How is St. Olaf College and few questions...

I just came across this LAC in Northfield MN. Would like to know more about it from the students, parents and alumni.

  1. How rigorous are the academics and professors?
  2. Being a Christian college, what effect does religion / how impacting is the religion in the academics and college for an atheist? Are there any required religious courses to be taken?
  3. How's the Finance major program here? How quantitative is it? Is there OCR?
  4. Is St. Olaf in a safe area comparatively to the not so safe Allentown?
  5. How's the Financial Aid here?
  6. Does St. Olaf practice front loading of grants?
  7. Overall, how's the college life/Greek and competitiveness here?

I posted a ‘vibe’ report here that addresses some of those questions:

  1. Academics are rigorous. As at all schools, your course selection will determine how rigorous your course of study is. If you like lots of reading, writing and discussing in seminar style classes, check out the Great Conversations 2-year program. Double-majoring is common.
  2. See my 'vibe' report. Religion does not affect the academics. St. Olaf is not a 'Christian college' in the regular sense. More like the Jesuit colleges (think Santa Clara). Fine for an atheist or agnostic or non-religious person. However yes there are 2 required religious classes. One is 'bible' focused but any GE course that involves reading the bible will get you that GE. It is not evangelical. Reading religious texts in GE humanities classes is pretty standard (I read the new and old Testament in my religion class as an undergrad in a secular university too). Then there is a theology one, again lots of different classes will cover that and it is not evangelical. However, this being a religious affiliated school, your classmates will be more religious than at other schools and going to chapel or bible-study will be more of a 'thing' among your classmates. You don't have to do these things nor will anyone think anything one way or another if you don't. The campus goes all out for Christmas (decorations and a Christmas concert by the Ole musical groups); the Christmas concert is a huge thing.
  3. I'm not sure they have a Finance degree. I think they have Econ.
  4. St Olaf is known for being very safe. If you visit, they'll make a big deal of this. Like people leave their backpacks around and don't lock bikes, since they don't need to worry about safety. They are kind of up on a hill and away from town.
  5. Meets need school and has generous merit scholarships if your stats are high (into the top 25%+)
  6. No Greek life.

As a current freshman at St Olaf who is also an atheist I can give you a bit of a low down, even though I’m transferring.

The academics are the best part of the school in my opinion and the professors are wonderful, but you need to know your own learning style. Do you enjoy more hands on/interactive approaches or lots of reading and discussion? If you prefer the latter, than St. Olaf will be a good fit for you. However, something to keep in mind is that because it is a small school, it is incredibly difficult to get the classes you want in registration. However, the classes can also be considered pretty easy. I have been doing less homework and getting more sleep than I ever did in my high school, which I feel was more rigorous.

Religion doesn’t necessarily effect academics and there are 2 required courses as someone posted above. Those aren’t bad though. However there are religious elements in full school events like graduation and orientation and the school does consider faith and service to be important. You’ll come across hella religious people that might make you feel awkward for being an atheist but for the most part is isn’t that big of a deal.

No Finance Degree. There is Economics and a Marketing Concentration. Economics is the most popular major, but they have the same number of faculty as less popular humanities so it can be more difficult to get into the classes you want.

St Olaf is essentially in the middle of nowhere near a cutesy, classic small town so the area is quiet, safe, and sleepy. However, as much as St Olaf prides itself in safety and trust, I’ve had problems and not been listened to because “St Olaf students wouldn’t do that”. My mail has been stolen on multiple occasions because you share mailboxes and anyone has access to them. They aren’t locked at all. Guys have gone into girls’ rooms at night and tried to rape them while they were sleeping. My friend was stalked to the point she had to take a leave of absence and even though he admitted what he did in a note to her, he faced no consequences. My roommate smashed my mirror after a fight and they wouldn’t even investigate it.

The financial aid is good. Most people say they come here specifically because of good financial aid.

As posted above, no greek life. There is a no drinking policy on campus. People still drink though, but it’s much lamer and usually parties are a bunch of people drinking crammed into a dorm room. A lot of people also go to parties at the neighboring school Carleton.

@AnikaandAj, thanks for that wonderful perspective. If you don’t mind me asking, why exactly are your transferring after your freshman year at St. Olaf?