A number of people have asked me this question, ranging from high school teachers, to volunteers at a non-profit organization I was a student at, to faculty and staff at Oberlin College. And each time the question is asked, I often take a deep breath, smile, and begin with:
Well, when I visited Oberlin, I was going through a really tough situation at home…
Before I go into great detail about the question that so many people ask college students, especially first-year students, I want to briefly explain why I typically take a deep breath and smile before answering.
For one, bittersweet memories immediately surface when I am asked this question. I begin to have a number of flashbacks that pertain to my Oberlin encounters. These encounters being both sweet and a bit bitter, depending on one’s perspective. But I cannot help the smile that takes over my face when simply pondering what brought me to Oberlin. I typically have to take a deep breath for two reasons: 1) I am never quite sure where to start and where to end, and 2) I am thinking about how to express my college decision using as few sentences as possible.
Luckily for me, though, I (practically) have as much space as I want to discuss my ultimate college decision down below.
As I mentioned above, I visited Oberlin during the most life-changing event I have experienced thus far in my life. I recall my mom and I briefly discussing whether it was an ideal time for me to leave home for three days. In the end, my mom decided that, though attending Oberlin’s Multicultural Visit Program would not “positively” contribute to the hardship we were facing, it could “positively” contribute to me, as I was a senior in high school and preparing to apply for college.
So, there we were, less than 24 hours after we received the life-changing news, driving through rural Ohio. To say I was a bit uneasy would be an understatement. My “dream” college (at the time) was situated in an urban, relatively fast-paced environment. But after driving a few more minutes, I immediately lit up.
I thought: This is a cute town and the college is situated in the heart of it.
Participating in Oberlin’s MVP is one of the most memorable experiences from my senior year of high school, especially considering how difficult that year was for me. All in all, the MVP was amazing. Like many other prospies, attending Soul Session, presented by Abusua, Oberlin’s Black Student Association, and Afrikan Heritage House, was a moving experience. We were able to get a glimpse of the black and people of color community that is fostered on Oberlin’s campus.
Though attending Soul Session positively contributed to my experience on campus, it was a particular prospie that made my experience especially worthwhile. He and I talked for hours at Azariah’s, a café in the college’s main library. We talked about our experiences, adversities, and aspirations.
We discussed what it meant to experience our lives, the good and the bad.
When I later reflected on our conversation, I recall thinking somewhere along the lines of this:
There are so many amazing people in the universe that I have yet to encounter. People who have the potential to expand my horizons beyond even what I thought was possible. And while the familial adversities that I am facing are, indeed, terrible, they are also temporary. And if I get through this and continue to assert my strong work ethic and dream big, yet realistically, I will (potentially) have a multitude of more experiences similar to the one with the other prospie.
Overall, as a result of my experience as an Oberlin prospie, I realized how impactful college would be on my personal growth and development. I recall texting my mentor at the conclusion of the MVP and expressing to her how if I attended Oberlin, I would prosper physically, emotionally, spiritually, and academically.
On October 13, 2018, though, I still hadn’t quite decided on Oberlin College for school.
So, let’s fast forward to the part of the story that is going to sound way too familiar to some folks that have gone through the college application process.
It is the end of April 2019, and I did not receive an offer of admission from any of my preferred colleges or universities. To say that I was completely devastated would be an understatement.
But I got accepted into Oberlin College.
I like to think that most things happen for a reason. Thus, I choose to believe that being denied admission into all of my top schools, but being accepted into Oberlin College, happened for a reason.
Overall, as cheesy and cliché as it may sound, I did not necessarily choose Oberlin, but rather Oberlin chose me. And I am ever grateful that it did. Sure, I applied, but I did not have a strong desire to attend. But it is where I ultimately wound up, and my experiences thus far on campus have confirmed what a great choice I made. An environment that has the capability of temporarily removing me from my life back at home is an environment that I desire to be in more often.