Nothing causes you to reflect on your own college choices in quite the same way that seeing prospective students on campus does. Even if you manage not to trip over them as they wander down Middle Path, it is hard not to feel responsible for guiding these wide-eyed high schoolers away from hills that go nowhere and gates that promise hell. Although I give each student a wide smile, I can’t help but feel guilty for not telling them what the brochures don’t — that the Wi-Fi never gets better, the tour guides are underpaid and days off are a myth. While I know in theory it should be possible to smile at prospective students and also critique the College’s flaws, I often struggle to practice what I preach.
I was able to avoid the moral dilemma of smiling or warning for much of last week. That is, until one of the prospective students sat down in front of me and asked me her question point blank: “Are you glad that you chose Kenyon?” The question took me aback, not because of its abrupt nature, but instead because of its simplicity.
Am I glad I chose Kenyon? I write articles criticizing administrative decisions, I don’t eat much at Peirce, I type my Wi-Fi password in six times a day, I groan at the registration process and I still don’t know if my room has mold or water damage (or both). Kenyon is not perfect; it’s certainly not the rose-colored picture I signed up for. Nonetheless, my answer was confident and true: “Yes, I am unbelievably happy to be a Kenyon student.”
I talked with the prospective student for the next 40 minutes. I was honest. I told her that the first semester of freshman year is hard no matter where you are. I told her that I didn’t have many friends at first, and that the hills could feel like obstacles. I even told her about the Wi-Fi.
But I also told her about the parts of Kenyon we are all too eager to leave out. I told her about the teachers with whom I have had hour-long conversations only tangentially related to class. I talked about how exciting it was to have a class with someone I had run into for a semester but had never officially met. I joked about my friends, who each feel like talented superheroes, and I described our student shows, which are clever and beautiful. I even explained that the same hill that was brutal to walk up was perfect to sled down or to hammock on.
Even after leaving my conversation with the student, I found myself appreciating the wonders of Kenyon I had forgotten or never known, like the way that you can see every constellation at night and the fog on the hills in the morning. Kenyon students are smart, critical thinkers, trained to question the world around them for themselves. As students, it is not only our right to criticize Kenyon’s missteps, it is our responsibility. However, as I demand change in certain aspects of Kenyon, I hope to also remember the parts of the school I am willing to fight so hard for.
Hannah Sussman ’25 is a columnist at the Collegian. She is a sociology major from Glencoe, Ill. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.