First-Year Applicants

We're so excited that you're interested in becoming an Obie and pursuing your passions and interests within our supportive, collaborative community. Here is some helpful information to help guide you through the application process.

Helpful Resources

What are We Looking For?

What does Oberlin look for in an applicant?

This is the million dollar question! First, let’s establish that there isn’t one specific thing that the admissions committee is looking for. There’s no cookie-cutter mold that we’re looking to fill. We want students from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences who are going to succeed in the classroom and contribute to our community. 


Students come to Oberlin from all over the United States and the world, and we see applicants from a variety of educational backgrounds and preparation. When we review your academic record, we’re looking to see whether or not you’re prepared for the rigorous education offered at Oberlin.

When we assess your transcript, we’re looking for the equivalent of:

  • Four years of English
  • Four years of math (through pre-calculus or higher)
  • Three years of the same foreign language
  • Three years of lab sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, etc.)
  • Three years of social studies

Don’t be discouraged from applying if your school doesn’t offer all of these options. We evaluate students within their educational context, which means that we’re aware of what courses (including AP and IB options) are and are not available at your school.


Successful Oberlin applicants generally exhibit traits of leadership and involvement in their schools and communities. We want to bring in students who are going to be involved on campus, so we’re going to look at how you spend your time when you’re not in class. Are you involved in clubs or sports teams at school? Do you have a part-time job or family responsibilities at home? 

Quality is better than quantity! Don’t sign up for 10 clubs you aren’t interested in because you think it will look good on your college applications. 

How does the admissions committee evaluate applications?

Oberlin is a highly selective liberal arts college. We evaluate applications using a holistic review process that helps us to get a sense of your academic qualifications as well as what you're like as a person and what you will contribute to the Oberlin community. Our goal is to assemble an incoming class that represents a variety of talents, viewpoints, and achievements.

Our holistic review process means that no one piece of your application will guarantee that you do or do not get admitted. Every piece of the application is important!

Check out this blog post by an Oberlin admissions counselor for more information about how applications are reviewed.

Application Options

Choose whichever application platform is best for you - we don’t have a preference! Please only submit one application (it’s free to apply!).

Common App

Oberlin was a founding member of the Common App, which is now used by nearly 900 colleges and universities. The Common App is committed to the pursuit of access, equity, and integrity in the college admission process.

Common App

Coalition/Scoir Application

The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success is an initiative dedicated to increasing access and helping students find their perfect match college. All Coalition member schools provide substantial support to lower–resourced and underrepresented students, offer responsible student financial aid support, and demonstrate a commitment to student graduation. The Coalition Application is hosted through a partnership with Scoir, a platform that allows students to search for and apply to member schools in one place.

Coalition/Scoir Application

QuestBridge Application

QuestBridge aims to increase the percentage of talented low-income students attending the nation’s best colleges. If you are working with the QuestBridge National College Match program, you can use your QuestBridge application to apply to Oberlin.

QuestBridge Application

The College of Arts and Sciences is a proud partner of QuestBridge National College Match, a college and scholarship application process open to academically outstanding high school seniors from low-income families. Students selected for College Match Scholarships receive loan-free scholarships that cover the full cost of tuition, room, and board.

Students may apply to Oberlin through the QuestBridge Match process, and non-matched students may use their QuestBridge application in lieu of the Common Application. Additional information about how to apply to Oberlin via the QuestBridge application can be found on the QuestBridge website. Students may not apply to the Conservatory of Music through QuestBridge.


The following requirements are for domestic students applying to the College of Arts and Sciences as a first-year student. Please note that additional requirements apply if you are homeschooled or an international student

Application Materials

We can't begin reviewing your application until we have received all required components. Unless otherwise noted, all materials may be submitted online through the Common App or the Coalition/Scoir Application.


You can apply to Oberlin College through the Common App or the Coalition/Scoir Application

If you’re applying via Early Decision, you’ll also need to submit the Early Decision Agreement. This form requires signatures from a parent/guardian and your school counselor.

Personal Essay

You’ll need to write a personal essay as part of your Common App or Coalition/Scoir application. Oberlin does not require any additional supplemental essays (hooray!).

Pro tip: Check out this page for our best tips for crafting a strong essay.  

