Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.

Counting Courses and Credits


For numerical purposes, the term “course” means a full (1.00) course credit, as distinguished from fractional course credits.

St. Olaf courses are not denominated in semester or quarter credits. Each St. Olaf course is equivalent to 4.00 semester credits or 5.50 quarter credits.

Course descriptions are printed in this catalog. Course offerings during a given semester are listed in the class and lab schedules and via the SIS. Thirty-five full course credits are required for the baccalaureate degree. Unless reduced as the result of transfer credits, 24 of the 35 courses must be taken on a graded basis.


Drop/add and satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) deadlines for half-semester courses are different from those of full-semester courses. Consult the registrar’s calendar on the Registrar’s Office Web site. A student taking a full load of 4.50 courses with the .50 being a first-half semester course cannot register for a second-half semester course unless the student meets the criteria for an overload stated under “Course Loads” in this catalog.

Note that “1” designates a first-half semester course and “2” a second-half course in the class and lab schedule.


Often credit earned from specific courses varies with different baccalaureate degrees, core requirements, and majors. Rely on the class and lab schedules for information about which courses fulfill general education requirements.

  1. Performance studies courses are always level I when counted toward the Bachelor of Arts degree. Credit for performance studies courses is counted as upper-level (numbered 200 and above) in the principal performing medium for Bachelor of Music degree students only during the junior and senior years.
  2. Dance activity courses count toward the Studies in Physical Movement (SPM) requirement..
  3. Information on repeating a course is found under Academic Regulations.
  4. After students have graduated with a degree, the college will not accept additional courses transferred from other colleges except two courses to complete an additional major.
  5. A student may not substitute an independent study for a course regularly offered in a department of the college. Independent study or research may count toward a major, but may not fulfill a general education requirement (except, when approved, as a course with writing [WRI).
  6. Twenty-four of the 35 full courses required for graduation must be taken on a graded basis unless that number has been reduced by transfer or off-campus course work.
  7. A student must complete at least six courses with grades of C or higher in a major in order to complete the major requirement. A grade of C- or S does not count in fulfilling this requirement.


St. Olaf courses have levels designated by course numbers in this catalog and in the class and lab schedules as level I, II, and III.

Level I courses, numbered 100 through 199, are for the most part introductory to a field or discipline. They exert a demand for only such depth of study, student responsibility, and independence commensurate with initial work at the college level.

Level II courses, numbered 200 through 299, require student independence in the acquisition of material and mastery of techniques and methods above that demanded in level I courses.

Level III courses, numbered 300 through 399, are usually confined to the major and demand control of methods as well as command of basic factual and theoretical knowledge appropriate to the discipline. A student should have at least two level III courses in the major; depending on the department, two level III courses may be required.

Courses numbered at level II and level III are referred to as upper-level courses.

Eighteen of the 35 full-course credits required for graduation must be at level II or III.

A course can earn only one level and one credit value. It cannot be raised in level or credit value as the result of extra studies, assignments, or performance. A course with a lower number or credit value cannot, as the result of extra work, become another course of a higher number or credit value because of scheduling conflicts or closed course status.


To be considered full-time, a student, including students receiving veterans' benefits, must be registered for at least 3.00 course credits. Four (4.00) full-semester credits are required to maintain certain forms of State of Minnesota financial aid.

4.5 credits is the typical, maximum course load allowed from all sources during a semester, and only one course may be taken during Interim. Note that a course must be dropped first if an added course would put the student's course load over the allowed 4.5 credits maximum.

A student is taking a full load of 4.50 credits with the .50 being a first-half-semester course cannot register for a second-half-semester course unless the student meets the criteria for an overload, below.

With the permission of the registrar, a student may exceed 4.5 credits during a semester if:

  1. The student is a senior, for whom the maximum load is 5.00 credits. The senior year is defined as the two semesters prior to commencement either as a “participator” (see PARTICIPATION IN COMMENCEMENT) or as a diploma candidate.
  2. The student is a junior or a sophomore and, normally, has a 3.60 grade point average over the two previous semesters. The student may then take up to the maximum of 5.00 credits.
  3. First-year students are not eligible for course overloads.

