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Choosing an Off-Campus Study Program

Back of student with backpack headed up Arthur's Seat in Glasgow

photo by Bryce Lew '19


Each year around 50% of every graduating class is 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 to 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.

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. In the unusual event that a student is denied admission, the OCS Office will provide assistance in identifying an acceptable substitute program.