A big (and long overdue) hello to everyone out there, in particular to those of you who are waiting for your ED letters to arrive.
I know how you feel.
In a previous entry I wrote the following about my own applying-to-Oberlin experience:
"I remember trying to begin applications to other colleges in case I got deferred, but I couldn't bring myself to complete any of their questions. I simply didn't have a second choice. I remember racing home from school on the day decisions were to arrive. I remember opening my letter and reading my offer of admission. I remember what it felt like to know that Oberlin thought we were a good match too. I remember running around the neighborhood screaming like a freak because I simply couldn't contain myself. I remember calling my parents and trying to calm down enough to speak."
That was exactly twenty years ago today -- December 14, 1991.
Happy anniversary, Oberlin.
Twenty years ago I couldn't imagine loving Oberlin any more than I already did, but I was wrong. Oberlin was a central character in all of those years -- not just the four I spent on campus as a student. The place gets into your veins and stays there.
I can tell you exactly where my admit letter is, but I have no idea where my diploma is these days. As I once told Dean of Admissions Debra Chermonte, the former invited me to come to Oberlin and the latter meant I had to leave. Which would you cherish more? (My parents chose the latter, btw. Alas.)
It all worked out; I got to come back in 2008 and -- bonus! -- now Oberlin pays me. Which brings us to yesterday.
Towards the end of our weekly staff meeting, Dean Chermonte presented me with a surprise packet that included a reprint of my admit letter (with some humorous additions), a beautiful letter from Hannah Serota '86 (the admissions officer who admitted me) congratulating me on my 20 years as an Obie, a copy of the '91 viewbook (OMG, so wonderfully dated), and my original application (why this still exists on campus I have no idea).
Back then there was a question that asked "What career or professional plans are you considering?" My answer: "Psychiatrist." What? I barely made it through Psych 100 (not my fault - the class was at 8:30AM).
And my SAT scores were abysmal. Well, until I remembered that the highest score one could get in those days was 1600, not 2400. :-)
But the best part was re-reading my "Why Oberlin" essay after all this time, and realizing how little has changed. Here's the last paragraph, written right after my prospie campus visit in 1991:
"Those I met at Oberlin were so enthusiastic about their studies and activities. They took great pride in sharing these with me (a prospective student!) -- their understanding in a certain class or their love of something outside of class. Oberlin almost by definition is a place that respects people for what they believe in and how they choose to express it. I was so impressed by the college's history as one of the first to admit African-American students and the first to be coeducational. Tolerance: this is what Oberlin means to me. The environment I encountered -- that of openness and communication and warmth -- is the environment in which I'd like to live and learn for the next four years."
Nothing has changed, except four years have become... well, eight and counting.
So -- if your mailbox brings good news this week, huge congrats to you and welcome to the family. Since we're twenty years apart, we may wind up at reunions together, and your class will likely steal all of my class's beer (sorry class of 1976 -- we'll make it up to you at the next one). [Correction: that was the class of 1971's 25th, my bad. Sorry class of 1971, we'll make it up to you.]
If your mailbox doesn't bring the news you were hoping for, however, allow me to share a bit of old-man perspective that I didn't have twenty years ago: Oberlin, amazing as it is, is not the only amazing institution out there. I've had the pleasure of working for others, and I now know that there are places at which I could also have been blissfully happy in college. Make the best of wherever life takes you and the rest will follow.
Best of luck to all of you! And while you wait, enjoy this scanned cover of the '91 viewbook. OLD-SCHOOL. :-)