Location: Grinnell, Iowa
Funding: Private Institution
Size: 1,600 students
Percent Women: 55%
Tuition: $56,617 (one year, including room and board)
Most Popular Majors: Psychology, Biology, Economics, Political Science, English, History
Greek Life: No
Acceptance Rate: 27%
For more information about financial aid, scholarships, majors, study abroad, and average test scores, visit Grinnell's website at www.grinnell.edu/admission.
Why Choose Grinnell?
"I come from a Boston suburb, and I'd never even travelled to the Midwest before coming to this tiny college in Iowa! It was definitely a culture shock at first, but I've ended up loving it here. If you know that you need a city school or a large student body, Grinnell is not the college for you. But if you're on the fence, I'd challenge you not to write it off. I'm still very much an East Coast girl at heart, but being here has exposed me to new experiences and allowed me to grow in so many ways that I never would have had I attended a school that didn't push me out of my comfort zone."
"The academics are top notch, but it's a culture of collaboration rather than cutthroat competition. Also, we have an exciting system of D3 men's basketball that has attracted national attention."
"It's hard to put an exact word to it, but there's a feeling of community at Grinnell that's unlike anywhere else. I first felt it as a visiting prospective student, and it doesn't end after you graduate. I've run into Grinnellians past and present in places as varied as New York, London, and small town Washington state, and there's just this instant bond. As soon as you become part of the Grinnell community, you gain a network of diverse, talented and compassionate people who will have your back for life.
"Our motto is 'Self Gov is Love'. In all areas of student life, Grinnell doesn't want to police your actions. They give you a lot of freedom and set a high expectation of responsibility, and that combination makes Grinnellians independent and conscientious-- and maybe I'm a little biased, but I think it makes us better people overall over the course of four years here."
"I came for the reputation of excellent academics and the emphasis on social justice, and I'm happy to say that Grinnell has not let me down! We're a liberal arts institution, but there's so much focus on how to apply classroom learning to the real world and effect positive change."
"Grinnell is one of the only places I've been that truly accepts all kinds. Everyone has their groups of friends, but there's no dominant social hierarchy. The only person I think would have a hard time fitting in here is someone who is closed minded."
"Classes are small, and professors here really care about teaching undergraduate students. There are so many benefits to this academic approach: I've gotten the opportunity to do grad-school level research (through a Mentored Advanced Project), developed great relationships with my professors, and been more engaged in my studies than I ever was in high school. Personalized letters of recommendation are just a bonus."
"Grinnell is an incredibly accepting environment for LGBTQA+ students. This benefits everyone, including students who identify as straight and cisgender."
"The campus is beautifully maintained (thanks to Facilities Management), and the town center looks like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It's charming, authentic small town America."
"Virtually everyone here is involved in something, and most people are involved in lots of things-- sports, clubs, student groups, startups, volunteer organizations, you name it! There is a strong culture of inclusivity and activism."
"Above everything, the people are what makes Grinnell. Grinnellians are diverse in many ways, but there are a lot of things we have in common, such as being open minded, intellectually curious, socially engaged, and tolerant. But we definitely play as hard as we work!"
"Winters here can get BRUTAL. I mean, negative -20 with wind chill brutal. And they last from December to mid-April."
"Grinnellians have a reputation for being accepting, but they can be really hypocritical at times. I have more socially conservative views than many of my peers and professors, and when I do speak up (which I typically don't, because I don't always feel like being attacked in my 8AM class), the response often comes off as judgemental and alientating."
"Small campus, small student body, small town. The tight-knit community feeling is great sometimes, but Grinnell can definitely get claustrophobic. Also, good luck not running into your Saturday night hookup the next morning in our one dining hall."
"Grinnell needs more accessible mental health services! People are raising awareness about it, but logistically things have been slow to change."
"Beware the freight trains that run through campus. You can literally get kicked out of school for messing with them-- which apparently hasn't stopped some people, because there's a train-related injury every few years. But for most of us, the train is just frustrating because it's loud and always seems to come through campus at exactly the time you're rushing to class. You will be late."
"Dining hall food is decent, but it can get repetitive."
"Like any top private liberal arts college, Grinnell is EXPENSIVE. That being said, we're nationally recognized for having a truly diverse student body in terms of socioeconomic background, and that's due in large part to Grinnell's commitment to need-blind admissions and generous financial aid packages."
