St. Olaf CollegeAcademic CatalogSt. Olaf College

Table of Contents
Academic Life
Academic Regulations
» Entering St. Olaf
» Transferring to St. Olaf
» Registering for Courses
» Special Registrations
» Counting Courses & Credits
» Academic Status
» Curr. Regulations & Advice
» Records/Policies
» Leaving St. Olaf
International and Off-Campus Studies
Special Programs
Admissions and Financial Aid
Life Outside the Classroom
Facts and Figures
College Calendar

Changes that have occurred in St. Olaf academic policy and curriculum since the publication in 2002 of the St. Olaf Catalog for 2002–04 are indicated in red and red strikethrough type.

Registrar's Office
Admin 224
1520 St. Olaf Avenue
Northfield, MN 55057



Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.

Curricular Regulations and Advice


  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 (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 the 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 re-schedule 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, pre-purchased airline tickets and the like. The Student Honor Council welcomes policy that restricts the number of schedule exceptions during finals week.


Graduation requirements for students are reported in this catalog and the Catalog Supplement.

Graduation requirements are defined only in this catalog and should be reviewed frequently. Students alone have the responsibility of seeing that their academic program includes all requirements for graduation.

A student must meet the graduation requirements in place at the time he/she first enters St. Olaf as a degree candidate.

All graduation requirements must be completed before a degree is conferred and a diploma issued. While some requirements may be fulfilled in different ways, graduation requirements themselves cannot be waived. They are not subject to petition or appeal.

Listed below are frequently misunderstood or overlooked requirements, or regulations affecting requirements.

  1. An independent study or an independent research credit does not fulfill a General Education requirement for the degree (except as a course in writing [WRI]).
  2. Eighteen of the 35 credits required for graduation must be taken at Level II and/or III.
  3. Performance studies courses (lessons) are always Level I courses for Bachelor of Arts students.
  4. At least 50% of the minimal major must be taken through St. Olaf.
  5. Twenty-one of the 35 credits required for graduation must be outside of the department or program certifying the major.
  6. A minimum of six full courses in the major must have earned grades above C- (C or higher).
  7. Two-thirds of all St. Olaf courses must be graded.
  8. After having successfully completed two Interims, senior participators may satisfy the third Interim requirement by means of an on-campus course taken during a St. Olaf summer session after graduation.
  9. The senior residency requirement consists of registration through St. Olaf either (a) during the last two semesters and Interim preceding the conferring of the degree, or (b) for at least nine of the last 12 full courses. For instance, seniors may spend one of their last terms at another institution only if a maximum of three courses are applied to the St. Olaf degree. A senior may spend the final semester on a St. Olaf-sponsored off-campus program.


Residency is a graduation requirement with two parts:

  1. Seventeen of the 35 full credit courses required for graduation must be taken through St. Olaf College. This may include St. Olaf-sponsored off-campus programs.
  2. The senior residency requirement consists of registration through St. Olaf either (a) during the last two semesters and Interim preceding the conferring of the degree, or (b) for at least nine of the last 12 full courses. For instance, seniors may spend one of their last terms at another institution only if a maximum of three courses are applied to the St. Olaf degree. A senior may spend the final semester on a St. Olaf-sponsored off-campus program.

Note the special residency requirement for those pursuing both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Music degree in the "Second Degree" entry.


General Education requirements constitute the "core" degree requirements of the curriculum. Consult this catalog for a full description of General Education requirements.

Courses are described in this catalog and in the Catalog Supplement; courses fulfilling a given General Education requirement are indicated in this catalog, the Catalog Supplement and the Class and Lab Schedule. Note that St. Olaf's General Education curriculum does not work by a distribution system (so many courses in certain disciplines); rather, it identifies an area of learning for General Education and sets out a series of guidelines which inform the construction of courses. Departments and programs submit their course proposals to a General Education committee which judges whether a course fulfills a requirement. Because the college's expectations for General Education are distinctive and characteristic of this college alone, students must be particularly careful as they plan off-campus and transfer work. The Registrar's Office can help determine how transfer work can apply to St. Olaf's General Education requirements; advisers of off-campus programs determine whether a non-St. Olaf course applies to the General Education requirements.


The foreign language requirement is described only in this catalog under "Graduation Requirements."

All St. Olaf students must satisfy the foreign language requirement. This may be done either by completing the fourth semester of French, German, or Spanish, or the third semester of Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Norwegian, Greek, or Latin, or by demonstrating equivalent proficiency. For students with learning disabilities specific to foreign language, there is an alternate way to satisfy the foreign language requirement, as approved by the St. Olaf faculty on October 16, 1974:

"After completion of the work in a foreign language course at St. Olaf College, the student who receives a D or F or no credit may petition to satisfy all (in the case of an F or no credit in a Language 111 course) or any remaining portion of the requirement by taking Foreign Culture and Civilization or Literature in English Translation."

Alternatives to this requirement are rarely considered. In most cases, they can be initiated by the student only upon completion of a course as explained above. Criteria for granting permission for an alternative include, but are not limited to, strict adherence to language course requirements and class attendance, plus evidence of having worked with a tutor assigned by the Academic Support Center. In a limited number of cases involving students with specific learning disabilities as detailed in Public Law 94-142 (the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975), Section 5(b)(4), a faculty member or a student may initiate the procedure to request an alternative to the foreign language requirement before the student completes the course, as detailed in guidelines approved by the faculty on May 10, 1988. A student experiencing foreign language difficulty should first consult the instructor of the foreign language course and also his/her academic adviser; these faculty may also refer the student to the Academic Support Center.

