Admission Frequently Asked Questions

Important Updates and Changes for the 2021-23 Admission Cycles (For Fall 2023 enrollment)

Due to ongoing challenges surrounding access to testing, we are extending the temporary suspension of our testing requirement for the 2022-23 application cycle (for Fall 2023 enrollment). Please see standardized testing questions and answers below.

Application Requirements and Checklist

While some application materials will automatically update your checklist upon receipt, other materials must be checked over and manually processed by staff members in the Office of Admission and Financial Aid (e.g. all teacher letters of recommendation, current senior grades). Due to the high volume of application materials that we receive around our application deadline, this manual processing of your materials can take up to a few business days, so we ask for your patience during the weeks just before and after our deadline. If you know that your materials have all been submitted by you, your counselor, and your teachers, it is highly likely that we have already received them, so there is no need to re-send or to contact our office to confirm receipt. You may check back on your Olin Applicant Status Page in a few days to ensure that all required materials are marked as “Received” on your checklist. 

Current Senior Grades

We do not need to have your official mid-year report; we will accept a progress report or first quarter report card to satisfy the current senior grades requirement, so please have your school counselor send us your current senior grades in any format as soon as possible. Since Olin has a unique, two-stage admission process that includes our Candidates’ Weekends in February and March, we have a very short reading period—all applications will be read and evaluated in the month of January. That is why we need to have your current senior grades by the beginning of the month to complete your application.

Your school counselor may upload a progress report or first quarter report card to your Common Application as an Optional Report or may email the grades to us at apply@olin.edu. If you already have your official mid-year grades available, your counselor may upload the grades to the Common Application as a Mid-Year Report.

No, but you can ask your counselor to send us a copy. All transcripts and grade reports must be submitted to Olin directly from your school in order to fulfill our application requirements. We cannot accept self-reported grades or copies of grade reports submitted by the applicant.

As long as your Common Application has been submitted by our application deadline, your application will be on time and will still be considered. We can wait a few days after the deadline to receive your current senior grades from your school, so don’t worry about reaching your counselor over the holiday break, but please have your grades sent to us as soon as possible when your school is back in session. 

Application Types

You may apply to Olin through either the Common Application. We do not have a preference for one application type over the other, and the required questions are the same on both applications. Our application deadline is January 4, 2023.

All interested students are welcome to apply to Olin, but we do not have a formal transfer application process. All applicants to Olin must apply as first-year applicants, including students who are currently enrolled at another higher education institution or have completed some college coursework. All students who are admitted and enroll at Olin should expect to start our curriculum from the beginning when they arrive. The academic program at Olin and the courses we offer are unique to our institution - they are highly interdisciplinary, collaborative, and project-based. Because of the unique nature of our curriculum, we are typically unable to take transfer credits from courses completed at other institutions. 

Any student who is not a United States citizen is considered an international applicant, regardless of where they live or attend school.⁠ If you are in the process of obtaining a green card, then you are considered to be an international student. There is no separate application type for international students. If English is not the primary language of instruction in your school, please refer to our English Language Proficiency Exam Policy included below.

Standardized Testing

We have extended our temporary suspension of the testing requirement through the 2023 application cycle (for fall 2023 enrollment).

No. Students will not be penalized nor will they be at a disadvantage in the application process if they do not submit any test scores.

All applications will continue to be evaluated through Olin’s holistic review process which includes academic performance and testing if available, as well as the applicant’s talents, experiences, character and potential contributions to the college and community. We have historically used standardized test scores to provide added context and perspective when evaluating the student’s high school record. Test scores have been one metric which may help to lend confidence in a student’s ability to be successful in the Olin curriculum. Test scores have never been used in isolation or without reference to the strength of the school, the rigor of the curriculum and the grades that a student has earned.

At Olin, we practice holistic admission. Holistic admission means that when we evaluate an applicant, we look at all parts of their application in order to understand the whole person. There is not a specific formula for success in the Olin admission process. We understand that every applicant is unique and may bring different valuable characteristics and experiences to the table. Therefore, we do not make decisions based on one or two factors alone. Everything we ask for in the application process is considered carefully, thoroughly, and thoughtfully, with an eye to understanding each applicant’s potential to contribute as a member of the Olin community, as well as to grow and learn from the Olin experience.  Test scores sometimes provide another measure by which to evaluate a student’s mastery of subject matter which can, in turn, indicate the likelihood of success in the Olin curriculum.

