Greetings, Class of 2018! Hopefully your summer has been filled with lots of fun, maybe some work, and a ton of excitement as you prepare to move to St. Olaf in two months.
We’ve heard from a lot of you over the last few weeks as questions arise regarding next steps, forms to fill out, and what you should do before Move In Day. There’s a lot of helpful information ahead, so keep reading.
Mark your calendars for the first official event of Move In Weekend: Drop Off, Drop By. Officially, Move In Day begins the morning of Saturday, August 30. However, If you arrive in Northfield a day early, you are invited to get a head start by dropping off some of your things on Friday afternoon, August 29, from 2–4:30 p.m. Residence hall staff and junior counselors will help you find your room and move your gear, but it’s drop-off only — no unpacking until Saturday morning. More information will arrive via postcard and email to you in the coming weeks… so be on the look-out.
International students should plan to arrive on Tuesday, August 26, for the mandatory International Student Orientation prior to Week One. Visit International Student Life for more information.
Check in with the Destination: St. Olaf site often. The Destination: St. Olaf page is your one-stop shop for all things pre-Move In Day. On the main landing page, you’ll see a list of forms, including the Roommate Preference Form, Medical Records form, and Adviser Questionnaire – in addition to departmental placement tests. To fill these out, you’ll need to activate your St. Olaf account using the six-digit ID number included in your notice of admission. Keep in mind that many of these forms and tests – especially the placement tests – will become active throughout the summer, so it’s a good idea to check back often.
Keep your calendar marked for the forms you need to submit – and try to complete them before the due date. The Roommate Preference Form was due in June; yesterday, the Adviser Questionnaire and music interest questionnaire were due. Note: the postcard mailed at the beginning of the summer incorrectly stated the due date for the student health insurance form. This form is due on July 15. Also on the slate for mid- to late July: course choice submission and registration for Writing 111 or Religion 121.
What about registration, anyway? Registration for first-semester classes occurs during Week One after you’ve met with your academic adviser. The only classes you pre-register for are the Writing 111 (first year writing) and Religion 121 (first year religion); additionally, if you’re involved with Environmental Conversation, Great Conversation, and American Conversations, those courses are already registered for you. If you’re taking Great Conversation, you do not need to register for either Writing 111 or Religion 121. American Conversations students do not need to register for Writing 111. Finally, Environmental Conversation students – your Writing 111 and Religion 121 courses will be registered for you as part of the program. I know that’s a lot of information – hopefully it helps those who are concerned about not being 100% registered by Move In Day.
Connect with your classmates. The Class of 2018 Facebook group continues an awesome tradition of classmates connecting with each other before they arrive to the Hill. In the past, these friendships have even resulted in pre-Move In Day meetups around the country. Keep an eye on the official Admissions Facebook page, too. We try to post helpful tips and pointers for you all to keep in mind.
Want to track events on campus and see what Oles are up to? Follow @StOlaf on Twitter and Instagram, too, for campus news (and sometimes shoutouts to #2018Oles) as well as great photos of goings-on around campus. Are you planning a visit here before Move In Day? Share your photos with that hashtag, too – it’s a great way to connect with current Oles and your classmates.
We look forward to seeing you here in just about two months!
By Vice President for Enrollment and College Relations Michael Kyle ’85
When choosing a college, most high school students initially focus on future courses and majors, academic departments and programs. When they visit campuses, they sit in on classes and talk to professors. Intellectual and academic concerns are, after all, the most important part of a college education, aren’t they?
…there are many ways to learn and many ways to gain useful skills. One of the strengths of a residential, liberal arts college like St. Olaf is the range of opportunities students have to try on many different kinds of experiences. And one of the best ways to develop useful, real-world skills is through campus work.
Many financial aid packages include student employment, and many students who do not receive need-based aid still want to work during their college years. “Work-study” may conjure up images of dishwashing in the dining hall, or working a shift on the front desk in a residence hall, or shelving books in the library. Those are certainly important jobs that provide much-needed services the campus community needs. But there are a wide variety of campus jobs that provide significant training and opportunities to develop lasting skills.
