The Office of Admissions has eliminated its supplemental application essays for the 2013-2014 academic year.
“The goal was to remove a barrier for students who found the writing component a barrier to applying,” said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jennifer Delahunty. She added that recent changes to the Common Application, including the expansion of its essay word limit from 500 to 650 and the introduction of new essay prompts, also contributed to Admissions’ decision to cut its supplement.
Previously, Admissions posed three supplemental questions for applicants to answer. One of them was Kenyon-specific and asked what students thought made them a good match for the College. “That was such a vanity question, you know. Tell us about ourselves,” Delahunty said. “They had to go do some false researchand then they had to sort of spit back to us what we put on our website, which we saw a lot of,” she added.
Associate Professor of English Ivonne Garc?a wrote in an email that “writing is essential to the Kenyon curriculum and to the lives of students beyond Kenyon.” She added, though, that she favored the change because she felt the supplement “may be a barrier to students who had to attend schools that did not provide them with strong writing instruction.”
Avery Tishue ’17, on the other hand, is wary of the move. “Change is not a bad thing, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily a positive thing to remove the individuality involved in the process.” The supplement, he said, “allows students to express themselves in an interesting and creative way that isn’t possible through SAT and ACT scores and one Common App essay.”
Kenyon is following the lead of Middlebury, Colby and Trinity Colleges, among others, who have dropped their supplemental admissions essays in recent years.
Trinity was among the other schools to which Will Goodwin ’17 applied last year. “They had zero supplemental anything,” he said. “They didn’t even ask what are you interested in subject-wise. Legitimately my impression of that school was, okay, it’s a small liberal arts place. They really didn’t care. Am I really going to matter here, you know?”
Delahunty, however, said she’s unconcerned that removing the supplement will depersonalize Kenyon’s admissions process. “There are other ways you can express your love for Kenyon,” she said, before adding, “You learn a lot about a student who writes you an email. You know, that’s a little bit less formal. You see a lot about their personality and also their facility with language.”
As with Goodwin, the news elicited a strong negative response from Daniel Cebul ’17. “I feel like I’d be really sad and really disappointed if I went to a school that didn’t require supplemental essays,” he said. “I’d feel like they didn’t care about who I was.”
Wesleyan University, one of Kenyon’s top overlap schools, provides an optional supplement on its application. Delahunty opted against doing the same, saying, “We decided just to make it the same level playing field for everyone.”
She also denied that Admissions’ main aim was to increase application numbers. “Of course we want to have a strong market position and applications are an indication of market position in some way. ﾅ But I have to say, none of the Trustees say, go get more applications,” she said, adding that the move was meant primarily to make the application process easier and simpler for students.
The fact that Kenyon had supplemental essays did not affect Aaron Katzeman ’17’s and Haley Eligio ’17’s decisions to apply to the College. They also both said they could not think of an advantage to eliminating the supplement.
An interaction with another student, however, solidified Delahunty’s desire to lose the supplement. “I was talking to a young man who was applying to Kenyon who was a really top student,” Delahunty said. “[The student said,] ﾑToward the end of my application process, I was just looking for any school that didn’t have a supplement,’ And I thought, oh man, we almost didn’t get you. We almost didn’t enroll you because we had a supplement; there’s something wrong with that.”
“We are a school that is intensive in the writing arena, but not everybody loves it, and I think we, in some ways, we’re over-branded as a writing place, especially with our supplement.
“This is a challenge to us to be more incisive with less information,” Delahunty said. “And you might ask, why would you want less information rather than more information? We’ll find out. This is an experimental year.”