New Admission and Student Financial Services Center making favorable first impressions

Jan. 02, 2019 — Grinnell’s story is now being told to prospective students and their families in a warm and welcoming setting, much like the College itself.

The Admission and Student Financial Services Center has been open for two months at the southwest corner of Park and Eighth streets. It is the new home for the College’s Admission and Financial Aid office.

The new space is designed to leave a memorable image that excites and compels students to want to be Grinnellians. It also is the starting point for campus tours, which will quickly take visitors to heartbeat of campus, including the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center and the newly constructed North and South Pavilions of the Humanities and Social Studies Center, which open this month.

“This new building will go a long way in getting prospective students to understand what Grinnell is and who Grinnellians are,” says Bryce Lew ’19, a senior interviewer for the Office of Admission. “The building is truly inviting. It is a really nice introduction to the College.”

The new Admissions and Student Financial Service Center.
The new Admissions and Student Financial Service Center is located at the southwest corner of Park and Eighth.

Grinnell’s Admission and Financial Aid offices previously occupied the John Chrystal Center at 1103 Park St. That space now houses the Center for Careers, Life and Service. The Registrar’s Office also remains in the Chrystal Center.

While the John Crystal Center (JCC) is a visually appealing building, it didn’t function well as an admission center. For instance, prospective students have to go upstairs only to be directed down two floors to a windowless, garden-level information session space that wasn’t designed for that purpose.

“The bottom line is we weren’t taking full advantage of the opportunities to tell the Grinnell story,” says Joe Bagnoli, Jr., vice president for enrollment and dean of admission and financial aid. “Prospective student visitors’ early impressions of Grinnell should be the most authentic, relevant, and compelling version of the College that we can possibly provide.”

The 18,249 square foot, two-story facility provides a technology-rich presentation room where visitors are invited to learn more about Grinnell. Besides being comfortable, the presentation room promotes conversation, inquiry, and engagement. On the wall behind the presenter is raised wood in the shape of a world map that states “The world needs Grinnellians.”

The ASFS also includes private spaces for conversations about admission and financial aid, as well as a welcoming waiting room with a large stone fireplace and wood-paneled cathedral ceiling.

Other ASFS interior areas will include group and individual interview spaces, a Skype area, a conference room, offices, and student workstations. Displays about the College’s history and special achievements of alumni will be added to various places in the building.

Reception area for potential and current students in the new Admissions and Student Financial Service Center.
The reception area is designed to give visitors a welcoming first impression of the College.

As a senior interviewer, Lew interviews prospective students applying to Grinnell and helps with information sessions about the College. Previously, senior interviewers had to borrow an Admission officers’ office to conduct interviews. There are dedicated spaces for that purpose in the new building.

“It’s helping with efficiency but also provides a space where prospective students can be comfortable as they are interviewed,” Lew says. “There is an electronic panel outside the rooms. We put the student’s name on the panel as another way to welcome them.”

All of these elements were designed to improve application rates. Fewer students are visiting and applying to Grinnell than the national average.

To understand why, the College partnered with a group called Render Experiences, a national firm that specializes in campus visits. Among their findings were a general absence of effective storytelling and a building that felt cold, wasn’t designed for group presentations to visitors and didn’t accurately convey the character of the student body.

“It’s now much easier to interact well with visitors,” Bagnoli says.

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Naming opportunities for several spaces inside the ASFS center as well as the area in front of the center are available at various gift levels. For more information, contact the Grinnell College Office of Development and Alumni Relations at 866-850-1846 or

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