Shannon Cordes, a senior from Stillwater, Minnesota, had an interest in filmmaking and made it the focus of her campus job for all four of her years at St. Olaf. She spoke in Chapel as she closed out her St. Olaf career, offering an eloquent and thoughtful description of her work.
As you listen to her talk, I encourage you to keep three things in mind:
First, St. Olaf streams a wide variety of programming as a way of connecting what is happening at the college to the broader world. Chapel services, concerts, talks, and a wide variety of programs share some of the best St. Olaf has to offer. This great volume of programming means ample learning opportunities for student workers.
Second, students like Shannon can use their campus jobs to develop skills and build portfolios of work experience that can demonstrate their abilities to graduate schools, to employers, or to investors, should they leave St. Olaf to start businesses. Hands-on research, multimedia production, web development, writing, and managing student organizations — these are all campus work-study positions that help students hone their skills.
And third, many students – like Shannon – develop important relationships with faculty and staff mentors. Sometimes raking leaves is just raking leaves, but more often, campus work offers students a chance to explore something new, to learn more about themselves, and to put them in contact with others who want to see them grow. Shannon singles out her supervisors in the college’s Broadcast Media/Services office. Other students can tell similar stories about staff in offices across the campus, or about a faculty mentor, or someone else in the campus community who took a personal interest in helping them become an accomplished person.
That’s the real value of being part of a residential learning community like St. Olaf.
You may have heard of the Conversation programs by now, either via email, the website, or during the sessions over Admitted Student Days. But what do you need to know about them? I thought a quick 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 five Conversations overall; The Great Conversation, American Conversations, Environmental 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; Environmental Conversations takes place during the first year only. So, those are what we’ll talk about here. Keep in mind: Asian Conversations and Science Conversation are sophomore year-only courses; Asian Conversations requires that a student take Japanese and/or Chinese during their first year at St. Olaf (as there is a study abroad component over Interim of the sophomore year). 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, AmCon, or EnCon 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; and you can find EnCon students in Kittlesby, which is designated the “green” dorm on campus. 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 all Conversation programs if I’m not sure of which one I want to do?
Yes, though the professors prefer you to apply to two of the three. If you are accepted to them all, you’ll be able to do a little more research before choosing the one you want. This year, one of the questions on the application requires students to rank their Conversation preference.
…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 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 12).
I love the concept of the Conversation programs and I want to do THEM ALL! Can I?
Wow, we admire your gumption! However, even if you are an incredibly motivated genius, it’s impossible to do The Great Conversation, American Conversations, and Environmental Conversations alongside each other. However, it is possible to do either Great Con or AmCon or EnCon 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, one cohort of 40 students for AmCon, and roughly 30 students in EnCon. 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.
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.
Our newly accepted students will receive multiple invitations, or even strong encouragement to attend one of our Admitted Student Days. So why should you come to see us (on either April 12, or April 26, in case you wanted to put it on your calendar right now)?
A big part of choosing a college – any college – is choosing your community. After all, the college you select is a place you will live for four years. Coming for an Admitted Student Day lets you accomplish a lot of valuable things. For example, it gives you a chance to meet our current students. But most importantly, these days give you a chance to meet other new students who will be joining St. Olaf this fall.
About a third of students who attend one of our ASDs have already sent in their deposit and have become official St. Olaf students. If this year is like years past, another 20-30 students each day will submit their deposit before they leave campus, so during your time here you will literally have the chance to interact with dozens of students who will be on campus next fall.
We will also provide a raft of other events, each of which is important. Information about our Conversations programs, campus housing, interdisciplinary research, Week One, sessions on academic departments, international studies, athletics, music – in short, nearly everything we do on campus and off.
We hope we see you on campus in April – if not for one of our official days, then for a regular campus visit. Just as importantly, your future classmates, future Oles, and future professors hope to meet you, too.
To the roughly 2,000 seniors who received notifications of admission from us last week: 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. You’ve won fine arts awards, received service honors regionally and nationally, and been a part of state championship athletic teams. Many of you have dealt with heartbreaking loss, crushing defeat, and outright failure — and told us stories of resilience and recovery. 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 clearly enjoys the product – chocolate cake – of her baking explorations, which made us hungry as we read that application).