You may test and submit the scores if you wish, but it’s not necessary.

Many schools moved to pass/fail grading in 2020, or changed their grading process for remote learning. We realize that remote learning is very different from in-person learning. We will take all of this information into consideration when reviewing applications. Our application process is holistic and personal, and we always review applications (even in normal circumstances), carefully and thoroughly. And the majority of high school students have had some disruption so know you are not alone

Olin does not require AP or IB exams scores as part of our admission process, nor do we offer credit for such courses. 

Should you choose to forego the redesigned AP exam, it will not impact your course choices at Olin. If you plan to take courses at Babson or Wellesley, you may wish to consult their AP and IB credit charts to see how AP or IB exam scores may impact placement in their courses. Please visit the Babson and Wellesley pages specifically to review their credit charts. 

All applicants may submit scores from either the SAT or ACT, however they are optional. We do not have a preference for one or the other (we promise!). If you live in a country where the SAT and ACT are not offered, please contact apply@olin.edu to let us know.

Yes, but only from students who attend high school within the U.S. Students applying from a high school within the U.S. will be reviewed using either self-reported or official SAT or ACT scores. Students who are admitted to and choose to enroll at Olin and who chose to submit optional test scores, will be required to submit official test scores at that time, if they were not submitted with the application.

Students applying from high schools outside the U.S. are required to submit official test scores at the time of application. To be considered official, test scores must be sent to Olin directly from the testing agency or be reported on the transcript sent by your school.

Yes! If you attend high school within the U.S., you may self-report your test scores to your Olin Applicant Status Page (which will become accessible after you submit your application to Olin). Students applying from high schools outside the U.S. are required to submit official test scores at the time of application.

Yes! If your test scores are included on your official high school transcript submitted by your school counselor, Olin considers them official and you do not need to send the scores from the testing agency.

Yes, we do. We evaluate your application with your best score in each section and disregard the others. However, please note that if you took the old version of the SAT prior to March 2016 and the new version of the SAT after that, we cannot take the highest score from each section because they are different tests. We will concord your old version scores to the new version, and then look at the highest scores in each section.

No. The SAT Subject Tests are optional in the Olin admission process. If you have already taken or plan to take SAT Subject Tests and would like to submit your scores, you may self-report them in your application or send an official score report. These can provide further context for your application, but they are not required.

We do not require AP or IB scores for admission and therefore don’t need official scores. You may choose to self-report these scores since they do provide us with a bit more context to your application, but they are not required. AP or IB scores may be self-reported in your application or sent to us from the testing agency.

No. (It’s another reason we don’t expect you to send us an official AP or IB Score Report.) Olin does not accept transfer credits (from AP credits, IB credits, courses taken at other colleges/universities, etc.). This is because the nature of the Olin curriculum (the project-based aspect, the multidisciplinary aspect, etc.) is unique and is designed with a lot of thought and intention as a four-year program that students progress through at the same pace. There’s not a way to make an exact equivalency between courses taken elsewhere and Olin courses, and since everything builds on itself in that four-year program, you’d be missing out on parts of the Olin experience if you were to credit out of a required course. If you have questions about specific credits/courses and if/how they could possibly transfer to Olin, you should reach out to the Registrar’s Office (registrar@olin.edu).

No. If you attend high school in the U.S., you may self-report your test scores to us by reporting them on your application or uploading a copy of your score report to your Olin Applicant Status Page (accessible after you submit your Common Application or Coalition Application). For all applicants, any scores you request to be sent to Olin at the time of the test for a test date prior to the January 1st deadline, we will receive your official test scores in plenty of time to make our decision, so there’s no need to pay for expedited delivery.

Please note that the latest test date for which scores can be considered is the December prior to our application deadline on January 1st. Scores from standardized tests taken in January, after the application deadline, will not arrive in time to be considered with your application.

Extracurricular/Supplemental Info

Some of the most popular activities include school clubs, sports, music, summer programs, youth groups, community service, part-time jobs, and hobbies. You can include anything you deem relevant on the activities list if you think it will let us get to know you better. Keep this in mind: What makes you stand out?

