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Kenyon College

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What should every freshman at your school know before they start?

I would personally advise parents to make sure their children visit the college before making a decision to enroll. This is important because all of my friends chose their school after visiting. Some of them immediately made Kenyon their top choice after visiting. Also, parents should allow their children to make their college choice based on what's right for them because what's right in the eyes of the parent is not always what's right for the kid. The student should be allowed to choose a school without their parents pressuring them to attend schools they want them to attend, and should support their child's decision to attend the school that is right for them. Also, I advise the student to not just choose a school based on its reputation because you may miss out on the best college opportunity by being a status seeker. That means instead of applying to only Ivies, students should look into schools with great academic reputations, but that also have more to offer than just a title. Not to say the Ivies haven't offered some people the best college opportunity, I'm just encouraging the student to expand their options.

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I would say that after completing the maximum amount of research (perhaps with your high school guidance counselor), the most important thing you can do to find the right college is going to visit the campus, meet the students/professors, and eat in the dining hall. By visiting the college campus, you can FEEL the life (or lack thereof) of the environment - the smells, sounds, sights, people - and that special vibe that either tells you, "Nope, this just doesn't fit me" or "YES! I could really feel at home here!" If there's something that just doesn't feel right, even if you can't put your finger on it, don't go to that school. You want to be motivated to make friends, succeed academically, and live there. Once you find that special fit, get involved in everything and anything that interests you! Filling up your time with exciting clubs, organizations, and projects will not only foster lifelong friendships and passions for finding happiness, but may also even help you find a career path that you can make your own. Most importantly, make choices you won't regret. LIfe is too short, enjoy every minute!

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The most important piece of advice that I can give to prospective students is to begin the college search with some soul-searching and reflection. As Socrates said, "Know thyself." When I was in high school, I was an excellent student, and I felt pressure from peers, teachers, and college counselors to aim for a well-known school. However, the more I researched colleges and universities, the more I realized that a small liberal arts college would be a better fit for my personality, interests, and temperament. I wanted a college where I would have the opportunity to explore a wide variety of academic disciplines, be able to explore outside interests such as theater and music, and have a close relationship with professors and fellow students-- all things that might not have been possible at a big-name university. However, for a student with a clear career path, or a student who likes anonymity, a big-name university might be the better choice. Nobody can tell you what is best for you except you. Choose the college that you feel is right for you; you'll be the one living with your choice for the next four years.

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The most important aspect to the college search is visiting the campus and talking to students. It?s easy to tell after an over-night visit if the student will feel comfortable at the school. Also ask current students whatever questions you might have on your mind - you'll get a better, more honest answer from them than you would an admissions brochure! Sitting in on a class is also really important because it shows you what an average class is like: the setting, how students and professors interact, as well as how much work is expected on a daily basis. As for making the most of your college experience, I would urge students to be OPEN TO ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING! Throw all your previous judgments about certain people or ideas or food out the window and engage them! I have befriended students from Nepal and New York and have learned so much from them in the process. Be open to the fact that learning in college doesn?t stop and that life outside the classroom is just as important as the lectures inside the classroom. Embrace and uncover everything your college has to offer and it will embrace you.

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Although people say that college will be the best four years of your life, the first semester will not be easy. Do not assume the ?freshman blues?, loneliness, homesickness, and doubt will just pass you by. At times you will feel helpless, and even if they say everyone is going through the same thing, it will not always seem apparent. You will read more than you ever have, do homework every weekend, discover every school is a party school, meet people from all backgrounds and deal with people who have always lived privileged lives. But eventually you will find people who appreciate you for who you are-who will have hysterically in depth conversations about time travel and philosophy at the lunch table- but it will be a process, a slow one at that. You will have to stand up for yourself, defend your rights in front of ornery professors, some you will hate, some you will love, some will invite you to dinner. Talk to people, find a support network, have hope and faith in yourself. Never give up. And even if the dessert is always guaranteed to be better than the real food, don?t eat it everyday.

