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Responding to the St. Olaf College Supplemental Essay Prompts

Abigail Anderson

Written by Abigail Andersonon November 5th, 2019

I joined College Coach after working in independent school and college admissions. At the collegiate level, I evaluated thousands of applications and managed more than 20 student workers and 200 alumni interview volunteers. I recruited in, and read applications for, multiple domestic and international recruitment territories, including all of New England and the Mid-Atlantic, Europe, and the Americas. I also worked with and evaluated transfer applicants. Committed to increasing college access and demystifying the college application process, I collaborated with colleagues across institutions to develop free, accessible programming for high school juniors wanting to jumpstart the application process and improve their essay skills. My passion has always aligned with working directly with high school students; I started my career in admissions at a highly-selective all-girls’ boarding school. While there, I recruited students throughout New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and California. I oversaw multicultural and first-generation student recruitment, participated in both admission and financial aid committees, and assisted in residence hall management.
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While many might think of Carleton College when they hear “Northfield, Minnesota,” there’s another fabulous school in this small town—St. Olaf College. Like its neighbor, St. Olaf is a small, liberal arts college. But if you’re planning to apply, you’ll want to be sure you demonstrate deeper knowledge of the college and its culture in your supplemental essay responses than that! So let’s look at what those questions are and how you might answer them. St. Olaf applicants are required to answer one 100-word essay and three 10-word short responses. You might look at this in comparison to say, the Stanford prompts, and think, “This will be a breeze!” But it’s still important to approach these essays with care and thought—St. Olaf is quite serious about crafting an intentional community of students. “How are you and St. Olaf a good fit for each other?” This is essentially going to be your “why St. Olaf” essay; in this response you’ll want to demonstrate your knowledge of the school and its unique idiosyncrasies—and, of course, why you in particular have been drawn in. Because of the brevity of the response (100 words), I encourage you to go for depth rather than breadth. For example, did you know that St. Olaf students go by the nickname “Oles” and are known for being trustworthy, sincere, and deeply committed to their community? There’s even a tradition, called “Friday Flowers,” of students buying flowers to leave in friends’ post offices boxes with notes. If that doesn’t scream kind community, I don’t know what does! “Complete the sentence” prompts St. Olaf requires each applicant to complete the following three sentences in ten words or less:
  • Everyone knows that I...
  • No one knows that I...
  • Olaf should know that I...
This is your chance to have a little fun! While you don’t want to overthink it and come up with the trite answer that you think the admissions officer wants you to give (that’s too boring!), you should be using this space to get a little creative. What aspects of your personality or experiences will the application reader not see from the other components of the application? If I were reading these responses, I would have loved to see some personality show through here—so don’t be afraid to let it! Essay-Pitfalls-CTA


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