The global perspective, on and off the Hill

As an Admissions Officer, I answer many questions about study abroad. Studying off-campus seems to be one of those “admissions buzzwords,” and an increasing number of students from a variety of disciplines see international experience as integral to their college experience. It’s no surprise–in our rapidly globalizing world, it’s more important than ever to be a global citizen able to engage with a variety of perspectives.

Luckily, St. Olaf has a long tradition of fostering a global perspective. In fact, for the seventh straight year in the row, St. Olaf sent more students abroad than any other liberal arts college in the United States. While the study abroad experience is one fantastic part of a global education, St. Olaf students are pushed to think globally before they ever board a plane.

Developing an international lens is built right into the St. Olaf curriculum. All students, regardless of major, take a foreign language and two courses that focus on multicultural issues both on the domestic and global level. These courses push students to develop:

“…the ability to reflect critically on their own cultural experience and the diverse cultural experience of others as well as on their understanding of themselves in relation to others.”

-St. Olaf Academic Catalog

Outside of the academic material, the students participating in the discussion come from varied backgrounds and perspectives. St. Olaf students represent all fifty states and 86 countries, and they all bring their different backgrounds into discussions both inside and outside the classroom. This is one of the many benefits to attending a college that encourages students to live and learn in community!

Over 70 St. Olaf students are Davis United World College Scholars. This program helps foster multinational, cross-cultural experiences and exchanges.

When class is over, many students participate in one of St. Olaf’s hundreds of clubs. Several of these clubs focus specifically on diversity awareness and celebration, including the Cultural Union for Black Expression (CUBE), Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever (GLOW), ¡Presente!, Hmong Cultural Outreach (HCO), and Celebrate Southeast Asia! (CSA). In addition to offering a space for students to discuss important issues like race and representation, these clubs also host fantastic events. Check out this example from CSA’s 2015 Diwali celebration, which is the Hindu festival of lights celebrating good’s triumph over evil.

In many ways, studying abroad offers an irreplaceable opportunity to learn about and experience another culture. However, St. Olaf’s globally focused liberal arts education, combined with a vibrant student community, helps students expand their perspectives beyond the slopes of the Hill.


Early Decision is the best decision

Admissions Officer, Ben Pelegano ’15 knew early in his college search that he wanted to be an Ole. So he applied for St. Olaf’s first Early Decision deadline. Early Decision is designed for students who know St. Olaf is their best choice, and who understand enough about the college’s financial aid policies to feel confident St. Olaf is an affordable option. This year, the first Early Decision is deadline is November 15th. Click here to learn more! 

Come mid-December, I was fist-pumping to “The First Noel”, and my family was passing around the eggnog. My St. Olaf College acceptance letter hung by the chimney with care. I had just learned that I had been admitted Early Decision. With my college search complete, I could finally relax and enjoy my holiday break and the rest of my senior year. I spent my spring going to the movies and playing catch with my friends while my classmates were writing their college essays for the 106th time.

During my college search, I visited 17 schools. St. Olaf was the first one I visited and the last one. I returned to campus one last time to make sure it was indeed my Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen, or my #1 (it’s a Spongebob Squarepants reference, if you didn’t understand it). Something about the atmosphere and community on campus grabbed me from my first visit. First and foremost, I wanted to study abroad, and I knew St. Olaf would provide me with numerous opportunities to pursue that interest. I also wanted to have a radio show, write for the student newspaper, participate in the rowing team, and to play intramural inner tube water polo. I quickly learned that St. Olaf was a place that would support all my interests while still providing me with a quality education. So, while I begrudgingly told my father that I’d “keep an open mind” during the rest of my college visits, I knew almost right away that I’d end up at St. Olaf. Now for some, that moment of clarity will not be as immediate. But if St. Olaf is on the top of your list, I highly recommend Early Decision.

Applying early was the best decision for me and my entire family. St. Olaf had everything I was looking for in a college, and I did not want to wait until March to find out if I had gotten into my first-choice school. Thanks to Early Decision, I found out I had been admitted one month after I submitted my application. My parents were supportive because they knew my chances to earn any financial aid and/or scholarships wouldn’t be affected by applying Early Decision. Even my dog was thrilled because she knew I’d have more time to frolic with her instead of applying to more colleges. So, for the well-being of you, your family, and any attention-seeking animals your family may own, if St. Olaf is your #1 choice, consider applying Early Decision!



At St. Olaf, we understand that finances play a huge role in the college decision process. That’s why we work hard to make a St. Olaf education affordable through grants, work study, and student loans. As you begin to think about affording college, check out our Net Price Calculator. The calculator is a helpful tool that provides an estimated need-based financial aid package (it will not determine merit scholarships).

It is also important to consider pieces of the college experience beyond the net price such as graduation rate, job placement, and the ability to engage in research and internships. We’re proud to be one of the nation’s first colleges to provide honest, clear information about our recent graduates. Explore our Outcomes page to learn more about what Oles do after college (be sure to click through the searchable alumni database).

Start your application today using the St. Olaf Part One. When you’re ready, begin the financial aid process here. As always, contact us if you have any questions–we hope to see you on campus soon!


Traveling to my new admissions territory

Admissions Officer, Aleece DeWald shares her experience of traveling to Colorado, one of the states in her new territory. She also works with Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Utah. Each member of the admissions team is assigned to a specific part of Minnesota, the United States, and/or the world. Find out who your admissions officer is by clicking here.

