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Frequently Asked Questions for International Students

We know you’ll have questions, so we’ve consolidated the most common information and links that you’ll need. 

Feel free to contact us if you have questions that are not addressed on our site.

Academic Information

Yes, Grinnell requires A-levels to be considered for admission. For A-level candidates, we require Advanced Subsidiary (or equivalent) results and A-level predictions, usually indicated in the Secondary School Report and/or the counselor or headmaster recommendation letter. This requirement also applies to students who have studied in countries with similar education paths. Examples include, but are not limited to: Ghana (GCE or BECE must be followed by the SSSCE) and India (ISSCE must be followed by the ISSE, or ICSE must be followed by the ISC).

Yes. Grinnell recognizes the rigor of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, A-level, and Caribbean Advance Proficiency Exam programs and will award general academic credit (applied toward the graduation requirement) for strong performance on these examinations. See the specific policies through the Office of the Registrar and the College Catalog. Credit is also given for German Abitur and French Baccalaureate exams. 

In order to determine if you are eligible to apply as a first year applicant, or if you will be required to apply as a transfer applicant (regardless of your personal preferences or intentions), please review the following scenarios for the one most applicable to you.

You must apply as a transfer applicant if:

  1. You have studied at another university which is a U.S.-accredited institution and will have 12 or more transferable credits earned, after graduation from high school, by the time of enrollment at Grinnell.
  2. You have studied at another university, after graduation from high school, which is not a U.S.-accredited institution and will have taken classes for more than two semesters by the time of enrollment at Grinnell.

You must apply as a first-year applicant if:

  1. You have studied at another university which is a U.S.-accredited institution and will NOT have earned 12 or more transferable credits by the time of enrollment at Grinnell.
  2. You have studied at another university which is not a U.S.-accredited institution and will have taken classes for only one or two semesters by the time of enrollment at Grinnell.

There are several areas that we consider when evaluating applicants to Grinnell College.

First, we are looking for a student who has excelled academically in a challenging program. Your secondary school grades, test scores, and teachers’ letters of recommendation give us insight into your academic talents.

We also review extra-curricular activities and consider what you have done in addition to being a good student. We want to see how you occupy your time and whether you have developed leadership experience, athletic talents, musical skills, etc.

We do our best to learn about each applicant as a whole person. 

If your high school is only 3 years, you are required to send us the transcript from those 3 years of attendance. If possible, we would also like to have you submit your official transcript from 9th grade; however, in this case the submission of your official 9th grade transcript is optional.

Application Process

Yes. While we prefer to receive the school forms (e.g., transcripts, teacher recommendation letters, guidance counselor secondary school report form) online, you may submit them by fax, email, or postal mail. You can ask your high school guidance counselor (or most other school administrators or EducationUSA officers) to send us a photocopy of your school forms, transcripts, and test scores by postal mail. The photocopy should contain an original school stamp and signature on it, verifying that the copy is true to the original score report. For quicker service, the counselor can send these materials to us by fax (1-641-269-4800) or as an attachment to an email sent to us. The cover letter of the fax or email should clearly indicate that it is being sent by the high school (not the applicant) in order for us to accept the documents as “official.”

No. You may submit your documents in any order as they become available. Each document must contain your full name and your date of birth so that it can be correctly assigned to your application file.

Grinnell College Office of Admission
1227 Park Street
Grinnell, IA 50112, USA

If your original school transcript is not in English, you must submit a copy in the original language and a copy that has been translated into English. If you send them by postal mail, the original document must have a school stamp and signature, and the English translation must have formal attestation that the results are true and accurate. We prefer that transcripts be submitted through the Common Application website. We will accept documents submitted via fax or email attachment, but only if they clearly indicate that they are being sent to us by a school administrator or EducationUSA officer. If there is any cause for concern regarding authenticity of documents, we reserve the right to contact school officials for confirmation and/or to request original, stamped-and-signed documentation in order to complete the application file.

We recognize that school reporting calendars differ throughout the world. Please submit all of the other required application documents by the Jan. 15 application deadline, then submit your mid-year transcript as soon as it becomes available. If your school does not issue mid-year transcripts, a progress report submitted by your counselor will be acceptable.

Your admission decision letter and financial aid award (if applicable) will be posted to your Grinnell application portal (also referred to as the “applicant status page.”) We post decisions no later than April 1 for Regular Decision applicants. Admitted students will receive their admission and financial aid award letters via FedEx courier. Waitlisted and denied students will be able to see their decision letters in the application portal exclusively; they will not receive letters via postal mail.

