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Countdown to May 1st: It’s Time to Decide

April 24, 2013

After months (or maybe years) of careful planning, the time has come: it’s time to choose your college. The National Candidate Reply Date of May 1st is about a week away. You have visited, talked with admissions officers, sat in on a class, met professors, chatted with current students, and maybe even stayed the night on campus. By now, you have the facts you need about financial aid and scholarships. You know how you feel when you’re on campus.

So, the time has come. It’s time to send us your deposit and become an official Ole.

Click on the image below to hear a few reasons why we’d love to have you here:


If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your admissions officer. We’re excited to see you on the Hill next fall!

– Maggie


Alumni Connections: Washington D.C.

April 3, 2013

Earlier, I did a post about the New York Connections trip led by St. Olaf’s Piper Center for Vocation and Career. My friends on that trip loved it and talked about how it influenced their career plans, so I decided to apply for the Washington D.C. Connections trip over spring break. I have family around the D.C. area, but even though I’ve visited in the past, until this trip I did not have a good idea of what living and working in the city was like. During the trip, I met St. Olaf alumni that talked about how their liberal arts education translated into careers  in a variety of fields.

The D.C. Connections group at Navy Vice Admiral Robin Braun and Mr. Michael Braun, whose daughter Rachel Braun, ’13 attends St. Olaf. They hosted the group and talked about their careers.

Love Odetola, ’14, Me, Kelly Tomera, ’14, and Ellie Dusheck ’14 riding the metro

With around 900 alumni, Washington D.C. has more Oles than any other area outside Minnesota, creating a strong community in the city. We met alumni working in the Capitol, participating in Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and even in (my personal favorite, as an English major and self-proclaimed book nerd) the rare books collection in the Library of Congress.

Me in front of the Capitol in (rainy) D.C.

Along with the alumni we met as a group, we also split into different three smaller groups to focus on our interests: nonprofit/education, international, and government. I chose the government group, partially because I know the least about government careers. We went to the Pentagon and talked with Anthony Aldwell, ’72. Mr. Aldwell graduated from St. Olaf with a  degree in English and Theater, and after joining the Airforce and working through the ranks, ended up working at the Department of Defense. Even though he never expected to work with the Department of Defense while he was at St. Olaf, he talked about how well the public speaking skills he learned in theater and the writing and editing skills he picked up from the English major translated into his career today.

Me fueling my coffee addiction on our busy mornings!


Other alumni emphasized the relevance of classes that they never realized would be important. As a student at a liberal arts school, I admit that sometimes I get frustrated with the extensive general education classes we have to take. However, David Prestwood, ’01 a Senior Policy Advisor for the US Senate, talked about how he drew on information he learned in his sophomore year Physics of Nuclear Weapons course during a policy discussion on nuclear disarmament. Despite being a political science major that simply took the course to fulfill St. Olaf’s science requirement, the information he gained bolstered his knowledge on important policy issues years later.

As senior year approaches, it was comforting to see evidence of the supportive Ole network off the Hill. Aside from the networking and practical job application tips, the most useful thing I gained from the Washington D.C. trip turned out to be the stories I heard from alumni. Each alum’s St. Olaf degree proved useful in different (often surprising) ways, but every person I talked to described how his or her liberal arts education at St. Olaf changed their lives. Whether it manifested itself in an ability to discuss, writing skills or a broadened worldview, the foundation St. Olaf laid helped each alum succeed in what undergraduates term the “real-world.”


10 Things to Do on Admitted Student Days 2013

April 3, 2013

On April 13th and April 20th, we will host our Admitted Student Days for the Class of 2017. This post was originally published last year, and is back by popular demand. If you’ve contemplated attending one of these days, keep reading for what I think are pretty convincing reasons to make a trip to campus this spring.

Maybe you think, “well, I’ve been to campus, why should I come to one of these Admitted Student Days?” or “I’ve already deposited… should I still come?” So, below, I’ve highlighted a few reasons why these days are particularly special. From my perspective, my colleagues and I — who will be wearing matching blue shirts — love the energy and enthusiasm of these days. We finally get to meet students with whom we’ve worked for months (and sometimes years). Whether or not it’s your first time meeting us, we have gotten to know you by reading your application, emailing with you, and talking with you on the phone. It’s fun for us to see the next class of future Oles explore campus with the knowledge that they could actually be students here in a few months.

1. Meet your future classmates… and roommates… and teammates…
From informally meeting during registration, to the students-only lunch in the Pause, you’ll meet the students who will become part of the community in the fall. Around 30% of the students who attend Admitted Student Days have already decided on St. Olaf (how to tell? see #5).

