Academic Planning for New Students

Definitions: Who, What, When And Where

Who Is My Adviser?

Your tutorial professor is your adviser until you declare a major (typically in your fourth semester). If you are a transfer student, and you have met the Tutorial requirement, you are assigned an adviser in the department in which you have expressed an interest. Your adviser is someone who will take an interest in you, listen to you as you share your personal goals, and help you plan a course of study.

Advisers will discourage you from:

  • avoiding subject areas that may challenge your academic skills
  • avoiding subject areas that may challenge your beliefs and values
  • avoiding a subject of which you think you have a phobia
  • picking classes at random with no relation to your interests and life goals
  • taking only courses in which you're convinced you'll get an 'A'
  • taking only courses in which you think that you'll be entertained by the professor
  • taking courses with no prerequisites
  • having no principled guidelines for choosing classes

Advisers will encourage you to:

  • take a balanced program in the liberal arts
  • thrive
  • have fun
  • make friends
  • get some sleep
What's My Role as an Advisee?

It is important that you be actively engaged in developing your academic plan with your adviser. Consider the things you most love to study as well as the things you find difficult. A broad liberal arts education involves developing your talents, but also taking on challenges. Your adviser will expect you to prepare thoughtfully for meetings, to look at a range of courses, and to reflect on various options. This means doing some background research yourself.

Your adviser will not direct you to a prescribed set of courses. Rather, through a process of dialogue and negotiation, you and your adviser will decide together what you will take each semester. You have an adviser for a reason: to discuss ideas, to get advice, and to receive mentoring as you craft an individualized program of study in the liberal arts.

An important place to start is by completing the "Advising Information" form. (That form can be found in the Tutorial Registration module on Pweb and should be returned to Academic Advising  — advising[at]grinnell[dot]edu)  Your comments on the "Advising Information" form will give your faculty adviser a sense of your academic background and interests prior to your first meeting together.

What Kinds of Questions Should I Address with My Adviser?

Think about these questions as you prepare to talk with your adviser in August:

  • What academic subjects do you want to explore? Which might you explore first?
  • What kinds of goals do you have for the short- and long-term?
  • How can you lay the groundwork and keep open several options for a major?
  • What academic strengths do you feel you have?
  • What special personal or academic qualities - such as a disability - should your adviser know about?
  • What academic weaknesses do you need to address?
  • What areas of study are at Grinnell that you have never explored or considered?
  • What does a liberal education look like for you?

Enter into conversations with your adviser about course planning with an open mind. You never know which class might change your life! Be sure to also complete the Advising Information form this summer and return it to the Academic Advising Office:

Advising Information Form 2013

Advising Information Form 2013 transfer students

What Resources Do I Use to Choose Courses?

Your adviser is a primary resource for you as you make decisions about your comprehensive academic plan. In addition, the college offers many resources - all on-line - to assist you:

  • Departmental Advising Information is an important section of this Academic planning guide. Read it carefully, as it will provide helpful instruction for each department.
  • The Online Schedule of Courses displays the courses (including catalog descriptions and prerequisite information) being offered in a particular semester. The online schedule is searchable by subject, level, time of day, and instructors name. This service along with other registration resources is available via the Registrar's webpage.
  • The Grinnell College Academic Catalog is the official listing of all courses offered at Grinnell College. Just click on "Academic Areas of Study" to find a list of courses by department. The Catalog does not tell you which courses are offered in which semesters; for that information you need to check the Online Schedule of Courses. The Catalog explains how Grinnell defines a liberal arts education - see the section on "Education in the Liberal Arts."
  • The Academic Evaluation in PioneerWeb helps you check your progress toward a Grinnell degree. You should be able to access this feature shortly after July 1 from your PioneerWeb account, in the "Academic Information" section.
  • The Student Handbook lists all of the academic policies you should be aware of, and is a terrific guide for future planning - including information about internships, off-campus study, and independent majors.
When Will I Register for Fall Classes?

