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Application Process Overview

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Application Process:

Seeking Grinnell approval to study off campus requires reviewing the OCS 101 Guide, meeting with an OCS director, and submitting a Grinnell OCS Application by clicking on "Apply Now" on the program page. We also strongly encourage you to meet with one or more faculty Campus Program Advisers listed on each program page.

OCS reviews applications on a rolling basis and it is to your benefit to apply as soon as possible, particularly if your program is considered competitive.

Please read about the steps in the "How to apply for Grinnell Approval" below.

Deadlines (for Academic Year, Fall and Spring):
Alternative program request: November 22
Petition to study off campus for two semesters on one or two programs: November 22
Early Deadline: December 5. Please note that some programs have external January deadlines.
Final Deadline: February 1.

In addition to gaining approval from Grinnell to study off campus, apply directly to the program for which you have been approved as soon as possible. Many program review on a rolling basis so it is to your advantage to apply early. Program websites provide instructions. Note: Grinnell-in-London and most Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA) programs have a one-step process of submitting the Grinnell Program Application.


Programs with very early deadlines in January include ACM Japan Study and London School of Economics. Due dates can be found on program websites.

  • Fall semester program due dates are usually in March or April.
  • Spring semester program due dates are usually in September or October.
If a student is not accepted into a program (because it fills early due to rolling admissions or has a very competitive pool), staff will work with you to find a different suitable program. 

First Years

Students are encouraged to discuss off-campus study with their tutorial advisers during their first year.
Meet and discuss options with faculty, campus program advisers, peers, family, OCS staff
Attend OCS meetings and the Global Opportunities Fair
Consider applying for Grinnell-in-London, which is open to second years. First-years interested in GIL should contact Susie Duke [dukesus] with questions.

Second Years

Meet with an OCS staff member as well as one or more Campus Program Advisers during the fall
Consult with the Office of Financial Aid to compare overall costs of programs with on-campus study, learn about scholarships, and discuss budgets
Attend the Global Opportunities Fair
Narrow down programs to those that meet your goals and interests best.
Start your Grinnell Application


Deadline for requests to alternative program or year-long petitions is November 22
Make appointments with faculty for recommendations and review of your OCS proposed courses and 4-year plan


Early decision deadline for applications is December 5. Some programs have early January deadlines such as ACM Japan Study and London School of Economics.


The final deadline for Grinnell's approval to study off-campus in the fall or spring is February 1st.

We encourage you to apply early to your external program after obtaining Grinnell approval. Read "Applying to your Off campus program" below.


Alternative Program Requests for Fall and/or Spring

Grinnell’s portfolio of featured programs - listed under “All Programs” - draws on experience and feedback from students, OCS staff, and faculty on programs that have worked well 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. Students are strongly encouraged to apply to these options. Some other semester or year-long programs may be approved for a particular student as an “alternative” option.

Approval criteria

  1. The program is run by one of our current OCS partners with which we have a billing agreement in place, and the transcript is acceptable to Grinnell (i.e. the institution issuing the transcript is considered accredited and the credit/grading systems are acceptable).
  2. Grinnell doesn’t feature a similar offering in the featured programs list.  
  3. The program offers a curriculum consistent with a Grinnell liberal arts education. Pre-professional program subjects such as journalism, marketing, fashion merchandising, engineering, graphic design, or business administration are not eligible.
  4. The student provides a compelling rationale for choosing the alternative program. 
  5. The student demonstrates thoughtful consideration of how they are prepared to engage with the location(s) featured in that program. 
  6. The program's academics and student support services meet Grinnell's standards.

Process for an Alternative Program during the Fall and/or Spring

Visit the Contact Information page to determine which OCS director oversees the program's country or region. Schedule a meeting with Alicia Stanley ( by November 22. Students should be able to discuss how the program:
  • meets their academic goals
  • course work meets their goals (specific courses where possible) 
  • particular interests and/or challenges about the proposed location(s) and preparation for engaging with the host communities.
If the program is deemed acceptable, an application will be created for the student and be due by the February 1 final deadline.

