One of the many exciting aspects of being a first-year student is getting to experience different months and seasons at Oberlin for the first time. Year round, the weather is almost identical to the weather where I’m from in New York. However, it was still so fun to walk through Tappan in late October, with all of the leaves varying shades of yellow and red, and to watch some of my friends from warmer places make snow angels for the first time when Ohio became a winter wonderland a month later.
February, on the other hand, isn’t an entirely new experience for me here at Oberlin. Even though it’s my first February being on campus as a student, it’s the third February in a row that I’ve come to Oberlin, as I was here for my first campus tour in 2017, and my conservatory audition in 2018, two experiences that were foundational in shaping my story as an Oberlin student today.
Two years ago, like many high school juniors, I toured a lot of colleges. As a 16-year-old who felt indifferent about the whole process, my favorite part of touring wasn’t the schools themselves, but rather that I could use the excuse of a college visit to go to concerts in other states. That was certainly the case with Oberlin. When I first visited, it was because I wanted to see my favorite band’s first hometown headlining show in Columbus the night before, and Oberlin happened to be on the way home. Luckily, my dad said yes to the arrangement, and before I knew it, I was in Ohio.
Still basking in the energy of the concert, I was focused on replaying the night’s events when I arrived on campus the next morning. However, that focus shifted when my tour started. There were a lot of kids touring that day, and therefore a lot of tour guides. Each guide introduced themself, and from there, us prospies were able to pick which one we wanted. At first, it looked like our group was pretty sizeable, but it turned out that it was comprised solely of myself, my dad, and three first-year college students who were training to become tour guides themselves.
Having not one, but four current students taking my dad and I around, I was able to get a wide range of perspectives on what Oberlin life was like, and there was always bound to be someone with an answer to my questions. At the end of the tour, I remember my tour guide joking about how there are a lot of people named Claire at Oberlin, and how as a Claire, I’d be a perfect fit. The experience felt personal, and it stood out among other tours I had been on beforehand. Walking back to the car, I told my dad Oberlin was my new favorite college, and I had a lot more than just the concert to tell the rest of my family about when I got home.
I returned to Oberlin a couple more times in 2017 to tour the conservatory and interview for the college, but my next life-changing visit wasn’t until a year later. Flash forward to February 2018! I was excited to go to Ohio yet again, even though this trip didn’t involve seeing one of my favorite bands. Despite that, my weekend had no shortage of music, as I was coming back to Oberlin to audition to be a TIMARA major at the conservatory.
Unlike most majors at the con, TIMARA isn’t a performance major (for those of you unfamiliar, it focuses on a wide range of things in the area of electroacoustic music composition and technology!), so the auditions didn’t actually involve playing an instrument. Prospective TIMARA majors have to submit a screening portfolio with their initial applications (I did play an instrument during that part, but even then, it’s optional), and from there, some of them are selected to come to an audition weekend to tour the studios, eat pizza with current TIMARA majors, and interview with the professors. The interview is the “audition” aspect of the visit, and therefore, the part that prospective students tend to find scary.
I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say I was the most nervous I’d ever been when I auditioned for the conservatory. I wasn’t auditioning for any other official music schools, and Oberlin had been my top choice college for a year. The audition was my last chance to prove how much I wanted to be here (which was a lot). Before I went in, I sat in the car for a while, eating one of the iconic free donuts the con provides for auditioning students, and blasting my favorite song over the speakers in hopes that it would relax me.
It turns out I had nothing to be worried about, and I’m not just saying that because I got accepted. The audition was more of a casual conversation with the professors than anything else, and it was actually enjoyable! Afterwards, I had brunch with my mom at The Feve, one of my favorite Oberlin restaurants, a perfect ending to my last visit as a prospie.
Another year later, it’s 2019, and I’m in Oberlin for the third February in a row. The only difference is, this time, I’m here for much longer than just a day or a weekend. I’m now one of the current students that prospective TIMARA majors are eating pizza with, and one of the people passing by tour groups on the Saturday morning Tappan Square sidewalk, as I head to the conservatory to see if there are any audition donuts left.
To wrap up, my advice to the indifferent high school juniors out there is to give college tours a chance! If you’re still not into the process, find another motive. Whether it be attending a concert, visiting a friend, or exploring a really cool museum, there’s always something fun about experiencing a different town or state. My advice to auditioning high school seniors (especially those of you auditioning for TIMARA!) is to relax, try to have fun with it if you can, and eat the free food. Free food makes everything better. Good luck!