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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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College #1 for international visitors

As at many other U.S. colleges, Grinnell saw a jump in application rates in the current admissions cycle. Photo by Ariel Richards.

By Katherine St. Martin

This year Grinnell College had the highest number of international student applications in admissions history. Forbes also ranked the College as one of the top 50 colleges for international students for 2019. This month, VisitorGuide, a visitor insurance company, ranked the College the #1 institution for international students to visit.

How does a small, rural college attract students from across the world? The recent rankings draw renewed attention to the College’s strong history of international student outreach, dating back to 1974.

“Back when schools got letters from random international students asking to come, there was a woman from the College of Wooster and one from here who began to travel outside of the country to recruit. Those two were sort of pioneers from Grinnell,” Jon Edwards, senior associate director and coordinator of international admissions, said of international recruitment.

Since 2007, the international student population grew from being 12 percent of the student body to being 20 percent of it today. Grinnell admissions counselors typically travel around the world to different countries, doing the same things that they do at domestic high schools, but the stakes are much higher since distance restricts how often they can visit.

“A lot of the work we do is high school visits, college fairs, offering interviews,” said Grace Lloyd, assistant director of admissions. Not only is it harder to recruit internationally due to the physical distance, but the competition makes it harder to distinguish the College from other U.S. schools, especially due to its midwestern location.

Edwards noted that he often educates prospective international students about what a liberal arts college is and why they should consider coming to Iowa, a place not often represented in global media.

“When you’re in these other countries, you’re not just at a fair with a bunch of other American schools, there’s British schools, there’s Australian schools, European schools, so the competition is truly global,” Edwards said.

Despite outreach efforts by the office of admissions, some students discover Grinnell all on their own. Saule Keliauskaite ’23 is from Lithuania and was looking for American schools that offer generous financial aid to international students. She discovered Grinnell after extensive online research.

“Back home we don’t have a lot of counseling, so it’s basically you and a computer and doing research yourself,” Keliauskaite said.

Fellow first-year Derin Sivrioglu ’23 from Turkey also found Grinnell using her own means. “I had one friend who was studying here from my high school. He was very happy here and said it’s great and to come,” Sivrioglu said. Both Keliauskaite and Sivrioglu did not visit the College before deciding to attend. Lloyd noted that international students rarely visit Grinnell due to travel distance.

“I did a lot of research, I went everywhere to get a feel for the school online, I even found a virtual tour of campus to get a sense of was searching for videos and going through blogs to get the vibe of the campus before I got here,” Keliauskaite said.

Sivrioglu was a little surprised when she arrived because the downtown of Grinnell was much different than she expected. “It was very shocking because I didn’t know how small the town was, and all the pictures of Grinnell are just showing the JRC, so I imagined all the buildings to look like that,” Sivrioglu said.

In the future, Edwards wants to make sure that the rising number of international students is met with adequate resources once they get to Grinnell. Edwards added that as the College continues to be ranked highly and attract more international students, finding the balance between outreach, acceptance and support for them will be key. “The Office of International Student Affairs does a lot of work, because we want to bring students in that will be supported,” he said.

While Keliauskaite may have had to do her own research to end up as a student at Grinnell, she thinks that the College’s outreach may result in more students from Lithuanian high schools in the future. “This year, actually, Jon Edwards went to Lithuania and met with my dad and visited schools in Lithuania,” she said.

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