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A Parent Guide to Kenyon College, Ohio

Liberal Arts, Village Quidditch and a Dash of Hollywood


Kenyon College

Kenyon College

Photo courtesy of Jon Stout, Stock.Xchng Photos

This historic old college offers an intriguing blend of high ranked academics, Quidditch on the village green and a little Hollywood glitz too. Here's the lowdown:

  • The College: Founded in 1824 by Philander Chase, a bishop on what was then the wild frontier, this 1,000-acre campus is on the National Register of Historic Places - and it's no wonder. The campus itself is gorgeous, studded with trees and old buildings, and nestled into the tiny village of Gambier. Its alumni include U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, actors Paul Newman and Allison Janney (who modeled her portrayal of a drama professor in the 2012 Sundance hit, "Liberal Arts," which is set on the Kenyon campus, after her drama prof), and authors E.L. Doctorow ("Ragtime") and Laura Hillenbrand ("Seabiscuit" and "Unbroken"). Kenyon's legacy also includes one of the nation's most highly regarded literary magazines, the Kenyon Review. Some 1,600 undergraduates study here, taking courses on the semester system, and choosing from 35 traditional and interdisciplinary undergraduate majors.
  • The Tab: This is a private, residential university, where students live on campus all four years in dorms or apartments. The total tab here in 2010-11, including tuition, room and board, was $50,400. There's a vibrant Greek system here as well, with sororities, fraternities and similar social clubs.
  • The College Town: Charming Gambier isn't so much a college town as a college village with 2,000 residents. The lines between town and gown are blurred, with villagers swinging by the college's Middle Ground Cafe, and students frequenting the village shops and biking and walking the Kokosing Gap Trail. The village and its buildings date back to the 19th century, and whether you're visiting during a college tour circuit or coming for family weekend, chances are you'll be staying at the college's Kenyon Inn (which offers discounts to college visitors), the quaint Gambier House a block away, or at a B&B in nearby Mount Vernon.

    If you're visiting other colleges too, you may want to check out the Ohio Six College Tour. Every summer, Kenyon teams up with Wittenberg, Denison, Oberlin, Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster to offer morning and afternoon sessions at each school so families can hit all six over the three-day program. The nearest airport, by the way, is Port Columbus International in Columbus, Ohio, about an hour away. (College touring can get really expensive, so check out these college tour tips before you go.)
  • More Important Details: In addition to campus academics, Kenyon offers study abroad opportunities in more than 150 countries through other universities, plus Kenyon-hosted programs in England, Honduras and Italy.

    All work and no play is never a good idea, so in addition to all those academics, students can choose from 120 student groups, including a Quidditch team, multiple a cappella groups (including a jazz group), a fencing team, and even a "nocturnal literary society" known as the nightCAPS, which meets three nights per semester.

    Roughly a third of Kenyon's students play Division III sports, and the school is known for its swimming and diving teams, which have won 54 national titles.

    As you might expect at a nearly-200-year-old university, whimsical and poignant college traditions abound, from the Matriculation Book (which contains the signatures of every first-year student, including the famous presidential one), to the Philander Phling (a dance) and the First-year Sing (where freshmen learn the all-important lyrics to the Philander Chase Song, which includes the verse, "He built the College, built the dam. He milked the cow, he smoked the ham. He taught the classes, rang the bell, And spanked the naughty freshmen well.")
  • Incoming Frosh Stats: Admission to Kenyon is competitive. The college accepted 33% of its applicants in 2010. Some 39% had a GPA of 4.0 or more. The average SAT score was in the 1890-2160 range; the average ACT was 28-32. And on-campus admissions interviews are highly recommended.
  • Learn More: Interested in exploring more? Visit Kenyon's campus web site, which includes details on campus tours and overnight visits, as well as admissions information. The campus itself is at 106 College Park Drive, Gambier, Ohio.

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