Secondary School Report and High School Transcript

These items will be completed and sent by your school counselor. If your transcript was sent to us prior to the conclusion of your first senior year grading period, we will also need a midyear report from your counselor.

Pro tip: Talk to your counselor about your school's process for submitting these materials. Don't wait until the last minute!

Two Teacher Evaluations

Oberlin requires two academic teacher evaluations. You’ll need to request recommendations from two teachers who have taught you in core academic subjects (English, math, science, social studies, foreign language, or an AP/IB class). We prefer letters from teachers who have taught you for a full course in either your junior or senior year. 

Letters from band teachers, choir directors, art teachers, etc. are considered supplemental and do not fulfill our academic teacher evaluation requirement.

Pro tip: Choose teachers who know you well! Remember that they may be writing recommendations for many students, so please request your recommendation as early as possible.


Interviews are a great way for us to learn more about you, and they give you an opportunity to learn more about Oberlin, too! All of our interviews are done virtually, and you can do one any time between the spring of your junior year and the application deadline (no need to wait until after you submit your application).

For more information, please visit the interview page.

Pro tip: Availability is limited, so don’t wait until the last minute to sign up for an interview.

SAT or ACT Test Scores

Oberlin is test-optional for students applying for admission for fall 2024. You can submit scores from the SAT and/or ACT, but it’s not required. Please review our testing policy for more details.

If you want to submit test scores as part of your application, you can self-report your scores on your application. You only need to send in an official score report if you enroll at Oberlin.

SAT Code: 1587
ACT Code: 3304

Additional Recommendations

Two academic recommendations are usually sufficient, but you are welcome to submit one additional letter if it will provide relevant information not found in your two required academic teacher recommendations. 

Art and Performance Supplements

Do you dance? Play an instrument? Take awesome pictures? We want to know about it! After you submit your application to Oberlin, you’ll have the opportunity to submit supplemental materials  to highlight a special accomplishment, talent, or interest. Please review our Art and Performance Supplement Submission Guidelines for more information.

Academic Research

Have you conducted research in STEM or another field? Submit a research abstract or resume to highlight your accomplishments! If you participated in mentored research, you are also encouraged to request an additional recommendation letter from a research mentor who has been personally involved in your work.


There are two ways to apply to Oberlin as a first-year applicant: Early Decision and Regular Decision. Early Decision is a way for you to show us that Oberlin is your first choice! Submitting an Early Decision application means that if admitted, you will definitely enroll at Oberlin. If you're thinking about applying Early Decision, please refer to the Early Decision page for more information.

Steps Early Decision I Early Decision II Regular Decision
Application Deadline November 15 January 2 January 15
Financial Aid Deadline November 15* January 2 January 15
Notification December 15 February 1 April 1
Reply Due January 2 February 15 May 1

*Please note that the FAFSA will not be available until December. If you're applying for financial aid, you should submit the CSS Profile by November 15 and the FAFSA once it becomes available.

Additional Guidelines

Students who are homeschooled, undocumented, or are looking to graduate from high school early may have additional requirements are part of their application to Oberlin.

Homeschooled applicants should follow the same application procedures and submit the same materials as other students, with a few exceptions outlined below.

Academic Portfolio

In addition to a transcript-style summary of coursework, we also ask for a detailed syllabus that lists the subjects studied each year, the dates each subject was studied, a description of each course of study, major texts used or literature read, and evidence of science laboratory experiences. The Academic Portfolio can be submitted by the parent/guardian as a transcript via the online application, or to the student’s Oberlin applicant portal.


In lieu of standard academic teacher recommendations, we require two letters from two adults outside of your family who can provide a meaningful evaluation of your academic and personal characteristics, such as private instructors, coaches, religious leaders, mentors, employers, or sponsors of an extracurricular activity. A parent/guardian who has been the primary instructor may submit a teacher recommendation in addition to the two required recommendations. 

Financial Aid

We meet 100% of the demonstrated financial need for all admitted students, but your status as a homeschooled student may affect your eligibility for federal financial aid. Homeschooled applicants are eligible to receive Federal Student Aid funds if your secondary school education was in a homeschool that state law treats as a home or private school. Some states issue a secondary school completion credential to homeschoolers. If this is the case in the state where you were homeschooled, you must obtain this credential in order to be eligible for Federal Student Aid funds. 