All About Academics
"The professors here are AMAZING-- not only are the vast majority incredibly accomplished and engaging, they also really care about teaching undergrads. The student to professor ratio is 9:1, and in upper level courses it's often smaller. Stay involved in class, go to office hours, and if they invite your class to their home for a potluck dinner, go! You get out what you put in, and in the case of Grinnell profs, there's a lot to get out of developing a good working relationship."
"Grinnell has an individualized advising system, which is really helpful for long-term academic planning. Your tutorial professor is your advisor until you declare a major, and after that you switch to a professor in your department of choice."
"One of the best parts about Grinnell is its open curriculum. There's only one required class, first year Tutorial. You can choose from a variety of really cool thematic topics-- some past tutorials have been "Bad Words", "Revolutionary Soul Singers: Black Women and Neo-Soul", and "'Just of Another Kind': Autism as Neurodiversity". Tutorials are small, taught by your first year advisor, and give you a foundation of the writing, presenting, research and other skills you'll need to succeed academically at Grinnell. Beyond this class, your curriculum is up to you!"
"With few exceptions, professors will dock your course grade if you miss more than two or three classes per semester. You're not anonymous here-- show up!"
"Grinnell is a leading liberal arts institution-- take advantage of it and try classes outside your primary areas of interest! Some of my favorite courses have been ones I registered for on a whim. You'll get to experience new ways of learning, and most likely, you'll find connections between disciplines that you had never anticipated."
New Collegiette On Campus
"Don't give into the pressure to lock down an instant relationship, group of friends, or a major right away. When everything is new, it can be tempting to grab onto whatever seems familiar or stable. But it's a false sense of stability, and it prevents you from exploring what else is out there! Give yourself time to settle in, change your mind, and not have everything figured out."
"All first-years arrive on campus a few days early for NSO (New Student Orientation). Most of the information sessions and bonding activities aren't required, but try to get to at least a few. Sometimes the information is really helpful and relevant, and even if it's boring, maybe you'll meet someone there to laugh about it with."
"I think the most important thing to remember as a first year is this: Transitions are exhausting. Give yourself a break. You're being exposed to a lot of new people and experiences, and even when they're good, constantly being bombarded with new stimuli gets overwhelming. Make sure you set aside enough time to sleep, work out, read, or whatever you do that helps you decompress."
"Get to the Eggs-to-Order line early. It's easily the best part of Grinnell's dining hall, and if you figure out how to work the system so that you avoid the massive lines, you can have gourmet eggs for breakfast every day."
"Find a healthy balance between immersing yourself in college and staying connected to family and friends back home. During your first semester especially, it can feel as though you have two separate lives-- one at Grinnell, the other at home. Make an effort to stay in touch, but try not to use Skype as your security blanket. You may feel like a fish out of water at first, but trust yourself! Branching out to create a college identity doesn't mean you're rejecting the people you left back home."
"Grinnell is definitely challenging, but everyone here truly does want to help ease your transition! As a first year especially, don't be afraid to speak up and ask for help if you're struggling academically or personally. Mentor sessions, office hours, dorm study breaks and counseling services (to name a few) are all there for your benefit, free of charge."
Learn From the Best
"Even if you don't think you're interested in religion, take a class from Henry Morisada-Rietz '89. I took Mapping the Realm of Religion, which explores the function of religion in society, and I loved it. He is an intelligent and engaging professor and a genuinely great person. Also, he's a Grinnell alum and gets our crazy traditions!"
"My favorite prof has to be Rebecca Bender in the Spanish department. She's really accessible both in and outside of class, and she gets us involved with lots of group work and activities rather than giving long lectures."
"Wayne Moyer is the gentle giant of the Political Science department. Everything I know about international relations, I learned from him. He expects a lot from students (TONS OF READING), but he's a fair grader. If you put effort into his classes, you'll get so much out of them."
"Brad Graham in the Economics department is incredible, and he is the reason I declared an Econ major. He's consistently clear, engaging, knowledgable, and approachable. My favorite course that he taught was Law and Economics.
"LOVE Stephen Sieck in Chemistry. Best professor I've ever had, and took the "impossible" out of passing Organic Chemistry. He pushed me to work incredibly hard, but he was there for me (and all of his students) every step of the way."
Interests & Involvement
"We have 1,600 students and literally more than 200 student groups. That's one group for every eight students. Some of our most popular ones are Ultimate Frisbee, the B&S (our satircal version of the S&B, our formal student newspaper), the Neverland Players (theatre based on interpreting children's original stories), International Student Organization (ISO), and Social Entrepreneurs of Grinnell."
"I hear there is a club called Grinnell Squirrels...?"
