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Semester Preference

First and Second Choice Semester

The college must balance the number of students studying off campus between fall and spring. Every effort is made to approve preferred programs and semester. However, some students may not be granted their first choice. Decisions are made on a competitive basis, taking into account the academic rationale for studying off campus, reasons behind the first-choice program and semester, GPA, and recommendations. Most programs are offered in both fall and spring and students can submit just one program option for both semesters. Students are required to designate a program for the fall and spring semesters unless they have an academic impediment.

Some programs are offered for a single semester in the academic year. In these cases, you must find an acceptable second choice program for the semester your program is not offered.  You may make an appointment with one of the OCS Directors to discuss options to pursue other academic interests as part of your liberal arts education.

If you have a strong semester preference but have no actual academic impediment to studying off campus in either semester, you must still list fall and spring program options. You will submit an application under your first-choice program and semester and list your second-choices in your application. Explain the reasons behind your semester preference in your application essays clearly. Although every effort is made to accommodate personal and extra-curricular needs or commitments, substantive academic factors are given highest priority when determining the allocation of semester placement.

Academic Impediments

If you have an academic reason that you are unable to study off campus in a particular semester, ask your adviser to sign the form Academic Impediment for Fall or Spring.  Upload the form into your application to be exempt from designating a choice for that semester. Please keep in mind that the OCS Board normally accepts only the following impediments:
  • inability to complete a major
  • inability to complete a concentration
  • inability to take courses in the appropriate sequence
  • inability to complete the prerequisites for the OCS program.

Declaration of Major

Declaring a major is not required. Students who have not declared are considered for approval on an equal basis with those who have. However, you cannot complete the four-year plan without at least an intended major. If you do not plan to declare before the application due date, you will need to discuss your OCS plans with a professor in your intended major department and request a signature. An intended major is recognized as entirely tentative. You may change it on your application, even after it is submitted and approved, by contacting the Off-Campus Study Office.

Fourth year students

Students studying off campus in their 4th year do so in the fall semester.  An Academic Impediment form is not necessary. If you wish to study off campus in the spring, you will need to request a waiver of the final semester residence requirement by submitting a petition to the Committee on Academic Standing (use your Grinnell email to login to the site and obtain the form) before applying to study off-campus. The Committee meets every other week. Contact the Registrar's Office for more information at 269-3450.

Non-academic reasons

You may not request an exemption from listing a program option in a particular semester for non-academic reasons. Extra-curricular and personal reasons for a semester preference are carefully considered. Provide a full explanation for your preference in the designated section of the application essay.