Grinnell College, nicknamed the “Little School on the Prairie,” is about halfway between Grand Rapids and Des Moines and was founded in 1846. The rural setting on 120 acres is an ideal locale for its tight-knit community. Close bonds are formed in part because all students are required to live on-campus during their four years. With an undergraduate population of just over 1,700 students, Grinnell has the resources to attract well-respected faculty members. More than 95% of faculty members hold doctorates or terminal degrees in their field. Surveys completed by students at the end of each semester carry great weight. In a very different trend from most colleges, no classes are taught by graduate students. Class sizes also remain small with a student to faculty ratio of nine to one. About 65% of classes have less than 20 students.
There are 27 majors and 18 concentrations offered. The most popular majors include: social sciences; biological/life sciences; computer and information sciences; and foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics. Students can also design their own courses of study. However, all students must complete the “solecore” or general education requirements. They must take the First-Year Tutorial, a one-semester special topic seminar that focuses on inquiry, critical analysis and writing skills. All majors classes are chosen with the guidance of a faculty member within the focused department of study. Grinnell College does not offer any remedial or basic-level classes. If students need help, labs and a learning center are available. To graduate, students are required to complete at least 32 credits in their major and a total of 124 credits.
The school has a busy social atmosphere on campus. Although there is no Greek life, there are activities and concerts every week. A well-known event, the Titular Head Film Festival, allows students to show their own films. Many students also belong to social activism groups. (Grinnell is a top school for sending students into the Peace Corps.) Also, over 50% of students take part in the study-abroad programs. Grinnell College has a burgeoning athletic department. The Grinnell Pioneers compete in 18 sports in the NCAA Division III Midwest Conference. About one-third of students participate in at least one varsity sport during their undergraduate years.
Grinnell’s ability to allow students to pursue their own interests helps to form a collaborative and creative community. Students’ meaningful relationships with classmates and faculty members also aid in the production of a top-tier liberal arts education. On-campus activities and sports programs result in Grinnell College graduates being ready to take on the world.