IPOP Arrival Day is Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023.
Check back for more up-to-date information in January.
Welcome! The Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) is dedicated to helping you be successful, and to helping Grinnell College be International Student friendly. Our team is fluent in your regulatory needs, as well as the nuance of cultural sojourn.
New international students must arrive on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023, to participate in the International Pre-Orientation Program (IPOP). IPOP Check-In will take place in the Global Living Room of the Humanities and Social Sciences Center (HSSC) located at 1226 Park Street on Sunday, Aug. 13, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. or on Monday, Aug. 14, between 9 a.m. and noon. You will receive your room key and Pioneer-1 access card (P-card), and you will present your immigration documents (passport and I-20) for review.
As of May 1, 2023, please visit your New Student Checklist to complete the IPOP Registration Form to help us plan for your arrival. IPOP will be a fun, action-packed week and you will learn a lot! You will attend sessions about immigration regulations, cultural transitions, and academic success. There will be time to open a bank account, complete your medical check-in, and finish important paperwork. You will meet new friends, learn your way around campus, and explore the local community.
IPOP Mentors will host a souvenir gift exchange, so please bring 15 inexpensive items – a favorite snack, craft, or souvenir from home. We will also invite you to sign up for Friends of International Students (FIS) (the application is embedded in your IPOP Registration Form). FIS offers a fantastic opportunity for you to get to know a local host who will befriend you during your first year in Grinnell! International students will also participate in New Student Orientation (NSO), which begins on Friday, Aug. 18.
Please read the information below as you prepare for this adventure. You are welcome to reach out to OISA with any questions. We look forward to meeting you soon!
Karen Edwards, Dean of International Student Affairs & Exchange Visitors, PDSO/RO
Brenda Strong, Associate Director of International Student Compliance, DSO/ARO
Emily Perry, Assistant Director of International Student Programs, DSO
If you will arrive in Iowa before Aug. 13, you must make your own arrangements for alternate lodging and/or transportation. You could stay in Des Moines, and book a College Shuttle to Grinnell on Aug. 13. Late arrivals (after Aug. 13) require advance permission from the OISA, and a late entry can result in a denial at the U.S. Port of Entry.
Preparing for Your Fall 2022 Arrival
Watch for updates for Fall 2023 in January.
- Present your full name exactly as it appears on your Passport and I-20.
- Your U.S. address will be: 1115 8th Avenue, Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA 50112.
- List your Grinnell contact as: Karen Edwards, International Student Affairs, Grinnell College, 641-269-3705.
- Canadian citizens do not need a visa, but do need an I-20 and must pay the SEVIS fee.
Step 1: Complete Grinnell’s I-20 Request Form
(available starting Mar. 10 from your Grinnell Applicant Portal, or starting May 1 from the New Student Checklist). Do this as soon as possible, and preferably well before the Jun. 1 deadline. The I-20 Request Form collects essential information that we need in order to support your pursuit of an F-1 visa (if you hold a different visa status, the form will help us learn more about your situation).
The OISA will issue new I-20 forms starting in mid-April, and this legal document will be sent to you via an encrypted email, from our office email. You must print all three pages single-sided and sign and date (MM/DD/YYYY) on page one in blue ink.
*If you already hold F-1 status through a U.S. high school, please complete the I-20 Request Form and ask your current school to release your SEVIS record to Grinnell College: OMA214F00159000. The release will take place when your current program ends (typically your high school graduation date) and the OISA can issue a new Grinnell College I-20 at that time.
Step 2: Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee
The I-901 SEVIS Fee payment is required in order to schedule an F-1 visa appointment. Once paid, the receipt will be valid for 12 months. Retain your I-901 SEVIS Fee receipt, so you can present it at your visa interview and the U.S. Port of Entry.
Step 3: Schedule an F-1 visa appointment at a U.S. consulate
Schedule an F-1 visa appointment (Form DS-160) at a U.S. Consulate in your home country (in some cases, it is possible or necessary to make your appointment in a different country). The visa application fee is $160, and the specific process and the timeline will vary by country or consulate, especially during the pandemic.
- Required Documents: Passport; DS-160 Visa Application Confirmation; I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment Confirmation; Form I-20 (print all 3 pages and sign in blue ink); financial documents (as submitted for your I-20 Request Form). We recommend that you bring your Grinnell College admission letter; OISA’s letter to the embassy; and your secondary school completion documents.
- The interview is your opportunity to confirm your intention to study in the U.S. and to return home after you graduate. The more you know about where you are going and why, the better you will do. Consular officers conduct a high number of interviews and many decisions are based on first impressions.
- Remember: F-1 status requires ‘non-immigrant intent.’ Officers may review your social media. Maintain a positive attitude!
- The Consulate cannot issue your visa more than 120 days prior to your I-20 start date.