Full Year Off-Campus Study Petition

Approval to spend two semesters off campus on one or two programs is limited and granted by the IGE faculty committee on a competitive basis. Financial aid is generally only able to be used for one semester of OCS. This does not apply to the following programs that offer academic year options by design: ACM Japan Study (Waseda University) and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Approval Criteria

  • Exceptional academic achievement
  • Strong written rationale 
  • Support from an academic advisor

Petition Process for an Academic Year

  1. Schedule a meeting with the OCS Director, Alicia Stanley, at If the petition includes an alternative program(s), please send an email with the program name and a link to the program site to find out if the program meets approval criteria. 
  2. Submit via email the following to Alicia (, by November 22:
  • Academic rationale (see instructions below);
  • Letter(s) of strong support from your current primary faculty advisor (your tutorial professor, if you haven't declared a major yet) as well as all intended major and/or concentration adviser(s). If you intend to declare an independent major, both advisers must submit a letter of support. The letter(s) should include:
    • Details about remaining major or concentration requirements and how these requirements will be able to be fulfilled
    • Comments on the student’s interest in and ability to study off campus for two semesters
    • Why they support the student's petition
  • 4-year plan including the courses you intend to take while studying off campus during both terms;
  • Unofficial transcript, which you can download from WebAdvisor.
If approved, students will be instructed to complete the standard Grinnell application by the early December 5 deadline or final February 1 deadline.

Academic Rationale Instructions:
Provide a well thought out academic rationale for spending two semesters away from Grinnell after consulting with your academic adviser(s) and other professors with whom you may be studying with now and in the future. Max length: 2 pages.
  1. Indicate your name, the complete program name(s), and your intended terms at the top of the document.
  2. Describe your proposed program(s) in terms of its relationship to past and intended coursework in your intended major(s), concentration, and/or other areas of interest, and how the program(s) will help you meet your academic goals. If you're seeking to apply to an alternative program, justify your reasons why. If you’re seeking to apply to two different programs, provide details about both experiences and why you wish to participate in both of them. Please be as specific as possible about the courses you intend to take while studying off campus.
  3. Discuss any additional goals not directly related to your primary academic goals.
  4. Provide an academic justification for spending two semesters off campus, explaining what you would be able to accomplish that could not be achieved in a single semester.
  5. include a statement demonstrating that you have considered what you anticipate might be particularly interesting as well as challenging about the proposed location(s) and how you are prepared to engage with the host communities.
  6. If you are seeking to study on two different programs during the same academic year, and the second program is outside of the US, indicate whether or not you will need to obtain a visa for the spring program and, if so, what the visa application process entails (i.e. can it be obtained while studying off campus during the fall semester?).
  7. Optional: Include any special circumstances, either academic or personal, that you would like the committee to take into account when considering your petition.

How to Apply for Grinnell Approval for OCS

 After deciding on a program and term, click on "Apply Now" on the program page. The following components will be part of your online application for approval to study off campus:
  • Unofficial transcript upload: You can download a pdf of your unofficial transcript through "Grades" in Colleague Self-Service.
  • Conduct Policy: You will be asked to confirm you understand the policy. Contact OCS if you have any questions.
  • Required advising appointment: You will be asked to confirm that you have met with at least one OCS adviser to discuss your plans.
  • Academic Adviser(s) approval is needed for Intended OCS Course Plan 2024-2025:
Declared major – The form must be signed by your academic adviser after reviewing your OCS proposed course AND a 4-year plan.
Undeclared – The form must be signed by your current academic adviser. A faculty member in your intended major department must also review your 4-year plan. You do not need to submit your 4-year plan in your application. It is your responsibility to ensure that both conversations take place.
Double majors - If you have declared/intend to declare a double-major, obtain the signature of your primary academic adviser after faculty members from both departments have reviewed your 4-year plan. It is your responsibility to ensure both conversations take place.
Concentration credits – For OCS courses to count towards the concentration, signature approval from the concentration adviser is needed.
NOTE: You do not need to submit your 4-year plan in your OCS application but it should be discussed with your academic adviser(s) to ensure you can graduate in 4 years. Only liberal arts courses in disciplines taught at Grinnell are eligible for transfer credit and only if you take the courses for a letter grade (not pass/fail or as an incomplete) and earn a C or above. Typically pre-professional courses such as business, marketing, journalism, graphic design, engineering or fashion are not transferable. Syllabi can be reviewed by the OCS Director and the Registrar's office before you take the course.
  • Reflection prompts and short-answer essays:
Academic and Learning Goals
Please review “Choosing a Program” on the OCS website and Grinnell College’s Global Education Learning Goals on the website of the Institute for Global Engagement. Bullet list 1 or 2 of your academic goals for your off-campus study experience and 1 Grinnell Global Education Learning Goal that is the most important to you in selecting the program that you are proposing in this application.
Other Goals 
Considering some of the factors discussed in “Choosing a Program,” please share any pre-professional and/or personal objectives not directly related to your academic goals for the experience. [approximately 100-150 words]
Describe how the program will help you meet those academic and learning goals, providing specific examples of the courses you think you’d like to take as well as any community engagement opportunities you may pursue (research, internship, service-learning, homestay, etc.).. [approximately 200-250 words]
Discuss ways in which your overall learning experience while off campus may connect to your studies and life when you return or your potential plans after graduation. Among other things, are there ways you could imagine sharing your experiences with the Grinnell College community? [approximately 150-200 words]
Based on what you have already learned about the region, country and/or host populations, what do you expect is the most important thing for you to know to adapt successfully? What do you expect is the most important thing to anticipate regarding your intersecting identities?  What kinds of behavior or actions do you think will positively impact the host community for the time that you are there, and also help you better understand your position in the world through their eyes? [approximately 200-250 words]
  • Recommendation form: You may ask any professor who has had you in class to serve as a recommender for the Grinnell OCS Application. We recommend doing so at least a week or two prior to the deadline to given them sufficient time. After inputting a name into that section of your application, the recommender will receive an automated email with a link to a brief online form.
  • Student Agreement

