writing college essays

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!

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Written by Abigail Anderson
Abigail Anderson is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Abigail received her bachelor’s in sociology from Colby College. Prior to joining College Coach, Abigail worked as a senior admissions officer at Reed College and Emma Willard School.