Oberlin considers undocumented students living in the United States as domestic applicants. We welcome applications from all undocumented students, regardless of their DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status. 

Oberlin meets 100% of demonstrated need for every admitted student, including those who are undocumented. If you would like to be considered for need-based financial aid, you must indicate that on your admissions application and submit the CSS Profile. If you are in the process of becoming a US citizen or permanent resident, you may be asked to complete additional financial aid paperwork after your status has changed. 

Undocumented students who do not apply for financial aid prior to admission will not be eligible to receive need-based financial aid while enrolled at Oberlin.

While we encourage students to take full advantage of the academic and extracurricular opportunities available to them while in high school, we do accept applications from students who plan to graduate in fewer than four years. You're eligible to apply to Oberlin as long as (1) you’ve met the requirements in your state for a high school diploma and (2) you will be at least 16 years old by the time you start classes on campus. 

In your application’s essay or additional information section, be sure to address why you’re seeking to enter college early and how you’re prepared to do so. 


Oberlin’s financial aid policy is simple: we meet the full demonstrated financial need of every admitted student. We commit more than $100 million annually to provide aid directly to students, supporting Oberlin’s historic, ongoing efforts to broaden educational access.

Most Oberlin students receive some form of need-based financial assistance. And all students, regardless of financial need, are automatically considered for generous merit scholarships. At minimum, all new students who apply and enroll at Oberlin in fall 2024 will receive the $10,000 Oberlin Commitment Scholarship.

Visit our Financial Aid Overview page to learn more.

International Applicants

If you are applying as an international student, some additional application materials are required in addition to what is listed above.

In most cases, you are an international student if you are not United States citizen or permanent resident, even if you attend high school in the U.S. Oberlin considers undocumented students living in the United States as domestic applicants.

English Language Proficiency

If English is not your first language, or you do not go to a secondary school where English is the primary language of instruction, you'll need to demonstrate that you possess the level of communication skills necessary to succeed in Oberlin's rigorous academic environment. To satisfy this requirement, we accept official score reports from TOEFL iBT (including iBT Home Edition), IELTS, or Duolingo’s English Test (DET).

Note: In order to remove application barriers, Oberlin does not charge an application fee, nor do we require SAT/ACT results. We realize that the costs of an English proficiency test may prove to be prohibitive for some applicants, but in the interest of fairness to all, we are unable to provide fee waivers. If you cannot afford an English proficiency test, we will review your application without it. When making our admissions decisions, we draw upon a holistic review, which means that no one element of an application will ever guarantee a student’s acceptance or rejection.

Results of any national examinations you have taken should also be submitted.

Additional Forms

As a need-aware institution, Oberlin considers a student’s financial circumstances when making admissions decisions. Applying for need-based financial aid places you in Oberlin’s most competitive applicant pool. For students enrolling in the Fall of 2023, the admit rate for all international students was approximately 8%. Applicants who can contribute at least $35,000 USD per year towards their educational expenses are the most competitive for admission.

Required international financial aid forms will be available in your Oberlin applicant portal after you submit your application. International applicants are required to submit the CSS Profile (code 1587) to apply for financial aid. If you are unable to submit the CSS Profile, or if paying the fee would present a financial burden, you may complete and upload the International Student Application for Financial Assistance (ISAFA) instead. You will also need to submit supporting documentation such as tax returns, wage earning statements, or bank statements. The Office of Financial Aid may be in touch with you if additional documents are required.

You do not need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) since you are not eligible for federal student aid.

Canadian citizens are required to submit the CSS Profile. 

It is important to note that Oberlin’s international financial aid budget is limited; students who do not apply for financial aid at the time of admission are not eligible for aid in future years. If a student is not applying for financial aid, the expected amount of support for the 2024-2025 year is $85,000. Oberlin estimates that our cost of attendance will increase by three to five percent annually.


