Michael Kyle, vice president and dean of enrollment, is impressed with the students in the Class of 2010.
"Are the students automatically, without qualification, better than last year's students?" he asked. "I wouldn't say. Do they present, as a whole, stronger credentials [grade point average, class rank and tests scores as three measures]? Then yes, this is the strongest class admitted in my memory."
The roughly 800 members of the class of 2010 were selected from an applicant pool of 3,703. The class boasts two U.S. Presidential Scholars, and the average ACT score of the first-year student also jumped from 27 to 28 with this years applicants.
With more applicants to choose from, St. Olaf College can afford to be more selective when admitting students.
"Admissions standards change when more people presenting strong credentials apply," Kyle said. "So, we had more people apply about 18 percent more than last year so, by definition, our standards had to change because we simply could not admit all students who were qualified for admission."
Kyle explained that St. Olaf competes with other "types" of colleges for applicants admission. The first type is the large state university, like Minnesota or University of Wisconsin- Madison. The second type of school is one found in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). These schools include St. Johns, College of St. Benedict and Gustavus Adolphus. The third type of school that the St. Olaf applicant also applies to is the highly selective liberal arts college, like Carleton College, Grinnell College and Macalester College.
But many applicants, even if admitted to schools from the above three categories, choose St. Olaf for their college experience.
"We admitted more students this year, expecting our yield [the percent of admitted students who accept our offer of admission] to drop in light of a large application increase," Kyle said. "That didn't happen. So we yielded about the same percentage as last year on a larger admits pool, so as a result, more students ended up choosing St. Olaf."
Rosalyn Eaton-Neeb, dean of first-year students, sees these talented first-years as well on their way to becoming true St. Olaf students.
"I believe they are well prepared for the challenges of the St. Olaf experience. How each member of the class chooses to shape and be shaped by their experiences here has yet to be seen," Eaton-Neeb said. "I'm looking forward to their influence on the St Olaf community."
Jocelyn Walcoff 10 comes to St. Olaf from Tempe, Az. She chose St. Olaf,over the University of Arizona, Arizona State and Texas Lutheran because she received a good scholarship.
"Also, the opportunities St. Olaf opens with study abroad drew me to the school," Walcoff said. "And my brother goes here!"
Leila Roos 10 chose to come to St. Olaf because she liked "everything about the school. It was an ideal choice because of the atmosphere, music program, study abroad opportunities and the food." A vocal performance and psychology major from Savannah, Ga., Roos came to St. Olaf instead of other liberal arts colleges like Lawrence University and Rhodes College.
Kyle is not surprised by the quality of the first years.
"I think there is a stronger vibe for the college starting to take place, and I think that is due to the great experience our current students have, first and foremost," Kyle said. "We are deliberately marketing what we are, and who we are, to a larger and more diverse audience, and I think that plays a role too."