Last week hundreds of fat envelopes went out to those fortunate enough to be accepted to the Oberlin class of 2013. Those of you in that group should feel a great sense of pride and accomplishment in seeing your hard work in high school pay off. Now comes the last but often unexpectedly difficult part of the admissions process: weighing your various options and deciding which of the colleges that have admitted you would be the best fit for the next exciting phase of your life.
Some of you will of course have already made your choice. Whether you applied early decision or just always had your heart set on Oberlin, once the acceptance came through you were home free.
But others have a much harder time making up their minds. Some may have to make difficult choices based on financial considerations: college is a major investment for any family, not one to be taken lightly. And then there are the less tangible factors: would you be better off at a large institution or a smaller one? In a city or not? Where are you more likely to find the academic challenges you seek, the extracurricular opportunities you want, the cultural factors that will stretch and inspire you? Where will you find the people with whom you want to spend the next four years?
I've seen a recent online article suggesting that "Where You Go to College Doesn't Matter"--a notion with which I strongly disagree. (Actually, the article isn't nearly as provocative as its title: it moves toward the conclusion that you shouldn't choose a college based on rankings or prestige, which makes a good deal more sense.) Based on my own experience, where you go to college does matter profoundly: my adult values, priorities, tastes, and opinions were strongly shaped by my experiences as an Oberlin undergraduate, and I know hundreds of Oberlin alums who would say they made the best friends of their lives here.
So if you're currently struggling with indecision, how on earth do you make up your mind? While you're never going to know with 100% certainty that you made the right choice, certainly you'd like to feel you had as much useful information available as possible. Presumably you did a good deal of research before deciding to apply in the first place, but if you're now trying to decide between places that on paper look similar--Oberlin and Wesleyan, say, or Oberlin and Grinnell--you may feel a little like a deer trapped in the headlights.
Fortunately, help is available! I always tell prospective students that we don't want students to choose Oberlin with false expectations; we want students coming here with a clear sense of what they'll find, and so it's to our benefit to be as transparent as possible about what we offer. And there are a couple of sources of information that you really shouldn't hesitate to take advantage of:
1. Jesse has already blogged about All Roads Lead to Oberlin, so I'll just add that the faculty cordially welcomes you to visit over the course of this month. Visiting is the single best way to learn what makes Oberlin distinctive. Often what seems abstract and vague about a college you've only read about becomes crystal clear when you walk around the campus, introduce yourself to a student in the library, go to a concert or the art museum, or spend a night in a dorm. If you visit on the designated highlight days, there will be special events such as panel presentations and lunch with the faculty. But if you can't come one of those days, you're welcome to visit any day during the month, when you can still visit classes, hang out with students (who tend to be remarkably welcoming), and schedule an overnight in a dorm.
(Should I point out that, even if you've already chosen Oberlin, you're still completely welcome at All Roads? If you can't wait until August to meet your future fellow students in a less-virtual-than-Facebook sense, this is the time!)
2. But what if you're unable to visit? I've seen admitted students posting questions to each other on the Facebook page and other websites, and there's inevitably some dubious information being disseminated. Here's an alternative: please feel free to post your questions here, as comments either to this post or to any other one on the site. My fellow bloggers and I would be more than happy to give you our two cents--it's our job to let you know how we experience Oberlin, and we'd love to give you an honest response to whatever uncertainties you're currently grappling with.
Good luck with your decision! I look forward to seeing some of you here this month (I'll be on one of the panels on the 10th, for instance), and others in the fall.