I would love to go to St. Olaf. BUT...

…there’s no way I’d be able to afford it, right?

Hi everyone, I’m a current junior with a pretty solid apply list (in my opinion) but I keep getting the feeling St. Olaf needs to be on it. I come from an upper middle-class family with a lot of kids, so I’m stuck in that weird position where I actually can’t afford more than about 12-15k a year for college, but the FAFSA thinks I can. My older brother’s calculated EFC was $80,000, but there’s no way my family can pay that much. So, I’m pretty much dependent on merit scholarships to afford college.

This is where my quandary comes in. I fell in love with St. Olaf College a while ago, when I took a master class from the choir director there and learned about their magnificent choral program. I intend to major in music and perhaps also in math. But, in my research on St. Olaf’s website, I found out that their academic merit scholarships max out at half tuition, which still leaves me with way too much money to pay. So I crossed it off my apply list. I didn’t want to fall in love with a school I can’t afford.

My stats:
1570 SAT (still waiting on essay score)
4.0 UW GPA (don’t know weighted but it’s around 4.2-4.3)
1st in my class
No subject tests/ 5 on AP Latin; took AP calc BC and AP Phys 1 this year
EC’s include regional children’s choir (5 years), voice lessons, piano, guitar, have performed at prestigious venues
Hundreds of volunteer hours including camp counselor and director of a Gregorian chant children’s choir I founded, that I developed a theory curriculum for
Varsity volleyball (3 years; 4 by the time I graduate)
Have been tutoring and babysitting for pay since sophomore year

Is there any way I could possibly bring St. Olaf down to an affordable cost? I know there is no app fee so I might as well apply, but I still don’t want to be stuck turning down a college that I really want to go to just cause I can’t afford. I know they are really generous with financial aid. What do you guys think?

Have you run St. Olaf’s NPC? It will require some of your parent’s financial info, how many siblings will be college at the same time, etc. It should be a decent estimate unless your parents are divorced, own a business/farm/multiple homes

Run the NPC, but if you don’t qualify for FA with your brother at school you aren’t going to be paying less than 30k. I have a kid with music background and similar stats that was accepted for music and we were a bit disappointed with merit. He is not attending.

The beauty thing about Olaf’s financial aid stuff is that they use the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA. In case you’re not familiar with it, the CSS Profile is the financial aid application that the College Board does. While the FAFSA uses mainly your taxes, the CSS Profile gives you the chance to explain your family’s financial aid situation in more detail, and give details that the FAFSA doesn’t let you add. You can usually use this section to give more detail about why you’re going to need the aid, and you might have a better chance at getting it. Also, feel free to PM me if you have more questions- I’m going to Olaf this fall as a first year music major (voice + choral emphasis), and I’m down to help out a potential fellow Ole with the admissions process, or if you just have questions!

Thank you all for your replies. @emeraldjinn I didn’t know St. Olaf uses CSS-- that’s good to know. I’m not hugely familiar with financial aid in general, since my family has only done merit aid (sister got full ride to U of Kentucky as NMS). Does everything get packaged together, need + merit aid?

In general, CSS tends to work the other way–those schools expect you to pay more than the figure FAFSA gives you for EFC. At least hat was our experience, even though we are a family with typical situation–minimal assets, little home equity, etc. Out of twelve schools, nobody exceeded the EFC. “Meets Full Need” schools were even stingy with what they considered need–St Olaf didn’t include much if any travel, incidentals, books, in their COA. Most generous with COA allowances was University of Iowa (OOS)–surprisingly!

1 Like

CSS Profile does typically result in a larger expected contribution as compared to FAFSA’s EFC…it requires a much greater deal of financial details, including such things as home equity, business income, and annuities…all things that FAFSA does not consider.

Further, in cases of divorce, the NCP (including new spouse, as applicable) must fill out CSS profile too.

Lastly, filing CSS Profile costs money and can add up, as one must pay a separate fee to send to each college the student applies to.

