University of Michigan vs. Kenyon College vs. McGill University

Decision day is coming soon and I have no clue what to choose. I’m a liberal arts major (probably international relations, econ, and/or sociology but still undecided).
I grew up in a city and I love it but it also may be nice to live in a small community for a change. Money isn’t really an issue.
Love McGill but have concerns over not speaking French and networking for jobs/grad school/law school in the United States after college.
Of course, UMich is an amazing school but I’m not the biggest sports person and am a little concerned about the size. Great alumni network though along with name recognition.
For both of those I’m a little worried about the large classes and less personal relationships with professors.
Kenyon has less recognition but has professors whose job is to teach and not worry about research which is a plus. Also, gives more guidance than the larger schools?
I love Montreal and McGill is a great school, I have never been to Michigan (visiting soon) but it’s known for academics and opportunities (no big city though), and Kenyon has the liberal arts college experience which might be a nice break before moving back to a city after graduation.
Any advice/guidance would be much appreciated.

Thank you!!

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Why not Kenyon? In other words, why do you care about recognition? All the grad/law schools will respect Kenyon.

But go visit all if possible. Kenyon is very isolated. A A is a great college town and some people like Montreal.

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Thank you! And I’m definitely still considering Kenyon I am going to visit it in a few weeks. I am facing some pressure from my family who are UMich alums to choose that so that’s factored into my decision as well… I’m just pretty undecided on what I want to study and the type of environment I want to study in but I’m hoping visiting Michigan and Kenyon will help.

If you’re concerned about size, McGill will be worse.

McGill is a poorer French-Canadian urban UMich without major college sports. Filled with bright Canadian kids, though.

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Ditto.

These are all quality options, but they are so very different.

Visit them if you can. You could probably knock them out in a week or so.

But visiting isn’t everything.

Kenyon will give you smaller class sizes the first two years, but at a university, they sort of catch up once you are in your major. Still, class sizes and prof interaction are relative strengths for Kenyon.

AA is kind of suburban in feel, while Montreal is a big city and Kenyon is quite rural – kind of like Grinnell. AA is close to Detroit, similar in size to Montreal. Kenyon is maybe 40 minutes from Columbus.

The universities offer a wider array of curricular options – both majors and courses. It’s up to you whether smaller class sizes or more academic options is a greater strength.

So I’d visit them, if possible, and think about Fit variables like setting, your academic preferences (LAC vs. universities), and school culture.

And, obviously, cost. If two or more are tied after you are finished analyzing them, go with cost. Make sure you include the cost of travel and “spending money” in your analysis. Gambier is cheaper than Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor is cheaper than Montreal.

Arts at McGill is cheaper than UMich OOS or Kenyon full-pay, however.

Kenyon conveys an encoded prestige, which, in my opinion, makes it the most prestigious school from your group. More importantly, however, its academics align really well with what you are seeking.

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I have friends at all three school and they’re actually such different schools. McGill and UMich are both huge schools so if size is a huge concern, keep that in mind. McGill from what I’ve heard is still more impersonal than Mich and since it’s an urban school, there’s not a true “campus community”. Michigan is a big school but the specialized schools like Ross and Ford have smaller classes and are really global leaders in their field. There’s also an Honors program at Michigan which I’ve heard is great and Ann Arbor is a gorgeous town (cold as heck though!).

Kenyon is the odd one out and the one I’m most conflicted over. Small class sizes and great academics, but I think the location is just not doable. It’s really an hour away from Columbus and the location just restricts you from internship opportunities or just the regular undergrad experiences!

I would pick Michigan, but I think visit and figure out which school is the one for you!

My daughter graduated from Kenyon in 2020. She and her friends often traveled to Columbus. In terms of regular undergraduate experiences, for many students those would be days spent on a spacious, idyllic campus with beautiful buildings and green spaces. It would mean small classes filled with engaged students having intellectually stimulating discussions. It would include evenings and weekends spent at lectures, concerts and theatrical productions put on by their peers. The LAC experience is special. Save your large university experience for grad school. You will have only one opportunity to spend four years at an exclusively undergraduate focused institution. If any of these factors resonate with you, choose Kenyon.

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My daughter is a first-year at Kenyon. The isolated location was a bit of a concern for her before she committed, but she had an amazing first semester and can’t wait to be back on campus (most freshmen are remote in the spring because of COVID). Even with fewer events during the pandemic, she was plenty busy with her classes, socializing with friends (not partying but talking, having meals outside, playing games, etc.), and playing her instrument in the wind ensemble (this semester she’s involved in theater remotely). As for internships, we get weekly emails from the Kenyon career services office with available internships, jobs and other career opportunities all over the country (including the “Kenyon connection”–opportunities listed by alums, students’ parents, etc.). Not sure yet how easy it would be to land those internships or jobs, but at least students are made aware of various options and are not limited to the village of Gambier. The classes are top-notch, she’s loved every one of them so far (I’m a college professor myself, so I can judge the quality of her education, and I’ve been very impressed).