- Contact the OISA to update us on your progress!
Initial arrival F-1 students must enter the U.S. within 30 days prior to their I-20 start date. For your first trip to Grinnell, we recommend flying through to the Des Moines International Airport. Des Moines is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Grinnell — a one-hour drive from campus. Some students fly to Chicago, but that is five hours away by car or seven hours away by bus.
Book your flight so that you can arrive in Grinnell on Aug. 14. We recommend flying through to Des Moines, Iowa. Grinnell’s Office of Facilities Management (FM) will offer cost-effective airport shuttles on that day (10 a.m., 2 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m.) and staff will try to assist you regardless of your arrival time and/or flight delays. Reserve a seat on the Aug. 14 airport shuttle (posted in early to mid-June). The OISA will distribute room keys and P-cards for IPOP arrivals.
Most international students travel to campus by themselves, and we are prepared to support you. If a family member travels with you to Grinnell, you will need to arrange for their lodging and transportation separately. There is no local taxi service, so it is best to either rent a car at the airport or book lodging within walking distance of campus. The FM airport shuttle for IPOP participants offers instructions if a parent needs to schedule airport transportation (this support is only available for international travelers). It is also possible to hire a taxi, Lyft, or Uber to travel between Des Moines and Grinnell.
What To (or Not To) Pack
The more you bring, the more you have to haul through the airport, load onto the shuttle, and carry up the stairs to your residence hall room — so keep it simple. It is typically quite warm in Iowa in August. It is best to secure U.S. currency before you travel or at the first U.S. airport you land in. Student rooms are equipped with a study desk, chair, chest of drawers, and a bed, and you will be able to shop for necessities here in Grinnell.
IPOP participants who order linens via Dormco prior to July 15 will have the order delivered to their residence hall room prior to their arrival. If you order late, or if you purchase items through a different vendor, your items will only be available for pick up during College Mail Room hours, Monday–Friday, between noon and 4:30 p.m. Grinnell’s student beds are sized 36 inches by 81 inches — extra-long twins.
In August, you can access your campus mailbox number and combination. Your address will be [Name and Box #] Grinnell College, 1115 8th Avenue, Grinnell, IA, 50112 U.S. The mailroom does not offer pre-arrival storage. If needed, you may contact C & K Transfer L.L.C. (a local storage and moving company). If you need to ship items, you may mail them to yourself but the package may not arrive prior to Aug. 10.
Communicate directly with your airline about luggage options and limitations. Most airlines forbid items like pocket knives, nail clippers, or fluids of over 3oz. in your carry-on luggage and they will be confiscated. In addition, electronic devices are subject to search by visa and border officials. Dress for comfort when you travel. A light sweater and a neck pillow are wise carry-on items. If you have any Grinnell gear, wear it — you might meet a fellow Grinnellian at the airport!
Flying to the U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (not to mention crowded airports) will all affect your travel experience, so be prepared and approach your trip with a positive attitude! Carry contact information for Grinnell’s offices of Facilities Management (airport shuttle service); International Student Affairs (641-269-3703); and Campus Safety (641-269-4600).
- COVID Vaccination requirements for non-citizens who travel to the US are posted on the CDC website.
- Immigration Requirements: You must present your Passport; F-1 Visa; I-901 SEVIS Fee Receipt; and Form I-20 (print all 3 pages and sign in blue) before you board your plane and when you enter the U.S.
On landing in the U.S., you will claim your luggage and pass through U.S. Customs and Border Protection procedures. Inform the inspecting officer that you are enrolling at Grinnell College and they will take your photo and fingerprints. If the officer has concerns, you could be directed to Secondary Inspection for additional questioning and/or given Form I-515A (this allows temporary entry but it requires immediate follow-up with the OISA). The officer does have the discretion to deny your admission, but we predict a successful entry.
Assuming success, the officer will stamp your passport to reflect the class of your admission, “F-1, D/S” (Duration of Status). After entry, you can access your I-94 Arrival/Departure record (we will help you during IPOP). The electronic record will be updated every time that you exit and re-enter the U.S. Feel free to visit Study in the States to learn more.
On arrival in Grinnell, the Office of International Student Affairs will facilitate your immigration check-in. Designated School Officials (Karen Edwards, Brenda Strong, and Emily Perry) will inspect your documents and help you print your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, and we will register your arrival in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
OISA staff are fluent in the regulatory issues facing students and exchange visitors who don’t hold U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. Most international students hold F-1 status, and the OISA will be your primary source of regulatory support at Grinnell. We will teach you about your important documents as well as your responsibilities, benefits, and limitations. The OISA offers individual appointments and group information sessions, and we curate robust advising materials on GrinnellShare (log-in required). We will teach and advise you throughout your enrollment at Grinnell, and for up to three years after you graduate (for those who pursue post-completion practical training). If your regulatory needs exceed our purview or expertise, we will encourage you to pursue legal counsel outside of the College.
