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Alternative Program Request or Year Off-Campus

Alternative Program Requests

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 programs may be approved for a particular student as an “alternative” options if there’s a compelling academic rationale for doing so, the transcript is acceptable to Grinnell, the program's academics and student support services meet Grinnell's standards, and the student can demonstrate thoughtful consideration of how they are prepared to engage with the location(s) featured in that program.

Approval criteria

  1. Grinnell doesn’t feature a similar offering in the featured programs list.  
  2. 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.
  3. The transcript is acceptable to Grinnell (i.e. the institution issuing the transcript is considered accredited and the credit/grading systems are acceptable).
  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.
  7. Note: Alternative programs are more likely to be approved if they are offered by one of our current partner study abroad organizations.

Process for an Alternative Program

Schedule a meeting with OCS Director, Alicia Stanley at by November 13th. 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 not run by one of Grinnell's current partners, the student will likely have to request a sample transcript, provide detailed information about the program's academics and student support services, and submit a written rationale.

If the program is approved, the student will be notified via email and an application for the program will be created for the student.

Full Year Off-Campus Study Petition

Approval to attend a year off campus on one or two programs is limited and granted by the Off-Campus Study Subcommittee on a competitive basis. 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 is for a year away on 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 15:
  • Academic rationale (see instructions below);
  • Letter or email of support from your current primary academic advisor addressing your interest in - and their approval of - spending a full year off campus. If you intend to declare an independent major, both advisers must submit a letter or email of support;
  • 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 a full year 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, and your intended term 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 during a full year off campus, 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 a full year 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. Optional: Include special circumstances, either academic or personal, that you would like the Off-Campus Study Subcommittee to take into account when considering your petition.