Seems like every story I've ever heard anyone tell about coming to Oberlin has included being enthralled by Oberlin since a young age - or at least knowing and loving it well in advance of actually starting to write applications. I didn't come to Oberlin via that route, and I'm not in the habit of telling the story of my route because I don't think there's much to tell about it (compared to the kids who visited and fell in insta-love with co-ops, or were raised on kale and grassroots organizing, or had that one mad cool aunt who knitted them Oberlin socks every Christmas or whatever). But my path to Oberlin is no less valid than the longer, stronger, richer paths, and if your path is looking like my path, don't worry! That's chill. I mean, look at how much of an Obie I'm turning out to be.
So. I first saw the name "Oberlin" on - are you ready? this is not at all exciting - a piece of Oberlin promotional mail. (Told you it wasn't exciting.) Those pesky college fliers? I read those, if they looked interesting and didn't come from an in-state school. I kept them all until everything to do with college apps was over, and I even kept track of how many pieces of mail I got and who sent them! Just for funsies.
Ignore the fact that I clearly didn't know how to use a camera in high school. Focus on the fact that this is a LOT of brochures.
So Oberlin got itself on my radar via snail mail. I checked out the blogs, got hooked, frittered away entire afternoons reading through the blog archives, developed little headcanons about my favorite bloggers, etc. (Yeah, don't pretend you don't do that. I see you.) I applied and got into a few other places - Yale turned me down and U. Chicago waitlisted me, thank heavens; I seriously doubt I would've been happy at either of them, in hindsight. So the decision I was facing in the spring of 2010 was between Sarah Lawrence, Wesleyan, and Oberlin.
Sarah Lawrence endeared itself to me by projecting a vision of a girl-centric, empowering community that would take me in and make me strong. Their acceptance letter - even to a sharp, jaded senior like me who'd been reading personally addressed college mail for two years and was well sick of it - was a full page of what sounded like sincere and genuinely personalized joy about the prospect of my studenthood there. I remember keeping it, even after I'd made my decision, and rereading it every now and then for the warm fuzzies.
Wesleyan had flown me up for a weekend, making it the only college campus I'd set foot on during the application process. That was a substantial point in its favor, especially because they let me stay with a friend of mine who was going there at the time and who I'd been sort of half-crushing on in a semi-platonic, very appreciative way for a good long while. That weekend visit included something called a 'kiss-in,' during which a horde of people basically flashmobbed the Olin library by sprinting in and making out furiously for a hot second on desks and against walls and standing on tables and stuff, and then running back out, leaving the library to its studiousness. I forget what the point was, but it was all very exciting, and I came away from Wesleyan thinking I could probably like life there.
Oberlin... well, I wanted very badly to be friends with every single one of the bloggers. And since I had approximately zero ideas about what I wanted to major in, I didn't really care about the strength of X program or Y major; my only pressing question was what kind of people would be at college with me. That meant the blogs were extremely convincing.
When it came down to it, though, I looked at the way my financial aid packages panned out, asked myself (given the fact that my choice was between schools I felt good about) whether I was okay with just going where I'd get the best help, and decided that yes, money would be a fine tiebreaker. So I came here.
Really, then, I could sum up the story of how I got to this place by saying "Oberlin gave me the most money" and leaving it at that. That erases the explosion of extreme elation that my Oberlin acceptance letter caused in my chest (just like my Wesleyan and Sarah Lawrence letters did), but it's true. And it doesn't mean I'm any less invested, involved, or in love with Oberlin now than my peers who have much longer ties to this school.
This is one of the first pictures I took when I got here. These pictures are what I saw; they remind me what it was like to be looking out of Ida's eyes at that moment.
So if you're about where I was a few years ago, looking at a handful of places that might all feasibly be good for you, know that deciding on a college doesn't have to be the enchanted fairytale journey that gets repeated so often. It can be a journey of practicality, or of chance, or even of mistakes - your journey is yours. And, you know, if you're worried that your gut isn't screaming "THIS ONE THIS ONE GO HERE HELLO ARE YOU LISTENING GO HERE," know that it's alright. My gut was like "Yeah, Oberlin looks great! That'd be fine. Wesleyan and Sarah Lawrence seem great, too, but like, do Oberlin if you feel so inclined."