Due to limited availability, interviews are reserved for United States citizens or permanent residents only. For international students, Oberlin College encourages and accepts independent interviews from vendors such as InitialView or Vericant. If you live in China, you can use InitialView and speak personally with an interviewer. If you live in Mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan, you can use Vericant to speak personally with an interviewer. If you live outside of these countries, you can use these vendors to speak with an interviewer via a video platform.

Your InitialView or Vericant conversation will be recorded and can be reviewed by Oberlin, as well as being shared with other colleges of your choice. Please note that an interview with InitialView or Vericant is not Oberlin-specific, so your interviewer will not be able to answer questions about Oberlin. There is a cost for this service. 

Other Materials

You may send examples of your best academic or artistic work. However, please be aware that certificates are not necessary and, unless they pertain to the final year of your high school education, prove unhelpful in the application reading process. A strong, well-prepared application is both comprehensive and concise.

Applying to Oberlin

I have some post-high school course work. Should I apply as a first-year student or as a transfer student?

Oberlin accepts applications from students who are transferring from another college or university. If you are attending a university full-time and are pursuing a degree, or if you have accumulated 30 or more semester hours of university credit (even if you aren't pursuing a degree), you must apply as a transfer student. In all other cases, you should apply as a first-year student.

Does Oberlin offer financial aid to international students?

Yes. Oberlin College meets 100 percent of the demonstrated financial need for all students that it admits. Financial aid is available in several forms to both first-year and transfer applicants. It is important to note that Oberlin’s international financial aid budget is limited; students who do not apply for financial aid at the time of admission are not eligible for aid in future years.

How are admissions decisions made for international students?

Oberlin selects students who demonstrate a high level of intellectual potential and achievement in the most rigorous courses available at their secondary school. There are no set numerical requirements for admission; decisions are made after a thorough reading and discussion of your application file (grades, recommendations, and personal essays). The international applicant pool is very competitive and Oberlin College typically accepts less than 8 percent of international applicants. You may find it useful to know that the middle 50 percent of international applicants admitted typically have scores and high school grade point averages in the following ranges:

Metric Middle 50% of Admitted Students
GPA 3.54 — 3.87
*SAT R 620 — 720
*SAT M 720 — 800
*ACT Composite 30 — 33
TOEFL (iBT) 106 — 112
IELTS 7.5 — 8.5
Duolingo 120 — 140

*Oberlin is test-optional for students applying for fall 2024 admission. SAT and ACT score submissions will be accepted, but are not required. Please review our testing policy for more information.

Does Oberlin offer advanced standing?

Students entering Oberlin with outstanding results on well recognized national or international examinations may be eligible for advanced standing. Advanced secondary school courses such as Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses may also earn transfer credit. General guidelines for transfer credit may be found here. Transfer credit and prerequisite determinations are made, on request, after enrollment by individual academic departments at Oberlin.

Can I apply if I already have a university degree?

Students with an associate degree or alternative one- or two-year degree may apply to Oberlin as transfer students, but not as first-year students. In some instances, you may apply as a transfer even if you have completed a bachelor's degree. This option is limited to graduates whose degree is not a Bachelor of Arts or its equivalent. For example, a student with a Bachelor of Engineering could apply as a transfer student. For students who already have a bachelor's degree, the opportunity to transfer credits is very limited and the College is unlikely to have much, if any, financial aid available.

How will the transcript from my school be evaluated?

Members of our admissions staff are familiar with a variety of national educational systems, and have contacts with school officials in foreign countries who keep them informed about the qualities of their local schools. The results of A-Level and International Baccalaureate (IB) tests, as well as other established national exams, can be useful in establishing your record of academic achievement.

Will Oberlin assist me in obtaining a travel visa?

Yes. The Office of International Students will send you a Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 Form) after you accept an offer of admission-typically in mid-May. You will need to present this form to the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy to receive the F-I Student Visa. You will receive additional information regarding your arrival at Oberlin by mail from the International Student Advisor.

Earning a Degree from Oberlin

What is the difference between the College of Arts & Sciences and the Conservatory of Music?

Oberlin's College of Arts and Sciences offers one of the top liberal arts programs in the United States. In four years you would receive a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. The BA is often the first step in higher education for most professional careers in the U.S. Unlike the educational systems in many countries, in North America, "arts" refers to the humanities and the sciences, as well as the arts. Therefore, your degree could be in one of 50 majors, which includes all of the natural sciences.

