College costs may look daunting, but the facts here at Kenyon tell a story that should reassure you. We meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students, and we meet that need for all four years. And 60 percent of our students receive some sort of financial aid, including need-based, merit and talent scholarships.
Kenyon offers 15 different types of merit and talent scholarships, worth up to $25,000 a year. Students also may apply for KEEP and STEM Scholarships, which include a six-week summer program, eliminate the need for work-study and eliminate the loan portion of your financial aid package.
The college essay on the Common Application is your moment to distinguish yourself from everyone else in the applicant pool. This doesn't mean that you have to write about a bizarre topic or superhuman feat. Many superb essays are about simple moments or ordinary events. Think of the essay as an opportunity for you to show us how you think and how you write in 650 words or less. We want to understand how you look at the world. We're also looking for indications of self-awareness, self-reflection, maturity, inquisitiveness, insight and creative thought.
We advise against reporting on your extracurricular activities or awards in the essay — application forms always include separate sections for this information. Instead, use the essay as a chance to share a story about yourself that we won't be able to read about anywhere else in your application. Feel free to be as personal as you want to be, but remember that you have no idea who will be at the other end reading your application. Don't feel obligated to tell us your entire life story. Find a focus.
Finally, you don't have to be funny, fill your essay with arcane words or use gimmicks. If you're normally not a comic writer, now isn't the time to experiment with humor. If you find yourself continually turning to the thesaurus, you might be trying too hard to impress us. As for gimmicks (like talking about yourself in the third person or presenting the essay backwards), they can backfire by making you stand out for the wrong reasons.
Ask someone who knows you, but does not know you too well (e.g., a counselor, teacher or classmate), to read your essay. Are the tone, voice and personality that you want to convey coming through? Don't try to be someone else in your application. Just be yourself.
First, of course, we look to see if the student can be successful at Kenyon; have you had the preparation in high school to do Kenyon work? We look at your transcript and at your curricular rigor. How many top-level courses have you successfully completed in each of the key academic areas? We look at your grades and course selection within the context of your high school. We look at your test scores, of course, but they are a secondary element, because they tell us only what you did on a particular Saturday morning, not how you performed across the course of four years.
That being said, most applicants who apply to Kenyon are very capable of doing the academic work. So, what do we look for next? We look for all the ways in which you will contribute to our community, as student energy is the fuel that makes this place run. We look for academic engagement (often called “passion”), artistic talent (in music, writing, drama, dance, the visual arts) and athletic ability (including varsity sports). We also look for much more subjective qualities, like civic engagement and compassion (as expressed through your work in your community and your contributions to your family).
Your teacher recommendations tell us quite a bit about your character, and so does your essay. Your essay tells us how you see the world and your place in it. And essays that are authentic, regardless of topic, will always speak to application readers.
Before you map out your list of must-see campuses, read these tips from our admissions staff.
1. Don’t overschedule: When planning your college tour, allot ample time in between colleges and visit no more than two per day, allowing time to reflect on each visit and explore your surroundings.
2. Go beyond the tour: Don’t spend all of your time at the admissions office or on a tour. Explore the library, athletic center, dining hall and coffee shop to get a sense of what life is like there. Talk to students and ask them why they chose the college.
3. Sit in on a class: Attending a class is not only a way to preview a major or program you’re interested in; it’s a way of getting a feel for the learning environment at the college. Pay particular attention to the interaction between professors and students.
4. Read all about it: Pick up a copy of the college newspaper and discover what issues are on students’ minds. What are the students engaged in, and what do they care about?
5. Take time to reflect: Immediately after a visit, write down how you felt when you were on campus. Make notes about your impressions, both good and bad. After seeing several campuses, these details may begin to blur, so it is helpful to pen your reactions while they are fresh in your mind (or gut).
Before the college brochures make their way into your house, I recommend asking yourself a series of questions to help you define the type of environment in which you will be most happy and do your best work.
Do you like the idea of being the smartest student in your class or being surrounded by really smart kids? Is it important to find a specific course of study or to have a wide range of options? Do you like the idea of meeting five new people a day or finding five people who will be your friends for life? Are you drawn to familiar people and places or are you excited by a new region, meeting students from across the nation and around the world? Do you prefer to work in a highly collaborative environment or are you energized by competition?
Knowing who you are provides a protective armor in a process that can be overwhelming. Not only are you inundated with communications from colleges, everyone you know has an opinion of what is a good college and what is not, and they feel very free to express it. And being able to say, “I’m the kind of person who…” is very empowering.
Time to take an old adage to heart: Know thyself. It's a good one to remember as you embark on the process of thinking about colleges. Don't begin your college search with rankings and reputations. Start with yourself: your priorities, preferences, and personal style. Take some time to do some informal assessing. Here's what we suggest:
Personal assessment. What aspects of high school have you enjoyed the most? How do you learn best? What are your passions, academic interests, favorite activities, career goals? What kinds of teachers inspire you? What kinds of people do you associate with and admire? How do you respond to people who think and act differently from you? How important are approval, rewards, and recognition to you? How do you respond to pressure, competition, or challenge? How much do you rely on direction, guidance, or advice from others? How much structure do you need?
Environmental assessment. Would you be happiest in a big or small college — and how do you define big and small? Are you more comfortable with lecture classes or discussion-based seminars? Would you prefer an urban, suburban, or rural area? Someplace close to home or far away? An array of core requirements or an open curriculum? Public, private, or religiously affiliated? Research oriented or teaching oriented? Exclusively undergraduate or multi-purposed? Coeducational or single sex? Liberal or conservative? Do you want to be surrounded by students who are academically curious, career driven, or socially-oriented?
Institutional assessment. Assess each institution in light of your priorities. Does the school have the majors and activities you're looking for? Does the student body match what you want in a college environment? Who teaches the classes, professors or teaching assistants? What about other features that may be important to you, like research opportunities or study abroad? What kind of financial aid is offered?
It's called the college search for a reason. It's a chance for you to look into yourself, then look for schools that match your interests and priorities. Embark on your journey of self-assessment now rather than waiting until senior year!