That’s a fair point about the CSS Profile, and I did mean to mention that it’s $25 per CSS Profile submission (for each school you want to submit to), but I felt that it was worth mentioning, since it does give you the space to explain why you could or couldn’t pay the EFC, beyond just stats and numbers. I do know that for myself, the CSS Profile was instrumental in explaining my weird financial situation (parental bankruptcy and assorted family weirdness that I had to deal with as a student getting my parents’ finances in order), and I do think that they took my explanation into account.
@Racingfan53 as far as packaging need and merit aid together, they do a pretty good job. You already know about the deal with scholarships not exceeding half of tuition, and so while your best case scenario potential merit aid amount is going to top out somewhere in the neighborhood of $27,000-30,000, you’ll still be eligible for other need-based scholarships. Merit scholarships at Olaf are going to be Buntrock Scholarships (top tier), Presidential, Dean’s, and a few below that in decreasing amounts, but you can also write an essay for the chance to get a service leadership scholarship, and there’s also music, art, dance, and theater scholarships. You’re a choir person, and so am I, so I’ll just tell you straight up that their music scholarships are incredibly competitive, and so is admission to the program. However, please don’t let that discourage you from applying or auditioning for the music program. This year, there weren’t many vocal people that got music scholarships, and most of the people that did were accepted into the BM Performance major (which is the hardest major to get into right off the bat- most people reaudition for it later). I auditioned for the BM Vocal Performance major, and I was accepted into the BA Music Major with no music scholarships. However, Olaf is paying for my private lesson costs, and I have the chance to reaudition for the BM later on, so it’s not a bad deal. I also got a significant amount of merit aid, as well as the St. Olaf Grant (need-based) and some federal need-based aid. My family is comfortable, but not rich by any means, and although we’re still having to pay some, it’s not a large amount. Your ECs and profile look really good, and you seem like a really good fit for Olaf, so I would keep looking into their scholarships as well as outside aid (maybe contact your guidance counselor, or someone similar at your school) and keep working hard to keep your grades and ECs strong. If you’re really worried, you might even contact someone from their financial aid office and talk to them about your concerns. Good luck!

Just agreeing with other comments here. You seem like a great fit, and Olaf’s merit aid plus some other other aid may be more than you expect. Definitely apply, work with admissions and financial aid office directly.

hi, i am also apply to st olaf this fall as a music ed/ choral major.
I love the school and I am hoping to be accepted and can also afford to go.
i’m the first of three kids to go to college so$ money is tight.
any advice on auditions and prescreens would be so appreciated

I didn’t end up going to St Olaf, but I got in last year (with lower scores than yours) and they gave me enough money to go, and I was in a somewhat similar financial situation to you. Out of all the schools I got into, St. Olaf was one of the best with giving financial aid and doing what they could to get you to go there if they really wanted to. Definitely apply, it’s a great place and I even considered transferring from my current school this year, although ultimately deciding to stay put. St. Olaf probably wants you just as much as you seem to want them, and if that is the case, I am confident they will make it work for you. Good luck.

I suggest you contact the financial aid office directly. I’ve found St. Olaf staff to be extremely responsive.

My D got their highest music award and second highest academic. Together it was more than half total cost. They only allow for half cost but they bank remainder for tuition increases. Still the yearly cost would have been just over 28k. We are a full pay family. I think you’d be in the running for half cost with your stats. Maybe with a bit of aid and loans you can get there. Also it’s entirely possible to make 4-5k with a summer job. And you can always appeal for aid and look for outside scholarships. It’s doable if the stars align.

Hi, reading old posts about St. Olaf as my son is very interested in it. I was wondering if you would mind sharing what you ended up doing? We are in a similar boat as your situation was. Thanks!

From OP’s old threads it appears they got a full ride to UNT, so that’s where they went.

We are also in a similar boat. It is hard to receive “outside” scholarship help, as they tell you to do when we are OOS. Most of our best chances at scholarships require us to attend an “in state” school. We feel that St. Olaf is a great fit for many reasons, but not being able to tour in person, and having little contact with advisors so far makes it difficult to just jump right on without wondering if our son could do more.

OP hasn’t been active on this thread since May 2019. Please start a new thread if you are interested in continuing this topic. Closing.