During New Student Orientation - on August 24, 25, and 26 (2013) - you will have meetings with your faculty adviser. After discussing your academic goals and interests with your faculty adviser and planning your schedule, you'll submit your final registration on Tuesday, August 27. On Wednesday, August 28, you will have a chance to make changes to your schedule, if you desire.

How Will I Register for Fall Classes?

Although many colleges register new students in the summer before arrival, at Grinnell we place high value on in-person advising. Thus we wait until all of our new students (from Des Moines to Timbuktu!) are here on campus in the fall. Then, together with their adviser, each student completes his or her course registration. Here is how it works.

ADVISING: New student advising happens Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, August 25- 27, 2013. You will have time on two of these days to meet with your Tutorial instructor, who is your adviser, for consultation.

SUBMIT REGISTRATION CARD (available on the Course Areas and Acad Info tab of Pioneer Web): After you have met with your adviser, and your adviser has signed your card, bring the Registration Card and your New Student Arrival Confirmation form to the Registrar’s Office in the John Chrystal Center. The card must be turned in no later than 4:00 p.m., Tuesday, August 27. Any student who fails to submit a card by 4:00 p.m. will have to add classes when the drop/add process begins on Wednesday afternoon, August 28, 3:00 p.m., in the Harris Center.

YOUR COURSE SCHEDULE POSTED: As soon as registration is completed on Wednesday, August 28 at 2:00 p.m., your schedule will be released and you may view your schedule via your PioneerWeb account. Your schedule will reflect the courses that were available at the time we entered your data. If there are any errors, you should visit the Registrar’s Office immediately. Please know that as of 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, all classes are under the direct control of instructors and the instructor’s or department representative’s signature will be required to add any course.

POST-REGISTRATION FORUM: On Wednesday, August 28 at 3:00 pm faculty will be available in the Harris Center so that students can make adjustments in their schedule. The course change form – necessary to add or drop courses – will be available in Harris, in the Registrar’s Office and online (on the Course Areas and Acad Info tab of Pioneer Web). The last day to add or drop a class will be Friday, September 20, but, realistically, nearly all students finalize their schedule within the first four class days.

ELIGIBILITY TO REGISTER: When you arrive on campus the Office of the Registrar will place an Arrival Confirmation form in your campus mailbox. The Arrival Confirmation form will list any holds that offices have placed on your ability to register for courses. Holds may be placed by the Cashier’s Office, Student Health and Counseling Services, Financial Aid Office or the Office of the Registrar in circumstances where you have failed to address an outstanding requirement of that office (e.g., completing paperwork or providing payment). If your form indicates “none” on all lines, you do not need to do anything. However, if you have a hold, you should visit that office. Holds must be cleared before you will be allowed to register for classes. Clearly, you should strive to not have holds on your registration upon arrival to campus, so communicate well with these offices this summer and it will streamline your registration process.

REGISTRATION TIPS: Although your adviser will explain how to complete your Registration card, the Registrar's Office offers this information. If you have questions about any part of this process, please contact the Registrar’s Office at 641-269-3450 or registrar[at]grinnell[dot]edu.

The First Two Years: Things You Need To Think About

What Is a Liberal Arts Education?

A liberal arts education demands that you gain skills and experience in critical thinking, self-reflection, designing projects of discovery and creation, encountering difference, exchanging ideas, and developing ethical judgment. By offering an education in the liberal arts, Grinnell College endorses life-long learning characterized by sustained intellectual curiosity and an open mind for assessing the unfamiliar. At the same time, by using critical thinking to assess evidence, to identify assumptions, to test logic, to reason correctly, and to take responsibility for the conclusions and actions that result, a student of the liberal arts can grows ethically as well as intellectually. A liberally educated person should be capable of principled judgment, seeking to understand the origins, context, and implications of one's knowledge. Because knowledge is lost if it is not shared, both students and teachers of the liberal arts strive to engage in precise and graceful communication. This communication takes place verbally, but also in other ways, such as the symbolic and expressive systems of mathematics, music, computer languages, the natural sciences, and the visual and performing arts. By learning and exploring these methods, one may attain an understanding of aspects of human thought, which is a crucial part of liberal education.

