Oberlin Blogs

A Visitor's Guide to Oberlin: Tours and Interviews

November 24, 2010

Welcome to Part Three of my four-part series on visiting Oberlin!

If you've stumbled across this randomly, here are links to the other parts:
Part 1: Planning Your Visit
Part 2: Welcome to Admissions!

Several other people have blogged about tours and interviews. Aries, for example, has blogged about interviewing advice, her alumni interview, and being a tour guide for life.

In this section, I'm going to give you my personal take on tours and interviews. But first, a bit of background to explain why I'm telling you this.

I started working as a tour guide around spring break of my first year at Oberlin. In the summer of 2009, I was hired as an admissions intern, meaning I began conducting interviews of prospective students. Now that I've been at this for a while, I thought I would give you helpful hints as to how to make your tour and interview experiences more enjoyable and helpful.

Tour Advice


  • Show up on time: A happy tour group is one that leaves on time. Showing up late often leads to people asking questions about information that has already been covered and forcing the tour guide to repeat him-, her-, or hirself. That's not fun for anyone.

  • Answer your tour guide's questions: Tour guides will try to engage groups, usually by asking your name, where you're from, what your academic interests are, etc. I've had countless people stare at me blankly when I ask them these questions. It's super awkward. Answer! Engage!

  • Ask questions: I love questions. So much. I have a lot of freedom in what I talk about (and how I talk about it) on my tours, but my tours are pretty much the same every time. Having questions to answer allows me to stay engaged. Also, it gets your questions answered. It's a win-win for everyone!

  • Have fun: The tour guides at Oberlin are awesome. They're doing their best to tell you why they love Oberlin. Enjoy this experience. I love talking about my Oberlin experiences. It's one of the reasons that I love to give tours.

  • Don't ask questions you wouldn't normally ask a stranger: I've been considering writing an "awkward tour questions" blog post. I probably will at some point. But let me say this. My goal is to give you a picture of student life at Oberlin. Yes, this may often contain anecdotes from my personal life, but that doesn't mean you should ask questions you wouldn't normally ask a stranger.

  • Be a trooper: In Ohio, the weather is often unpredictable and changes rapidly. I've been caught in tours where it was sunny when I left admissions and I returned completely soaked. I do my best to keep my tours out of the elements when the weather gets particularly bad, but I can only do so much. My best advice is to layer your clothing. It's insanely helpful, trust me :)

My favorite tour groups are the ones where I feel like I'm having more of a conversation with the people on my tour than anything else. People are clearly engaged in what we're talking about, ask lots of questions, and, most importantly, are having just as much fun as I am. The most awkward tours are the ones where people don't pay attention, wander off, don't ask questions, don't find my corny jokes to be entertaining (yes, they're not the most hilarious jokes in the world, but enough people have chuckled that I know that my jokes aren't horrible), and just stare at me blankly.

The most important piece of advice I can ever give when it comes to visiting schools is HAVE FUN.

Interviewing Advice

First off, I should mention that interviews are not required. I didn't interview. I'm still here. Yes, they're "recommended," but they exist primarily for you to offer up more information that wouldn't otherwise be apparent in your application.

Now, Aries wrote a fantastic post about this way back when, but I thought I would write some advice of my own.

  • Relax! Our interviews are super informal. Odds are that you will have your interview with an intern, who is a current student. Use this to your advantage. Ask them questions only a student can answer! Also, you don't have to dress up. Wear whatever makes you most comfortable. Maybe wear something that starts a conversation: your favorite concert shirt, a shirt from an organization that you're part of, etc.
  • Be passionate, but professional. Even though your interviewer may be a student, realize that this is your only Oberlin interview. You want to leave having left your interviewer with a good impression. Don't be the prospie who came in and talked to his interviewer about wanting to party all the time. That's definitely not a good idea.
  • Talk. A lot. I cannot stress how important this is. I want to hear about you. Talk about your passions, your interests, why you love what you do. The best interviews are the ones where I ask a question - I always start with, "Why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself?" - and then we just talk for the next 20-30 minutes. The most awkward ones are when I have to come up with ridiculous questions for people to answer because they're not offering up any information. I hate having to resort to the interview questions along the lines of "if you could meet any person, dead or alive, who would it be?" Stereotypical interview questions can only reveal so much information. Just talk. It will make the experience better for the both of us.
  • Don't wait till midway through the interview to mention some awesome
    accomplishment. It always surprises me when people don't mention their amazing accomplishments right away. For example, about 20 minutes into an interview, a prospie revealed that he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro the previous summer. That's something you should mention right off the bat. As far as I know, he was the only person I've ever met who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
  • Don't be so polished that you're boring. People sometimes feel the need to be insanely prepared and have predetermined answers for their interviews. That's not fun for anyone. Also, we can totally tell. Just fyi.
  • Do make eye contact. Look at me. I'll look at you.
  • Confused about something? Ask! Did something not make sense on your tour/in your information session/on the website? Did something I just explained not make any sense at all? Tell me and I'll try to help!

I think that, combined with what Aries has already suggested, should get you off to a good start. Interviews are fun. I love them. I hope you love yours, too.

Oh, shoot. Now I need a quote...

"Why Oberlin?" - nearly every single prospie or parent I have ever met. Ever.

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