I'm here to talk to you about college visits, both for Oberlin and for other schools. I want to help you make the best decision for your academic future, because college visits are important, but they're not the beginning and end of your journey to choose the best college for you. Personally, my experiences visiting colleges were only fun three times. I visited a total of at least EIGHT schools, and only three visits were ones I liked--and two of those trips were to the same university!
Now, I'm going to come clean and say outright that my visit to Oberlin was one I enjoyed, but it wasn't the best college visit I had. It was February 28th and well below freezing when I visited Oberlin, and I was pretty miserable on my tour. If I recall correctly, it was sleeting during our entire walk through campus, and I felt kind of in the spotlight because I was one of two prospies on the tour. It was very intimate and I didn't feel lost in a crowd of kids, but it was also a little weird (in a very good way!) to have such a personalized tour. Looking back, I'm really glad that I was able to ask so many questions and tailor the visit to my interests. However, it was very new to me at the time, especially since I had only visited larger universities before Oberlin. I had gotten used to the big groups of prospies and parents, and suddenly being so influential in my college visit experience was kind of scary.
After the tour, I had an informal interview with an admissions officer who took around twenty minutes of his day to answer any questions I had. He had comprehensive and helpful answers on everything from the specifics of my (very niche) major to study abroad opportunities, and I left feeling really good about Oberlin. It wasn't my top choice at the time, but I liked it a lot.
Then, my parents and I went to The Feve for a quick lunch before we had to travel back home. It was there that I fell in love with Oberlin--not, as you might think, because of the heavenly tater tots and mind-blowing burgers. No, it was the sheer luck of sitting down where we did, and when we did, that I overheard a conversation that would change the order of my meticulous "Personal College Rankings" list and put Oberlin much closer to the top (Oberlin still wasn't my top choice, but I'll discuss that further later).
At the table next to us were three students talking about my favorite video game series of all time, Mass Effect. I quietly expressed my excitement to my parents, who encouraged me to ask if I could participate in the students' conversation. I did, and they welcomed me to their table, where I discussed the merits of Mordin Solus and the much-contested ending to Mass Effect 3. After they found out I was a prospie, they suggested I look into Sci-fi Hall, which is a residential option for students. Oberlin's themed living options had been briefly mentioned on my tour, but I had no idea there was a Sci-fi and Fantasy themed housing option. I had to get on the road to go home, but I talked about this new development with my parents extensively, and I was delighted. No other school had something like that, and it was so up my alley I could barely believe it.
Funny thing about that day: I'll never forget the conversation I had with those students, but I can't remember their faces at all and if I've seen them on campus, I haven't recognized them. I'd like to thank them someday for their contribution to my making the right decision for myself in my college career. Maybe they'll read this post and make themselves known. Life is weird like that.
I'm actually very happy that I was waitlisted at my top two choices (University of Virginia and Washington University in St. Louis) and rejected from a third (University of Chicago). I definitely would have dropped everything to go to UVA or UChicago, because I valued name prestige and thought that a big university's size was what I wanted. I was under the impression that a small liberal arts school couldn't offer me everything I wanted, and boy was I wrong. I had stars in my eyes for UVA for the longest time, but I wasn't willing to put in more effort to get in off the waitlist when I had schools like Oberlin, Bryn Mawr, and NYU to look closer at.
Still under the impression that I wanted a big school with lots of opportunities for research and study abroad, I almost accepted NYU's offer. But something felt strange about it. I started to wonder if I might feel lost among the droves of students there. I came to realize that even if NYU wanted to send me to Florence for my freshman year (which honestly would have been a dream come true), I didn't want to be "a number" in a sea of faces, to use a tired adage. So it was between Oberlin and Bryn Mawr when it came down to it.
Now, I want to think that I would have still chosen Oberlin if Bryn Mawr weren't a block away from my house, but I honestly don't think it's worth it to dwell on what mistakes I might have made if things didn't work out the way they did. Oberlin was never my Top Choice, but a series of fortunate events led me away from places where I thought I wanted to be, and into the loving environment I'm a part of now. Oberlin is absolutely the best place for me, and I'm sure I would have been happy at NYU or UVA, but I'm so glad that my personal experiences led me to choose Oberlin College.