Oberlin Blogs

SWM, NS, likes long walks on the beach

April 9, 2008

Will Mason ’10

My name is Will Mason, and I'm currently a sophomore at Oberlin College and a freshman in the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. I originally came here intending to major in English; I dropped that for politics after taking a great course during my first semester of freshman year (Post-Soviet Politics with Professor Crowley). I auditioned for the Conservatory that spring, having arrived at the conclusion that to not attempt to get in would be to squander a unique and significant opportunity. Due to blind luck, or perhaps a clerical error, I was admitted, and I began the curriculum this past fall. (This is not an uncommon practice; many college students arrive here and decide to switch to the double degree program or to the conservatory, and conversely many conservatory students decide to change their status as well.)

I was also hired freshman year to work for The Grape, Oberlin's alternative newspaper. The Grape and The Review have a bit of a friendly rivalry despite serving two very different functions on campus; what attracted me to The Grape was the subject and treatment of its reporting. The Review is what people read if they want to hear how a particular convocation went, or find out what's up with the construction of the forthcoming jazz building. People read The Grape if they want to read an interview with the rock band Explosions in the Sky, or read a page of shamefully vulgar jokes at the expense of then-recently-dethroned Republican senator Rick Santorum (alas, I wrote most of them, and should I ever decide to run for public office they will present a significant liability). And so on and so forth. Campus journalism is alive and well here, and the atmosphere at both newspapers is pretty relaxed; writers can contribute as frequently--or infrequently--as they wish.

I'm from Maine, which means that I find winter in Ohio pleasantly mild, a welcome respite from the brutal and protracted winters that made my long march through grade school even more laborious. I actively hated applying to colleges, and complained with great vigor and enthusiasm throughout much of the process. (My parents have somehow managed to remain on speaking terms with me.) I worried that I was being dishonest on my application and thus selling out my principles in the name of admission, and I also worried that college was going to be just like high school, only in a different town and with expensive buildings. I didn't even visit Oberlin prior to freshmen orientation, but upon arriving realized quite quickly that my anxieties had been misplaced.

Today my roommate mused aloud about the impact college has had on him. (This after I spent a considerable amount of time seated at my desk cursing and trying to think of a way to talk about Oberlin without sounding phony or pretentious. Fat lot of good that did.) "I guess that actually I would have turned out really different if I'd gone to another school instead of Oberlin." This succinctly touches on a number of important points; first, college is more or less what you make of it. You can be as active or as sedentary as you like, and either way you'll likely end up with a degree. But you can't make programs and facilities appear, and so no matter how gung-ho you are about studying, say, Chaucer, you probably aren't going to be able to learn much about him if you go to an engineering school. I now believe that it's best to think of the college application process as an opportunity for you to filter out poor matches and end up at a school where you can maximize the number of skills learned and friends made, the understanding being that these formative experiences will leave you more than adequately equipped for life after graduation.

For me, and for my roommate (another double-degree jazz student, interestingly enough), that meant coming to Oberlin. There would be no way for me to have known it prior to enrolling here, but if I'd gone to any of the other schools I considered I would have turned out dramatically different. Oberlin has been, and will continue to be, a profoundly important influence on me as a musician, a scholar, and a person. It's my hope that by blogging about my life here at school I can show you how I'm benefiting from my time here, and leave it to you to construe whether or not you'd fare the same.

I'm happy to answer any questions you have about college life (it's great), the double-degree program (it's not as daunting as it sounds), the conservatory (it's more daunting than it sounds), how I take my coffee (black, brewed in a French press at a strength such that consumption necessitates a fork and knife), et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

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