I still have fond memories of the day the "Congratulations, you've been accepted into the Class of 2009" letter arrived in my mailbox in Kansas. It came before any of my other letters - the fat envelope, just like they describe it in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting into College. (Isn't that ironic?) I read that letter again and again, then ran outside to my backyard, where my dad was doing some spring yard work and making pleasant small talk with the neighbors over the fence, and I promptly yelled to the skies, "I'm going to college!"
I'm pretty sure the next thing I did was update my blog at the time, a mediocre, almost-defunct-but-still-sporadically-updated Xanga with the same message in all caps: I'M GOING TO COLLEGE. (Perhaps with an "OMG" at the beginning of it.) I think I needed to repeat this to myself again and again, because despite the reality of the letter in my hands, the Big Book of Forms, the exciting lifestyle questionnaire that would ultimately match me to my future first roommate ever...despite all of it, I still couldn't quite wrap my head around the idea. After all, my entire life, it felt, for the past year had been devoted to making this moment happen - all the books on colleges I'd read, the Princeton Review ratings I'd pored though, the essays I'd slaved over - it was all for this. And after this, I would enter into a new period of my life I could scarcely even fathom on that afternoon in Kansas, jumping up and down on our patio and waving my acceptance letter in the air.
See, until that moment, I really hadn't been sure I'd be going to college. Foolishly, I never applied to any backup schools. The Complete Idiot in me, I suppose, was arrogant enough to think I'd rather take a year off than not get to go to any of my dream schools; Oberlin or bust, I said to myself. It made sense, somehow, in my 17-year-old mind, in the flurry of excitement I'd felt when I visited Oberlin the one and only time before coming here as a student - October of my senior year of high school, I'd fallen in love with the place and thought, If not here, I don't even want to go to college.
I don't recommend that route. It makes that last week of March excruciating. But fortunately, the letter came, and Oberlin being my top choice, a weight was lifted from my shoulders for the rest of the week. Admittedly, I did ditch school at least once to sit at home in my windowsill all day long and wait for the mailman to arrive with any potential letters from any of the other four schools to which I'd applied...that may unofficially classify me as a basket case, but I don't know, I just really cared about the college thing. (Surely, though, some of you can relate to my temporary nuttiness over the whole process?) Something inside of me, undoubtedly, understood the weight of that particular moment on my timeline.
As this weekend marks the beginning of All Roads (a two-week window in April in which all admitted students are invited to Oberlin for, basically, a big fest of exploring the campus, meeting new friends, and feeling out this place), Oberlin has been unusually bustling these last couple days. Four years ago, I didn't make it out for All Roads, and while I envied those who did, I certainly didn't let that stop me from trying to glean as much last-minute information about student life at Oberlin as I could. I combed Xangas and Livejournals (this was, of course, before the official Oberlin Blogs had been established, before I discovered CollegeProwler, and before any of us could get on Facebook without an .edu address), I read message boards, I read and reread the section on Oberlin in a book called The Hidden Ivies which describes the ethos of the community here beautifully...
Of course, for those of you admitted students visiting Oberlin this week or next, congratulations (!) and enjoy your time here. Check out the bulletin boards around campus and schedule according to your interests. Talk to as many people as you can, read student publications, sit in on classes, enjoy the plethora of free and amazing concerts and recitals that will undoubtedly be going on during your stay, explore the town, get a smoothie at DeCafe, eat a meal at a co-op if you can, and above all, get pumped for all the experiences ahead of you!
Below: Me, with my first DeCafe smoothie ever. With my friend Liam, who is obviously making a silly face. Also, notably, you can tell I'm a first year in this picture, because I'm still wearing my ID card around my neck on a lanyard.
Anyway, from someone on the other end of things this year, I guarantee that graduating from high school is a lot more exciting, and a lot less scary, than graduating from college. Enjoy!
P.S. Oberlin did a delightful job with the roommate thing. As you can see, it worked out quite well, in our case: