Application numbers reflect uncertainty in economy
The nation's economic problems have affected Kenyon's recruiting efforts in contradictory ways, with applications this year going down overall, but Early Decision applications rising. The College admitted a record number of Early Decision applicants, filling about 45 percent of the first-year class, said Jennifer Delahunty, dean of admissions and financial aid.
The applicants' test scores and grade point averages are slightly stronger than last year, Delahunty said. Moreover, she expects the incoming class to be diverse: while applications fell among students of color and first-generation college students—a discouraging turn after years of progress—Kenyon admitted twenty-eight students of color via Early Decision, the largest group ever.
Early Decision applicants make a commitment to attend Kenyon if admitted, although they can back out if the College's financial aid offer does not meet their needs.
Economic turmoil made the 2008-09 recruiting season "the most confounding in my six years here," said Delahunty. Soaring gas prices and airfares last summer translated into fewer campus visits and less travel by admissions officers, resulting in fewer applications. On the other hand, even as families worried about their ability to afford a private college, economic anxiety may have produced "anxiety about opportunity, so more students applied early, wanting to lock Kenyon in, so to speak," Delahunty said.
Regular Decision acceptances will be mailed by April 1. Delahunty anticipates that the College will enroll 450 students in the Class of 2013, and that the admission rate will be in the 30 to 33 percent range, comparable to last year's rate of 31.3.
The College received a total of 3,967 applications this year, about the same number as in 2005 but a drop of 12 percent from last year's 4,509. "Diversity" applications (those from students of color and first-generation college students) declined by 22 percent.
"Every year, the story changes," says Delahunty, "and this year is all about financial uncertainty for students and families." But, she said, that's a short-term reality. "For the long term, Kenyon remains a highly desirable choice among students from across the country."
Kenyon's uncertainty about application numbers and enrollments, given the economy, influenced the decision to admit more Early Decision applicants, Delahunty said. But the Early Decision pool had solid academic qualifications—"we had more strong students apply early than in recent years," she said.
Among Kenyon's peer colleges, recruiting results "are all over the map," said Delahunty. "Some of our overlap schools are down anywhere from 11 to 20 percent in overall applications, others are up as high as 20 percent. Everyone is expecting a tough 'yield season,'" the period during which admitted students decide which school they will actually attend.