College Spotlight: St. Olaf College

"Colleges That Change Lives" Written Reflection

By Ryan Luse

St. Olaf College

Although I haven’t yet visited St Olaf from an admissions perspective, experiences during my younger years at this campus still hold memories very dear to my heart. It is located in Northfield, Minnesota only about forty minutes away from where I currently live in St. Paul. Despite it being just outside the Twin Cities, it feels like a tucked away, hidden gem every time I visit with a magical feeling that seems to linger from each visit. In Colleges That Change Lives, Loren Pope says "Aesthetically and academically, it is Camelot. If it were on the East Coast it would be as selective as any Ivy. But it will just have to be satisfied with being better." I too share Pope’s passion for this school.

My first St. Olaf experience was back in my early days of high school when I attended a summer music camp that was life changing in many ways. The counselors, being mostly St. Olaf students and alumni, were absolutely fantastic and supremely talented. I remember thinking these are the kind of people I wanted to hang out and aspired towards them.

I came back to St. Olaf my Senior year when our concert choir got to tour the music department and see the choir perform. To this day I do not remember seeing a more impressive music department in the Midwest. Loren Pope says the music department "is one of the finest in the country and one-third of the student body participates in its performances."

What I may remember the most however is the beautiful campus. It has this quaint "Minnesota nice" Scandinavian feel to it and the campus straight out of a fairy tale. After falling in love with the schools music program and campus I had it on my list for schools in my own college search along with: Drake University, Gustavus Adolphus, Beloit and Emerson. I think I would have been happy at St. Olaf if my life took another path and ended up choosing a different school or been a little less wild.

Here are some more tidbits I learned reading Pope’s little love letter to St. Olaf:

  • The Choir sang at the 1988 Summer Olympics and is the only college choir ever to sing in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
  • I am someone who is big believer in the power of studying abroad and had no idea the number of programs and the global power St. Olaf has. According to Pope, "There are 120 programs, and some include study at several different locations. I don’t know of another college that has such a wealth of foreign programs, and nearly 80 percent take advantage of them."
  • St. Olaf bans cars for students who live in a 250 mile radius, which only produces very few gripes from students.
  • Although religion has been a part of its history and tradition, I do not see this school as one full of unnecessary rules and being rigid. Pope agrees by saying "It is enlightened, forward-looking and innovative; the teachers are caring human beings. You will be respected, and people will be interested in your views and beliefs"

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