John - Kenyon College - Class of 2020

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Don't be afraid to ask for what you want, particularly with respect to financial aid. You can't get a "yes" unless you ask.

My test scores were a fine fit for most of my colleges, but my grades, which slipped junior year, were lower than their published stats. I attended a very academic high school, so I hoped that would help.

Hometown: San Juan Capistrano, CA

High School: Private

GPA: 3.50/3.81 (weighted)

ACT: 32

Major: Neuroscience and English

Goal: Prepare for graduate school

College

Status

Kenyon College Attending
Bates College Waitlisted
Colby CollegeDenied
Colgate College Accepted
Colorado College (ED) Denied
Cornell College (EA) Accepted
Grinnell College Denied
Reed College Waitlisted
Skidmore College Waitlisted
University of the South (EA) Accepted
Willamette University (EA) Accepted
Whitman CollegeAccepted

A small college in the big outdoors

I didn't have my heart set on one "dream" school, but I did have fairly specific parameters for the college I wanted to attend. It had to be a small liberal arts college, not in a big city, with plenty of access to outdoor activities. My parents told me not to worry about finances, but I did. I have other siblings with college in their future, and I hoped to receive some financial aid to lessen the burden on my family.

My first choice was Colorado College. I had gone to an admissions weekend there and loved the campus, the students, and the access to hiking, biking, and skiing. I also liked its "one-class-at-a-time" concept, where students study just one subject every few weeks instead of several throughout a semester. Kenyon and Bates also seemed like great fits. I knew kids from my high school that went to both colleges and really enjoyed them, but I hadn't visited either campus.

Making an "early decision" decision

I wanted to show my interest to Colorado College (and possibly increase my chances), so I applied for a binding early decision. But I was denied. I wasn't even deferred. Fortunately, I also applied to a few safety schools with early action plans at the same time. I was accepted by all of them with generous scholarships! It was great to know that I had options.

Then my regular decisions came in. Kenyon accepted me, and I was thrilled! But the acceptance came without grants or scholarships. Next, Whitman accepted me with a scholarship. At this point, I was happy with my choices, and I didn't care too much about the balance of my decisions. This was good because they were mostly denials and waitlist offers.

Kenyon vs. Whitman, heart vs. head

Now the decision process began. Would I attend Whitman with its scholarship or consider the pricier Kenyon? My parents told me to set aside the financial issues and go visit the schools.

It rained most of the time I was at Kenyon, but I loved it anyway—the campus, the surrounding area with its pretty river, the people, and the academics. It even snowed one day, which was fun. My only concern was how remote and artsy the school felt. I am not really into theater, singing, etc., which seemed to be a big thing there. It was also farthest from home, which added to the cost.

I visited Whitman the following week. It had great people, a robust outdoor program, and because it's on the west coast, it was much closer to home. While it was highly academic, it also had a laid-back feeling, which was very appealing. But I wondered if I would work as hard as I should in that atmosphere. When I got home, it was clear to me: my heart was with Kenyon, but my head was with Whitman because of the scholarship.

Sound advice from Mom

With the decision deadline quickly approaching, and knowing I was still conflicted, my mom suggested that I contact my admission rep at Kenyon and explain my dilemma. I am so glad I followed her advice! After I spoke with my rep, the financial aid committee revised its offer! They added a generous scholarship (guaranteed for four years as long as I maintain my grades), and a need-based grant, lowering the cost below Whitman's. I was ecstatic! I can't wait for my college experience to begin.

My ups and downs

Getting denied at Colorado College was a low point. I immediately regretted applying for an early decision. If I had waited to apply, I could have sent Colorado my senior grades (which were straight As with three AP classes), showing an upward swing. Applying later might not have made any difference, but I'll always wonder if it could have given me a better shot.

My best moment was when Kenyon revised its financial aid package. Not only was I getting to attend the school I wanted, but now I felt confident that Kenyon wanted me too!

What I learned

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and apply to some reach schools. Whitman and Kenyon were reaches and I was accepted at both. Forming good relationships with your admissions rep is also important. I had a great relationship with Kenyon's admissions rep, which made it much easier for me to ask for more financial aid.

The money factor

Kenyon provided a $9,880 need-based grant and a $15,000 merit scholarship, in addition to work-study and loans. I will be responsible for the loans and the work-study, and my parents will cover the rest.

My advice

Be careful when applying for an early decision, especially if your grades or test scores are below the school's average and you think you can improve them. Most of all, don't be afraid to ask for what you want, particularly with respect to financial aid. You might get a "no", but you can't get a "yes" unless you ask.