"One of my favorite things about Grinnell is how receptive the administration and student government association are when students take initiative. SGA has ridiculous amounts of funding and an awesome staff. If you present a solid case for why you want to start an organization, plan an event, or introduce a student initiative, there's a good chance they'll help you organize and fund it."
"During Hell Week before finals, we have 2AM pancakes in the student center. Volunteers stay up and cook pancakes with chocolate chips, and everyone congregates to take a break from studying or celebrate being done with exams. It's one of my favorite Grinnell traditions. Get there early to beat the line!"
"I used to work at Phonathon (calling alumni for fundraising), and I would always end with the question: 'What advice would you give to current Grinnell students?' Time and time again, they said that their fondest memories (or biggest regrets) were related to how involved they got on campus. Attend lectures, join clubs and teams, and enjoy all that Grinnell has to offer!"
"We don't have the big stadium atmosphere you'll find at larger schools, but when you go to an athletic event, you're cheering for your friends. Most college kids can't say that!"
"Forget about the dumb jock stereotype-- a recent survey showed that Grinnell student athletes' collective GPA is pretty much the same (and if anything, a little higher) than non-athletes'."
"I love that teams here are really supportive of one another. At any sporting event, you'll find athletes from other teams rooting on their fellow Pioneers."
"I'll never forget the moment my freshman year when Jack Taylor set the NCAA record by scoring 183 points in a game against Faith Baptist. Say what you will about the System (the fast-paced, offense-heavy style of basketball developed by longtime Grinnell coach David Arseneault and practiced by our men's team for the past 20 years), it was such an exciting moment for Grinnell. Here we were, at this tiny D3 school in the middle of the cornfields, and Jack Taylor-- the nice guy who lived down the hall in my dorm-- was getting Tweeted about by Kobe Bryant and featured on ESPN! Even though I'm not an athlete, that day made me so proud to be a Pioneer."
"At larger schools, the athletes often seem like demigods who don't really interact with the campus community at large. Here, our star athletes are your lab partners, your friends, and your fellow Grinnellians. I really like how down to earth the athletic programs and the people who participate in them are."
"Grinnell women-- both professors and students-- are some of the strongest, most capable, intelligent and inspiring women you'll ever meet. We come from many places and have varying interests and talents, but I find myself being continually impressed by how similar we are in this respect: we're going places and doing big things."
"One of the best things about being a woman at Grinnell is that there's no one dominant way to do it. We have students that dress up for class, and students who wear nothing but sweats, and people don't place a value judgement on either. I remember in high school feeling like women who didn't conform to a certain feminine ideal were expected to keep their head down and know their place. Here, there's none of that, which is so liberating."
"Grinnell has such a feminist streak that sometimes men feel uncomfortable speaking up in class or on campus for fear of being labeled misogynistic. I'm all for female empowerment, but we need to do a better job of making men allies instead of making them feel demonized."
"There are lots of clubs and student organizations on campus that address women's issues: Feminist Action Coalition, Grinnell Women in Science, Lesbian Only Movie Night and Organized Procrastination (LMNOP), and Womyn Space, to name a few. Oh, and Her Campus Grinnell, of course!"
"Unlike most of our peer institutions, Grinnell started admitting women shortly after its founding-- in the 1870s! We have a legacy of making women leaders. Some of our famous female alumnae include Bernice King (MLK's daughter), Caroline Little, Emily Bergl, and Christine Thorburn."
Food & Drink
"The food is pretty good, but it can get a little repetitive. We only have one dining hall, so options can be kind of limited. But if you're creative, there are plenty of ways to spice things up-- for example, get your vegetables stir fried at the Pasta Bar or have the Sandwich Bar toast you a homemade pizza bagel."
"We just implemented a new system this year called Meals-to-Go. For no extra cost, you sign in, get a plastic container, fill it up with food, and take it to go. It's a really great option if you're having a busy day and don't have time for a sit-down meal in the D-Hall!"
"Best foods: Wing night, cheesy potatoes, baked ziti, peanut broccoli noodle stir fry, gooey butter cake, mac & cheese bar, almond gouda pizza. You're welcome."
"For a small town, we have a lot of decently priced options off campus! If you're looking to get away from the fast food chains, here are some local suggestions: Prairie Canary and Peppertree at the Depot are nicer (good places to take the parents); Pagliai's Pizza is family-style Italian fare; Chuong Garden is the best for Chinese; La Cabaña is good, cheap Mexican food; and A&M Cafe is a classic greasy-spoon spot to try for brunch after a raucous weekend night. Finally, Saint's Rest has the best coffee in town."