We look forward to talking with you in the coming weeks as May 1 approaches. Visit campus during the week or attend an Admitted Student Day, weigh your financial options, and reach out to your admissions officer with questions and updates. As each day passes and more students send us their enrollment deposit, the excitement on campus grows — another group of talented Oles is on its way to the Hill.
This is the time of year when our admissions officers receive phone calls and emails from parents and students. Their specific questions take many forms, but many boil down to this:
You’ve had my application for several months. What is taking so long?
It’s a good question. For some students, we have had their completed application for three or four months (for some others of you – you know who you are – we had to do a little nudging to get that last letter of recommendation!). So what does take so long?
Let me give you a bigger context to help explain the need for patience. The ultimate charge given to the admissions office at St. Olaf is to enroll a class of talented young men and women. We have 4,750 applications this year, so that should be pretty easy, right?
Here are the other charges: make sure we have enough diversity, in academic interests, in cultural heritage, in extra-curricular activities, gender balance, and, most importantly, that each and every admitted student is a person we want to see on campus for the next four years.
This means we can’t enroll a first-year class of all sopranos, for example – not that you would want to go to such a place! If you do, St. Olaf is not the right place for you…
We read every application, every page, every recommendation, every transcript, at least twice. Most files are reviewed a third and fourth time in one of our subcommittees. We also spend time verifying information, following up with students for clarification, checking in with college counselors, and reviewing our own interview notes.
This takes time. It’s worth it: last year over 85% of our enrolled students told us St. Olaf was their first-choice college, and it appears that over 95% of them will be returning for their sophomore year. Both of these percentages are very high when compared to national averages, even among small liberal arts colleges.
If you’ve applied, bear with us. We’re working diligently, I assure you. You’ll hear from us by the end of next week – March 21st – at the latest.
A creative contribution from Shannon Cron ‘15
St. Olaf College: 3,100 undergrads and approximately 10,000 squirrels. From on top of garbage cans, to behind trees, to the middle of the sidewalk, the St. Olaf squirrel populations pops up all over campus.
As one student eloquently noted, “Those squirrels are nuts.”
(Which is funny, because squirrels eat acorns. I don’t think a pun was intended, but I wanted to point it out anyway.)
Being the sneaky, extroverted creatures that they are, these squirrels have a tendency to stare as you approach, waiting until the last possible moment to move away — just long enough for you to become seriously concerned they won’t at all. However, there is no need to worry: they won’t actually attack you.
In fact, I’ve come to think of these small, furry animals as ever-present companions on campus. Whenever I think about about walking to class, St. Olaf’s squirrels will come to mind. Similarly, I believe they know quite a bit about St. Olaf students — just by observing them walking through the quad. Without even talking to them, I know they pick up on consistent Ole mannerisms.
Oles are always going somewhere.
Whether it’s walking from genetics class to a friend’s senior piano recital, or hockey practice to the ukulele club meeting, Oles are always on the move — bouncing from one commitment to the next. Oles not only enjoy getting involved, but in wide range of activities.
I once witnessed a theater major reciting a monologue while running. No, I’m not kidding. Not only was she practicing her lines, but she was building respiratory stamina and entertaining her teammates. What a smart multi-tasker!
Another day, I saw a football player heading to gospel choir, food shelf volunteer going to a host her radio show on KSTO, and hall council president on his way an Environmental Coalition meeting. I had a hard time picturing the lineman in a choir robe, but I’m sure he makes it work.
Not only does a broad range of interests lead to interesting conversations, or collaborative projects among students, but it makes socializing all the more exciting. It doesn’t take long to realize that your friend from Oles for Global Health knows your friend from modern dance class. The connections pop-up more often than not, which makes the St. Olaf community even stronger.
Given their busy schedules, I thought they would look stressed or unhappy, but Oles walk with a pep in their step. Oh, and they always carry their backpacks with them, in hopes of squeezing in those precious study hours (or minutes) in between everything else.
