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Admission rates remain steady through second year of enrollment amid pandemic

The pandemic has affected many aspects of life on campus, but for high school seniors looking to find the right college, the stress may be even more prominent. The St. Olaf admissions office has attempted to offer as many services as possible to students to give them a glimpse into life at the College, including virtual tours, virtual high school visits, and virtual college fairs. As the COVID-19 cases on campus fluctuated, the admissions office offered in-person tours when it was deemed safe to do so.

“We gave students the opportunity to select virtual events that took place over the course of several weeks,” said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Chris Goerge in an email to the Messenger. “We also expanded the hours of when our virtual programs took place to accommodate the schedules of prospective students from around the country and around the world.”

There was a potential that admissions rates would drastically change as the pandemic took its toll, but the College has seen steady application rates despite the unprecedented times.

The College made the decision to go test-optional and offer an Early Action decision role February of 2020. Though this decision was made prior to the pandemic, the College plans on keeping the policy for the foreseeable future.

“Our plan to go test-optional and offer an Early Action decision round played a significant role in increasing our applications 20% over last year,” George said. “As of today we have received more than 6,300 applications and our admit rate this year dropped by 2% to 48%.”

Currently, the college plans to enroll around 780 first-year students to the class of 2025, with some early decision applicants already committing as well. For comparison, the College welcomed 786 students for the class of 2021 and 813 for the class of 2022.

“Our research shows that a student’s high school GPA and academic rigor do the best job of predicting success at St. Olaf College, and I think being a test-optional school will provide more opportunities to students to consider applying to St. Olaf,” George said. 

The Admissions office plans to maintain the virtual programming options for the Fall of 2021, but will adjust as the pandemic allows. They plan to continue to support incoming students with tours, college fairs, and different events or activities, whether they be online or in person.

“While the pandemic and campus COVID procedures will dictate the timing of many of our in-person events and activities, we are looking forward to returning to this new normal,” George said. “We were excited to have increased interest and our plan is to maintain our admit rate around 50% as we look ahead.”