Oberlin Blogs

Prospie Perspective

March 7, 2010

Joe Dawson ’12

So, applicants to Oberlin will be notified of their acceptance in about a month, right? Gosh I'm glad I don't have to worry about that anymore. I suppose I could reflect for a moment on those days (I went through that waiting game twice, after all. I probably have some really intelligent crap-ola to say).

Among the many college campuses around the Midwest, Oberlin was one of the best places I toured. I was impressed by the old-timey buildings and newish Science Center and historical factoids that guides kept pulling out (an Oberlin undergrad originally penned the Declaration of Independence? Thomas Jefferson asked if he could 'check his answers' on his Declaration and then turned in one exactly like it?). Tours can only do so much for you, however. I'm really glad I took three total tours of Oberlin (the general tour, the sports tour, and the sciences tour), but really, tours are mainly for showcasing facilities and guides are left to single-handedly fill in the info about clubs, activities, and people on campus: "To your left is Mudd Library, which is ugly, and right ahead is Wilder Hall. The basement of Wilder houses Club Dionysus, usually referred to as the 'Sco, home to Drag Ball, Safer Sex Week Dance, and trivia nights Joe Dawson's team has been known to DOMINATE!" One of the things I really wish I had done was visit Oberlin as a prospective student, or 'prospie.' These are overnight guests to current students who actually go through a version of an Oberlin student's day while here. This experience is unlike a college tour or All Roads Lead to Oberlin (although All Roads includes an overnight stay with a current student) in myriad ways. In some ways, offering prospie-ships represents a significant risk for the admissions department, as the prospies' hosts have a lot of control over the prospies' impressions of Oberlin. In contrast to interviews and tours, where trained admissions interns give a roughly scripted introduction and acquaintance to Oberlin, host are set loose to shape their guests' entire conception of what Oberlin, and the world itself, is. Not exaggerating at all.

I'm sure hosts are given guidelines by the admissions department as to how to entertain their prospies in a manner most conducive to getting them to want to come here, but I've also witnessed prospies have vastly different experiences once here. For the most part, hosts search out events to entertain their young Pattowan, and switch off hosting duties to a friend who has an interesting class/practice/whatever to keep their prospie busy if they have something more mundane to do. I was hanging out in my friend Andrew's room last year when two prospies were on campus, listening to music and talking to the two young fellows before we went to a party that was a fund raiser for IYS. These guys were getting the full Oberlin experience, and they seemed to be having a great time. Matt, one of these guys, is a freshman here now, so he must have liked something about the place. Probably something that rhymes with Joe Dawson. A week ago, however, I was watching the Olympics in my friend Mike's room when a girl brought in her prospie, a bright-eyed lady from Maryland. The girl sat down in a chair near mine, and everyone in the room started the 'prospie conversation.' This conversation sounds a lot like this:

Obies: So (prospie name), where are you from?
Prospie: (Home city), it's right outside of (larger city nearby home city).
Obies: Oh yeah, (friend from similar locale) is from around there. Did you meet (friend from similar locale)?

(Prospie can't remember, because prospie can't be expected to remember EVERY DAMN NAME of EVERY DAMN PERSON she's introduced to, can she? RAAAAAHHHRRR!)

Obies: What do you want to major in?
Prospie: English.
Obies: Ahh. (Pause). (Prospie name), you want some street drugs? Club drugs?

Just kidding! And prospie-baiting hasn't been practiced for nearly a decade now, no matter what rumors you may have heard. The stake and chains are just for show.

What followed wasn't my idea of a really stimulating, engaging Friday night. This prospie wasn't outwardly bored, but I did wonder if this is really what she really wanted to see when she decided to be a prospie, guys sitting in chairs watching Apollo Ohno totally push that guy out of the way in speedskating and act like he was really surprised when he got second place ("Cheat to win! Go USA!" were the cries from Mike's quad last Friday). It is representative of what a small subset of Oberlin students do on Friday nights, but I can certainly see how a really boring night could turn a prospie off of Oberlin entirely.

On the other hand, often prospies come to Oberlin with a very specific idea of what Oberlin is and how cool and different it must be to go here. They come on campus and shout 'woo!' a little too much, ask when we're going to start drinking, and try to jump out of windows (yes, I'm thinking of a specific person here, but I'm also painting a picture of Red Bull Prospie, who may be sabotaging their prospership just as badly as a host that sits on a couch watching TV with their prospie for 3/4 of their stay). Please, be excited to try things and meet people at Oberlin. Realize that not everything you see is an accurate representation of Oberlin at large, especially since people may be going out of their way to impress the prospie. Be really tuned in to how you feel about things you see, hear, etc. I really think feelings are important in this process. As a high school senior I heard a lot of really good things about a school a lot like Oberlin, a little farther west and north of Ohio, but comparable in many ways on paper. Once I got there, I didn't particularly like the campus, the students, something about the place. I felt a metaphorical door closing when I crossed the school off my list of possibles for college, but I definitely had a better sense of what schools felt like when they were and weren't right.

So, a couple of final suggestions: Be a prospie, if you can manage one (more) visit to Oberlin. Also, let Oberlin show you why it's so good. Be yourself when you come here to make sure that Oberlin really is the best place for you. You can have fun pretending you're having a blast for a weekend at Oberlin, but if you don't get a good feel for the place, what might it be like when you're spending the next four years here? Scary thought.

Finally, unrelated--
I was in a movie last weekend! My friend Tino and I spent an insane two and half days filming and editing and got it online Monday night, hours before the deadline (which was immediately extended, of course). I play the wizard in the climactic scene and the narrator throughout. I also spent this Saturday and Sunday making movies with cinema studies people. I find myself taking mental notes while hanging around people who actually know what they're doing making movies.

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