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Articles / Applying to College / Applying to Grinnell? Here's Your Guide for Getting In

Applying to Grinnell? Here's Your Guide for Getting In

S Written by Shreya Nagunuri | Oct. 19, 2022
Photo courtesy of Grinnell

Webinar Recap: Insights from Grinnell Admissions

Grinnell College, a small liberal arts college in Iowa, had an eye-opening webinar led by Grace Robertson-Lloyd (Senior Assistant Director of Admissions). Through guest panelists and speakers, students received information on the unique aspects of Grinnell, the current admissions landscape, and financial aid.

Missed it? Don’t worry! I’ll be explaining the key takeaways from this webinar.


Before the panelists were introduced, there was a brief presentation on the specific type of academic benefits that are unique to Grinnell College. Classes at Grinnell are usually around 17 students, so are more like discussions rather than lectures, which encourages dialogue between students of various backgrounds.

Grinnell does not have mandatory humanities, science, math, or other general education requirements, other than classes required for your major. The only class that all students must take is a First Year Tutorial class during the first semester in college. To some students, the freedom to take whatever classes they would like might be a little daunting, so Grinnell supplements this freedom with three advisors: academic, exploratory, and residential advisors who all work together to ensure that students have guidance on their journeys.

The panel explored the personal experiences that students and professors had with academic advising and life at Grinnell. The panelists included in this webinar were:

  • Professor Leo Rodriquez in the physics department
  • Professor Erik Simpon in the English and Digital Studies department
  • Aiyana Rockwell, a student at Grinnell
  • Antonella Diaz, a student at Grinnell
  • Sarah Fischer, the Assistant Vice President of Admissions
  • Steph Haines, the Associate Director of Financial Aid.

Professor Rodriquez specifically mentioned the academic advising offered at Grinnell by stating how he was able to mentor students in the designing of their class schedules. In addition, he mentions that the small college environment allows departments to have a strong community and bond through social events like picnics. The community aspect of Grinnell was further mentioned by Rockwell. She states that Grinnell “foster[s] a sense of togetherness” among their students. This togetherness allows students to step out of their bubbles and speak-up in the classroom. Diaz mentioned that in class you are “more than a random person” but are expected to participate and engage.

Academics Q&A Session

Can you double major at Grinnell?

Professor Rodriquez specifically stated that “double majoring is encouraged on campus” and it is very common for students to double major in things like physics and music or computer science and music. Students can work with their academic advisor to ensure they get their classes in their four-year plan and sometimes even study abroad. If it isn’t feasible to double major, Professor Simpson explains that students can work with their advisors and put together supplements like summer research or internships to help get the same experience as a double major.

How do professors support students working towards graduate school?

Professor Simpson mentions how the career advising staff is incredibly strong at Grinnell and how professors and the staff work together to prepare students along their journey. Professor Rodriquez furthers this by stating that professors have open communication and advise students on what their future will look like but also will reach out to graduate schools to recommend their students. Diaz attests to this and even mentions that grants can help with professional development like paying for formal interview clothing.

How does Grinnell support international students?

There is a program called IPOP (International Pre-Orientation Program) where international students create a community before the school year even starts. Diaz mentions that she bonded with the people in her group while also learning fundamental skills like opening a bank account and working with dollars. Similar programs are available for out-of-state students as well.

Admissions at Grinnell

Sarah Fischer, the Assistant Vice President of Admissions, spoke about admissions and financial aid at Grinnell. The Grinnell Admissions philosophy is inspired by the idea of holistic admissions. Fischer states that the team looks at “all components of the application” and “all pieces of the application are important”. This means that there is no cutoff GPA or test score to apply to Grinnell because they are hoping to craft a unique student body.

Application Requirements


Students can apply using the Common Application or the Questbridge application. Fischer reminds students that essays mean a lot to the application reader. She states, “we are looking at your writing ability” because “it’s a writing intensive school and the essay helps give a sense of your writing style”. As for content, she explains that students don’t need to tell their life story but write about something they are passionate about.

