I'm a volunteer for the Grinnell College admissions department -- from time to time I help with follow-up question-answering or interviews of someone who is local to Ann Arbor. Today I just wrote up my answer to this question:
I'm always curious about how people select grinnell. How did you decide on it?
My parents brought Grinnell to my attention by leaving Peterson's Guide to Colleges open on the kitchen table with a post-it marked "This is it!" by the entry. I wasn't convinced right away, but Grinnell accepted the common application and they sounded good, so I applied. Then I went on a tour of some of the colleges I had applied to. Grinnell was the last school I went to. _Every_ other school I visited (Oberlin, Mount Holyoke, Earlham), someone had a positive story about someone who was going to Grinnell who liked it a lot. I got very intrigued. Finally in the summer, already accepted by a number of schools and trying to decide between them, I visited Grinnell with my mom.
Right away, I loved the campus. I felt very comfortable there, enjoying the architecture - the brickwork, the wide wooden-railed staircases, the central grassy spaces, the trees and social areas, the study spaces in the library and dorms and other buildings. The student who gave us a tour had stories (I remember one about people juggling, and one about how people dressed casually and one guy was known to wear a skirt from time to time) that lead me to understand that individuality and self-expression were welcomed there. I met a few outstanding professors of whom I took away a really positive impression. I remember in particular meeting Pip Gordon of the theater department and Dennis Perri of the spanish department.
I studied under both of them later and continued to be impressed by the level of work and accomplishment they inspired in their students. Pip turned out to be just a temporary replacement for a faculty member who was on sabatical; she was so beloved by the students that we petitioned the administration for an additional faculty position in the department -- we got it, held a candidate search, and were pleased and unsurprised to find Pip the most impressive candidate.
I had gone to Community High here in Ann Arbor, and taken a few classes at the University of Michigan, for high school credit. I felt that I wanted a smaller school with a higher concentration of self-motivated, smart, and interesting students. I was pleased by the things Grinnell emphasized in their admissions criteria - public service and leadership, for instance, and the ACT results in addition to the SAT.
People had told me that since I grew up in Ann Arbor, which is a bit of an island unto itself, I needed to get away from here and experience the rest of the world. Now, Grinnell is a bit of an island too, in the middle of Iowa, but from there due to student activies, summer jobs, and a study tour abroad, I traveled to conferences in Minneapolis where I met some of the people who are now my closest friends, I traveled both South and West on different Singers tours, I worked at summerstock theater programs in the midwest, where I learned a lot about working in a technical field that is dominated by men, and I traveled to Russia, which was one of the most eye-opening things I ever did, and helped give me the confidence to travel to Spain a few years later with my sister (go see photos here.
At Grinnell itself I met a good diversity of students and professors and visiting speakers, engaged in interesting debates, and widened my understanding of what people are like, what people think, and what I could do in the world.
I'm very glad I decided to go there.