On College Apps and Comparing Journeys

College application season is a competitive, high-stakes process that looms large for many high-school seniors. Many students that now attend Kenyon grew up hearing names like Harvard, Yale, and Northwestern since childhood. I, for one, have a Yale Drama t-shirt that my grandmother bought me after I got my first lead in a musical. High achievement in the world of academics has been something important to my life since the first time my second-grade teacher called me “Hermione Granger,” and so my entire family has always been sure that a straight-A student like me would have her pick of the Ivies.

Senior year, however, introduced me to a completely different reality. My parents and I went on over 15 campus tours, and after applying to 12 schools, December of 2018 left me wondering what state I would be living in the next year. Unfortunately, the uncertainty of winter gave way to a spring of rejection emails. Luckily, I ended up with one acceptance from an academically rigorous school: Kenyon College. I was grateful to have a place to go that would challenge me, but I'll be honest, Kenyon is not the place seventeen-year-old me thought she would end up for her college education. That feeling luckily dissipated once I came to Kenyon and realized how much I truly belong there, but my last few months in my hometown were constantly filled with dodging the question: “So where are you going to school this fall?”

 

 

My hometown is in Southeast Michigan, about a twenty-minute drive from Ann Arbor. Since my high school is so close to the University of Michigan, many of my graduating class ended up becoming Wolverines. Those who didn’t go to other state schools in Michigan, or to well-known out of state institutions like Northwestern, USC, or UChicago. Very few ended up at schools like Kenyon, in fact, most people in my hometown had never heard of Kenyon College until I committed there. So, telling people where I was going to school meant constantly explaining where Kenyon was, what kind of school it was, and why on earth I would move to rural Ohio when the University of Michigan was right around the corner. It was honestly pretty draining, and I began to feel insecure as to why my college choice wasn’t like everyone else’s.

 

 

Then, I moved to school and I was reminded of all the reasons why Kenyon is my home. The professors, the arts, the loving community and the beautiful campus became my everyday life and I realized that those things were infinitely more important than having a short answer as to where I was going to college. I also realized that, honestly going to a brand-name school doesn’t matter because which schools are brand-name varies by place. So many people I’ve met at Kenyon come from areas where Kenyon is a recognized name and that made me realize that there was absolutely no reason to compare myself to others based on something so arbitrary as how well-known our chosen colleges are. My educational journey is different from everybody else’s, and comparing those journeys is useless because everyone has different dreams, goals, and places they belong. The place I belong is Kenyon, and coming to Kenyon has taught me that going to a brand-name school matters so, so much less than going to an academically challenging school, and a place where I am truly the happiest I can be.  

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