Oberlin Blogs

The College Decision

April 30, 2010

Isaac Yoder ’13

As I write this in the lounge of Keep Co-op, munching on homemade vegan donuts with friends at two in the morning, it's interesting to think where I was just a year ago--one of the most stressful times of my life.

After enduring the arduous college application process and the long wait for responses, I still didn't know where I was going to spend the next four years of my life. Many of you readers of this blog are probably in a similar situation.

I had narrowed my decision down to two incredible, and quite similar, colleges--both small liberal arts colleges with small classes and impressive reputations. As my stress levels built up, the forms from both schools sat forebodingly on my living room table for weeks, completely filled out except for the accept/decline checkboxes.

My first college option had been my top choice since I started my college search in my Junior year--the college I had fallen in love with at first visit and always assumed I would attend.

And the second school was some place called Oberlin.

What I knew about Oberlin:

  • Highly rated academics. College Prowler gives Oberlin's academics the rare "A" grade. And Oberlin historically graduates more PhDs than any other liberal arts college.

  • A culture of activism that continues to today. I knew that it's politically involved and is consistently rated one of the top environmentally-conscious schools.

  • The liberal arts experience is a priority, but Oberlin also has high quality programs in traditionally weak areas for liberal arts colleges, like science departments--especially appealing for someone like me who, at the time of the college choice, had no idea what I wanted to major in.

  • My high school civics teacher wrote her endorsement on a graded paper she returned to me "Oberlin seems like a great match for you--a very creative and intellectually-engaged community."

  • Music. There are over 500 concerts a year on campus, a thriving music scene and an excellent 24-hour, student-run radio station.

  • Memories from my brief visit. I experienced the whimsical co-op community while eating in Harkness co-op, sat in on some incredible classes, and attended some of the many performances of that weekend.

But this information still left a vague picture in my mind. It's a rough position for a teenager to be in--how was I supposed to know where I wanted to go when I didn't even know what kind of college experience would be best for me?

I finally found my answer in a line from Thomas Wolfe's classic You Can't Go Home Again. "The trick was to get his reason and his emotions pulling together in double harness, instead of letting them fly in opposite directions, tearing him apart between them," writes Wolfe. "He would try to give his head command and see what happened: then if head said, 'Leap!'--he'd leap with all his heart."

So I did what made the most sense to my rational side. I checked Oberlin's acceptance option, stuck it in the mail on the morning of May 1st and went to class, no more sure of my decision than I had been weeks before.

This is my advice to any reader in a similar position--make your choice based on concrete, rational reasons, and then throw yourself behind that decision without looking back.

I was meeting with my religion professor a couple days ago, and he sprung a question on me--"why did you decide to come to Oberlin?" I didn't quite know how to articulate a clear response. All I knew was I had made a rational leap of faith based on what little information I had and had landed in a stimulating community in rural Ohio.

And as I finish a fifth vegan donut and move on to my Constitutional Law reading for tomorrow, I can't imagine myself being anywhere else.

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