Applying for Admission to your OCS Program


Application Forms

Under Program Search, click on the link to your program's website to access the program's application and instructions. Every program has a representative who can answer questions by email or phone. Note: Grinnell-in-London and some Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA) programs have a one-step process of submitting the Grinnell Program Application.

You are welcome to work on the external program application before obtaining Grinnell approval.

Submitting Applications

Submit the application as soon as possible after receiving Grinnell's approval and by the program's deadline at the latest. Some programs have rolling admissions and it is to your advantage to apply early. 

Home School Approval/Authorization Forms

Home school authorization or study abroad approval forms confirm you have received permission from your school to apply to a program or participate in an internship. Most programs have online approval forms that generate automatic emails notifying our office when a form is ready to be reviewed. If not, paper forms may be scanned and emailed to: You may request that the signed form be emailed to you for upload into your application or sent directly to the program.

Letters of Recommendation

Recommendations should be sent directly to the program by you or your recommender(s). Please do not ask faculty to send their letters to OCS. Allow faculty at least two weeks to complete a recommendation request.


Instructions for obtaining official and unofficial Grinnell transcripts can be found on the Office of the Registrar website.  It can be helpful to have the transcript sent directly to the program by providing their email or mailing address. Please note that OCS cannot forward transcripts or other application materials to programs.

Program Deposit

After being accepted by the program, you will receive a request for a deposit; $500 is typical although some deposits are higher. The deposit secures your place on the program. You are responsible for paying the deposit. For most programs, a credit will be issued on your student account after Grinnell receives the program's invoice demonstrating the deposit amount paid. Be sure to check the program website for the amount as well as withdrawal policies and penalties. After you have submitted your deposit, the program will send you information regarding visas, travel, housing and coursework.

Program Transcripts

Transcripts from the OCS program should be sent directly to the Registrar's Office. Your transcript can be submitted electronically or mailed to the address below. If submitted electronically it needs to be done through a secure system.
Vickie Rutherford, Assistant Registrar
Office of the Registrar
Grinnell College
1103 Park Street
Grinnell, IA 50112

Passports and Visas

If you are a U.S. citizen and you have never had a passport, the Institute for Global Engagement will walk you through the process and reimburse you for all related expenses for a first-time passport (but not for renewals). If you have a passport, verify that the expiration date is at least 6 months after your expected date of return. If not, renew it as soon as possible. Your program will provide detailed instructions for obtaining a visa, if one is necessary. Research potential visa requirements early though, especially if you are an international student. OISA has a checklist for international students with F1-visas. Questions regarding visa requirements should be directed to the program provider. More information is available under the Travel Resources tab.

Proof of Enrollment Letters

Some countries require proof of enrollment or enrollment verification letters as part of the visa application. Please email with the name and dates of your program to obtain an official letter.