We use the Common Application

Regular decision is available to all students completing secondary schooling. Early Decision is available to students for whom Grinnell College is a clear first choice.

After we receive your application, we will send you a user name and instructions on how to access your applicant status page.

What We Look For


We are looking for students who have chosen a rigorous workload and who have excelled.  We’re also interested in students who have pursued a balanced academic program.

Our recommended secondary school program is:

  • Four years of English
  • Four years of mathematics (at least through precalculus)
  • Three years of laboratory sciences
  • Three years of social sciences
  • Three years of a foreign language

Test Scores

We do not have minimum SAT or ACT score requirements.

Promise of Contribution

Grinnell’s vibrant campus life relies on students with diverse interests who share their talents widely. We’d like to know about your involvement outside the classroom. We're especially interested in students who have demonstrated commitment and achievement, as well as those who have held positions of leadership.

The Common Application

Register with the Common Application website and select Grinnell College as one of your schools. The website will walk you through much of the process.

SAT or ACT Score Report

Take either the ACT or the SAT and have the testing organization submit your scores to Grinnell. We do not have minimum SAT or ACT score requirements.



Teacher Evaluations (2)

Have two teachers of your choice complete letters of recommendation for you.

We prefer you use the Common Application Teacher Recommendation forms.

If you are home-schooled, at least one evaluation should come from a tutor, evaluator, or teacher who is not a family member. If possible, both should come from a knowledgeable academic source outside your family.

Recommendation from Your School Counselor

Have your secondary/high school counselor complete a recommendation and submit it with your secondary school transcript.

We prefer you use the Common Application Secondary School Report.

If you are home-schooled, your parent may complete this form.

Secondary/High School Transcript

Have your secondary/high school submit an official copy of your transcript with an original (not photocopied) stamp, signature, or seal.

If you are home-schooled, include a copy of your home-school curriculum with subject areas studied, texts used, and years studied for each discipline. We welcome additional materials that may help us better understand your academic preparation. These materials may include SAT subject tests (particularly in literature and mathematics), reading lists, etc.

Interview (Optional)

Interviews are optional but encouraged as part of the admission process. Please note that interviews are evaluative. 

Schedule an on-campus interview or off-campus interview with admission staff prior to mid-December of your senior year. If you are unable to interview with admission staff, you may schedule time with an alumni interviewer. In order to schedule an alumni interview, you must be an applicant to Grinnell College. Alumni interviews take place through the month of January. To schedule a regular decision off-campus interview with an alumni interviewer, please email admission[at]grinnell[dot]edu by January 20, 2015.

If you are home-schooled, we strongly recommend an interview on campus or with an alumni interviewer.

Home-School Applicants

In addition to the application requirements for U.S. students, we ask that home-schooled students submit the following items:

  • A copy of your home-school curriculum: This document should include subject areas studied, texts used, and years studied for each discipline.
  • Letters of recommendation: One of your two required letters of recommendation should come from a tutor, evaluator, or teacher who is not a family member. If possible, both required teacher recommendations should come from a knowledgeable academic source outside your family; a parent often completes the guidance counselor recommendation form.

We also recommend that home-schooled applicants complete an interview on campus or with an alumni interview. This interview can be scheduled at any time before the application deadline. Please call the Office of Admission at 800-247-0113 to make arrangements.

We welcome additional materials that may help us better understand your academic preparation. These materials may include SAT Subject Tests (particularly in literature and mathematics), reading lists, etc.

Early Decision Applicants

All Early Decision applicants must read and sign the Early Decision Agreement found in the Common Application. Complete the Early Decision Agreement form with your secondary school guidance counselor. 

Grinnell's Early Decision program is binding. If you are accepted under either of our Early Decision options, you must withdraw applications submitted to other colleges. You may not apply to more than one institution as an Early Decision candidate.

While the binding nature of Early Decision means you will not be able to compare financial aid offers among colleges, at Grinnell the aid package you receive under Early Decision is the same you would receive if admitted under the regular decision plan. So there is no reason to hold off if Grinnell is your clear first choice.

Deferred Admission

If you are admitted but decide to take a year off before entering college, submit a short statement to the Office of Admission by May 15 confirming your decision and explaining your plans for the next year. If we approve your request, we grant deferment for one year. You must pay your advance deposit by the applicant response date (May 1 for Regular Decision applicants) and may not enroll in another institution of higher education during that year.


Below are some application FAQs. International students may also want to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions for International Students.

Does Grinnell award merit scholarships and if so, how do I apply for them?

Grants and scholarships form the largest part of our financial aid funds. The Grinnell Trustee Honor Scholarship is awarded based on outstanding academic achievement. It is renewable (at the initial amount) for three additional years provided a cumulative GPA of 2.75 is maintained. You will automatically be considered for merit aid.  No application is needed other than a complete Admission application. To learn more about applying for financial aid, see Tuition and Financial Aid and the Office of Student Financial Aid.

AP exams, IB courses, and college/university classes: credit or no credit?

AP Exams

Yes, AP exams are accepted.

A student will be granted:

  • 4 credits for a score of 5 on the English literature exam;
  • 4 credits for a score of 4 or 5 on exams in:
    • art,
    • biology,
    • calculus (AB),
    • chemistry,
    • classics,
    • computer science (A),
    • economics,
    • English language/composition,
    • environmental science,
    • French,
    • German,
    • government,
    • history,
    • music,
    • physics,
    • psychology,
    • Spanish, and
    • statistics;
  • 4 credits for a score of 3 or higher on exams in
  • calculus (BC) and
  • computer science (AB).

Students receiving a 4 or a 5 on either the Calculus BC or Computer Science AB exams should consult the Mathematics and Computer Science department for course placement and could subsequently earn 4 additional credits.

First-year students are limited to 24 transfer credits.

International Baccalaureate

Grinnell College does award credit for IB scores of 5 or higher on Higher Level courses only.

College/university classes

An evaluation of credits earned at properly accredited institutions is completed by the Registrar.

Transfer credit evaluations are done prior to enrollment for all new students who have been approved for admission and for all matriculated students who pursue coursework while on leave or during the summer.

Only official transcripts sent directly to Grinnell will be evaluated.

If I'm an artist/musician/actor/writer, should I submit a portfolio or writing samples?

Interested students are welcome to submit their work for review by Grinnell faculty, however, auditions and portfolio reviews are not a requirement for admission for students planning to pursue a degree in the arts.

If you plan to submit additional materials before you submit your application, the Common Application will direct you to SlideRoom. If, however, you decide to submit additional materials after you've submitted your application, please go directly to SlideRoom

If you want to submit additional writing samples, you can upload them on your applicant status page. You do not need to submit these through SlideRoom.

I waited until the last second. Do I need to ship my application materials overnight?


As long as your application components are postmarked by the appropriate dates, you will not be penalized for materials received after the deadline.

Don't worry!

How do I know when my materials are received by the Office of Admission?

As you can imagine, we receive a lot of mail from applicants, especially near deadlines. We hope that calls and e-mails regarding your application status are unnecessary as we will contact you when we have received your application and entered it in our database. At that time we will send you a user name and password to access your applicant status page. The applicant status page allows students to access application status and admission decisions online.

Will Grinnell be able to return my credentials to me, or forward them at some point to other schools?

No. Once we receive materials related to your admission application, they become part of your Grinnell College file and as a policy we do not return them or send them to other colleges or universities.