What we are looking for in an Olin applicant
A note on holistic admission
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. So while there are certainly “things we are looking for” as noted below, 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.
What we’re looking for...
In the application
Due to the impact of COVID-19, we are temporarily suspending our standardized test requirement for the 2020-21 application cycle (for Fall 2021 enrollment). Please read more about application-related changes on our Important Updates and Changes for the 2020-21 Admission Cycle FAQs
Calculus & Physics
A strong foundation in calculus and physics is necessary to be successful in the Olin curriculum, and is therefore a requirement for admission. If you plan to apply to Olin, you should make sure that you are on track to complete courses in calculus and physics by the time you finish high school. (It’s OK if you are taking them during your senior year; many students do!)
A well-rounded, rigorous high school curriculum
The strongest applicants to Olin typically have taken a well-rounded curriculum in high school that includes some of the most rigorous courses available to them in all five core subject areas (math, science, English, social studies, foreign language). Whether the most challenging courses available to you are Honors, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Dual-Enrollment courses through a local college, or others, taking challenging courses in high school will help prepare you to be successful in Olin’s rigorous curriculum.
Good performance in classes
There is no minimum GPA required for admission to Olin. We seek students who work hard, enjoy learning, and who have performed to the best of their ability in rigorous courses. Performing well does not always mean getting perfect grades, either. At Olin, we experiment frequently, make mistakes, and learn from them, so it’s OK to have a few less-than-stellar grades on your transcript if they are a true reflection of your learning and growth process. We’d rather see that you challenged yourself and tested the boundaries of your academic potential than took a conservative course load for the sake of maintaining perfect grades.
Strong test scores
All applicants to Olin are required to submit test scores from either the SAT or the ACT. We do not have any minimum score requirements for admission to Olin. We will consider your test scores together with the other pieces of your application to understand your potential for academic success at Olin. So try your best, but know that your test scores will neither make nor break your application on their own.
To view the middle 50% ranges of test scores for the most recent first-year students at Olin, please refer to the most recent Class Profile.
Potential to contribute to and grow in the Olin community
When it comes to the more personal pieces of the application, such as extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendation letters, we aren’t looking for a specific formula. We are trying to gain an understanding of who you are—what makes you tick and what you value. There are an infinite number of ways to be an Olin student, and different Oliners bring different valuable characteristics, skills, experiences, interests, and mindsets to the table. So while many Oliners tend to be collaborative, creative, entrepreneurial, curious, adventurous, and kind people who want to change the world for the better, different Oliners have these qualities in different combinations and demonstrate them in many different ways.
Our best application advice is to just be yourself. Take the time to make sure your application is a true reflection of you. We look forward to reading it!
At Candidates’ Weekends
At Olin, we have a two part admission process. After we review all of the applications we receive each January, we then invite 225-250 applicants to move forward to the second phase of our process: to participate in Candidates' Weekends which take place in late February and early March. Candidates’ Weekends provide an opportunity for the Candidates to get to know Olin in greater depth and for us to get to know the Candidates above and beyond their applications.
We are confident that anyone whom we invite to Candidates’ Weekends is qualified to attend Olin and has the potential to be a successful, contributing member of our community. Therefore, Candidates’ Weekends are about learning more about the Candidates in the context of Olin’s unique, highly collaborative setting so that we can craft an intentional cohort of incoming students that will be cohesive but diverse. After all, we are looking to create an outstanding community, not just a group of outstanding individuals!
You’ll meet and hear from faculty, interact with current students and alumni, experience aspects of student life, and celebrate with the community as Olin comes together for these special events. There will be both evaluative components of the program, such as an interview, as well as plenty of opportunities for Candidates to engage with our community and learn more about Olin. Given concerns surrounding the global pandemic, the format of CW 2021 will be virtual, and while the format may be different than previous years, the purpose and vibe of the programs will remain true to the Olin spirit of creativity and collaboration. After the programs, which will continue to be held in late February and early March, the Admission Committee meets again and makes the final admission decisions. Candidates are notified of their decision by late March.
As with the application, we aren’t looking for one specific set of characteristics during the interview and group exercise. Our goal is to get to know you better and to see how you work in a collaborative setting, so again, the best advice is to just be you!