First of all, please let us know what all those acronyms mean! But otherwise, you may arrange your activities chronologically, by activity type or any way that makes sense to you. Also, please limit the activities you list to those in which you participated in high school. If you played piano for grades 2-12, go ahead and include it! However, if you played soccer in grades 6-8, leave it off.

Absolutely! Part- or full-time work and volunteering should be included, as well as working on a family farm or caring for siblings. We want to hear the details about your jobs, including when (the months and years) you worked.

Yes! Please include any regional, state or national awards or commendations you have received, along with the date of your award. This can be listed in the Honors section or in the Additional Information section of your application. Published or acclaimed works are also important to mention. 

Yes, but please keep in mind that your most important and meaningful activities should still be listed in the Extracurricular section of the application. Please try and keep any content you place in the Additional Information field to one to two pages. Note that we’ll also see a transcript from your high school with your classes and grades, so you do not have to include this.

Yes. We want to learn as much about you as possible from your application, so please submit whatever you feel will help us do that. Please realize, however, that we cannot promise that all optional materials will get reviewed, so make sure that you also mention your most meaningful activities in the Extracurricular Activities section. Supplemental materials can be hosted on a website or blog page, and you may include a hyperlink in the Additional Information section of your application. You may also email supplemental materials to apply@olin.edu

Letters of Recommendation and Essays

Yes! But don’t go overboard; we don’t need letters from every teacher you’ve ever had or the principal of your school. It’s about the quality of the letters and how well the people know you, not the recommenders’ titles.

If you submit an additional recommendation, it should add dimension to your application, rather than repeat or reinforce information that has already been presented in other parts of your application. And since it’s supplemental, it doesn’t have to be academic. So ask your boss or Scout Master; consider your band director or coach—any adult mentor in your life. Remember, an extra letter of recommendation is just that: icing on the cake! We do not require it and you won’t be at a disadvantage if you don’t submit an additional recommendation.

Yes! We require one letter of recommendation from a STEM teacher. This person must have taught you in a high school class such as Calculus, Physics, Computer Science, or another STEM elective. Recommendations from club leaders or mentors who have not had you in a class can be submitted as an additional optional recommendation but cannot count for the required STEM teacher letter of recommendation. 

We encourage you to consider asking a non-math/science teacher for the second letter of recommendation. Think about asking your English or history teacher, even if you didn’t make your best grades in those classes, since those teachers can provide us with a different perspective. But if you’d like both of your letters to come from math and science teachers, that is perfectly fine!

While some application materials will automatically update your checklist upon receipt, other materials must be checked over and manually processed by staff members in the Office of Admission and Financial Aid (e.g. all teacher letters of recommendation, current senior grades). This means that it may take a few business days for these credentials to be marked as received on your checklist. Due to the high volume of application materials that we receive around our application deadline, this manual processing of your materials can take somewhat longer, so we ask for your patience during the weeks just before and after our deadline. If you know that your materials have all been submitted by you, your counselor, and your teachers, it is highly likely that we have already received them, so there is no need to re-send or to contact our office to confirm receipt. You may check back on your Olin Applicant Status Page in a few days to ensure that all required materials are marked as “Received” on your checklist. 

In the past, we have not been too strict about the essay length but we do expect you to abide by these guidelines as closely as possible. If you go over by a few words, it’s not an issue. However, we ask that you adhere to the word counts as closely as possible.

English Language Proficiency Exam Policy

Students who submit the ACT or the SAT as part of their application are not required to submit the results of an English proficiency test as well. Students who do not submit either the SAT or the ACT must submit results of an English proficiency exam such as TOEFL, ILETS or Duolingo when applying to Olin.

We provide recommended minimum scores so that students may have accurate information by which to assess their preparation from the rigorous Olin curriculum. In our holistic admission process, testing is only one of many factors we consider 

You may if you wish, although test results are not required for students who attend a school where English is the primary language of instruction. Strong performance over several years in a high school curriculum that has been conducted in English is good evidence of proficiency.

Yes. Students may self-report their English Language Proficiency Exam scores. Scores will be verified upon enrollment.