Activities List

Just as there is no one story to tell in the essay portion, there is no “magic list of activities”. Fischer explains that extracurriculars are simply an explanation of how you spend your time when you aren’t at school. Students should explain how an extracurricular has shaped them, when they struggled with it, or perhaps initiated something.

While essays and extracurriculars are important, Fischer explains that official transcripts are the “most important part of the application” because it tells admission officers whether you will be successful in the classroom. They take into consideration the rigor of classes like IB or AP classes students took and how they performed. In order to gain an accurate idea of your high school, they will look at the secondary school report. Besides this, there are two letters of recommendation which give insight into how students act in the classroom. While you can submit more than one letter of recommendation, Fischer says to use discretion on what should be sent in because often more than one letter can be repetitive.

Optional Elements of Application

Test Scores

There are plenty of things students can do to supplement their application to Grinnell. Students can submit their SAT/ACT scores, but Fischer explains that there is no penalty for not submitting test scores. However, students should understand that once they send in their score that it will be a factor in their application.


The interview is another way for the admission officer to understand why you are interested in Grinnell. Interviews can be done online or in person if the admission officer is in your region.

Standing Out Through Demonstrated Interest

Fischer mentions that showing your commitment to Grinnell through demonstrated interest is a great way to be ahead of the curve. An example of demonstrated interest would be attending zoom webinars held by the school. However, the best way a student can show demonstrated interest is by sending in an early application to Grinnell either through the merit scholarship priority deadline (December 1st) or by applying early decision.

In both situations, the Common Application is the only material that needs to be sent in by the deadline, and letters of recommendation and transcripts can come later. Fischer explains that with an acceptance rate of 9.2 percent, students should try to do the optional parts of the application (other than sending in the SAT/ACT) to show demonstrated interest to increase their chances of acceptance.

By applying early during either ED1 or ED2 students show their true commitment because it is a binding acceptance where if the student gets into the school they must attend. These students receive a major benefit which is a higher acceptance rate and an earlier date to receive their admissions notification.

Financial Aid at Grinnell

Steph Haines, the Associate Director of Financial Aid, talked about financial aid at Grinnell. There are two different types of aid offered at Grinnell: merit aid and need-based aid. Scholarships start at $10K per year and there isn’t a separate application for the scholarships. The students who receive the scholarships will be notified at the same time they receive their acceptance/rejection. These scholarships are also renewable so students will be set for all four years of college. In order for students to receive need-based financial aid, they will need to fill out the FASFA and/or CSS profile. Grinnell will meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial aid without loans. This means that through a combination of merit aid, work-study, or other aid students who need aid will receive it. Haines highly recommends that students use the expected family contribution calculator on the Grinnell website to understand exactly how much they will need to pay for college. She especially recommends that students use the exact numbers in their parents’ 2021 taxes for those applying early decision since that acceptance is binding. Students should remember that this calculator won’t factor in indirect costs like textbooks and travel.

There is clearly so much that Grinnell College has to offer its students. For the recording of this webinar please look at Grinnell’s youtube channel. If anyone has any questions please email the Office of Admissions (admission@grinnell.edu) or Financial Aid (finaid@grinnell.edu), or join the conversation about Grinnell in the CC community.

Written by


Shreya Nagunuri

Shreya is a freshman at the University of California, San Diego where she studies Math and Computer Science. She is passionate about social justice and using technology in unconventional ways to better the lives of others. In high school, she was heavily involved in Speech and Debate and taught speech and debate to students around the world. In addition, she conducted research at the University of Southern California on epilepsy and post-traumatic brain injury. Her main involvement in college is Women in Computing and ACM where she and her peers create fun projects with software. In her free time, she loves teaching, reading, and exploring hidden gems in San Diego. 

  • CC name: @smilely_face101
  • Instagram: @shreya.nagunuri
  • LinkedIn: Shreya Nagunuri

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