During your college decision process it’s easy to become overwhelmed by options and unsettled by the uncertainty of your future, and I know from experience. I didn’t decide on Oberlin until the last minute and was constantly weighing the pros and cons, always unsure if I was making the right decision. Looking in hindsight, these are some pieces of advice I have for making a decision and being comforted by the fact that it was the best one you could make.
1. Don’t expect perfection.
The truth is, it’s incredibly rare that any one college is the absolute perfect fit for you. The college you choose will likely just be as close to that perfect as you can get. Don’t be worried if you like a college but it doesn’t check every single one of your boxes. There are so many factors that go into your college experience and you will likely find that there are things you can compromise with or even end up being something you love. For me, one of my biggest concerns with Oberlin was that it was a bit over my budget, but I was able to get some great scholarships that have helped me a lot, and I value going to Oberlin enough that I am willing to deal with the cost. I was also a bit worried about the quality of the dorms compared to other schools since Oberlin’s buildings are rather old, but I actually love the character and history the buildings have and haven’t had a problem with housing yet.
2. Assess your priorities.
A big help in my college decision process was having one big priority, and that was with my major. Seeing Oberlin had a great Cinema Studies major with hands-on learning at the Apollo was a big factor in my decision to go here. Knowing what boxes you have to absolutely check will help you narrow down to some top choices. Is location very important to you? Is size? What’s your budget, and how do scholarships and financial aid play into that? If you find that academic quality and/or a liberal arts education are important, Oberlin could be a good fit for you, and so on and so forth.
3. Go on some (virtual) tours.
With my college application and decision process being during the height of the pandemic, I only had a self-guided tour of Oberlin that didn’t go into any of the buildings. To rectify this, I went on a lot of virtual tours through videos on Oberlin’s YouTube, and also watched some vlogs made by past Oberlin students. Virtual tours are great because you can do them from the comfort of your home and go over them as many times as you’d like. If you get a chance to come up to Oberlin and have an in-person tour, even better. The students who give tours are fantastic and will give you lots of inside detail along with your first welcome to the Oberlin community. Really getting to know the campus before I got here greatly eased my anxiety and gave me a sense of what Oberlin would really be like.
4. Read some blogs!
If you’re reading this, you probably already know this tip, but I had to emphasize it! I can’t say for certain whether other colleges you are looking at have student blogs as well, but I can say that Oberlin’s blogs are the perfect way to get a first-hand account of what going to Oberlin is like. Blogs cover every single topic relating to college and life at Oberlin you can imagine, and also feature advice from Admissions faculty and staff. Moreover, thanks to everything being archived on this website, you can go back to blog posts of years past and get a sense of the key and evolving qualities of Oberlin. I personally think this is one of the coolest things about the blogs and why I love reading them myself. Before I got to Oberlin, the blogs were a great help to me as I made my final decision and then prepared to start my first year here; I felt like I already had students guiding me and giving me advice.
5. Don’t feel pressured.
This applies to many different aspects. For one, don’t feel pressured by family, friends, or anyone else to go to a particular college. It’s your education and your experience, not theirs. They may give you advice and suggestions that you should consider, but don’t feel obligated to follow them. Do your research, follow your gut, and pick what you feel is best. Also don’t feel pressured in the sense that the decision is important. Sure, it is an important thing to decide, but if you go to a certain college and find that it’s not your fit, it’s no issue. You can always transfer, take a semester off, etc. Not everyone finds their place on their first try, and that’s okay. Just do what feels right and makes most sense in this moment and see how it turns out; you’ll likely be surprised.
6. Go with your gut.
It’s easy to get frazzled by all the specs and pros and cons, the benefits and costs evening out until multiple schools seem like perfectly good options. When this is the case, sometimes you just have to give into the pull to a certain school. While there were many things I loved about Oberlin, I was worried about the cost, and also if a small school would keep me boxed in and inhibit me from getting involved with more of the wider world. In the end, the charm of the campus was one of the biggest pushes that made me choose Oberlin over my other top choices. I also knew I would fit in much better with the artistic, open-minded community of Oberlin than other schools I looked at. Above all, it was the school my heart was pulling to, so I decided to attend, and now I definitely know I made the right decision.
I hope this advice is helpful or assuages some of your worries about choosing the school you want to go to. Whether you choose Oberlin or not, I wish you the best — though I would love to see you on campus!