Further Academic Opportunities

How Can I Plan for a Major?

  • Build a foundation by taking introductory 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). 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 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
  • For more information about choosing a major and the major declaration process, visit the Academic Advising resources (login required).

How Can I Develop an Academic Plan for All Four Years?

When you declare a major (PDF, login required) 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 soon as their first or second semester. If you want to participate in off-campus study in your third year or join Phi Beta Kappa, then the fall of your second year will be planning intensive. Although most students declare one of our existing majors, a few students each year create an independent major (PDF, login required).

Off-Campus Study & Global Learning at Grinnell

The Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) offers a broad range of opportunities to study off-campus and to engage in global learning on campus. About 60% of Grinnellians study off-campus — either abroad or elsewhere in the U.S. — sometime during their four years at Grinnell.

  • First-year students are eligible to apply for the Global Learning Program, which entails spring team-taught FLAG courses that include field-based experiences in at least two destinations around the world.
  • Students may also apply to participate in course-embedded travel, a FLAG opportunity beginning in the second year.
  • First-year students may also apply to participate in the Grinnell-in-London program during their second year.
  • Students interested in a semester or year-long off-campus study (OCS) should begin researching the nearly 100 featured programs offered in over 30 countries that are managed by partner institutions. Some of these OCS programs include credit-bearing internships, independent research, and service learning.
  • First, second, and third-year students are eligible to apply for the summer international internship program, a cohort-based program, run through approved OCS partners.

The College encourages students to begin planning right away by talking with their tutorial adviser, an IGE staff member, and/or one of IGE’s Global Envoy peer mentors.

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 third- and fourth-year 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 Phi Beta Kappa requirements.

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