Impressions Of
Grinnell College

Academic Experience

Female Computer Science Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I feel that it’s competitive by nature just because the students here are extremely intelligent and that’s the nature of the students. In the Computer Science department, because there are students who have the really heavy background in Computer Science, it’s easy to pick out who’s more comfortable and who’s not, so I feel like adds to the intimidation aspect of the learning environment. When it comes to professors and lecturers, I feel that it’s pretty good. I’ve been able to learn a lot. I’m still here, so they’ve obviously been accommodating.

How accessible are your professors?
The fact that Grinnell is so small makes it really, really easy for students to access their professors. Professors will have posted office hours and students can schedule meetings and appointments to talk to them about literally anything. Professors here really want to get to know students and know what’s going on outside of class as well, so that’s been really nice.

Female Classics and Art History Double Major C/O 2019

Is there anything you feel your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
They’re so supportive of their students and they’re really trying to make sure that they give you the best quality education and education while also sort of pushing you and making you look towards the future. I felt I really got everything I wanted out of the two departments I majored in.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
Once you find the right people, it can be collaborative. There is a bit of a culture at Grinnell that leans towards competitive learning. People are like, “You spent four hours reading? I spent five.” That can be prevalent. Once I found the people I really enjoyed hanging out with, it became more collaborative. When you come to Grinnell you have to be aware of your limits and not playing that competitive game because that can lead to a stress culture and not taking care of yourself. But, I also think people enjoy that culture because it pushes them further, I’m just personally not one of them.

Male Political Science Major C/O 2019

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I’ve experienced a combination of both. I think Grinnell, in general, has a competitive nature because it has students who are really, really strong academically. Everyone is used to competing to be at the top of their class, so there is that competitive nature. There are also the students who after a while recognize that the experience is about enjoying themselves, so collaborative work comes into play. The professors also include collaborative opportunities, so it’s a good combination of both.

What is your favorite class that you’ve taken for your major?
I took a class at Grinnell-in-London that was studying British Politics. The professor they brought in was particularly engaging and we had the chance to do a lot of cool stuff. I also liked how the class was still in the Grinnell design and set up how a Grinnell class would be set up.

Social Opportunities

Female Classics and Art History Double Major C/O 2019

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Grinnell?
I’ve always participated and helped put on the Drag Show that goes on here. But mostly, I am the type who hangs out with a few close friends watching a movie, drinking a little bit, and then heading out to whatever party is on campus. Usually, parties are in an off-campus house where we have a close friend living there so we usually know the group that’s going to be there. Friday and Saturday are the biggest nights. [Students who are 21+ are allowed to consume alcohol in their on-campus residence hall rooms.]

If at all, how has identifying as LGBT+ influenced your nightlife experience?
It has definitely affected the friendships I’ve formed. I’ve gotten amazingly deep friendships out of it. My other bisexual and lesbian friends are who I hang out with on my Friday nights. I wouldn’t say that there is a big party culture for the LGBTQ community because the Stonewall Resource Center often holds big events. The events are really fun. So, it’s more looking forward to those events than individuals hosting events themselves.

Male Computer Science Major C/O 2019

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Grinnell?
There are often college-sponsored dances, which sounds lame at first but when it’s the main event of the night people like to go out to them. They’re often themed, so people like to dress up for those. There are also often smaller groups of people partying in dorms, lounges, or off-campus houses. There’s also the occasional off-campus house party where the entire student body is invited. When we throw a party, we just hit reply-all to a 500-person email chain and that basically sends the invitation to the whole school. There are events on Fridays, Saturdays, and there’s usually a house party on Wednesday nights that has a lower attendance.

What’s an alternative to going to a party or a school-sponsored dance that you like for a night out?
People like to go into town to the restaurants. There are substance-free events, like the science center is host to a nerf battle every Friday night. They also host movies on campus, there are pick-up basketball games in the gym, and there’s always a variety of club-hosted activities.