2. Learn about the beginning of your beginning here: Week One!
From Move-In Day to the first day of class, Week One is a time of transition. From socializing, adjusting to dorm life to registering for classes and finding level 3 1/2 in the library, there is a lot to do. Learn about the support systems in place to ensure your arrival and adjustment to college life at St. Olaf goes smoothly.

3. See some of the updated buildings on campus, including the Hall of Music.
The renovated Administration building next to Christiansen Hall of Music holds an entirely renovated space for student musicians, faculty, and staff. With 40 practice rooms (all with different acoustic levels), 9 teaching studios, a percussion suite, and even a reed-making room, it’s just one fresh space to explore of many on campus.

4. Taste the food. Make sure it still suits your palate. And, take a free St. Olaf Cookie for the road.
Breakfast in the Caf, lunch in the Pause, and a St. Olaf cookie to-go — you will be well-fed and get a true sense for the culinary atmosphere at St. Olaf. You’ll even get to taste Johnny Pops popsicles, the entrepreneurial creation of current Oles. Yes, Newsweek ranked us #1 for food, but you may as well see (and taste) for yourself.

5. Get your “I’m an Ole!” button.
Deposited students will receive this button upon check-in to wear during the day’s events. Attach it to your shirt and let everyone know you’re official. If you get to the end of the day and decide you’re ready to become an Ole, you can deposit and we’ll bestow this valued trinket upon you. Also, we have buttons for your parents, as well!

6. Update your Ole gear: the Bookstore will provide a 15% discount.
Wear your name-tag into the Bookstore, and grab the St. Olaf signature “Flavor of the Month” sweatshirt, black and gold sweatpants, and a pennant to hang in your future dorm room. These guys below definitely took advantage of the discount last year…

7. Mingle with current Oles and start planning what clubs and organizations you’ll join.
Over 30 student-led clubs will be present for the Co-Curricular Fair over the student lunch. Volunteer organizations, special-interest groups, intramural sports, multicultural and religious organizations — you’ll be able to walk from table to table and meet current students who can tell you about their groups. You’ll even be able to sign up for the clubs that look interesting to you and get a head-start for next fall. Check out the full listing of current student organizations!

8. Learn about resources for mapping out life after St. Olaf.
Led by staff from the career connections team in the Center for Experiential Learning, hear an informative panel where alumni and current students draw connections between their experiences at St. Olaf and how that has propelled them successfully into the work world. Your college career is imminent, but it’s important to know what St. Olaf can do to prepare you for life after your four years here.

9. Scope out a residence hall.
Check out a residence hall tour to Ellingson Hall, which was renovated last summer. This year, Hoyme Hall will undergo renovations, as well; it’s all part of the continuing effort to provide an even better residential experience than we already have.  Start to plan your room, what to bring, and how it could fit into your new shared living space. The ladies below did a great job on Move-In Day last fall:

10. Discover your favorite spot on campus!
The official tours will show you the key places on the Hill; feel free to use that time — or time to wander on your own — to see where your new study place, meet-up spot, or meditation location will be. You can — and probably will — have more than one favorite place. I encourage you to take time to investigate the nooks and crannies of campus, from an outdoor spot, to the space under the Memorial Chime Tower, to a study corner of Regents Hall.

In addition to the highlights above, there will be a luncheon for parents with President David R. Anderson ’74, various information sessions about academic areas, and tours of campus. The basic schedule is on the registration form, found on your students’ applicant status page. You’ll receive a complete schedule upon check-in at Buntrock Commons. We look forward to welcoming you — see you soon!

– Maggie

FAQ: The Conversation Programs

April 1, 2013

You may have heard of the Conversation programs by now, whether from a campus visit or from the mailing all admitted students received last week. But what do you need to know about them? I thought a simple FAQ guide may help clear up some confusion and provide clarity to these popular programs.

What Conversation programs are offered, and which do I take as a first-year?

Interdisciplinary and unique, the Conversation programs are sequences of courses that take place over more than one semester. There are four Conversations overall; The Great Conversation, American Conversations, Asian Conversations, and The Science Conversation. The first two — AmCon and Great Con, as they’re known on campus — are two year programs that students begin during their first year at St. Olaf (so that’s what we’ll talk about here). As always, it’s good to visit the web pages for the Conversation programs to get the basic information about course offerings and general focus.

What’s this about a “residential component”?

