- Class: Alum
- Major: English
- Gender: F
- High School: Sycamore High School, Cincinnati, OH
- Transfer Student: N
Most of the time when I tell people I went to Kenyon, their response is "Where?" You most likely won't score any impressive looks from people who ask where you go to college as most people have never heard of it. But if you're among the more literature-versed of crowds, chances are they know about Kenyon and their reaction will be "Wow. That's a really good school." Don't go to Kenyon because you want to impress everyday people on the street with your undergrad credentials: go because you want to be there. If you do, you will have the best four years of your life. I guarantee it. In response to the large boost in applications received every year, the administration has slowly been taking steps to bring Kenyon "up to date" with other colleges in the country. Most of these changes have been met with large volumes of student protest--students want to keep Kenyon feeling like Kenyon. People don't lock their doors, all dorms are open at all hours of the day and night, and a sense of trust exists among the community in Gambier. Some of the biggest controversies in recent memory include the Master Plan to completely overhaul the layout of Kenyon's campus, the proposal to sell the bookstore to Barnes & Noble (which didn't happen thanks to student protests), and the forthcoming installation of ID card readers on all academic buildings and dorms. The students take a lot of pride in Kenyon and its atmosphere and any proposals to "update" the school to be more like bigger state schools have been met with immense opposition from a very vocal student body. At Kenyon, your passions in life probably already have their own club--and if not, start one! There are more traditions--both school-approved and not--than I can recount in one little article, but suffice to say you'll learn them all by the end of your freshman year. The dining hall food isn't the best, but it's available all day and the school recently created a partnership with local farmers to help promote the local agricultural economy. As for what I miss the most, I will never again see an autumn as beautiful as one at Kenyon.
Kenyon is small by national standards--about 1,600 students when I attended--but it's just the right size for its students. Classes are usually no larger than 20 students, which allows the professors to develop personal relationships with each of their students. You'll get invited over to your professor's house for dinner at least once during your college career, and most likely get invited even more often than that. Students babysit their professors' children and are often on a first name basis with everyone from the maintenance staff to the bookstore employees. You are an individual at Kenyon, not a number, and most faculty find a way to respect every student's individual strengths and help them with their weaknesses. Students aren't competitive with each other, instead pushing one another to learn more and helping when some fall behind. Class discussions are entirely what the students make them--the professors won't guide you or give you the answer straight out to make things easier. The classes are challenging and sometimes feel like more than you can handle, but the professors are always there to help. The English department is far and away the biggest and most well-known of Kenyon's departments. Some of the department's most famous alumni include John Crowe Ransom, Laura Hillenbrand, Robert Lowell, James Wright, and E. L. Doctorow. It's also home to The Kenyon Review, one of the America's foremost literary magazines. Since it has such a stellar reputation as a writing school, all the professors are very accomplished and articulate and expect you to be the same. My professor for a genetics lab regularly commented on the grammar, organization, and literary style of our lab reports in addition to the science. You won't leave Kenyon without learning how to write, that's for sure! The Drama department, where I spent most of my "free" time, is also nationally renowned--listed as one of The Fifteen Best Colleges for the Aspiring Actor by The College Finder. The Playwright in Residence is Wendy MacLeod, one of the foremost American woman playwrights living today. Paul Newman and Alison Janney both graduated from Kenyon's Drama program as well. As for the academic requirements, Kenyon is not a college for lazy students. In order to graduate with your intended major(s), every student is required to pass the Senior Exercise, which differs by department. In most cases, the student is required both to present a project (often to outside examiners) that serves as the capstone to their undergraduate career and pass a written exam encompassing the entire body of knowledge he/she has learned while studying for their major. Very few colleges do this in America as it's a more European tradition, but such a rigorous requirement for graduation ensures that each Kenyon student leaves with a comprehensive understanding of their subject(s).
In general, Kenyon students are predominantly white, left-leaning, open to new experiences, and in the top 20% of their graduating high school class. Beneath that, though, you'll find an astonishingly diverse population. Kenyon is not the place for those looking to party hard and study later, nor is it the place for those who really want to feel like they're out there "in the real world." Kenyon students are looking for a haven from the outside world where they can focus on bettering themselves and their community without the detractions presented by a big city or a state school. The students come from all over the country and the world, and all of them are eager to learn about what the world has to offer. Students come from all financial and social backgrounds, and the dining tables are more likely to broken down by interests rather than stereotype. Most everyone at Kenyon is politically active and very opinionated, so those who love having intelligent debate fit right in. The majority of the campus is very liberal, and intolerance of any kind is severely frowned upon. Students are Kenyon to learn for the sake of learning, not to put another notch on their path to a six-figure CEO position. Although Kenyon students often end up with such jobs, that is never the main reason why they attend the school.
The Best Things
The Worst Things
The freezing winters