Students planning to fulfill the foreign language requirement with transfer courses from other institutions should be aware of St. Olaf's requirement of intermediate proficiency in one foreign language.

Proficiency reports from persons not known to St. Olaf must be based on documented exposure or training by the student in a foreign language equivalent in length to three or four college semesters, or demonstration of a sufficient length of time in a non-English speaking culture to give credence to a proficiency report. As a rule, proficiency reports from persons outside of St. Olaf are not acted upon until the student arranges for a final proficiency exam by persons and methods agreed to by members of the foreign language faculty, the registrar and, if deemed necessary, the dean of the college. Such exams may involve an expense charged to the student.

Questions concerning the transfer of foreign language courses to St. Olaf should be directed in advance to the registrar.


Two one-quarter physical activity courses in different physical subjects or one .50 credit course in Physical Education are required for graduation. It is strongly recommended that both of these courses be completed before the senior year. The following regulations are often misunderstood:

  1. Students not appearing on the first class day of a physical activity course are normally dropped from the course by the instructor. In this event, the student must still drop the course at the Registrar's Office by the posted drop deadline. The instructor does not assume this responsibility.
  2. Only one physical activity course credit may be earned by students as a result of participation in an approved intercollegiate sport. This credit must be entered as Physical Education 171-194 at the registration preceding the sport/participation term. Credit cannot be claimed after the term in which participation took place. An intercollegiate physical education (.25) credit can only be used within the two quarter-credit physical education graduation requirement. An intercollegiate physical education (.25) credit cannot be used as an elective for the purpose of earning a credit toward the 35 full-credit course requirement for graduation. It can only be used once as one-half of the two-course PHA requirement.
  3. Dance 101 and 104 are .50 credit courses, but each earns only one PHA credit and cannot be counted for both (.25) PHA requirements.
  4. Students may register initially for only one physical activity. On a space-available basis a second physical activity may be added with a signed drop/add slip within the drop/add dates published in this catalog.
  5. After the Physical Activity (PHA) requirement has been completed, students may repeat Physical Activities (all those coded department 59) under the following conditions:
    • The PHA requirement is completed with two different PE activities.
    • Students repeating a PE must wait until the first day of classes to register the repeated activity to allow all current students to register for the PHA requirement.
    • Students may only register on a "space available" (open courses) basis.
    • PE activities may only be repeated 4 times.


Minimum of eight courses in the major

One completed major is required for graduation. Students must declare a major no later than the time of registration for interim and semester II of their junior year by filling out a form available at the registrar's office. Students are allowed to change this declaration or add a second major at a later date. Only this catalog defines the specific requirements for each departmental or interdisciplinary major. Depending on the department or interdisciplinary program, the number of courses required for a major ranges from eight to 12 courses, with some departments recommending course work in other departments.

Departments and interdisciplinary programs may require comprehensive examinations or special research projects.
While the maximum course credits in any one department allowed toward the 35.00 course graduation requirement may vary, 21 credits must be completed outside of the department or program certifying the major. If a student has a double major, courses taken in the second major count toward the 21 credits outside of the first major. In order for a student to be certified in a second or third major, 21 credits also must be taken outside of those majors as well.

Other regulations are:

  1. A minimum of six full-credit courses above C- (C or higher) must be completed in the major field.
  2. Only one full-course equivalent taken S/U may count toward the minimum requirements for a major.
  3. At least 50 percent of the minimum major must be taken through St. Olaf. Students should consult the appropriate department chair or program director about counting toward a major courses taken at other colleges. The chairs should sign the student's transfer of credit form (available from the Registrar's Office) if work from other institutions is accepted in advance. Likewise, courses taken through St. Olaf off-campus programs should be approved by the chairs/directors and the off-campus program adviser in advance if credit toward a major is desired.
  4. Certification of the completed major is done by the department chairs and interdisciplinary directors.
  5. A graduated senior may add a second major to the St. Olaf record if not more than two courses from another institution are subsequently applied.
  6. Graduation requirements for majors within the Bachelor of Music degree may vary widely. Students should consult this catalog and the Music Department chair.


Attaining two or three majors within the confines of 35 courses often is difficult. The student should consult frequently with his/her adviser and the chairs or directors of the majoring departments and programs. Three regulations are important:

  1. Twenty-one credits outside of the department certifying the major are required for graduation. Courses applied to a second major, as well as Education Department courses attending a major, count toward the 21 "outside" credits. Twenty-one credits outside of each of the second or third majors are required in order to certify those majors as complete and recorded on the student's transcript.
  2. A graduate may add a second major to the St. Olaf record if no more than two courses from another institution are subsequently applied to the second major.
  3. Certification of a completed major is the responsibility/prerogative of the department chairs or program directors, not the registrar.


Should a student desire to earn both the Bachelor of Arts degree and the Bachelor of Music degree at St. Olaf, he/she must complete a minimum of 43 courses, with the last 17 earned through St. Olaf. In addition, both the junior and the senior year must be spent in residence or a fifth year of residence must be added to the senior year.


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 (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 secretary 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 first day of class, no refund of music lesson fees is made.