The high school seniors who will flock to the Hill for the Oct. 6 visit day will play a new sort of admissions game.
The Kenyon Admissions Office recently revealed this year’s application will not include its traditional supplemental essays. In the wake of this change, students, professors and alumni have expressed a range of opinions about the change.
Some worry Kenyon will lose its personal touch. “I found that colleges with a supplemental essay were definitely amongst my top choices because I felt these colleges really wanted to know about me,” Chris Kwan ’16 said.
Sam Whipple ’16 shares this sentiment. “When I was applying, the Kenyon supplement was very clearly different; it very obviously set the school apart in a way that I noticed,” he said.
Unlike students, many professors do not seem to have concrete opinions on the matter. Many professors declined to comment entirely.
Professor of Biology Chris Gillen supports the removal of the supplemental essay as long as it does not affect the type of student admitted to Kenyon.
“One thing that’s clear is that somehow we have a campus culture that’s permeated by writing, and I’m not sure exactly what the causes of that culture are. I sort of feel like it’s unlikely that the supplementary essays on the application are a major contributor [to] that, and I hope they’re not, because I think that culture of writing is what makes us really distinctive.”
Eugene Dwyer, professor of art history, concurs. “As an art historian, I can say with conviction that we want our students to write with competence and fluency,” he said.
Professor of English Ted Mason refuted the idea that a lack of supplemental essays will deter students from applying. “I don’t think there’s any correlation at all between the supplement to the application and the idea that, ﾑoh my gosh, I have to write more, therefore it must be a place that’s interested in writing, therefore I’m interested in going there,'” he said. “All that stuff is really antecedent to those sorts of things. Students become interested in writing or become interested in whatever we’ve got; the application doesn’t encourage them, I don’t think, in any significant way.”
The supplement, in the eyes of alumna Emily Grenen ’13, is not merely unnecessary, but actively unfair. “I think it’s too easy to get outside help on those essays for those who have the resources and want to cheat the system,” she said. “I think it just perpetuates the inequality that is applying to college.”
Grenen would support a system in which an applicant submits his or her SAT essay as part of the application, rather than any personal statement or supplemental piece. “My belief is that the most equitable way to judge writing is looking at the SAT essays, which are proctored and therefore definitely the applicant’s own work,” she said.
Prospective student Alice Douglas recently visited Kenyon and called it her first-choice college. Douglas feels ambivalent toward the supplement’s elimination. “Most of the schools I’m applying to are selective and most selective schools have supplements. ﾅ I was surprised [by the lack of a supplement] but not necessarily in a bad way,” she said. “I think it probably has pros and cons, because it obviously makes it easier to apply, but admissions officers won’t know as much about you.”
Only time will tell how the lack of a supplement will affect the caliber of the class of 2018. Kenyon will just have to wait, like those applicants who wait anxiously for their purple thumbs up.