Note that all students receive an extra tuition charge of 50% of the same academic year's quarter-credit tuition charge for each quarter credit overload for course overloads beyond 4.5 credits. The refund policy also applies for course overload. See ADDITIONAL FEES AND COSTS. There is no refund of tuition after five weeks.


  1. A final exam is required for all courses, and a special time is reserved in exam week for every course’s exam. Teachers may plan an in-class exam for that period or arrange other means of evaluation brought to the final meeting of the class at the latest (i.e., a take-home exam, a final paper, etc.). In any case, students must attend the scheduled final exam meeting, whether it is a traditional exam or a special final meeting of the class. Absence will be reported to the appropriate student dean by the instructor and results in failure of the final exam or the course at the discretion of the instructor.
  2. Except for courses in performance studies, physical activity, and dance activity, an instructor may not use the last day of class for either a written or oral final exam. Take-home exams and papers substituting for final exams must be due at the scheduled final exam period.
  3. Students are required to take final exams at the scheduled time unless the instructor, with the written approval of the department chair or program director, has given the student permission to reschedule to another time during finals week. Student requests for an exam change must be made in writing. The decision rests with the chair or director. Chairs and directors will exclude from consideration rescheduling requests involving rides home, early family vacations, early summer employment, prepurchased airline tickets, and the like. The Student Honor Council welcomes policy that restricts the number of schedule exceptions during finals week.


Final letter grades and their corresponding grade point values are listed below along with short descriptions at each grade level. The descriptions give students, faculty, graduate schools, and employers of St. Olaf College graduates a general sense of the gradation of academic expectations at a glance.

In the leftmost column below, one can link to a list of grade benchmarks that is meant only as a guideline for St. Olaf faculty and students. Individual faculty members are free to grade according to their own systems; students should consult with their professors for accurate information about course requirements and expectations.


Links to Benchmarks................Description............................Grade............Grade Point
Superior Achievement







Good Achievement

Very Good


Generally Good







Adequate Achievement










Limited Achievement


Very Poor

Extremely Poor







Inadequate Achievement Failure F 0.0


For P/N courses

Meets course expectations

Fails to meet course expectations



no grade points

no credit

For S/U courses

C- or higher

D+ or lower



no grade points

no credit


With passing grade

With failing grade



no credit

no credit

Incomplete   I no credit

Successful Audit

Unsuccessful Audit




no credit

no credit



Grade Benchmark Achievement Levels

Superior achievement (A level):

The grade of A recognizes exceptional performance and achievement that exceeds course expectations and consistently demonstrates, where applicable, many of the following characteristics:

  • Thorough, deep, and mature understanding.
  • Genuine comprehension, insight, and synthesis.
  • Significant mastery of challenging topics and issues.
  • Extensive familiarity with relevant literature and previous work.
  • Highly developed communication skills.
  • Thorough preparation and extensive, thoughtful class participation.
  • Integration of knowledge, concepts, and principles across disciplines.
  • Originality of analysis and interpretation.
  • Technical competence in skills and procedures.
  • Precision of ideas and clarity of expression.
  • Thinking that is independent, creative, and focused.
  • Understanding of nuance and subtlety.
  • Consistent coherence in argument and discussion.

Students who receive the grade of A consistently demonstrate, where applicable, the ability to:

  • Analyze arguments using specific examples and original sources.
  • Think logically, draw inferences, and make predictions in complicated situations.
  • Communicate reasoning clearly and concisely.
  • Think abstractly.
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in arguments, policies, and practices.
  • Integrate information to draw well-founded conclusions.
  • Connect course content to issues of other courses and world affairs.
  • Use models appropriately; recognize their strengths and accommodate their inherent limitations.
  • Foresee and evaluate consequences of proposed policies and actions.
  • Use technology creatively and effectively.

Good Achievement (B level):

The grade of B recognizes work that meets course expectations and typically demonstrates, where applicable, many of the following characteristics:

  • Clear understanding without much originality
  • Competent grasp of course materials and subject matter
  • Familiarity with relevant literature
  • Competence in communication skills
  • Regular preparation for and participation in class
  • Integration of course knowledge, concepts and procedures
  • Some evidence of critical and creative thought
  • Clear connections between inferences and evidence
  • Care in the use of evidence and quotations with only occasional thinness in argument, detail, or precision.