What should the liberally educated person know? While each discipline in a liberal arts curriculum has its own rationale and purpose, the heterogeneity of good critical thinking and the free exchange of ideas militate against any single answer to this question. As each student works to create an academic plan that is appropriate to his or her interests, talents, and goals as a person accountable to a life shared with others. Grinnell's Curriculum Committee recommends that all students should have some work in the following:

  • writing and literary studies;
  • a non-native language;
  • mathematics;
  • scientific studies based on experimental observation;
  • human society past and present; and
  • fine arts, with attention to both creative and analytical methods.

Another way to think about liberal arts education is to inquire about its purpose:

  • to encourage intellectual and aesthetic curiosity;
  • to promote confident and accurate verbal expression;
  • to foster the ability to work both independently and collaboratively;
  • to examine critically one's own traditions and assumptions; to understand in depth at least one culture that is very different from one's own;
  • to approach complex problems from a variety of analytical perspectives; and
  • to realize obligations and capabilities to serve the common good.

Grinnell further defines a liberal education in "Elements of a Liberal Education" section of the Academic Catalog.

Can I Take Anything I Want To?

Yes and No.  Like many things you'll encounter at Grinnell, the answer is complicated and nuanced.

Indeed, Grinnell does not have prescribed general education or distribution requirements or even very many graduation requirements. Consistent with the philosophy of self-governance, an individually-mentored curriculum speaks to the freedom you have to plan your own course of study and the responsibility you have to honor your adviser's guidance while following the College's policies.

Your faculty adviser is familiar with Grinnell's mission, core values, and curriculum, so she/he/ze can help you with planning your own education in the liberal arts. You should consult with your adviser about courses you want to take within the context of the liberal arts (the College's mission) and about your plans and goals (your personal "mission"). Your adviser may also suggest some courses for specific reasons.  

Finding Balance

Think about the first year as a whole - you'll take about 8 different classes your first year. Simultaneously, begin to plan for your second year.

  • Study a variety of disciplines. Think broadly about different ways of learning. A diversity of courses helps balance your workload. (You will want to avoid writing forty papers in one semester!)
  • Explore as many interests as you can. You will have exposure in college to disciplines not taught in high school. Even familiar disciplines are often taught differently at this level. Most students' goals change over four years, and it's important to keep your options open.
  • Develop your command of written English, not only in the Tutorial but in at least one other reading and writing course during the first semester.
  • Strengthen skills in mathematics and foreign languages - these may eventually assist you in graduate studies and will serve you well in your life beyond college.
  • Come prepared to take coursework in all three academic divisions of the curriculum - Humanities, Social Studies, and Science.
  • Think about extracurricular activities as a way to explore some of your areas of interest. There is a lot of learning outside of the classroom as well as in the classroom.
How Can I Plan for a Major?
  • Build a foundation by taking basic courses in a number of departments, so that you will have a range of choices for a major.
  • Don't rush your choice of major. Explore several fields before deciding. (You will also have time to continue other interests after you declare a major.)
  • Explore early those fields which are highly sequential (especially the sciences, math, and foreign language). Carefully use the Departmental Advising Suggestions for this purpose.
  • Think carefully before you set your mind on a double major. Double majors are possible, but not always encouraged. Why? One reason is that students with two majors end up with half their credits in only two departments. If you major in one department, you are free to study the second area in depth without being bound by another set of major requirements and scheduling of two sets of required courses.  Your adviser may have other reasons, given your overall academic goals.
  • Don't focus exclusively on your choice of major. Your total program and the skills you develop here are more important for most jobs and graduate schools than the particular major listed on your transcript.
How Can I Develop an Academic Plan for All Four Years?

When you declare a major (during your second year), you will also create a plan for the courses you will take in your third and fourth years at Grinnell. You'll look at the courses you have already taken and make a list of the courses that will complete your undergraduate education. Along with this course plan, you will write a one-page statement that explains your goals, how your program fits together, and how it balances coverage of basic intellectual skills, important areas of human knowledge, and the diverse scholarly and creative methods known as the liberal arts. Many students prepare for this early, writing a tentative four-year plan as early as their first or second semester. If you want to do off-campus study in your junior year, then the fall of your sophomore year will be planning intensive.  Although most students declare one of our existing majors, a few students each year create an independent major.

