Students come to Grinnell College for any number of reasons. We asked three current students to tell us theirs.
- James Marlow ’16 is an art history and history double major from Staten Island, N.Y.
- Lisa Oyolu ’17, a history major who’s also studying education, is from Houston, Texas.
- Meghna Usharani Ravishankar ’17 is an independent major in global development and entrepreneurship from Bangalore, India.
How did Grinnell get to the top of your list of colleges?
James: Grinnell was at the top of my list the whole time. When I visited, I was struck by the social justice vibe, and the broad range of socioeconomic and cultural diversity made it a different liberal arts experience. The energy was progressive and collaborative and there was a passion that I just felt wasn’t present at other schools I’d visited. There’s this engagement present at all levels between the faculty and the students.
Lisa: I was considering two other small liberal arts schools and one of them I didn’t feel was rigorous enough. The other, I didn’t think that I would melt into as well socially. So Grinnell became the choice.
Meghna: I was considering a big research university in Canada and Grinnell — basically two ends of the spectrum — and I hadn’t visited either one. I knew that the university had huge classes and a huge campus and a huge student body. It’s okay to say there’s 200 people in a class, but I didn’t understand what it felt like to be in a class like that. On the other hand, I knew what it was like to be in a class of 15 people or eight and have personal, meaningful relationships with the person who’s teaching. That was one big plus for Grinnell, that I knew it would be easy for me to settle in and thrive academically.
When you were making up your mind to go to Grinnell, what would have made it easier?
James: Knowing how amazing the programming is. I’m on the concerts committee and we have a budget of about $100,000 per year. What I really appreciate is the acts that we book don’t necessarily have an audience in mainstream venues, so we try to support outsider music. I think Grinnell’s social justice mission even permeates student controlled entertainment programming. That demonstrates one of the strongest distinctive aspects of Grinnell’s community.
Lisa: Students have a voice in what happens on campus. They’re not just bystanders who let things happen to them for their four years here.
Meghna: If I had been able to visit, I would have understood what the atmosphere was like. I was able to get a little bit from videos and the website. I wanted to know what it was like to be a part of this school.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
Meghna: Some people don’t believe me when I say I had a great discussion the other day, that it was so cool and I got a kick out of it. It’s a really great time, but people need to know that they’re gonna be on their toes.
James: You never stop learning here. It’s not like class is over and you stop. In the dining hall, in meetings, selecting programming on campus, all that stuff. That’s one of the great things here: I feel like I’m learning the entire day here. It’s a continuous process and I feel it’s been really wonderful.
Lisa: Be prepared for change. As you come to a new place and interact with different people who have different experiences and come from different backgrounds, your perspective after the first semester of college might not be the same one you had at the beginning of the semester.