How happy are you with the nightlife options at Grinnell? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’ve been pretty happy with my weekend options, but maybe a bit less so this year. That’s because I’ve had the same events every year for four years, so it’s not as new and exciting anymore. A lot of people like to complain because it’s not like we have a big city where we can go to clubs and stuff, but I like the smaller feel and being able to go to an event and know that I’ll know some people there.

Male Political Science Major C/O 2019

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Grinnell?
None really, unless you are 21 and want to go to a bar in town. As far as what happens on campus, there are on campus parties and concerts basically every weekend. I’m more of an inside person. If I do go to a party or an event it’s because I’m working. On the times that I do want to relax, I’ll go to a bar with my friends and play pool on occasion.

When you were under 21 did you go to parties on campus?
Yes, my first semester I went to parties but then I stopped. Students on campus hosted those parties in the student event centers. There were also off-campus parties hosted by students as well, and those would happen basically every weekend. I stopped going because they started feeling the same and I also got in a new relationship, so I wasn’t really feeling them.

How happy were you with the nightlife options at Grinnell? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I would change it all. I wish there were more options. I’m not particularly a party person, but if there were more options I would definitely go out more than what I do. If there were more clubs oriented towards younger people or people of color, that would be really nice. I’d like there to be more options than three bars that only have pool tables. When you’re in your early 20’s you want more things than just playing pool.

Campus Culture

Female Computer Science Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the overall social scene?
There are parts of it that are toxic because with the small community people will clash. But, it’s also really nice because I know most people in my class. Even if I don’t really talk to them, I’ve still met them before and know their name, so that’s really good. It’s interesting because everybody does know everybody.

There is a strong sense of being in a friend group and people really want that sense of security and belonging that comes with being in a group chat and having a squad. I don’t really partake in that and have a lot of close friends scattered all around. Another thing is certain groups of people can get separated from one another. Like, athletes tend to stay with the people on their team. Then there’s the more artsy side of things and those people really connect.

How would you describe the student body?
The Grinnell students are my favorite part of the entire school. I think the students here are extremely intelligent and motivated. Most people are here for the right reasons. I feel like most people have a passion for social justice, learning, and respect for our professors. I wish there was more involvement from the students with things with Student Government, like elections and giving feedback, but other than that the students here are great.

Male Computer Science Major C/O 2019

How would you describe the overall social scene?
Grinnell is vehemently anti-Greek life, so taking the place of those tight-knit groups would be some sports teams. They usually sit together in a big group in the dining hall, but, while they are pretty tight, I wouldn’t say they only have friends on their sports team. I don’t think there’s any primary or dominant social group of people. Because we’re a small school you have the chance to interact with a lot of different social groups and people often are connected to a few different groups of friends. This might just be me because I’m outgoing, but it’s very rare for me to come across a person that I’ve never seen before or I don’t know who they are.

There are differences in the campuses, South Campus is the most active, outgoing, and the most likely spot for you to find people partying. North Campus is more middle of the road and stereotypically athletes tend to live there. East Campus is the newest and objectively nicest dorms, but I find them lacking in character. It feels more like a hotel and people are much quieter.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
It’s very intermixed. I have plenty of Queer friends and I’ve never felt any sort of stigma about that. I was expecting there to be a bit more intermixing of races. There are groups of races who sit together in the dining hall, but I don’t think it’s segregated or anything like that.

Male Political Science Major C/O 2019

How did you meet your closest friends?
My closest friends at Grinnell I met just through socializing. A lot of them I met through other people as well, like community-based events, common interests, or extracurriculars.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think both exist in the same groups. There are plenty of people who identify them as trans or bisexual who are also in the black community, so I don’t think there is an issue of mixing in that regard. I see plenty of students of color who have White friends. But, there have been incidents so I can’t say that it’s always kumbaya all the time.

How strong is the Black community on campus?
I’d say it’s pretty weak because there’s so few of us. [About 6% of the student population is Black.] For us, it’s strong because there’s solidarity in the few of us who are here. In terms of overall impact in activity in the space, that is weakened due to the lack of numbers.