Course Registration Advice

Departmental Advising and Registration Suggestions

The following pages are devoted to departmental advice for students and faculty advisers, in alphabetical order by department.  Suggestions include what courses to take and in which order, with an eye towards leaving open the possibility of majoring in that discipline.

Departmental Advising and Registration Suggestions

You will want to check the Academic Catalog and the online 'Schedule of Courses' for additional information.

Courses Available to First-Year Students, Fall 2013

NOTE:  This list is current as of August 6, 2013, and is subject to change.

The following courses are open to all first-year students in the fall semester. Use this list as a quick reference as you begin to plan your registration. For real-time fall semester course offerings and full descriptions of each class, access the on-line schedule of courses.

AMS-130-01 Intro to American Studies 4 Scott
AMS-195-01 Color, Culture, Ntnl Idnt 4 Gibel Mevorach
ANT-104-01 Introduction to Anthropology 4 Tapias
ANT-104-02 Introduction to Anthropology 4 French
ANT-104-03 Introduction to Anthropology 4 Bentley-Condit
ANT-195-01 Color, Culture, Ntnl Idnt 4 Gibel Mevorach
ARB-101-01 Beginning Arabic I 5 Youssef
ARB-101-02 Beginning Arabic I 5 Eltouhamy
ARB-221-01 Intermediate Arabic I 4 Al-Seoudi
ART-103-01 Intro to Art & Art History 4 Knowles
ART-103-02 Intro to Art & Art History 4 Anger
ART-103-03 Intro to Art & Art History 4 Lyon
ART-111-01 Introduction to the Studio 4 Kaufman
ART-111-03 Introduction to the Studio Schrift
ART-111-04 Introduction to the Studio 4 Chen
ART-134-01 Drawing 4 Running
BIO-150-01 Intro to Biolgcl Inqry w/lab 4 Hinsa-Leasure
BIO-150-02 Intro to Biolgcl Inqry w/lab 4 DeRidder
BIO-150-03 Intro to Biolgcl Inqry w/lab 4 Jacobson
BIO-150-04 Intro to Biolgcl Inqry w/lab 4 Lindgren
BIO-150-05 Intro to Biolgcl Inqry w/lab 4 Praitis
CHI-101-01 Beginning Chinese I 5 Cook
CHI-101-02 Beginning Chinese I 5 Cook
CHI-101L-01 Beginning Chinese I Lab 0 Staff
CHI-101L-02 Beginning Chinese I Lab 0 Staff
CHI-221-01 Intermediate Chinese I 4 Feng
CHM-129-01 General Chemistry w/Lab 4 Minelli
CHM-129-02 General Chemistry w/Lab 4 Ortiz
CHM-129-03 General Chemistry w/Lab 4 Ortiz
CHM-129L-01 General Chemistry Lab 0 Minelli
CHM-129L-02 General Chemistry Lab 0 Ortiz
CHM-210-01 Inorgnc & Analytcl Chem w/lab 4 Graham
CSC-151-01 Functional Problem Solving 4 Davis
CSC-151-02 Functional Problem Solving 4 Rebelsky
ECN-111-01 Introduction to Economics 4 Munyon
ECN-111-03 Introduction to Economics 4 Seiz
ECN-111-04 Introduction to Economics 4 Stroup
ECN-111-05 Introduction to Economics 4 Alam
ECN-230-01 Economic Development 4 Seiz
ECN-245-01 Financial Economics 4 Stroup
WRT-101-01 Basic Prncpls of Writing w/Lab Wohlwend
WRT-101-02 Basic Prncpls of Writing w/Lab 1 Staff
WRT-101-03 Basic Prncpls of Writing w/Lab 1 Crim
WRT-101-04 Basic Prncpls of Writing w/Lab Crim
WRT-101-05 Basic Prncpls of Writing w/Lab Staff
WRT-101-06 Basic Prncpls of Writing w/Lab Staff

Interdisciplinary Courses Of Study

Interdisciplinary Courses and Concentrations

Interdisciplinary Courses of Study

Grinnell structures the curriculum departmentally. However, we also offer a number of interdisciplinary courses, many of which are open to first-year students. Below are some examples you can consider for Fall or Spring semester.