It is important to monitor both the New Student Checklist (available on May 1) and your @grinnell.edu account. Academic success begins now by preparing with intention and establishing smart habits!
Here are some additional tips and resources:
- Read Academic Planning for New Students. In June, you will need to submit your First-Year Tutorial preferences via the New Student Check List. The Checklist will also include on-campus employment paperwork and Paycor Payroll forms. You can work on these forms prior to your arrival, and we will help you complete them in person during IPOP (this requires presentation of your immigration documents). It is realistic for students to work 8-12 hours per week, though you are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week (and 40 hours/week during break or vacation periods).
- Student Health and Wellness (SHAW): Registered nurses and counselors provide on-campus health and counseling services to Grinnell students. Services are free, with the exception of modest at-cost fees for a few medical tests and supplies. This summer you will receive instructions to submit required Health and Immunization Records to SHAW. Please use your SHAW portal to communicate related questions.
- Grinnell requires all students to have an ACA compliant Health Insurance plan. You must enroll in (or request a formal waiver of) a Student Health Insurance plan through Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. The deadline is Aug. 14, but it is best to pre-enroll to ensure coverage prior to your arrival. The charge will be included in your fall bill. You also have the option to purchase dental insurance through Delta Dental of Iowa. You will receive more information about insurance with your tuition bills. Questions may be sent to Jim Mulholland, Director of Compensation and Risk Management.
- Visit the Office of Student Accounts to learn about the billing schedule, your student self-service portal, and/or how to submit international payments using Flywire. Students with an unpaid balance cannot register for classes.
- The Office of Residence Life will share room assignments in early August. All students are required to live on-campus, with limited exceptions. On arrival, you will meet your Residence Life Coordinator (RLC) and Community Adviser (CA). RLCs are professional staff who live in the halls and support community life, and CAs are trained peer leaders.
- Smart Phones: Student rooms do not have landline telephones. Most students secure a cell phone and many secure a U.S. number. There are stores in town for U.S. Cellular and Verizon. Sprint or AT&T offer good service, with stores in Des Moines or Iowa City. Service for T-Mobile is limited. Most monthly phone plans require a U.S. Social Security Number (which takes several weeks). Alternately, some students purchase pre-paid plans, phones, and/or numbers (Skype, Straight-talk, Netphone, Tracfone). It is possible to purchase a pre-paid SIM Card (Mint Mobil). Some students advise against using a phone from home with a U.S. SIM card, due to poor service and higher costs. Feel free to consult your IPOP Mentor.
- There are computer stations and public printers on campus, but most students have their own laptop. There is free wireless on campus, and you will get free network storage space that is accessible from any campus computer. For more information, contact Information Technology Services (ITS).
- Grinnell Athletics offers twenty varsity sports (NCAA Division III). If you are interested in participating, you should initiate contact with a coach via email. There are also several club sports (like Frisbee or Water Polo) and various intramural sports like basketball, badminton, or ping pong.
- disAbility Resources helps people of all abilities to do their best work. Accommodations include adjustment, modification, or service that allows better access to an environment. This may include additional time for exams, a first floor room for a student in a wheelchair, or the use of an assistive learning technology. Contact Jae Hirschman if you would like to learn more.
- International student tuition grants are offered on the basis of financial need at the point of initial admission to the College. The Office of Financial Aid is committed to providing a consistent aid package that is renewed annually, with moderate increases to grant assistance as costs rise. The maximum timeframe to receive aid is eight semesters. Grinnell will not increase (or decrease) your award for changes to your family’s circumstances, such as fluctuations in exchange rates or additional family members in college. No changes are made for loss of sponsorship. (U.S. citizens apply for financial aid based on CSS Profile and FAFSA guidelines.)
- Grinnell students can buy or rent books from the Pioneer Bookshop in downtown Grinnell. There is also a lending library for students with financial need, located in the Center for Religious Spirituality and Social Justice (CRSSJ).
- There are SO MANY excellent resources at Grinnell. We look forward to helping you learn more during IPOP and NSO!
2022 IPOP Mentors
Elisa Carrasco Lanusse ’24 (Ecuador); Nick El Hajj ’24 (Lebanon); Khondamir Imomnazarov ’23 (Uzbekistan); Paata Kaloiani ’25 (Georgia); Hannah Kim ’25 (South Korea); Lu (Elena) Li ’23 (China); Ganlin Ouyang ’23 (China); Patrick Sales Garcia ’25 (Brazil); Divyansh Singh ’23 (India); Haruna Suzuki ’23 (Japan); Tinotenda Tazvitya ’23 (Zimbabwe); Jivyaa Vaidya ’23 (India)