"Need a fix after midnight? Walmart is always open, as is Kum & Go (our oddly named local gas station chain, which is located a block off campus and has taquitos that students LOVE). I promise you, if you were a late-night food snob before you came here (is there even such a thing?), you won't be within a couple months. Learn to love it."
"Not everyone goes out at Grinnell, but for those who do, there's definitely a work hard, play hard culture. We're not afraid to let loose on the weekends! But be prepared to see your Saturday-night hookup around at meals, in class, and seemingly EVERYWHERE you go for the next week. You better get over your awkwardness, because there's no hiding here."
"On Wednesdays, the Men and Women's soccer teams throw a joint party called Moose. Afterwards, the die-hards head over to Rabbitt's in town-- which is the dive bar to end all dive bars and looks like something out of the Twilight Zone. It's a fun way to destress in the middle of the week."
"It seems like most people are either just hooking up or essentially married. It can get really frustrating trying to navigate the in between. Because it's such a small school and everybody knows everybody's business, there are a lot of factors that get in the way of casual dating."
"If you want to escape the Grinnell bubble and experience a bigger party scene, try heading to Iowa State or University of Iowa (both are just 1 hour away) for the weekend!"
"If you only go to a few Grinnell weekend events, DON'T MISS these: 10/10 (an October tradition), Drag Show and Mary B. James, Tithead (our student "short film" festival, which is a lot crazier than it might sound), and Block Party (Friday of finals week in May).
"You will see more awkward grinding than you will ever want to see at Harris Center all-campus parties. Consider this your warning."
"First year roommates are assigned by the college. Supposedly they have a hand-picked, thorough system of selection, but my first year roommate and I couldn't have been any more different. Then again, I know other people who are still best friends with the person they lived with first year. I would say that the system does a good job of making sure you and your roommate don't have lifestyle incompatibilities (smoking, sleeping hours, preferences about visitors in the room) that would make you hate each other, but in terms of personality comptibility, you just have to cross your fingers and hope for the best."
"A lot of first years are placed in Norris. It's not the nicest dorm and is mainly populated by underclassmen, but most people end up loving it. There's definitely a sense of floor community and camraderie that you only get when you put a ton of freshmen together! Plus, the only non-East Campus dorm that has AC. For the first couple weeks of school when temperatures are routinely above 80 degrees, this is HUGE."
"Student Advisors (SA's) here are really chill. They work hard to maintain a respectful dorm community (and plan awesome study breaks), but they're not out to get you or be the dorm disciplinarian. For example, as long as you're not causing a scene, SA's typically don't care if students drink in dorms-- unlike other schools, we don't have a points system and the administration prefers to let students practice self-governance."
"One of the best things about having a small campus is that dorms are really close to your classes! Even if you lived at the farthest end of campus (in Norris) and had a class all the way on the other side (in Mears Cottage), the top distance you'd ever have to walk to get to class is still under 15 minutes. It's usually more like 5-10."
"Upperclassmen often live off campus, in Cowles apartments and in quads (four singles with a bathroom and a common room). The older you get, the better your living options become. Aging is a beautiful thing."
"Coming from New York City to the town of Grinnell was definitely a culture shock, but a good one! What they say about people being friendlier in the Midwest is true. Grinnell has a charming downtown area that covers a few blocks and looks like something out of the 1950s. Don't miss the Farmer's Market every Saturday morning!"
"There's a bit of a town-gown divide-- most Grinnell students aren't from Iowa, and we get the (somewhat deserved) reputation of being out of touch with small town life-- but we're working hard to change it. If you can, try and get involved with an organization that lets you interact with community members. I've been a Big Sister to a local middle schooler for the last three years, and it's been one of the most rewarding experiences I've had here."
"The Strand is an old-timey movie theatre in town that sells tickets for half the price of big theatres like Loew's and AMC."
"Make sure you visit Arbor Lake! Being by water, trails, and trees is so therapeutic. Take a picnic, take a run, or just take some time out of your hectic schedule and enjoy Iowa's natural beauty."
"I've developed such a newfound appreciation for country roads. People think the entire Midwest is flat, but it isn't! Grinnell and its surrounding areas have rolling hills and sky that seems to stretch on forever. Some of my best Grinnell memories are of driving around at sunrise or sundown with good music, good people and miles of empty road in front of us. It sounds cliché, but it's incredible."
HC's Complete College Guide: Grinnell College
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