Students who receive the grade of B typically demonstrate, where applicable, the ability to:

  • Extend ideas by connecting with personal experiences, reading, or world events.
  • Analyze data in various forms and from varied sources.
  • Utilize information to explain events, draw conclusions, and apply results.
  • Present comprehensive answers in a clear and logically correct style.
  • Understand and compare various models.
  • Distinguish inputs from outputs, and causes from effects.
  • Recognize consequences of complex interactions.
  • Use technology effectively.

Adequate Achievement (C level):

The grade of C recognizes work that is sufficient to prepare for continued study in the field and generally demonstrates, where applicable, some of the following characteristics:

  • Adequate grasp of course concepts.
  • Partial mastery of knowledge and skills required for understanding.
  • Incomplete familiarity with relevant readings or references.
  • Writing that lists facts rather than develops well-reasoned arguments.
  • Frequent neglect of important information.
  • Partial appreciation of the meaning or implications of a question.
  • Answers that are insufficiently developed.
  • Minimally complete assignments with many areas for improvement..

Students who receive the grade of C generally demonstrate, where applicable, some ability to:

  • Assimilate and communicate simple knowledge and procedures.
  • Extend ideas by making simple inferences.
  • Make connections among and draw conclusions from course concepts.
  • Interpret simple information provided in various formats.
  • Organize and display data in tables and graphs.
  • Use technology competently.

Limited Achievement (D level):

The grade of D indicates a lack of readiness to continue in the field. Students’ work usually demonstrates, where applicable, some of the following characteristics:

  • Minimal understanding of the subject matter.
  • Poorly developed communication skills.
  • Inability to apply subject matter understanding in other contexts.
  • Little evidence of critical or creative thinking.
  • Lack of apparent seriousness.
  • Frequent carelessness in fulfilling assignments.

Inadequate Achievement (F):

The grade of F indicates that course work is insufficient to merit academic credit. Students who receive an F usually demonstrate some of the following characteristics:

  • Inadequate understanding of subject matter.
  • Inadequate or inconsistent preparation.
  • Frequent failure to complete assignments in a timely manner.
  • Little evidence of critical thought.
  • Very poor communication skills.
  • Frequent misunderstanding of facts or references.
  • Little or no analysis.
  • Confused or incomprehensible writing.
  • Little or no work offering evidence that course objectives have been met.




The grade point average (GPA) is based upon final grades for all course work taken at St. Olaf as well as for grades earned through inter-registration at Carleton College and grades earned through the Minnesota Intercollegiate Nursing Consortium program, where there is a completed major in nursing.

Grades and grade points for courses transferred from other schools are not computed in the St. Olaf grade point average. Graded courses from St. Olaf off-campus programs are not computed in the grade point average except for courses taught by St. Olaf instructors.

The grade point average shows two decimal places (3.15, 2.36, etc.) and is never rounded up or down. It is determined by dividing the total number of St. Olaf, MINC, and Carleton-graded courses into the total grade points.

An average grade of C (2.00) is required for graduation.

Grades earned S/U or P/N and grades earned through transfer credits, Advanced Placement, or other means, are not computed in the grade point average.


Students have access to their academic records via the Student Information System (SIS).

See St. Olaf College Guidelines for the Release of Student Information under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) for St. Olaf's policy on release of students' academic information to third parties, including parents.

In compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), under no condition can grades be reported by telephone or to third parties, including parents, without specific written and signed authorization by the student.


A student has one year to notify the Registrar’s Office of a grade error on the transcript. A grade error is a recording mistake made by the Registrar’s Office.

Grade changes, on the other hand, are initiated by the instructor issuing the original grade, either because the instructor notices the error or following a student inquiry. The intended purpose of the grade change procedure is to correct an instructor’s computational or other error in reporting a grade, not to represent additional work on the part of the student. The only allowable grade changes based on additional student work require formal approval of an incomplete. The instructor (both instructors of a team-taught course) submits a grade change request to the registrar for consideration. If the request is approved, the Registrar’s Office informs both the student and the instructor.

After determining that a grade was not posted in error, students wishing to appeal a grade must write a letter of appeal to the chair or director of the instructor's department or program.


Of the full (1.00) course credits counting toward the minimum requirements for a major, six (6.00) must be completed with a grade of C or higher.


