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Selecting an Off Campus Study Program


Each year around 50% of every graduating class are accepted onto a wide range of off-campus study programs both abroad and elsewhere in the United States to study off campus for a semester or year. Participation is open to all qualified students. Off-Campus Study is an opportunity to broaden your liberal arts education and enhance your major, concentration or other areas of academic interest. Although Grinnell recognizes that living and studying in a new and challenging environment is a valuable learning experience, the college believes the opportunity will be even more enriching if closely integrated with your coursework on campus. During the application process, you will notice great emphasis is placed on selecting a program compatible with your academic goals. You will be working with your academic advisers and the OCS Office to choose a program that complements and enhances your Grinnell education.

The programs featured have been carefully selected and represent some of the best opportunities available in off-campus study today. From the broad academic and geographical range of options, most students should be able to identify a program meeting their academic goals.

Core Academic Rationale  

Grinnell requires you select a program compatible with your academic goals as set out in your four-year plan and off-campus study essay. Define your goals in discussion with your academic adviser. Begin by thinking about your purpose in studying off campus, i.e., your core academic rationale. Many students choose to link off-campus study to their major or concentration, others want to enhance their understanding of other subjects studied on campus. The link you choose should provide a sense of academic direction for studying off campus.

Additional Objectives 

In addition to the core academic rationale described above, your choice of program may be partly determined by additional objectives, in consultation with your academic adviser, a program adviser, or OCS staff. For example, you may wish to broaden your liberal arts education by studying a language or taking liberal arts courses not offered at Grinnell. You may also have broader educational and future goals connected to the experience of engaging with another culture. The possibility of community service, fieldwork or an internship might be an important consideration. Such additional objectives are important to consider along with your core academic rationale and should be of help in guiding you towards a program that is a good match. You may have other considerations as well. Keep in mind your finances and other personal considerations such as health/wellness.

Alternative Programs

Some programs that are not listed as part of Grinnell’s featured portfolio can be approved for particular students as “alternative” programs. Grinnell’s portfolio of featured programs draws on experience and feedback from students and faculty on programs that have worked well for Grinnell students in terms of curriculum, academic standards and transferability of credit, motivation of other students on the program, quality of the cultural experience, and attention to professional standards of good practice in administering an off-campus program. A student with a compelling rationale for an alternative may be approved by the Off-Campus Study Board provided that the rationale meets the following criteria:

•    A strong academic rationale for attending the program, consistent with a Grinnell liberal arts education, supported by the student's academic adviser
•    Absence of a similar offering among programs featured by Grinnell
•    Verification by the Office of OCS of curricular consistency with Grinnell offerings, of academic quality and adherence to professional administrative standards, as well as transferability of academic credit
•    The student, after addressing these other concerns, has researched costs with the Office of Financial Aid.

Based on upon the above criteria, some programs have a better chance of approval than others.

Students wishing to propose an alternative program should make an appointment with the Director of Off-Campus Study to discuss the program and the student’s goals. For an alternative program to be considered for approval by Grinnell a student must go through the following steps:

•    Receive a tentative endorsement from the Director of OCS in the form of a signature as “Program Adviser” as part of the Grinnell application for approval of off-campus study. To receive this endorsement students should expect to need at least one, and possibly two meetings, and should plan accordingly. After meeting with the Director of OCS, a written draft of the academic rationale for the application should be submitted by November 15th.
•    Receive approval from the Off-Campus Study Board upon review of OCS applications in the first month of the Spring semester. Approval letters are generally sent in mid- to late-February.

Program Selectivity

Programs vary considerably in competitiveness. Highly competitive programs may only accept students with higher GPAs and specific course preparation, other programs may have more relaxed criteria for admission. Prerequisites and GPA requirements are normally set by the program itself, however the Off-Campus Study Board may increase or extend them. Information on eligibility is provided in the Fact Sheet of each program.

Multiple Applications

After receiving approval from Grinnell to study off campus, students are allowed to apply to one off-campus study program at a time. Denial of admission is infrequent because of the screening taking place during the application process. Permission to apply to a back-up program may be granted for very highly competitive programs where the applicant may not be admitted. In the unusual event that a student is denied admission, the OCS Office will provide assistance in identifying an acceptable substitute program.