Oberlin Blogs

Choices, choices, choices

April 11, 2024

Hanna Alwine ’26

If you’re a student currently trying to figure out where to go to college, you’ve probably already seen lots and lots of lists that have offered you a million reasons you should come to this school. I’m here to tell you that they’re all true. They’re also all a lot of information. 

Should you come to Oberlin because of the “Professors get to know you as a person”? 

or the “Relationships with mentors last a lifetime”? 

or the “observatory for stargazing” 

or the “Experimental College”

or the “Swings in Tappan Square”? 

During this time of crisis and of imminent decision making, colleges are eager to tell you about what makes them special, different, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. It makes sense! They want you to choose them. Desperately. And it's true that everything listed above are aspects of Oberlin that make it special, a place that I love to go to school. I love ExCos, the classes taught through the Experimental College. I am a HUGE fan of the Observatory. The faculty here is great! But all of this doesn’t mean that other colleges aren’t offering similar, and sometimes, seemingly identical opportunities. 

For those of you who didn’t have your mind set on a single college, who maybe threw a dart at a bunch of places that sounded really cool, who are now stuck struggling between eerily similar diverging paths, I want to let you know that no matter which path you choose (even if it isn’t Oberlin!) you are going to have a great time. 

When I was trying to make this decision for myself oh-so-many-years-ago (two! wow! she’s so old and brave! how has she made it this long and not dropped out to move to some remote corner of Iceland!?) I got caught up in this idea of the perfect decision, the perfect school, certain that with enough research I could find the right choice hidden among a series of wrong ones. I ended up choosing Oberlin, but it wasn’t until much later that I felt comfortable with this choice. With so many diverging paths around what feels like such a monumental decision, it's easy to feel like the ones not taken might have led you to different, better things (there’s a phrase for that I think… something about grass and being green on another other side… maybe?).

But the reality is that each path that you might take, each green lawn that you choose to go stand in (perhaps this metaphor doesn’t really work for this specific scenario), is going to offer incredible, wonderful opportunities if you just go out and grab them. Most colleges that you got into (Congrats, by the way!) are going to provide you with a million and one resources. They’re going to boast about their incredible faculty and their incredibly connected student population and their great dining halls (about this, I assure you, they are all lying through their teeth).

Choosing where to go is tough because over the course of your years here you’re going to grow and change (become an adult I guess) in ways that you may not expect. You might choose a college now based on its incredible neuroscience program (which we have here at Oberlin!) and find two years down the line that in your heart of hearts you’re a philosopher. You might think you’re a total STEM freak, and find out one month into freshman year that you hate biology and cells and organelles (and… other science words!!) and your true passion is writing creatively! (I’ve seen it happen!) The reality is, the important part of this choice is not where you choose to go to school, but what you choose to do once you get there.

Here’s the part where I offer my plug for Oberlin. These are the opportunities that I’ve been able to go out and grab, or seen others go out and grab, here at Oberlin. They are reasons I am glad I decided to go to Oberlin, but not opportunities I knew about beforehand, rather things I’ve found along the way. 

1. The ability to work (and get paid) to be an editor for a student newspaper. 

(Un)fun fact, most student newspapers are not paid. Oberlin’s student newspaper does pay you for your labor. (Yes! Awesome!) Not only that, but the Oberlin Review is the newspaper of record for both the town of Oberlin and Oberlin College, which is an incredibly important role as well as a great addition to your resume. (Gross, but true.) 

2. Being a part of a student co-operative association.

Yes, other schools have these, but if the other schools on your list don’t, let this be the deciding factor that leads you to Oberlin. Community, freshly baked bread, hippie greek life without the hazing! 

3. Attending the Jelly-Fish Parade.

Part of what puts the hippie (or perhaps the culty?) in co-op. A monthly parade that celebrates the full moon complete with fiddles and dancing. I can’t say more. My lips are sealed. 

3. Studying French in Bordeaux over Winter Term.

Winter Term is pretty unique to Oberlin. Not like J-term at other schools where you just do more work, Winter Term is just a month-long passion project that you get credit for! There are even programs offered abroad. I went to Bordeaux one Winter Term. I’ve had other friends go to Mexico and Greece. Parlez-vous français?! Now I do! 

4. Visiting (or working at! or renting art from!) the Allen Memorial Art Museum.

One of the best small museums in the country. An incredible collection that includes work from Robert Mapplethorpe, Chuck Close, Nan Goldin (and a LOT of other people I’m forgetting). Check out their current show about HIV/AIDS and Christianity here

5. Seeing the O-clipse. 

Perhaps the most incredible experience I’ve ever had. I will not attempt to describe it here. I am becoming an eclipse chaser from here on out. My tickets for 2026 to Iceland are booked. (Not really… but maybe?) I genuinely cannot believe that I saw this in person, that I was in Ohio at this monumental moment. (For those of you that do not know Oberlin was in the line of totality for the 2024 solar eclipse. Super cool.) 

There are a lot of other things that are not on this list, but I have a feeling that your patience might be waning and you may not even get this far. As a last word of advice — as you continue your research, try to find those things that your college experience would be lesser without — the faculty that has done incredible research in your area of interest, the opportunities for employment that would bolster your resume (and inspire you!), the opportunities to leave the country, programs that might shift the trajectory of your life from chromosonal (I looked up science words — can you tell this is not my chosen path?) to literary or the other way around.