On a new student’s first day at Kenyon, there will be a lot of things they don’t know. They probably won’t know the names of any of the buildings or their locations.
One thing they will know? John Green ’00 graduated from Kenyon.
It seems Kenyon’s young adult novelist extraordinaire is in every informative pamphlet that prospective students receive when they visit.
“When we travel, we travel with John Green books,” Jennifer Delahunty, associate dean of admissions for the West Coast, said. “It draws a ton of attention when we put them on our tables at college fairs.”
Green has also been extensively featured on the school’s website. Students may remember “Pensive Moments with John Green,” a series of 18 short videos produced for the Office of Admissions in 2013 in which Green discussed a wide array of Kenyon-related topics — from campus beauty, to sustainability to the origin of the name of the song “Anna Sun,” titled for Kenyon’s own Associate Professor of Sociology and Asian Studies Anna Sun, by Walk the Moon. This band’s original lineup attended Kenyon and still features Nick Petricca ’09 as lead singer.
It’s not just Green or Petricca. Josh Radnor ’96, Ransom Riggs ’01, Allison Janney ’82, Laura Hillenbrand ’89 — all seem to be recurring themes in the greater “come to Kenyon” ad blitz aimed at prospective students.
“When John Green became directly involved in admissions, we saw a huge jump in applications,” Delahunty said of the 2013-14 admissions season. She also stressed that was the same year the admissions department decided to remove the supplemental essay, simplifying the application process.
According to Delahunty, the main purpose of getting notable alumni involved in the admissions process is to boost application rates, rather than lower acceptance rates.
Associate Dean of Admissions Darryl Uy agreed.
“There are some kids who might come to Kenyon because of John Green, but we’re hoping that that’s not the only reason they come to Kenyon,” Uy said. “We hope that it’s what sparks their interest — that it’s the impetus of their interest in Kenyon.”
However, Delahunty gives evidence that discounts the theory that the effects of alumni involvement can be seen only in the number of applications.
“This past spring we had Josh Radnor do a video for our accepted students,” Delahunty said, referring to a two-minute-long video released in March, in which Radnor discusses Kenyon and its virtues. “I think that may have contributed to our high yield. [This year’s] class is quite large.”
But why the large spike in alumni-centered recruitment now, rather than in the days of Bill Watterson ’80 and Paul Newman ’49? Uy attributes it to the ease with which the school can promote its connections.
“With Twitter, Facebook and social media in general, it’s easier for colleges to reach out to prospective students,” Uy said. “All we need to do is retweet or forward something that a famous alum mentions us in. It’s quick, easy marketing.”