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Selecting a college is not about the "name" or recognition it has (you'll probably end up paying more for that anyway)--it's about finding a place that makes you most happy. For me, that was finding a place that would not only be physically beautiful and inspiring, but would also be a good support in helping me make academic decisions. With the right support behind you, you should feel free to experiment in what classes you take. You never know what may surprise you. Selecting a major is really about finding what you are most passionate about--what makes you most happy to learn. When i selected my school, the number of proud (and prominenet) alumni indicated to me that i had found something special. Even now, i have traveled to many countries, and have still been able to find people associated with the college who are always excited to talk about it. As a senior in high school, i panicked about going away from home. But i've come to realize that stepping outside my boundaries and going to the school i chose helped me to become so much more independent.

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Go to a variety of websites that have reviews on the colleges by students who have actually attended the college. Find out what kind of academic reputation the colleges have. Also find out the type of student that goes there so that you can see if you are an appropriate fit. Visit your top three schools, and make sure you interview everywhere you possibly can. Apply for as many scholarships as you can. Make sure to send supplemental information regarding your extracurricular activities, such as a CD recording of you singing if you're a singer or a dance DVD of you dancing if you are an accomplished dancer, etc. Do not hide the flaws in your application. In fact, acknowledge them and admit that they are mistakes and you have learned from them. Then, focus on all your acheivements. Be honest but portray yourself in a likeable, friendly, openminded way. Always discuss things that you are intellectually stimulated by in your interviews. Do not apply for a school just based on privelege -- ultimately, you should go where your heart tells you to go.

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The college experience is in the real world, not on a piece of paper--apply accordingly! Visit, visit, visit--and not just for the tour-and-info-session routine. Stay overnight, visit the classes, talk to the students (not just the tour guide--while they're usually pretty honest, remember that higher education is a business, and it's the guide's job to make sales). Look at the dorm rooms--those aren't just beds; they're your home for four years. Check out the social scene and the dining options. Get in tune with the atmosphere of the school and the personality of the students. College is an academic institution, yes, but one of the most difficult things to understand before going to college is that this isn't just school anymore; it's every aspect of your day-to-day life. And I cannot stress this enough: visit a variety of types of campuses--even if you think you know what you want--and see how you feel. No campus is for everyone, and every campus will not be for you; it's important to go in with an open mind and find a good personal fit.

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No, we didn’t totally mess up college, but I’m sure we could have done it better. Here are a couple of things you should consider this time around: Firstly, there’s no shame in using the Pass/Fail option, especially your first year. A difficult class or professor can influence more than just one semester. Your GPA is important in the long run and it’s better to have a Pass on your record than a C, which will lower you GPA and ultimately keep you from Cum Laude status. Also, don't allow that one bad professor deter you. There are many advantages to studying higher math, even if it isn’t your major. When it comes to campus life, take advantage of every opportunity, volunteer, get to know as many people as you can. Don’t try to find your niche so quickly; most of your classmates are smart and engaging people. Looking back, I wish I had gotten to know many of them my first year. It would have given me more time to enjoy their company. Otherwise, dress warmly and enjoy, you only get to go to college once and four years fly by.

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Students: Apply to a diverse group of colleges in terms of size and location, but apply to only those you would be happy to go to (no matter what your parents want you to do). Know that most college admission offices are good at what they do, as in they will choose you to attend their school if they think you will be a good fit. Apply to a dream school, even if you are told it could never happen, and apply to at least two safety schools that you would still be happy to attend. Submit honest application essays. Parents: Let your kid decide on where they want to apply, and if it is really important to you ask for them to apply to only one other school they would no apply to if you were not making them. Continue to encourage them over the process, and remind them that it will turn out alright. Do not limit them because of finances, when the schools decide you can figure out where to get all of the money from. Do not force them to have you read over anything, they need to be as honest as possible in their essays.

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