Score Report Submission

We do not have minimum test score requirements for admission. Standardized test scores are one of many credentials we consider as part of our holistic evaluation.

For the international class entering in August 2019: the TOEFL (iBT) middle-50% score range was 104-111; the SAT I Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ERW) middle-50% score range was 650–720, and the SAT I Math middle-50% score range was 760–800. The middle 50% range for admitted international students presenting ACT scores was 32–35.

We accept superscored results for the TOEFL, SAT (math and critical reading), and ACT composite scores.

Note: The essay components of both the ACT and SAT are optional.

Yes; we will accept them through January. We highly encourage you to request a “rush” report of the results. All other application documents must be submitted by the Jan. 15 deadline. We strongly encourage you to sit for these exams on or before the December test dates to ensure full consideration at Grinnell.

No, but you may still submit SAT II subject tests. Submitted SAT II results can provide the admission committee with additional information about your academic strengths, but the test scores are not included in the official evaluation used for admission decisions.

Yes. You can ask your high school guidance counselor (or other most appropriate school administrator or EducationUSA officer) to send us a photocopy of your test scores by one of the following methods:

  • By postal mail. The attested copy should contain an original school stamp and signature on it verifying that the copy is true to the original score report.
  • By fax or email. Your counselor can send an attested copy  or screen print to us by fax (1-641-269-4800) or as an email attachment sent to us. The cover letter of the fax or email should clearly indicate that it is being sent by the high school, and not you (the student), in order for us to accept the score as official.
  • Via the Common Application (this is our preferred method). Counselors can submit a copy of your score report when they submit your Secondary School Report and high school transcript.
  • If your scores are included on your official high school transcript, you do not need to have your scores sent to us by the testing agency.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, students applying for first year admission for fall 2021 are not required to submit an SAT and/or ACT test score. We will revisit this policy in spring 2021 to determine if it will remain in place for future applicant cycles. Read more about this policy here.

Should you submit an SAT or ACT score?

Grinnell practices holistic admission, which means we take a variety of factors into consideration for admission. Whether or not you submit a test score, we will take into serious consideration your high school transcript, including your grades and rigor of courses, personal essay, recommendation letters and engagement outside of the classroom. If you’re wondering whether or not you should submit a standardized test score, we encourage you to consider the following:

  • If you think your scores are an accurate representation of your ability, then you should feel free to submit them. If you feel they are not, then don’t submit them.
  • If you get the score you hoped for, and especially if it’s above average for Grinnell, submitting the score may help you in the admission process.
  • Keep in mind that we consider your test score in context. Even if your score is not above average for Grinnell, but it is for your high school or neighborhood, your score may help you in the admission process.
  • A high SAT or ACT score can offset a low GPA. If you don’t submit a score, we have less information about your academic performance. If you have a low GPA but do well on the SAT or ACT, your test score can be an important indicator of your potential to succeed in college-level classes.

We will accept any of the following:

Financial Aid

Be sure to read up on international aid policies and projected annual comprehensive fees.

International applicants who do not intend to apply for need-based financial aid are required to submit the College Board’s Certification of Finances form. 

Our financial aid awards are based primarily on demonstrated need, not on exam results. There is no specific SAT score or other qualification that guarantees a particular grant or scholarship amount.  

The amount of grants and other aid cannot be appealed and will remain at the same amount for a total of eight semesters. Additional merit aid is not awarded for performance while enrolled at Grinnell.

When a school awards its own funds, it determines the guidelines for determining need and awarding institutional aid. Grinnell’s goal is to award sufficient financial aid to make a Grinnell education attainable. We understand that we may not be the lowest cost option. However, we will not increase your financial aid to match another school's award. If you believe the Financial Aid Office may have misinterpreted information on the aid application, we would be happy to discuss what data was used to calculate eligibility and consider adjustments if errors were made or circumstances change.

No. Your financial aid eligibility is not re-evaluated each year and requests for additional assistance are not accepted.

No. We do not consider applications for financial aid from international students after they have begun their studies at the College. As part of the application for admission, all applicants needing financial assistance are required to complete the CSS Profile or ISFAA thoroughly and accurately.

To be fair to all of our students, we can only base our financial aid decisions on ability and not willingness of parents to pay.

