Choosing a college is hard — no one is going to argue that. Which is why sometimes little things like a squirrel can help make those decisions a whole lot easier.

My parents and I named it Blondie. True to its name, it was tanner than the rest of the Wisconsin squirrels, but with a distinctly red hue. It moved into our backyard my senior year of high school around the time I was plagued with the horrible “which college?” decision.

My mom spotted it first. “It’s a Grinnell squirrel!” she cried. “It’s a Grinnell squirrel! Molly, it’s a sign.”

True, Grinnell squirrels are unique when compared to other gray squirrels in the Midwest. Whether due to inbreeding or some weird genetic drift, they are, in fact, tanner than normal with a distinctly red hue. In the fall, they can also gorge themselves on acorns until they’re the size of a cat, but that’s neither here nor there.

While I made my college decision based on a number of factors that did not involve squirrels, it’s the little coincidences that make me confident my decision was right.

Given the smaller size of the school, Grinnellians are plagued with a surprisingly large number of coincidences — alums running into current students, students running into other students. During summer break,Alex Cohn ’11 was flying between Washington, D.C., and San Francisco when he ran into one of his floormates in the Denver airport. The time I visited Dan Covino ’10 on the East Coast, we ran into two of our classmates in Philadelphia outside the Liberty Bell Center. Before I even made it to my house for Thanksgiving my senior year, I stopped at the store to get some granola bars and there was Grinnell alum Nicole Spear ’08, who had moved to my hometown after graduating.

When Liz Reischmann ’12 flew in from Florida to visit Grinnell her senior year of high school, she was plagued with flight delays that left her stranded for more than 12 hours in the Detroit airport. Frustrated beyond belief, she was on the verge of asking the airport to just send her home. Standing in line, she noticed that the girl standing ahead of her had a squirrel on her T-shirt. “Isn’t the squirrel the unofficial mascot of Grinnell?” she thought. “That’s funny.” The girl was on the phone and as they both stood there, Liz overheard her talking to her friends.“Sorry, I’m not going to make it to the concert,” she said. “It’s just taking a long time to get to Grinnell.”

Turns out that girl standing in line was Huiting Liu ’10. While they waited for their flight, the two talked and talked and talked, and when Liz finally arrived on campus, she was treated to a 3 a.m. tour of campus.

More than anything, Chris Hildebrand ’10 wanted to get out of Connecticut for college. Still, the beginning of his junior year when, acting in his role of student adviser, he helped move in the new class of first-years, he couldn’t believe his eyes when he picked up a box marked “West Hartford, Conn.” Fun fact: turned out back home he and Sarah Mayer ’12, the girl whose box he was carrying, lived just four miles from each other.

These are the kind of stories that don’t really mean anything significant in the long run, but that stay with you all the same. Even if you’re only at Grinnell for eight months a year for four years of your life, the school has this habit of staying with you until your dying day. Kinda like mono. … But without the getting sick part …

OK, you know what I mean.

Molly Rideout '10 is an English Major and Gender and Women's Studies concentrator from Madison, Wisconsin.

Molly Rideout '10...

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