  • AMS 130 - Introduction to American Studies
  • ENV 125 - Introduction to Earth Systems Sciences w/lab
  • ENV 145 - Nations and the Global Environment
  • GDS 111 - Introduction to Global Development Studies
  • GLS 227 - The Writers of Modern Life
  • GLS 248 - The Russian Novel
  • GLS 251 - Children's & Young Adult Literature
  • GLS 291 - Perspectives in 20th Century Central & Eastern European Literature
  • GWS 111 - Introduction to Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies
  • HUM 101 - Humanities I: The Ancient Greek World
  • HUM 102 - Humanities II: Roman & Early Christian Culture
  • HUM 140 - Medieval and Renaissance Culture: 1100-1650
  • HUM 195 - An Intro to Modern Russian Culture
  • LAS 111 - Introduction to Latin American Studies
  • LIN 114 - Introduction to General Linguistics
  • TEC 154 - Evolution of Technology

Interdisciplinary Concentrations

Interdisciplinary concentrations are offered at Grinnell as a way to pursue a breadth of study across several related disciplines. They are organized programs that a student may choose to complete in addition to a major. Each concentration includes work in several departments and culminates in an interdisciplinary seminar or project in the senior year. Completion of a concentration is entered on a student's permanent record and transcript. Students declare their intention to pursue a concentration by the start of their third year. Consult this section of the Registrar's web page for detailed information about each Interdisciplinary Concentration offered at Grinnell. Concentrations are offered in the following areas:

  • American Studies
  • East Asian Studies
  • Environmental Studies
  • Global Development Studies
  • Latin American Studies
  • Linguistics
  • Neuroscience
  • Policy Studies
  • Russian, Central, and Eastern European Studies
  • Technology Studies
  • European Studies
Interdisciplinary Study Themes

For information, click on the link below:

Interdisciplinary Study Themes

Further Academic Opportunities Not To Be Missed

Off-Campus Study

About 60% of Grinnellians study off-campus - either abroad or elsewhere in the United States - sometime during their four years at Grinnell. In addition to the nearly 90 programs in more than 30 countries operated by partner institutions, Grinnell offers two branch-campus options: Grinnell-in-London and Grinnell-in-Washington (D.C.).

The College values this opportunity for any and all qualified students. It is a terrific way to broaden one's liberal education, and it is strongly encouraged. Although you need junior class standing to go, planning for this opportunity should begin in your first year. Check out the OCS website for detailed information about off-campus programs and how to apply.

Phi Beta Kappa

Phi Beta Kappa (PBK), the nation's oldest and largest academic honor society, fosters and recognizes excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. PBK has a local chapter at Grinnell College called Beta of Iowa. Each spring semester the local chapter selects high achieving junior and senior students and invites them to become members. These students not only have a very high GPA, but they have had a broad program of study from each of the three divisions of the College that specifically includes foreign language, mathematics and lab science. To be eligible for consideration, students should carefully follow the requirements found in the Academic Catalog.  

Academic Skills And Support

Academic Resource Centers

All adults need help sometimes. In fact, one of the little known facts of being a successful adult is knowing how to use your resources. This stands in contrast to the idea that going off to college means being "independent" and doing everything by yourself. Part of independence actually involves being resourceful and asking questions when you are stuck.

Grinnell's academics are demanding. That means that everyone has questions from time to time. Even your faculty ask each other questions. Seeking out answers is part of being successful.

At Grinnell, besides your faculty and the staff that support your in-and out-of-classroom experiences, there are other amazing resources to turn to. In particular, Academic Resource Centers (ARC) are a network of learning centers where staff teach students a variety of academic skills. Check out the terrific resources for students in writing, reading, all academic subjects, and time management/study skills.