Middlebury vs. Grinnell

I’ve narrowed down my college list to Middlebury and Grinnell. I’m trying to figure out which one is my #1 (so that I can ED and hopefully just be done w/ the admissions process). Any help?

For context, I want to study Chinese Language and Poli Sci. I’m decidedly un-preppy and I love the outdoors. I realize that Middlebury has outstanding language programs, but I also know that Midd has a stereotypically white, preppy, and binge-drinking culture which really turns me off. How true is that? Do people who don’t fit into that culture have a hard time fitting in at Midd?

I’ve visited Grinnell twice and really loved the feel of the culture, however I do realize that it isn’t as reputable in the areas I want to study as Midd is. Also, the location in Iowa suckssss. But, if I ED to Grinnell and get in I would get an auto $10k/year scholarship on top of their generous fin. aid which would make my undergrad very affordable.

This is definitely not as important as the other notes lol, but I do intend to smoke weed on campus. I know weed is legal (of age, of course) in VT and I’m guessing students at Midd smoke, but I don’t know about Grinnell.


Does not sound like you are ready to ED to either… how about Wesleyan?

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Nothing about Wesleyan really excites me… I may have made it sound like I have overwhelming reservations with both Grinnell and Middlebury, but I would really be happy (I think) at either one. Also, I’m from Wisconsin and I haven’t really had the opportunity to visit a large number of schools in the northeast (I have visited Middlebury), but I don’t know if I would ever be prepared to commit to a school that I haven’t visited.

I’m also nervous that if I don’t ED, I won’t necessarily get in or get as much in scholarships…

Regarding the expected 10K merit at Grinnell - it sounds as if you qualify for need-based aid, and are assuming that your need-based grant and your merit grant will “stack” (“on top of their generous financial aid”) to leave you paying 10K less than if you got need-based aid alone. This is usually not the case; at most schools and in most circumstances, your merit grant would get absorbed into your overall aid package and your need-based grant reduced accordingly. (Which is to say that the 10K in merit money would be advantageous only if you were receiving less than 10K in need-based aid; otherwise it would be a wash.) Make sure to doublecheck how this merit award will interact with your other aid.

How do your Net Price Calculator results compare for Grinnell vs. Middlebury?

In terms of student population, it is notable that the median family income of Middlebury students is more than double the median family income of Grinnell students. This and other metrics in the profiles below may point to your having a greater comfort level with one cohort than the other.

It’s also true that Grinnell is more racially diverse and has more international students; but Middlebury is still more diverse than most LAC’s.

In terms of study abroad, two out of Grinnell’s five approved programs in China are Middlebury programs. (One is a Hamilton program and the last two are through IFSA.) So you could very well end up in the same study abroad program either way. (Have you considered Hamilton, btw? That seems like a potential best-of-both-worlds choice for you.)


You’re over thinking this. Go with the place you’ve visited.

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Yes, you don’t want to ED a place you haven’t experienced yourself.

I believe the OP has visited both Middlebury and Grinnell.

Regarding the study of Chinese, note that Middlebury recently graduated eight Chinese “first majors” in comparison to one at Grinnell:



With respect to recreation, I looked for your choices in the article below without success. Note that three Vermont colleges appeared, however.

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Based on your preferences, Grinnell College appears to be the better fit for you.

Consider a year abroad in China in a Middlebury College study abroad program so that you experience both schools.

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Grinnell has a self-gov policy… it should be outlined on their website. You won’t have any issues partaking in recreational substances if you do so safely. I agree that it sounds like Grinnell is a better cultural fit for you.

Funny, cause based on OP’s preferences and intended area of study, Middlebury seems like the better fit. @bronxbomber2: Check out the demographic data instead of relying on stereotypes and outdated info. What percentage of Middlebury students are people of color compared to Grinnell? Also, Middlebury has 1,000 more students than Grinnell, which makes being in rural Vermont a bit less isolating than being in rural Iowa.

Is everyone sure the OP has visited Middlebury?

I trust OP’s statement that he has visited Middlebury. Why do you doubt him ?

I dunno. Why is he still relying on stereotypes about a school he’s seen first hand?

Middlebury is extremely outdoorsy, with some of the most beautiful hiking trails that reach right into the campus. About half the students walk around in flannel and hiking boots. So while there is a decidedly preppy element, there is also a crunchy element which is at least as large. Grinnell, unfortunately, is in the middle of Iowa farmlands. It’s an excellent LAC, but it’s not really outdoorsy.

As for drinking - that is the case for every rural LAC, which includes Grinnell.


There is little else to do on weekends and evenings.

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Why is he asking us, if he was just there?

Maybe the poster values the experiences & opinions of others.

Maybe the OP visited when few students were visible on campus.

Maybe OP wants to know whether or not his impression is accurate.



I’m asking about the culture because I visited Middlebury in summer when no students were on campus and it’s hard to get a feel for the culture w/o students


Well… it’s not always possible to assess what happens night and weekends when you go to tour. Nor do you see all the students.

I recall posters here telling us that we totally misjudged a school based on who we saw on our tour. But it was enough to take it off the list altogether!

It sounds like the OP felt that Grinnell was a great fit socially but that Midd has a stronger program in their area of academic interest. My advice is to map out the 4 years on paper, assuming a full year abroad, at Grinnell. Make sure it works for you. If it does, go for it. In a smaller program, it can be a nice break to do your time abroad with a different cohort. That would be the case at Grinnell. At Midd, it might be the same group for 4 years. BUT if the Grinnell 4 year plan doesn’t please you, Midd will be your answer!

Last thing for OP - you should look at what you want to do around your Chinese and consider the strength of those programs as well. Are you interested in poli science, history, art, etc. Some schools have programs that complement language studies better than others…