They are constantly drinking coffee.
If not, they are probably sipping on some tea, apple cider or at least carrying their empty tumbler, wishing there was a hot beverage inside.
For some Oles this may be their fourth or fifth cup of the day (or, let’s be honest, hour). Usually, they purchase all “All Day Coffee” from the cage, which allows students to pay a flat fee for unlimited coffee.
“Today I had three cups of coffee and a handful of almonds for breakfast! I’ve had spontaneous stomach pains all morning, but I’ve been so productive! I feel great!” one jittery student said.
They all show signs of caffeine dependence, but no signs of shame.
They are often singing.
Whether it’s in harmony, falsetto or slightly of tune, Oles sing with conviction, and most importantly passion.
Additionally, Oles often use song to express their emotions on the go. I know if a student is stressed, happy or feeling blue just by the type of song they sing as they walk along. It’s a great emotional release, don’t you think? If I didn’t get stage fright, I would probably join them, especially for my favorite tune: the college fight song “Um! Yah! Yah!”
They stop and chat with everyone they pass.
It’s usually between three and four people, but on a busy day an Ole can cross paths with up to fifteen friends in transit. The typical conversation goes as follows:
“Hey! Sarah! Hey!” said Camille.
“How are you? Didn’t you have that big sociology test this morning?” said Sarah.
“Yeah, it was tough, but I felt like I was well-prepared. Oh, hi, Sam!” said Camille.
“Hey Camille! How are you?” said Sam.
“Excellent! Sam, do you know Sarah?” said Camille.
“I don’t think we’ve ever met, but I think you’re on my friend Mason’s intramural soccer team.” said Sam.
Yeah, and Sarah is in St. Olaf Choir with me. Sam is going to be in the choir next year.” said Camille.
“Oh! Wow! We all have so much in common! I’m so happy we can all be friends!” said Sam.
And of course, every conversation ends with: “We should all get lunch next week!”
If you really hit it off, the following may occur:
“We should get lunch every week.”
“Yeah, we can have a weekly choir-loving, soccer-playing, new friends lunch group.”
“We could make lunch group Christmas cards!”
Economic Progress in China. Changing Political Identities in Coastal Central Europe. Medicinal Chemistry in Jamaica. Theater in London. These are only four of many courses offered during the month of January, or “Interim,” at St. Olaf. So, what should you know about Interim as you work on your St. Olaf application?
Even though it’s only four weeks, this one month provides many opportunities for Oles. They are able to take a class on campus — maybe in an academic area they’ve always wanted to explore, or something they know will be challenging and best to focus on intensely for a month. It also provides hundreds of students with study abroad and off-campus study opportunities led by St. Olaf faculty. Some students design their own Interim courses; others will pursue an internship or job-shadowing opportunity. Students are required to take three of their four Interims during their time as Oles; however, most students take all four Interim classes. With the chance to explore a new subject, dive further into something familiar, study abroad, or take in a slower-paced life on campus for a month — and at no added cost — students take advantage of January.
The essay on the St. Olaf Supplement to the Common App is where you get the chance to express your interests and creativity. We ask you to design your own interim course and to make it interdisciplinary — and you can embrace this term however you wish. An example of an already existing interdisciplinary course: during a popular Art and Biology interim (aptly titled “Art and Biology in the Bahamas”) students travel with one Art professor and one Biology professor to San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. Not only do the students get to explore the marine and island life, they study the natural surroundings from both a scientific and artistic perspective. Students who are interested in art still experience the biology offerings, and vice-versa. Here’s an example of your classroom for the month, sent to me by Patrick Faunillan ’13 after his experience last Interim:
As you sit down to write your St. Olaf Supplement essay, consider your interests and hobbies, both inside and outside the classroom. Maybe they all have a common thread; maybe they have absolutely nothing to do with one another (or so you think). When we read your application, we want to see how you connect ideas and demonstrate your academic curiosity. Try to enjoy it! The Supplement essay is another chance for you to tell us about yourself and how you would engage with the St. Olaf community.