I had never anticipated going out-of-state for college. Since starting high school, I had pictured myself happily attending my state flagship that offered over 100 majors and many minors in interesting subjects, such as less-commonly taught languages. Of course, I had dreams and ambitions, but I wanted to be realistic and not put too much pressure on crafting the perfect resume for elite universities. It seemed like a good fit for me, and even at a large school, I reasoned that I would find a group of friends.
So I applied there in August and heard back in September. After that acceptance, I applied to a few more schools that I had visited to give myself options, among them, Oberlin. At that time, no one could have predicted the global pandemic that turned the world of education, among other things, upside-down. To give myself even more options, I applied to even more schools, some which I had never visited. (Looking back, this was probably not necessary but I do feel like I covered all of my bases and I have zero regrets about the college application process.)
By the time I heard back from all of the schools in mid-March, our lives had drastically changed. My high school had closed down the campus and only offered remote instruction, and my plans to visit the schools I was considering had been dashed. I was confused and torn. How was I supposed to make a decision about the college I was going to attend for the next four years when I couldn’t even experience student life there?
Oberlin answered my concerns and questions by offering a series of webinars on Zoom that covered student life, academics, and extracurricular activities. They even offered a two-credit class on COVID-19 to allow students to meet professors, current students, and future classmates. One day, the telephone rang and when I answered, I was surprised to learn that a current student from Colorado was on the line. She wanted to talk to me and answer any questions I might have. I also heard from a college admissions officer, a biology professor, a former student who later studied at Oxford and is now a professor himself, and an alumna from Pittsburgh who attends medical school. Oberlin was the only school out of the many I applied to that offered such creative and informative alternatives.
A week before the commitment deadline, I was still torn. I had spent high school imagining my life at my state school that I knew and loved. I had spent hours researching majors and study abroad programs and had even decided to minor in an obscure world language. On the other hand, Oberlin was offering a one-of-a-kind experience at a residential liberal arts college. Living in Ohio would allow me to move a bit farther away and meet people from all over the United States and the world. At the same time, it was close enough to home that my parents felt comfortable enough sending me there since I could come home quickly if needed. It offered opportunities like Winter Term and Excos that could only be found at Oberlin.
Some people advise flipping a coin when making a major life decision, such as a college commitment. Once the coin is flipped, you are supposed to imagine what you hoped it would land on and feel affirmed about your choice. I didn’t do this. I almost did, but then I remembered something.
OstrichTortilla. The password I had made for my Oberlin application portal. I had chosen funny passwords for each college I had applied to using a word that started with the same letter the college’s name started with. I had passwords like BearCareful, GrizzlyMontana, OwlPizza, and ColorfulCat. I had applied to so many colleges that I wrote all of them down on a piece of paper hanging by my desk and I would have to reference the sheet every time I logged into my portals. There was only one college whose password I never needed to search for because I had memorized it, and that college was Oberlin.
Maybe it was just the interesting word combination I had chosen for Oberlin. But maybe it was something more indicative of my true feelings. Every time I had logged into my Oberlin portal in the weeks leading up to the release of admissions decisions, I had felt a flicker of excitement in my chest. From my neighbors who are alumni of Oberlin, I had heard enough things that I knew what a wonderful and accepting community Oberlin was, in addition to the rigorous academics and engaging extracurricular activities. So maybe my acute memory for that particular password was a sign that deep down, I had already chosen that Oberlin was where I was going to go.