Record-setting tide of applications floods in for the Class of 2006

Here's a statistic you're likely to remember. According to Dean of Admissions John W. Anderson, "This year, it is easier to be admitted to Harvard than it is to get an academic scholarship at Kenyon." This is so because the number of applicants for scholarships, like the volume of applications for admission generally, has gone through the roof.

Applications for admission have spiked an astounding 40 percent, with a record 2,809 applications received, compared with 2,002 last year. The previous record, established in 1999, was 2,420 applications. The intervening two years recorded successive declines.

"After the experience of the last two years, this is a gratifying leap," says Anderson.

The record-setting numbers for Kenyon occur against a national picture that ranges from flat college admissions to small increases. Sixty to 70 percent of Kenyon's peer institutions, according to Anderson, have reported applications even with last year or down a little. The remaining 30 to 40 percent have shown increases of 5 to 10 percent.

The growth in Kenyon's applicant pool has occurred across all regions and among virtually all applicant groups. Applications from Ohio students grew by a whopping 57 percent, with even greater growth in other Midwestern states. Applications from New England rose by 20 percent, from the Middle Atlantic states by 38 percent, in the South by 44 percent, and in the West and Southwest by a remarkable 50 percent.

Minority applications have climbed dramatically, with applications from Asian-Americans increasing by 70 percent, applications from African-Americans by 75 percent, and from Latinos by about 45 percent. The only group showing a decline from last year is international students. Anderson attributes that drop to a reluctance by international students to come to America following the events of September 11.

Countering speculation by national media that because of the terrorists attacks students would apply to colleges closer to home, Anderson believes that the terrorist aggression had very little effect on American students' college choices. "If the predictions were true, we would not have seen the increases we've had in states like California, where students do need to board a plane in order to get here," says Anderson.

Instead, Anderson attributes the steep rise in applications to four factors: the College's new science complex; the quality and quantity of admissions publications; extremely hard work by the admissions staff; and changes in the application process.

Prospective students report that they are impressed by the investment Kenyon has made in science education. Applications have increased from students wanting to study science, while even students with little or no interest in science say that the new facilities demonstrate an important commitment to education on the part of the College. Anderson cites a student-produced CD-rom as a powerful new recruiting tool, mailed by the Office of Admissions to all applicants indicating an interest in science.

Anderson lauded the extra effort that went into publications this year, in particular a new introductory brochure produced in two versions, one addressed to the Ohio audience, the second for national distribution. He also gave credit to a dramatically increased number of fall publications, including a series of informational postcards targeted to eight different geographic markets. "Targeted mailings require more effort, but they clearly produce results," Anderson notes.

Anderson also credits the positive influence of the College's web site. In a change from the pattern just two or three years ago, many students now report visiting the web site as their first step after hearing of Kenyon. Previously, prospective students would contact the admissions office for information before visiting the web site. Anderson believes the importance of the web will continue to grow in the future.

"The efforts of the admissions staff this year, following the worrisome dip of the past two years, were nothing short of inspired," says Anderson. "They worked hard to find students who are good matches for the College and to provide even stronger encouragement to those students."

The well-focused efforts of the admissions staff are evidenced by the growing quality of the applicant pool. Applications from students with grade-point averages of 3.7 or higher increased 42 percent, while those scoring 700 or higher on the verbal SAT rose by 53 percent. Students scoring 700 or higher on the math SAT increased by 50 percent. Growth of 40 percent in the number of applicants for academic scholarships provides an additional index of quality.

Finally, changes in application procedures helped increase the applicant pool. This year Kenyon changed to a two-part application, a process that makes it easier for students to apply to the College and brings Kenyon's procedures in line with other selective institutions.

A move to the exclusive use of the "Common Application," so called because it is accepted by a sizeable number of colleges, also made it easier for students to initiate and complete the application process. The Internet was a factor here as well, with more than half the total number of applications completed online, compared with less than 20 percent last year. Anderson attributes this rise in part to a decision to waive the application fee online and in part to the ease of applying online.

"I'm convinced the fluke was last year, not this year," says Anderson. "We've bounced back, and I believe that Kenyon will continue to attract applicants in the mid to upper two thousands in the foreseeable future."

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