Oberlin Blogs

My "Why Oberlin" Story

April 6, 2023

Ricarda Hill ’24

Congratulations to everyone who has received their college decisions recently! As a student who works in the admissions office, I am pretty passionate about the college admissions process and learning about the unique aspects of every campus, particularly this one! Within the office of admissions, there are many opportunities for students to find campus jobs and contribute to the Oberlin community and help share our campus experiences with prospective students. To add a personal touch, student tour guides usually conclude their tour of the campus by listing some of the reasons why they chose Oberlin. Some students have really interesting stories – kids who are third-generation Oberlin legacies who had visited multiple times and some who applied from overseas without stepping foot on campus before orientation. I do not have family members who attended Oberlin and I was able to visit once during the fall of my senior year of high school, so I landed somewhere in the middle. My list of reasons is short and sweet but hopefully explains why Oberlin stood out to me and maybe resonates with you as well. 


Collaborative STEM Classes

Coming to college, I was interested in studying science, among other things — if anyone else remembers what they put on their Common Application, I’m pretty sure I applied to Oberlin as a biology, environmental studies, or history major! I didn’t want to be in introductory classes of hundreds of students and not have access to the professor or teaching assistants for help or career advice. I also wanted to avoid weed-out science classes, which can happen at larger schools with impacted majors – they may simply not have the space for all of the students who want to to study that subject. This stress of not getting into your preferred major can create a more competitive environment where students are vying for the best grades in these classes. Everyone is coming to college with a different high school background, and I would rather study at a school that encourages collaboration instead. That is not to say that these introductory courses at Oberlin are not challenging; they definitely test your resolve and commitment to pursuing these STEM subjects, but it is easier to do well in (and enjoy!) these classes when you are surrounded by people who want you to succeed. I was also interested in acquiring research experience, which is pretty accessible to students across the College in their chosen areas of study. I was not aware that students could successfully join research labs starting as early as their first semester or Winter Term on campus, but that is definitely an option for those who are interested! I started research my junior year, which was still a pretty smooth process, and I appreciate the opportunity to gain research experience as an undergraduate in college. I also knew that I wanted to pursue other subjects, such as anthropology, languages, geosciences, and economics, to name a few, and felt supported by the liberal arts curriculum and distribution requirements to take classes that I was truly interested in. Since academics are one of the biggest reasons why we attend college, it's important to find a school that is an academic fit and Oberlin was mine!


Music Opportunities

Having quit the violin in third grade, I am definitely (and admittedly) one of the least musically inclined students at Oberlin. When I visited, my tour guide was a former theater kid who eagerly listed off their experience with many different musical instruments, and it was a little intimidating. I thought I might feel out of place as a musical ignoramus. However, since coming here, I have really relished the opportunity to be surrounded by musically talented people. My friend Sophie has a goal of attending at least one musical event per week, and I recently tagged along to a jazz concert in The Cat in the Cream, Oberlin's student-run performance venue. There are over 500 musical events offered throughout the year, which averages out to about 3 events per day – truly spoiled for choice! Up until this spring semester, I had taken the omnipresence of music for granted; I didn’t realize that this doesn’t happen at every school! Since then, I have been making more of a concerted effort (haha) to support students in the Conservatory and other musical groups on campus. I have also met a lot of Conservatory and musically-inclined students through German language classes since many “Con” students take a variety of language classes to fulfill requirements, to immerse themselves in the language of their favorite operas, and to prepare themselves for experiences abroad. It has been refreshing to get out of the “College” bubble and meet people with wildly different academic interests and career aspirations. I’m also hoping that they’ll remember me in a few years when they’re famous and can maybe slip me some reduced or free tickets! 


The Friendly and Supportive Community 

Usually I wrap up by saying something about how I’m surprised to be standing here in front of prospective students and their families, and I mean it. I was a shy high school student and turned down an opportunity to be a tour guide for my school, despite my interest in the position. I would not have imagined myself standing in front of prospective students, where I was just a few years ago, giving a tour of Oberlin’s campus and sharing anecdotes from my college experience. Oberlin is an extension of high school in the best way: you can keep doing the activities you love or try out some new ones! For example, I joined the frisbee team my first year despite not having played since elementary school. In addition, tour guides receive paid training (as do many other student jobs), and many other student clubs and organizations are eager to let anyone join, regardless of experience. Everyone I’ve met here, professors, students, and staff members, has been willing to meet me where I am and support me in who I want to be. Professors will help you prepare for presentations and encourage class participation if you’re nervous. They are happy to write you letters of recommendation (just give them some advanced notice!), advise you on course selection even if you aren’t their official advisee, and encourage you to pursue research, international fellowships, and graduate school if you express interest. The students here are not competitive with each other, and grades are rarely a topic of discussion. Making friends in different classes is definitely a game-changer and is a great opportunity to study collaboratively and bond with others over the challenging material. Of course, I wasn't aware of the full extent of this support when I was making my decision, but I did feel that this campus had good vibes and went with my gut. Overall, I am really happy to have landed in a place where I have experienced so much growth since the day I stepped foot on campus. 


These are just a few of the reasons why I realized that Oberlin was the right place for me! I made my decision during the spring of 2020 without visiting campus during All Roads, Oberlin’s campus visit day for admitted students (which I highly recommend if you are able to do so!). Needless to say, the journey hasn’t been without a few bumps (thanks, COVID) and it honestly can take a few months to feel truly at home away from your home. Although I occasionally doubted my choice (I could be fluent in Irish by now at my state school!!), I feel confident that I made the best choice under the circumstances. Most importantly, having met my amazing friends, I could not imagine my college experience without them. To graduating high school seniors, be proud of how hard you have worked and what college acceptances you have (so excited for you!). It can definitely be an overwhelming experience to choose where you will spend the next four years, but know that it will all work out in the end. If you have any questions about Oberlin, feel free to reach out or contact the Oberlin admissions office for more information!

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