Graduation and Commencement


See The St. Olaf Curriculum, Graduate Requirements, and Degrees

Candidacy for the Degree

In the fall, members of the senior class apply for candidacy for the degree to which their courses apply. Application is made through the Registrar's Office. Only members of the senior class who have been accepted as candidates for a degree become members of the graduating class. Seniors not filling out the application to graduate risk being overlooked for a diploma and inclusion in the graduating class.

Seniors who will complete all requirements and graduate after fall semester or Interim are contacted individually and asked to apply for candidacy by late October.

Early Graduation

While the St. Olaf curriculum was designed to be completed in four years, it is possible to graduate within three to three-and-one-half years if students take advantage of options such as pre-college credit, St. Olaf summer school, and/or transfer credit within the specified maximum number of allowable credits.  St. Olaf students who have graduated within three to three-and-one-half years have, in some cases, also completed a concentration or a double major. 

"Early graduation" calls for careful planning. Students interested in this possibility must confer with their academic advisor and with the Registrar's Office as soon as possible. The ability for any individual student to graduate within three to three-and-one-half years depends on many factors, including the structure of the major, course offerings during summer school, and the student's level of preparation.

Senior Audit

In the fall, the Registrar's Office conducts a review for each senior. Seniors who will not meet the requirements stated for membership in the graduating class (see Academic Status) are notified that they have been removed from the list of graduating seniors and will be re-classed. Seniors should be cautious about changing registration during the senior year. Any change that brings a senior below the stated requirements results in the student being dropped from the graduating class.

Past experience leads the college to believe that seniors should be cautious about taking courses S/U. A "U" designation does not carry credit and will not be changed to another type of grade for graduation credit at a later date. In most cases, an "S" grade does not fulfill a general education requirement.  See General Education Requirements for more details.

Class Rank

See Academic Status

Participation in Commencement

Commencement exercises are held each May for graduating seniors who are members of that class and who have successfully completed 35.00 credits and all other requirements for the degree.  The grade point average for a student who has met all graduation requirements and will be receiving a diploma at Commencement will change after the date of graduation if St. Olaf courses that qualify for inclusion in the grade point average are subsequently taken. Honor designation, graduating grade point average, and rank in class remain as they were recorded on the date of graduation 

Students who have successfully completed 33.00 credits out of the required 35.00 credits with a minimum 2.00 cumulative grade point average are eligible to be included in the graduating class and participate in Commencement and its related activities without receiving a diploma. Members of the graduating class who participate in Commencement without receiving a diploma are referred to as “participators.” Participators' names appear with appropriate honors designation, if any, in the Commencement program, but they do not receive a diploma until the completion of all requirements.  The grade point average for participators may change if their remaining coursework is completed at St. Olaf. Honors may also change, but rank in class remains unchanged.  The degree is conferred and a complete transcript and diploma are issued following completion of all requirements.

Neither senior status, number of courses attempted, time spent in college, delays in submitting off-campus or transfer work, nor other circumstances or miscommunication eliminate the 33.00 credit requirement for inclusion in the graduating class. The 33.00 credits must be fulfilled and recorded before the day of Commencement. (See Incompletes and Carleton Inter-Registration.) The responsibility for understanding and meeting graduation requirements rests entirely with the student.

Commencement Invitees

All students who are classified as seniors after the fall term reclassification of students have the option to attend Commencement unless they have walked during an earlier Commencement ceremony. Those who are considered neither graduates nor participators are classified as invitees and are not considered members of the graduating class for purposes of official academic records. (See the catalog section on Academic Status for information on the reclassification process.) Invitees will be reclassed as rising seniors after the Commencement exercises. The names of these invitees will appear in the Commencement Program. Invitees are not eligible for academic honors and will not receive a diploma. A person may attend only one Commencement ceremony.


A diploma is issued to each member of the graduating class at Commencement under the following conditions:

  1. All requirements for the Baccalaureate degree have been successfully completed. A diploma is not issued to participators.
  2. The recipient has no outstanding financial obligations to the college.

There is a fee for replacing a diploma.