The college admissions process has become increasingly competitive, creating pressure for applicants to present a highly specialized and marketable version of themselves that may not accurately reflect who we are or who we will become. In this process, we are encouraged to sell ourselves based on our strongest and most admirable skills or attributes. This emphasis on specialization not only limits students’ capacity for interdisciplinary ways of thinking about the world, but also stifles intellectual curiosity and potential.
Overly competitive admissions push students away from interdisciplinarity by encouraging them to box themselves into a certain archetype. Prestigious colleges demand excellence. Many students in both high school and college find that they devote themselves entirely to one subject matter in order to maximize their capability or expertise in a subject — thus achieving excellence. While this subject matter often stems from genuine passion, it naturally becomes part of a student’s identity as well. This makes it difficult to comprehend the idea that switching passions is acceptable, leading to students feeling pressured to continuously demonstrate their devotion to a single path. Remaining stagnant within one field of interest or identity might be tempting, but ultimately it limits the potential for growth that college can offer.
It is perfectly acceptable to shift from the version of yourself you were when you applied to college. If you’re a current first year like me, you’ve likely also come to a similar revelation. I’ve encountered numerous peers who’ve completely switched their declared passions, such as swapping economics for biology or art for political science. During high school, I was sure that I’d be an English major, but the interdisciplinary nature of my time at Kenyon has broadened my academic interests to include philosophy and modern languages. I have yet to take a single English course.
Kenyon’s diversification requirements and first-year seminars strongly encourage students to explore a vast array of disciplines early on. When I arrived at Kenyon, I was surprised by the ample time and opportunity to discover new interests and ways to engage with the world around me. The pursuit of interdisciplinary subjects is especially appealing and normalized at Kenyon. Thus, I hope you’ll allow yourself the grace to hold onto some of the passions you brought while letting go of others. Although majors and interests change, how you plan to grow as a human during your tenure here and beyond does not. We’re constantly discovering and rediscovering parts of our identity. It’s okay to leave behind your application self.
The college admissions process can be competitive and demanding, but it should not limit us to a narrow identity or set of skills. Instead, it should encourage us to explore our passions and interests and demonstrate our potential for interdisciplinary thinking and problem solving. At Kenyon we must all work to avoid becoming stagnant in our growth and interests; college is a time for learning well beyond the scope of a major or minor.
Dylan Sibbitt ’26 is a columnist for the Collegian. He is a political science major from San Francisco. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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