St. Olaf vs Lawrence for Music/Math double degree

Ds wants to do a double degree in Math and Vocal Performance. FA is comparable at both schools. Lawrence has a Conservatory, St. Olaf doesn’t but it’s got a internationally renowned music program. From what I can tell St. Olaf is stronger in math, Lawrence in music. Or perhaps I’m mistaken? Lawrence has a well-established 5-year double degree program in place. St. Olaf offers this as an option, too, but it’s not as widely known.

St. Olaf is easier to access travel-wise with the MSP airport in close proximity, 30 miles, to the college. How does the intellectual rigor compare at these schools. And the music, do they compare or is Lawrence in another league? Any advice or experience to share would be much appreciated.

Bumping this in hopes someone has any thoughts/experience to share.

Some thoughts on comparative academic strength here: Trying to make sense of our options from a distance: international student

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Thanks, yes, I had seen that and read through it earlier. I think it’s going to come down to intangibles.

For what it’s worth, I think St Olaf is stronger than Lawrence for voice, organ, and math; the fact it’s not a conservatory means it’s easier to double major and that all students can participate regardless of major, thus attracting very strong musicianship from a lot of students overall (it’s a very “musical” campus, v. very strong conservatory students and non-conservatory students being musical or not, as the two groups are somewhat separate). The “non conservatory” nature is a choice that reflects the way they see high-level musicianship as integrated with all the liberal arts, not a reflection of the students’ level.
Lawrence has the upper hand for STEM, especially physics.
Another difference is that St Olaf is affiliated with the ELCA. There’s a mandatory seminar freshman year where students read parts of the Bible and use it as a springboard to discuss various questions or issues. I know one dealt with catastrophes, dystopias, and the Apocalypse books, another one with Moses in Egypt and the escape to freedom in relation to African American history… Then there’s a required Ethics course and another religion course. They’ve got an Imam, a Rabbi, various representatives of different Christian faiths, and are trying to recruit a professor for Buddhism. There’s a chapel in the middle of campus, with services every morning and weekend (attendance is not mandatory). You can see if their type of faith would be acceptable to you:

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From a pure travel perspective, the Appleton airport has American, Delta, and United with daily flights to their hubs.

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This is very helpful, thanks! You make some interesting points wrt non-conservatory musical campus vs conservatory + non-con. I like the holistic feeling you describe, the weaving of music right into the whole liberal arts curric. Interesting that you feel St. Olaf is stronger in voice as I would have thought this was a Lawrence strength. Good to know!

Ds is aware of the mandatory freshman year course. Not something I think he’d choose but he’s also not averse to it as a way to look at the bible from a non-religious perspective. His religious upbringing has brought him into contact with many traditions so I think it could prove an interesting area of discussion for him.

Lastly I’m curious about your comment on Lawrence having the upper hand for STEM. My research yielded the opposite, that these are the number one areas of focus at St. Olaf. But maybe I’m missing something. I did see that Lawrence received a $1 million grant for its STEM programs.

Thank you, that is good to know. I guess I’m thinking of the ability to get direct flights. We could to St. Olaf but not Lawrence. I’m thinking of those winter snowstorms that can cause major delays and affect connecting flight needs.

Lawrence is a top10 producer of PHDs in Physics, not St Olaf.
St Olaf has academic strength in STEM (and premed) overall; it’s a top producer of Math PHDs, however it’s not a top 10 producer of PHDs in Physics (or Biology).
Voice is what St Olaf is most known for (in particular with the choirs). The “big men on campus” are the singers :stuck_out_tongue: :wink:- nobody knows who the football players are.

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:rofl: at your last sentence.

And yes, the math faculty mentioned its Math PhDs at their recent admitted students meeting. Physics and Bio are not ds’s thing so that’s not an issue. Also, relative to its size, a very big producer of Fulbright, Rhodes and Goldwater scholars.

Voice seems choir and choral-focused whereas ds’s love is opera, operetta and musical theater. I imagine Lawrence is stronger in this area.

Onwards with the decision-making process…

I really wouldn’t worry about travel delays as part of the decision process. Can get into MSP, you likely can get into Appleton.

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Email the music faculty at both universities. Ask about recent (2018-2019 might be more representative, and 2019-2020/2020-2021 being a bit odd) MT production, opportunities for opera singing, informal student groups in addition to official productions, opportunities to perform on and off campus, opportunities to attend productions off campus.
Perhaps also ask to be put in touch with current students.
This should yield useful information.

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Only that financially it will be a factor. Double the price to fly to Lawrence. It adds up. Not a deal breaker but a factor nonetheless if it comes down it.

Thanks, yes, we’ve done all the contacting students, faculty, sample lessons for each school etc. Good point to look at past productions.

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Following this thread with interest as we have a choir-obsessed D interested in pre-engineering (as well as broader liberal arts) with equal merit scholarships (31k) to both St O and Lawrence (also weighing Denison in the equation with slightly better merit funding). Internationals with a grown up brother in NYC.

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Yes, I read through your whole thread before posting this one lol. It was very helpful to hear the different perspectives on St. Olaf. Ds had a sample lesson with one of the voice teachers this week and really, really enjoyed it, the lesson and the teacher, both. When I asked him if it allayed his fears about the rigor of the music component at St. Olaf he said, yes. The teacher assured him there would ample opportunity for him to explore opera, operetta and MT, both on and off-campus.

One thing that I just remembered from our tour was that nobody locks their bicycles at Lawrence. It isn’t necessary.

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So ds has met with professors at both colleges, had sample lessons, and met with a student from each college. He was drawn to the professors at St. Olaf and the student vibe at Lawrence. We’re doing a live virtual tour with a St. Olaf student later this week so that will give ds more of an impression. But any other ideas about making contact with current students at these colleges other than going through the sign-ups on the colleges’ admitted students page? Ds isn’t on FB or IG so that’s not an option.

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Coming down to the wire. The virtual tour with the St. Olaf student went really well. He said he’s leaning towards St. Olaf but hasn’t completely made up his mind. I think his one concern is the opportunity for musical theater, opera and operetta. It’s not that there won’t be opportunities just that there may not be as many as he’d like with choir taking the central role musically. However, as his voice teacher said, knowing how to sing properly in a choir is a solid skill. And I’m thinking perhaps there would be options in MSP though obvs that would be awhile in coming given the various distancing measures in place. I’m guessing his decision will come through at 11:59 pm on May 1st :joy:


Just curious what the decision was?