“Where will I go?” “What will this place be like?” “Whom will I meet?” “How will I do?”

Just some of the numerous questions I asked as my flight touched down at the Denver International Airport. Despite my enthusiasm to dive into my new responsibilities as the new Colorado admissions officer, I would be lying if I claimed that I didn’t share the same reservations as one of the 764 new first-year students, who began their journeys on the Hill in September. I felt that sense of unease we all experience when confronting something new.

Fortunately, St. Olaf has led me to try new things for several years. Just as our new students settled into their residence halls, schedules, and friend circles, I too adapted to my new region.

I answered those initial questions of what Colorado would be like during the first night of my trip as I picked up my rental car and headed further into the Rocky Mountains. My first stop: the Western Slope College Fair in Aspen, CO. Now, I’m no stranger to driving outside the Midwest, but any current Oles, who hail from Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming can back me up when I say mountain driving is a unique challenge to first-time visitors. Sharp curves and steep grades were exciting enough to hold my attention for the entire four-hour drive – and this is without any snow!

A beautiful, sunny morning in Aspen

However, any exhaustion that I felt while en route faded when I arrived in Aspen. It’s no surprise that the town is such a popular getaway. The peaceful sky and the warm amber aspen trees, covering the mountains were enough to put even the most anxious tourist at ease. Throughout the day, I also had the opportunity to meet with a dozen intelligent and charming high school students, who asked fantastic questions and were all very eager to discover where their college searches would lead. Those conversations alone were definitely worth the efforts to travel there, and my concerns quickly turned to excitement as I looked forward to the week ahead.

On campus, students are answering similar questions about where their college experiences will take them. At St. Olaf, one of those answers could be the world. We offer an abundance of studying abroad opportunities, which lead to 73% of students studying off-campus before graduation. Our students can journey from London, to Thailand, to the Galapagos Islands. For some, the international programs are their first chances to travel outside of the United States. Naturally, that can lead to some apprehension at first. But they find that day-by-day they quickly adapt to their new routines, which opens their minds to the wealth of art, history, architecture, and/or scientific practice.


So if you’re interested in learning more about St. Olaf, but you’re feeling nervous and unsure where to begin, I encourage you to connect with your admissions officer via email, especially if he or she is in your neighborhood. Moving outside your comfort zone is a major part of the St. Olaf experience – whether it’s studying abroad, taking classes outside of your major, or joining a new extracurricular organization. All it takes is that first step!

Meet a St. Olaf Entrepreneur

John Bruer ’16 recounts how St. Olaf’s Piper Center for Vocation and Career helped him to grow one idea into a campus-wide success. The Piper Center is committed to helping all students leverage their liberal arts education to achieve their full potential after graduation. To learn more about the Piper Center, click here

“There has to be a better way.”  Maybe it’s just my curiosity, but I find myself saying that line quite often.  I’m always willing to give something new a shot, whether that involves figuring out a better way to enjoy a cookie in the Caf– the result, a Panini-pressed peanut butter cookie sandwich– or trying to save a few bucks on my own textbooks. Who knows, it may be the next big thing.

During my freshman year, after forking over hundreds of dollars to the bookstore for textbooks, I started searching for a cheaper way to purchase textbooks.  I called up a classmate of mine, and we began talking about creating a space for students to buy and sell their books with other students safely and quickly. Hours later, we landed on the concept for a preliminary solution: It’s an online campus marketplace that allows students to buy and sell books with others on their campus.

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John presents to the judging panel at annual the Ole Cup competition

Over the following few weeks, I picked the brains of students, professors, and staff from our Piper Center for Vocation and Career in hopes of entering into the world of entrepreneurship with this new idea.  Their responses were incredible, and several encouraged my classmate and me to enter into the 2014 Ole Cup (a brand new entrepreneurial competition with $20k in prize money).  We received $5,000 to help launch our business, which allowed us to expand into student housing as well.  In its first few months following the competition, U-Swap actively saved students over $17,000 on textbooks.  And, with the help of several entrepreneurs across campus, a textbook exchange is scheduled to hit St. Olaf in the coming year.

Now in its second year, the Ole Cup helps advise and support over 50 student business ideas. St. Olaf’s culture of entrepreneurship has helped U-Swap and several other student ideas grow through connections with alumni, funding, and has even helped ventures gain recognition from competitions like the Minnesota Cup, one of the largest statewide entrepreneurship competitions in the country. Campus is packed with students who are constantly generating new ideas and are surrounded with faculty and staff resources all working to bring those ideas to fruition.

The coveted Ole Cup award
The coveted Ole Cup award

Besides the Ole Cup, the college has tons of other resources for entrepreneurs, including the Ole Ventures Club and the Finstad Entrepreneurial Grant program. Thousands in seed money are available for innovative ideas each year through the Finstad Grants, which help get ideas, like U-Swap, get off the ground.  The Ole Ventures club meets weekly to help innovators test drive new ideas with other students. Each week, a top idea is selected and the students receive a $50 gift card to the St. Olaf bookstore.

Everyone at St. Olaf loves the cutting edge, whether that’s in science, technology, or the arts. So, if there’s something you’re passionate about, find a community that will support you and your idea, and get after it.  Who knows, it may be the new “better way”!