We do not provide fee waivers. You should complete the ISFAA, which does not require a fee, and submit it directly to the Office of Admission.

Enrolled students may apply their financial aid to a Grinnell-approved off-campus study program. Tuition remission/exchange benefits apply only to Grinnell’s program in London. Details regarding financial aid policies can be found on our Off-Campus Study web page.

All international students have the opportunity to earn money during the academic year with a campus job. If you qualify for need-based financial aid, you will automatically receive a campus employment amount in your aid package. You can earn approximately $2,500 by working just eight to ten hours a week on campus. Employment off-campus is strictly prohibited under the terms of the F-1 Student Visa.

If you have Grinnell Campus Employment as part of your financial aid award, you’ll be assigned to your first job. If it’s a position you like, you are welcome to keep it for the coming years. At any time, you may search for a new position, especially if you’re looking for something that aligns with a particular interest.

Communicating with the Office of Admission

The best way to notify us of your interest in receiving information about Grinnell is to submit our online inquiry form. If online submission is not an option, you are welcome to email your request to us. Please include your full name, mailing address, academic and extra-curricular interests, and desired application term within your message. 

We have created the international admission email address as a portal for all international admission-related inquiries. Messages sent to this account are forwarded to the appropriate staff member, and we strive for a 24-hour response time. In most cases, our student interns are able to field most questions. On occasion, questions will be referred to the international application coordinator or to the associate dean/coordinator of international admission. 

Certainly! We encourage you to submit your questions about life and learning at Grinnell to us. Our student intern (a current international student) is the primary respondent for this account, but he/she will also be happy to connect you with another student (perhaps someone from your home region) if you request this. 

F-1 Visas

We will provide detailed guidance to admitted international students about the process of requesting a Form I-20 and applying for an F-1 visa. You will gain access to our I-20 Request Form portal, and the offices of Admission, Financial Aid, and International Student Affairs will collaborate to review your documentation. We will establish a record for you in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) so that we can issue your Form I-20. Then you will submit the I-901 SEVIS fee, and make an appointment to apply for your F-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate.

We also work individually with international students who are already in the U.S. to determine the appropriate next steps for your unique situation.

The Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) is responsible for institutional compliance with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This includes teaching and advising students on your responsibilities and limitations, and it includes working with partners on campus to facilitate access and to increase awareness about how immigration status impacts academic and social decisions for 20% of our student body.

OISA staff are experts in their field. They are engaged in appropriate professional networks and they benefit from excellent legal support. Visit the OISA’s web site for an overview. Access to their regulatory handouts requires a Grinnell log-in.

Most international students can participate fully in the co-curricular endeavors available, and international-student-friendly policies are valued at Grinnell. For example, need based aid travels with you to Off Campus Study; grant funding is available (through a competitive process) to support internships anywhere in the world; and academic policies make access to credit bearing internships a fluid process – which is especially important for F-1 students.

Access can vary — depending on your visa type, your nationality, the location of the activity you wish to participate in, and your chosen area of study. Office and departments will help you navigate these challenges so that you can make the most of your Grinnell education.

Yes. Practical Training is available to F-1 students who engage off campus experiences that are directly related to your major field of study. Curricular practical training (CPT) is available (with relevant stipulations) during your studies — for courses with experiential components or for U.S. based internships. Twelve months of optional practical training (OPT) are available (with relevant stipulations) during your studies or within the year immediately following your graduation. An additional twenty-four months of STEM OPT are available (with relevant stipulations) after you graduate with a major in: biology, biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, economics, general science, mathematics, physics, or psychology.

Miscellaneous

Admitted students who are obligated to enroll in military service in your home country may apply for a deferral of your enrollment (through the Office of Admission), or for a mid-program personal leave (through the Office of Academic Advising). There is an automatic exception to our standard deferral and/or personal leave policies – which are otherwise limited to one year.

Yes! Please don’t be intimidated by Grinnell’s rural location. Students, staff, and faculty converge here with a common purpose – to learn, grow, and engage in the world. The College and the local community are actively supportive of one another. While life in a small town might feel different, and you are likely to encounter new ways of engaging with the world, #YouAreWelcomeHere! The well known actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who came from Karachi, Pakistan to study at Grinnell, said it best: “Before America was my home, Iowa was my home. Before Iowa was my home, Grinnell was my home.”

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