Students who are involved with Great Con or AmCon live among each other in specific residence halls during their first year only (though non-Conners live there too, so you won’t have a Con roommate). Hoyme Hall is typically where AmCon students live; Kildahl and Ellingson are where Great Conners reside. There is a lot of writing, reading, thinking, discussing, and debating in the Conversation programs — and much of it happens in the residence hall lounges where the students reside. It creates a fun and dynamic intentional learning community that can also aid in the transition to college life during your first year.

Can I apply for both Conversation programs if I’m not sure of which one I want to do?

Yes, definitely. The first application deadline is April 15th for both programs — if you apply then, you’ll hear back before May 1st (which is the deadline by which you must choose a college). If you are accepted to both, you’ll be able to do a little more research before choosing the one you want.

..And which deadline should I apply for if I’m unsure I want to do a Conversation program at all?

It’s always encouraged that if you have even a shade of desire to be involved with a Conversation program, you should apply by April 15th (the first application deadline). The majority of Conners are admitted from that first application round (but there is still room for second-round applicants on May 13th).

I love the concept of the Conversation programs and I want to do BOTH! Can I?

Wow, we admire your gumption! However, even if you are an incredibly motivated genius, it’s impossible to do both The Great Conversation and American Conversations alongside each other. However, it is possible to do either Great Con or AmCon AND Asian Conversations or The Science Conversation. Generally, there are a handful of students who double-up on a two year and one year Conversation program.

How many students are accepted who apply to the programs?

Not all students who apply are accepted, but there are wait lists that exist throughout the summer as students change their minds or decide to opt out of the program. There are two cohorts of 60 students for Great Con, and one cohort of 40 students for AmCon; generally, both programs are able to accept half to a third of students who apply.

How are applications reviewed?

The professors who teach in the Conversation programs review all applicant essays completely separate from any other consideration. They don’t look at your high school GPA, your test score, or essays you submitted in the fall. Their reasoning: you were admitted to St. Olaf, so you’re smart enough. It’s just about who puts together a compelling essay and how well it’s written.

What professors can tell me more about the courses, requirements, and a few other questions I may have?

The professors who teach in the Conversation programs are intensely passionate about them; they are some of the most well-rounded, lively, and engaged professors you’ll find. The Director of the Great Conversation is Professor of English Karen Cherewatuk, at; the Director of American Conversations is Associate Professor of English Colin Wells at While they’re both English professors, but you’ll be taught by professors from all across the campus in these programs.

Are these programs considered “honors” programs?

While there is a considerable amount of reading and preparation for each class (for Great Conversation, you read upwards of 80 extra pages of reading per night); no, St. Olaf doesn’t have any honors program. As a selective, academically rigorous college, every course sequence provides the rigor and opportunities you’d find at a typical “honors” level program.

What if I don’t do a Conversation program?

All in all, only 25% or so of Oles are involved with a Conversation program when all is said and done. While they are awesome for the students who are involved, they are not the only way you’ll get a rigorous, interesting, compelling education at St. Olaf. Evaluate if it fits what you want and how you learn best; if it doesn’t, you won’t be looked down upon or judged for not being a Conner.

Is there an cool visual aid to help me get a better sense for the Great Conversation program?

Why, yes! Enjoy.

What about a recent St. Olaf Magazine feature on American Conversations, to help me gain a better grasp?

We’ve got that, too!

Hopefully this is helpful! Enjoy crafting your clever essays… I know our professors are excited to read them and welcome the next group of Conners to campus.

– Maggie

You’re Admitted! Now What?

March 29, 2013

Now that you’ve been admitted, you may want to know what’s next (even if you’re a deposited student, too). Here’s important information to consider and add to your check list. Bear with me: the following post is ripe with information. But, it is very important to consider, so read closely, future Oles!

First, a photo of students dressed up as the Hogwarts Express in the Caf during the recent Harry Potter dinner:

Photo by Pumla Maswanganyi '16

Photo by Pumla Maswanganyi ’16

Deposit! Become an official Ole.

By now, all scholarship decisions have been received by their recipients and financial aid awards are being mailed en masse. You may have visited once or twice, and plan to come again before school lets out. It is the best time to decide on St. Olaf! To submit your enrollment deposit of $300, go to your Applicant Status Page. For this, you need the e-mail (that you used on the Common Application) and password you have been using to log in over the past few months, not your St. Olaf ID and e-mail. If you don’t remember your e-mail or password, let your Admissions Officer know; we can reset it for you. This will e-mail you a new password you can use to log in.

