In light of All Roads coming around once again, I'm writing about two first-years' college decisions and how they've worked out for us over the past year. The first is a friend that I interviewed for this post; he applied mostly to Ivy League schools and ended up at Oberlin, which was his last choice. He didn't know very much and was expecting even less. The second is myself, who practically stalked the Oberlin bloggers since my freshman year of high school, applied ED, and danced when my acceptance letter came in the mail.
I gave us the same questions, and our answers reflect how different the Oberlin experience can be. So if you're a prospie viewing this page as you frantically try to decide before that May 1st deadline, remember that college is what you make of it. Just look for a place that allows for you to mold the life you want to live.
When did you decide on Oberlin and what was that decision like?
E: As soon as all results were in, I was pretty sure here. It was here or a state school in Wisconsin and this is a way better school, academically, and it's closer to home. I chose here because of academics, music, and art in general.
K: I'd decided by December of my senior year. I already knew I was in at my safety school and I just felt like, "I know what I want and it's Oberlin, why bother with the hassle of applying to a million other schools?" It was really a relief to get my application in and be done with it.
Were you disappointed with having to go here?
E: I wasn't disappointed because I had to go here, I was disappointed that I didn't get to go to schools I had set my sights on. It was hard to hear I wasn't good enough. I wasn't begrudgingly attending Oberlin. I love it here, I can't say I'd rather be there than here, because I've only been here. I've gotten everything I wanted in college at Oberlin.
K: Absolutely not. This was all I ever wanted.
What was Move-In Day like for you?
E: I was excited for a new place, wondered "Is this going to be right for me?" It was pretty much what I expected. What was my first impression? One thing I really liked was that I expected everyone to be stereotypical Obie: super-hippie political, active to the point of socially aggressive, and I was so glad to hear that everyone wasn't like that. "Normal" people. That was a pleasant surprise.
K: It was a little nerve-wracking. It was impossible to get parking, to be honest. My mom and I were running all over trying to figure out where I lived, and bickering the whole time. The first person who we ran into was Cria, and her family, and that's funny because she's like my best friend today. Anyway, we finally found Harkness and unpacked everything, and then my roommate Becca showed up. It became this really exciting, happy experience where I felt like, "Wow, the next part of my life is beginning. It's happening, right here right now.'
How have you felt about classes this year?
E: I was excited to do what I wanted to do; I enjoy all of my classes. I didn't pick especially hard ones, so I'm holding my own, and I have time for the stuff I want to do. I really like the schoolwork here.
K: First semester kicked my butt. Second semester is a blast. I've had Dawson, who practically flayed me. I've had great opportunities to take a variety of classes while getting credit for my planned major at the same time. So, while I haven't loved all of my classes (though I do love all my classes this semester, post forthcoming!), they've all been really useful to me.
What do you think of professors here?
E: I only know the ones I've had classes with, I like them. Actual classes are more similar to high school than I expected (syllabus, homework due, show up to class, etc.). But professors here are higher quality than my high school teachers. Like, what would have been my favorite high school teacher is like any professor here.
K: I'm in love with them. I go to T.S. McMillin's office hours just to hang out with him. And Meredith Gadsby, who sat on my Faculty Panel during Orientation Week, that woman is incredible. She's at least a foot shorter than me and the command she carries herself with makes me feel like I'm two inches tall when she's in the room. They're spectacular, and quirky, passionate individuals that we are all so privileged to learn from.
What have you found challenging?
E: I've found writing challenging. Something I've stepped up to, though. Having every aspect of my life completely new, how meals go, friends, it's all very new to adapt to. Friends work differently in college. You can see your friends all the time, everyone living and learning together.
K: In light of events this past March (which you can familiarize yourself with in Ida's, Simba's, and Paris's posts), I struggle with unity on this campus. I struggle with personal definitions of allyship, and finding my place as an extremely privileged, queer woman. Oberlin is not this purely liberal haven where everyone's a great ally and never says anything problematic. So I struggle with negotiating between that and all the great people here who work so hard to fight against it.
How would you describe Oberlin culture?
E: It's a place where we challenge everything and encourage each other to challenge everything. Not everyone wants to challenge the same thing, which can get interesting at times. It's also a place where I'm musically unimpressive. It's easy to forget the world isn't as musical as Oberlin is. I see a lot of what I perceive to be misguided attention, getting impassioned about issues, and not being sure about what to do with this passion... I see more passion than progress. Perhaps that's not bad for college, where we're preparing to go out in world, but a lot of times I think we're more bark than bite.
Social justice was less of a factor for choosing Oberlin than a lot of my peers. It's easy to feel like I'm less for not caring, or I'm a bad person for not being invested in issues everyone else is. But I think it's what we think is important that's different.
K: In my supplement to Oberlin I wrote, "Oberlin is like a cup of coffee where the barista has been kind enough to add a dollop of whip cream on the house." I stand by that.
What have you found about yourself/people/the world being at Oberlin?
E: It's hard to say, I've never been at college anywhere else. I guess a lot of my fears about coming to Oberlin were assuaged by the fact that we're just people being people here and anyone can find something to connect to in any community. It was more like a group of people here to learn than I expected. Which I think is true of groups everywhere, not just at Oberlin.
K: It is hard work to work hard. But the payoff is incredible. You have the freedom here to sit around and watch Netflix all day, which I've done. But you also have the freedom to hit the gym, grab a coffee at Slow Train, and crank out research on your project about The Land Ethic in American Politicians from 1600-1900. And I've done that too. So you've got options, and a ton of time, and you just have to make something work for you.
Top 5 best things about Oberlin:
1. Fourth meal
3. Cat in the Cream cookies
2. The Multicultural Resource Center
3. Slow Train and The Local
4. Oberlin Community Services
5. Proximity to the Black River Watershed.
(Bonus: Black River, the restaurant.)
What do you think about co-ops?
E: Didn't know much coming in, they seem pretty cool. I wanted to do one over Winter Term. I just couldn't eat at same time every day.
K: Love love love them, as everyone who has met me knows. I'm HLECing Hark next year, which stands for Housing Loose Ends Coordinator, basically like an RA. So everyone should apply to live with me!
Top 5 things you want to do on campus?
2. Acapella concerts
3. Spend all day in Tappan
4. Make friends with one of the cats/tame DasCat
5. Spend the night in Mudd
1. Go to Splitchers
2. Go to a sports event
3. Visit Sci-Fi more often
4. Take a walk through the mysterious cemetery
5. Explore Warner Hall
Any idea of your major?
K: Yep, definitely, I'm trying to declare at the end of the semester. Environmental Studies and Politics.
E: It's not that different from what you would expect. There are people who have a lot of identities, which complicates things a bit. You can court people, or have hook ups, or find somewhere in between, and that's pretty much how it works.
Me: Oh my gosh, it is so different from what I expected. I thought I would come and meet new people and do new things and instead I'm in a long-distance monogamous relationship with my high school girlfriend and I couldn't be happier.
Final important thoughts?
E: Go to Oberlin! Even if you're not convinced it's for you, because it is.
K: Ev said it best.
(Thanks again Evan Hertafeld for letting me interview you and for sharing your experience. And here's a photograph of my roommate Becca and me on our first day of school!)