The other two schools are great, too, obviously, just very different.

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At Michigan, it almost doesn’t matter what your major you’ll choose, you’ll likely find it’s a Top 10 rated program:

“45 LSA programs are among the top 10, and two programs are the best in their fields. As the primary undergraduate college, LSA is the reason U.S. News & World Report ranks U-M as one of the top universities for undergraduate teaching.”

And that’s not even including other prestigious Michigan schools like Ross Business, College of Engineering, Kinesiology, SMTD (Music, Theater and Dance), Architecture and Nursing. That sounds like prestige to me.

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McGill is French Canadian? That’s news to me.

Comparing McGill to UMich it depends on what type of experience you are looking for. Big incredible city versus college town. Big time athletics and Greek life versus immersing yourself in a unique bilingual, bicultural city. Frat parties versus being welcome in bars and clubs as an adult.

@plw217 , from how you described yourself and the schools/locations/vibe, I vote for Kenyon. I think deep down, that’s where you really want to go, but you’re worried your family might not initially be excited about your choice.

Kenyon just seems like the school you want at this time. Hopefully, you’ll get to visit and it will make you feel better about making your decision.

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FYI - I have never heard of McGill students and grads having trouble getting internships and jobs in the US.

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But I have heard of them having trouble getting into the classes they want when they need them.

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Kenyon is well respected and seems tailor made for the stage in life you’re at right now. Undecided? That’s what a school like Kenyon is built for.

The 2 young women I know who went to Kenyon had an incredible experience there and each of them found it to be a place where she could be very creative. One of them has since published a book on Einstein and his theory on gravity, pursuing her interest in science. She has also been a drama director at the school where she teaches. Just an example of how a well rounded woman found her inner self at Kenyon.

As for location, most of a college student’s time in college is spent on campus with other college students. While it’s nice to have interesting things to do off campus, that’s really not what will make or break a college experience. A place like Kenyon - or Williams, or Bowdoin, or Middlebury, or Grinnell, etc. - provides an opportunity to retreat from the world for a few years to really explore and find where you want to go with your life. You can break that up by taking a semester or two abroad or in one of their off-campus study programs if that helps with what you’re pursuing.

All the best with your decision.

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That is true of all large universities and many LAC’s too.

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Yes, it is. And that’s the problem with many large universities. On the positive side, they prepare you well for navigating the world of big bureaucracies.

It’s far less true of LACs. I’m not talking about interesting electives that are offered once every other year, but courses that meet the requirements of your major. It’s not uncommon in some large state universities to need an extra semester - or even an extra year or two - to get through to graduate due to being closed out of courses. You just don’t find that at LACs.

I don’t think a degree from McGill would hurt you in the US. It’s well known and respected.

Love Montreal. Maybe my favorite but it can be expensive.

Son kicked around going to school there last time we were there. I didn’t think speaking French was needed for McGill. University of Montreal I think was a different story. I did get the sense that McGill (and most Canadian universities) are large and impersonal. You’re there for an education and are treated like adults.

As for the pros and cons of the specific schools no idea. All are great options. Pick the best fit.

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Time to be ruthless. Just eliminate the one you are least interested in. Personally, that sounds like McGill to me.

My D has a close friend who graduated from McGill last year. She has had a part time job since last year in retail, and has been unable to find any career job. McGill is not set up the same way US colleges are, with active and involved alumni and career centers. There’s no doubt it’s a fine school, but you are very much left to your own devices in terms of advising and the like. If you are a proactive person, you’ll be fine. I always feel a bit as though students choose McGill because they have heard of it and it’s in Montreal.

So, IMO, your choices should be Kenyon or U Mich. I am biased in favor of LACs because overall, the educational experience is probably better from the start. Kenyon is well respected with excellent professors. It has an active alumni network and career center. You will get to know professors well, which is certainly useful for recommendations and research opportunities. It goes without saying that you will get to know fellow students too. Kenyon has a high retention rate, though not as high as U Mich.

I think Kenyon is the place to go if you are a student who will value close student and professor interaction from the start and who wants the opportunity to explore different areas of interest. If grad school is in yiur plans, I thin Kenyon is a great choice. If you want a classic Little Ivy type experience, Kenyon is better for that. The Kenyon students I know are happy and have gone on to great jobs and other pursuits. It’s also not hard to get to, being an hour from Columbus.

If, on the other hand, you crave the rah rah college experience, Michigan is a much better option. There’s no doubt that it’s well connected and respected. I think it’s a great option too, but you won’t necessarily have such easy access to professors and will be competing with upperclassmen and grad students for research opportunities. But like everything else, a proactive student will be spoiled for choice in terms of classes and opportunities.

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