The Conservatory of Music is a world-class school of music designed to help students prepare for a career as a professional musician. Students who graduate from the Conservatory earn a Bachelor of Music (BM) degree.

Oberlin's Double Degree program allows students to enroll in both the College and the Conservatory. This five-year program grants students both a BA and a BM. Please note that the College and Conservatory have very different application procedures and requirements.

What subjects can I study at Oberlin?

You can study just about everything at Oberlin. We offer over 50 major programs of study that are grouped in three main areas: humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Popular majors at Oberlin include biology, politics, economics, mathematics, environmental studies, computer science, history, English, and psychology. Oberlin also allows students to design their own major. See more details on academic majors and programs:

Areas of Study
Full list of courses

Does Oberlin offer degrees in business or engineering?

Oberlin prepares undergraduates for subsequent study of business and engineering at the graduate level. For example, students who major in economics and/or computer science are often strong candidates for graduate programs such as the MBA. Our Integrative Concentration in Business allows students to add a focus on business and gain professional experience in the field, and the Business Scholars Program provides opportunities for students to work with successful Oberlin alumni in the financial sector.

Oberlin’s 3-2 Engineering Program partners with highly respected American schools of engineering. Students study at Oberlin College for three years and then for two additional years at California Institute of Technology, Case Western Reserve University, Columbia University, or Washington University. Students earn two degrees: a BA from Oberlin and a BS in engineering from the other institution. Financial aid for the engineering portion of the degree is provided by the engineering institution, requires a separate application, and may not be the same as the aid that Oberlin provided. Even if you do not pursue Oberlin's 3-2 engineering option, you can still go on to earn a graduate degree in engineering.

What are the possibilities for employment after graduation?

A liberal arts degree can be your passport for either advanced study or professional employment in a wide range of professions. International graduates holding an F-1 student visa are eligible to apply for a year of employment in the U.S. under USCIS guidelines for "optional practical training" (OPT). Applications for OPT must be processed through the Office of International Students.

The Career Center provides a wide range of services and contacts regarding employment and internships for both current Oberlin students and recent graduates. A network of Oberlin alumni may also be helpful in finding employment. Most international students take the opportunity to work in the U.S. for one or more years after completing their degree.

Learning More About Oberlin

Where is Oberlin?

The town of Oberlin is located in the state of Ohio, 35 miles southwest of Cleveland, a major metropolitan area. Cleveland features a world-class orchestra and art museum, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and three professional sports teams among many other attractions.

Oberlin attracts many of its students from the cities of America's east and west coasts. Currently, 10% of our student body is composed of international students, who represent 50 different countries. Oberlin offers a sophisticated and cosmopolitan community — a genuine microcosm of the United States itself — in a safe and secure setting. In many ways, this creates an ideal environment for learning.

What is a "liberal arts" education?

A liberal arts education is characterized by intellectual depth and breadth. Depth is realized through intensive training in a particular subject or major. Breadth results from exposure to the content, approach, and insights of several different subjects. Oberlin's general education requirements encourage students to seek breadth in their education, while the major requirements bring depth to their education. Oberlin's liberal arts curriculum is designed to:

  • equip you with skills of creative thought, technique, and critical analysis that enable you to use knowledge effectively;
  • provide intensive training in a chosen discipline or area of knowledge;
  • prepare you for advanced study and work beyond the college years;
  • foster understanding of the creative process and develop an appreciation of creative, original work;
  • expand social awareness, social responsibility, and capacity for moral judgment so as to prepare you for the present and future demands of society; and
  • cultivate a desire for lifelong learning.

Is Oberlin a college or a university?

In the United States, the term "college" has several different meanings, but always refers to post-secondary (after high school) education. In the U.S., the term "university" generally refers to institutions that offer graduate degrees and consist of several individual colleges. Because Oberlin College has both a College of Arts and Sciences and a Conservatory of Music, it meets the usual definition of a university. The Oberlin College name has been retained, however, because it highlights our focus on undergraduate education. At Oberlin, classes are always taught by professors rather than by graduate assistants. In addition, students do not have to compete with graduate students for research facilities or faculty attention.