A minimum of 24 graded credits out of 35 credits is required for graduation. "Graded credits" are credits awarded via courses taught by St. Olaf faculty. In most cases, these courses are taught on campus or through approved St. Olaf off-campus programs. A course taught at another institution by a St. Olaf faculty member also counts as a graded credit.

The graded credit requirement is reduced by scale in the following instances:

  1. A student is admitted and matriculates at St. Olaf as a transfer student; see scale below.
  2. Credits are transferred into St. Olaf from another institution following matriculation at St Olaf. Exception: Credits taken on an off-campus program through another institution will not reduce the number of graded course credits required for graduation.
  3. Credits transferred from PSEO, CIS, AP, IB do not reduce the number of graded credits required.
  4. Credits earned on St. Olaf off-campus programs that total two semesters in length.

    One semester-length St. Olaf off-campus program will not reduce the number of graded credits required.

    A course taught by a St. Olaf instructor on an off-campus program is considered a graded course and counts toward the 24 required if taken for a letter grade.

    The letter grades from a full-year St. Olaf off-campus program or the combination of two semester-length St. Olaf off-campus programs are not computed in the grade point average unless taught by a St. Olaf instructor. In both circumstances, the 24-graded-course requirement is reduced as follows:

    Nine courses earned — four graded courses reduced
    Eight courses earned — four graded courses reduced
    Seven courses earned — three graded courses reduced
    Six courses earned — three graded courses reduced

Interim Exchange courses do not reduce the number of graded courses required for graduation.

The following reduction scale by course quantity is used if not all course work is taken at St. Olaf:

St. Olaf
courses taken
St. Olaf
graded required
34 23
33 22
32 22
31 21
30 20
29 20
28 19
27 18
26 18
25 17
24 16
23 16
22 15
21 14
20 14
19 13
18 12
17 12


An incomplete in a course is rarely granted and only if there is a distinct possibility of, and a commitment to, finishing the course in a timely manner.

A request for an incomplete is initiated by the student and submitted to the Dean of Students Office. Incompletes are granted primarily for documented medical reasons and may not be issued by an instructor without prior approval of the dean of students or one of the associate deans of students.

An incomplete for which a grade is not recorded by the extended deadline set at the time of approval of the incomplete automatically becomes an F. The incompleted course cannot be dropped from the record at a later date to avoid a failing grade. Once the course is completed with the assignment of a letter grade and credit, an asterisk is entered beside it on the permanent transcript indicating that the course was once incomplete. A student may not apply for an incomplete in a course added after the posted deadline because of insufficient time to complete the assigned work. A student who has been granted an incomplete in a course cannot subsequently finish the course with similar course credit transferred from another college.

A student with an incomplete on his/her academic record may participate in commencement if all other requirements for graduation have been met.  Only after a final grade has been recorded for the course, however, will a degree be conferred and a diploma issued.

Only in the most extraordinary circumstances are incompletes allowed on St. Olaf abroad programs not led by a St. Olaf faculty member. Many non-U.S. colleges and universities are not familiar with the practice of giving incompletes, and constraints having to do with distance and time make it very difficult to follow up on incompletes. Consequently, students studying abroad should not anticipate being able to avail themselves of this option.


Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts Music major and the degree requirements for the Bachelor of Music are defined only in this catalog. Students should also consult the Music Handbook. Bachelor of Arts music and music education majors should be careful to complete 21 credits outside of the major.


Student participation in campus musical organizations (choirs, orchestras, bands, ensembles, etc.) is not awarded course credit.


Performance studies courses (music lessons) are always Level I courses for Bachelor of Arts students.

Performance studies courses (music lessons) are upper level courses for Bachelor of Music students only in their principal performing medium and only during the junior and senior years.

Generally, performance studies courses are fractional (.25) courses, not full-credit courses. Registration for performance studies courses must be approved by the Music Department. Registration instructions are published in the class and lab schedule. Lessons may be added to or dropped from a student’s registration only with a music lesson drop/add slip available from the Music Office. This drop/add slip must be processed by the Music Department academic administrative assistant before it will be accepted in the Registrar’s Office.

Registration for performance studies lessons may result in an additional fee; see the Music Office for details. If a student drops a performance studies course (lessons) after the sixth day of class, no refund of music lesson fees is made. For information on fees for the combination of performance studies and overload, consult Additional Fees and Costs.