spent on need-based financial aid and scholarships.
  • 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 100 domestic and international off-campus study programs, including programs in 51 countries.
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C A M P U S   L I F E

As a residential community, St. Olaf provides a wide range of activities for students, faculty, and staff.

  • Over 96% 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.
  • In 2011, Newsweek and The Daily Beast rated St. Olaf as having the #1 college food in the nation.
  • 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.
  • 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 college has made a special effort to keep track of its most recent graduates, documenting the outcomes and results of a St. Olaf education.

  • 93% of the class of 2012 reported on their activities. Of them, 69 percent were working, serving in the military, or working in a full-time volunteer program.
  • About 28 percent were continuing their education in graduate or professional school.
  • One percent were "still working on it." One percent responded: "other adventures."
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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 semester 2012:

  • More than half were in the top 10% of their high school class.
  • 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 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 31 countries.