Important note: if you log on to your Applicant Status Page and see an “Application Management” page instead, click on “2013 Regular,” then click “Open Application.” This will get you to the actual Applicant Status Page instead of an Application Management Page that you may see (we’ve heard from a few students about problems they’ve had logging in).

Register for one of our Admitted Student Days: April 13th or April 20th.

Admitted Student Days are the Admissions Office’s favorite days during the year — they’re well-attended by students and parents who have either decided on St. Olaf, or are down to the final few colleges to choose before May 1. They are full of events, mingling with current professors and students, and learning about the student experience in much more specific terms. And, you get to taste the food (but we’ll share more about this later). Here’s how to do it: log on to your Admitted Student page.

Apply for The Great Conversation, American Conversations, or both.

These interdisciplinary programs are a fantastic way to approach learning at St. Olaf over the first two years; roughly 25% of Oles participate in either one of these, and/or our sophomore year-only Conversation programs (The Science Conversation and Asian Conversation). Do some research, and if you’re interested, submit your application via your Admitted Student page.

Be in touch with Admissions

We like to hear your college search updates, so be in touch with us, either via email or phone (if you live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, call 800-800-3025 or refer to your admit letter for your admissions officer’s contact information). This month is when we will begin to see our class take shape, and it’s exciting; we appreciate knowing where St. Olaf stands on your list of potential colleges. We know this time of year can be stressful; however, we want to be sure you have all the information that matters to you and your college search before you make that final decision. Let us know if you’d like to be connected to a current student who shares your interest, or a professor in an academic area in which you’re interested.

If you have deposited already…

Congratulations, you’re an official Ole! Keep in mind two things:

1) You should still attend one of our Admitted Student Days (more information on why in a future post)

2) You will fill out all housing forms, the advising questionnaire, do the placement test, and everything else you need to do before moving to campus… but you’ll do all of that after the “Destination: St. Olaf” website is established for you by the Dean of Students Office later this spring/early summer.

Whew! You read it all. Good work!

– Maggie

Congratulations: You’re Admitted!

March 27, 2013

To the roughly 1,900 seniors who received notices of admission from us this month: Congratulations!


You all have interests and backgrounds that cover the spectrum. The commonalities: you’re very smart, you’re very well-rounded, and you value your education. We have enjoyed meeting you in person; answering your questions over the phone and via email; and ultimately reading the story of your life thus far. Some of you took creative liberties with your St. Olaf Supplement short answer questions (which were generally successful) and some of you sent us wildly entertaining photos of yourselves to help paint a complete picture of your personality (one such student has already knit a St. Olaf blanket of her own).

Here’s a glance at our admitted student profile by the numbers:

3,994: number of students who applied

1,068: number of high schools represented in the admitted pool

56: percent of students admitted (including 132 international admits)

56: percent of students who ranked in the top 10% of their class (of schools that report a class rank)

48: states represented in this year’s admitted class

49: countries represented in this year’s admitted class

18: percent of the class comprised of U.S. students of color

A quick glance at test score averages and medians:

1322: median SAT 1 (CR+M); 30: median ACT score

1321.9: average SAT 1 (CR+M); 29.31: average ACT score

Questions? Please be in touch with the Admissions Office at or 800-800-3025.
Again… CONGRATULATIONS! We look forward to working with you as you narrow your college search.

Student Government Elections Focus on Campus Engagement

March 11, 2013

Last week’s St. Olaf student government elections ignited aspiring politicians across campus. Because of St. Olaf’s small size, although numerous votes hinge on important campus issues, many votes depend on how well the candidate has reached out to the St. Olaf community. More often than not, students vote for the candidates they know. Many candidates secured votes from their friends via Facebook events and pages, but the tricky part is recruiting students in different years or friend groups. In an effort to increase votes, candidates met with Oles of all years to hear the issues they find important. Whether knocking on doors in first-year residence halls or tabling outside Stav Hall during dinner, candidates strove to connect with as many students as possible. By directly speaking with students, candidates are better able to improve the school and foster a sense of community. This year’s election’s emphasis on relationships between the candidates and students highlights the close-knit environment at St. Olaf.

John Schwirtz and Wendy Raymond campaign in front of Buntrock

John Schwirtz and Wendy Raymond campaign in front of Buntrock Commons

Alyssa Berg of the St. Olaf Democrats endorses Rachel Palermo for the Political Action Committee

Students ran for positions varying from the Student Body President and Vice-President to the Director of the Pause, the student-run lounge and restaurant. Each student government position allows students more opportunities to connect with their peers and gain leadership experience though campus committees.