Grinnell, IA

Pros of

  • “The cost of living is really low. My rent is cheap, groceries are cheap, and restaurants are cheap as compared to big cities.”
  • “Being in a small town helps foster a campus community. People aren’t going into town much for entertainment, and they might feel stuck on campus, but it does help foster a solid community.”
  • “Small town. It’s a pro because in a small space you have opportunities to make an impact on the community that you may not have seen in larger spaces. Sometimes that can be very motivational for what you do with your academic work. I got a chance to teach students in the community. Being able to work with the students and their parents has been really nice.”
  • “It’s different from what I’m used to and probably different than anything I will probably ever do in my life. It’s cool to have that experience with something different and new.”

Cons of

  • “We’re an hour away from the Des Moines Airport. I don’t have a car, so if I’m not traveling on one of the days at the end or beginning of the semester when they offer shuttles, you’re on your own to find a ride from a friend because a taxi or Uber would be really expensive.”
  • “The issue of diversity.” [87% of the residents of Grinnell are White.]
  • “It’s small and remote so it’s really hard to get away sometimes. It’s just as easy for people to clash really hard as it is for them to connect really well” [because we’re in this remote area together].
  • “It’s in the middle of Iowa. To be fair, no one wants to move to Iowa. One of the key problems is it’s in a space that not a lot of people want to be in.”

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Female Computer Science Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Grinnell before entering as a freshman?
I had a lot of background on Grinnell because I had a friend here who did Computer Science that was older. Something I wish I knew was to not get in the toxic culture of not taking care of yourself because I definitely slipped into that a little bit my first year and even a bit this year. There’s a culture that being stressed out all the time or not going to the gym or eating because you’re working really hard means you’re doing well.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I would tell prospective students to look into the administration of Grinnell and past decisions they’ve made. The Board of Trustees voted to not divest from fossil fuel companies and that was a really big issue. There have also been issues with [student-workers trying to unionize] which have made national headlines. It’s important to do your research and see where they can be hypocritical.

Female Classics and Art History Double Major C/O 2019

What is something you wish you knew about Grinnell before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how much language was going to be incorporated into a lot of the majors here. I did not realize that for a lot of majors you have to take at least a year of a language. As somebody who is not very good at languages, I wish someone had told me that before. [The Classics major requires a minimum of one 300-Level course in Greek or Latin.]

What is something a prospective student who identifies as LGBTQ+ may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Even if you don’t identify with the core group of LGBTQ people here because I know I felt like it was a lot of personality and a little too much for me at the time – I felt like I had thrown myself into the deep end on accident – there are people who are LGBTQ who feel the same way and you will find them. Even if you’re not part of the main group, you’ll find people outside of that and form your own group.

Male Political Science Major C/O 2019

What is something you wish you knew about Grinnell before entering as a freshman?
I wish I had known about incompletes and the ability to get extensions at the end of the semester in order to give yourself a little extra time if you’re having a bit of a rough one.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Check out the Bear [Recreation Center]. I personally use the basketball courts all the time. There are beautiful facilities, so I recommend going to check it out.

Reasons to attend and not to attend Grinnell College

To Attend

  • “The professors. They are there to help you and willing to help you. I’ve never met kinder people.”
  • “The emphasis on research and study abroad.” [52% of students complete at least one independent study course and 40% of students complete a Mentored Advanced Project. More than half of students at Grinnell study abroad.]
  • “The tight-knit social scene where you can be whoever you want. There isn’t the East Coast prep vibe here, it’s more of a place where you can express who you are.”
  • “The stress on post-graduation has been really helpful for me. The fact that I have a resume and LinkedIn profile that I’m really happy with is something that I really appreciate.”

To Not Attend

  • “The small community definitely gets tiring and it’s hard to get away or be alone. If you talk to anybody, you definitely know somebody who knows somebody who knows them.”
  • “The stress culture and the fact that it can seem cool to work so hard that you don’t take care of yourself and it’s easy to slip into that. I had to make a conscious effort not to do it. People can be competitive about who is the most stressed out or who’s working the hardest.”
  • “It is geographically difficult for people to access.”
  • “As a student of color, it can be very difficult.” [26% of undergraduates are domestic students of color. About 6% are Black.]
Notice: Grinnell College is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Grinnell College.

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