CM’s Guide to Oberlin College

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Overall Experience

“On an individual level, I think that I have grown both academically and as a person. My professors have treated me with intellectual respect, are affirming of my ideas while still challenging them and always are dedicated to facilitating growth.”

– Nora Cooper, Africana Studies/English major, Class of 2017

“I really enjoy the atmosphere and love how everyone seems to have a cause to rally around. As much as it’s important to maintain good grades, I know I’ve learned more from my friends and peers than any class I’ve taken. Once you find friends who’ll be there for you, you’re golden.”

– Randy Stopa, Politics major, Class of 2018

“I really love the education that I’m getting at Oberlin – not just from my classes but daily interactions with students outside of classroom, too. For instance, PGPs, [preferred gender pronouns], are something that’s completely new to me. I learned that gender and sexual orientation are fluid, and that it’s not right to assume other people’s gender and orientation in binary terms.”

– Pang Fei Chiang, Class of 2019

“I thought I was pretty liberal when I came to Oberlin, but quickly realized that compared to other people here I was pretty moderate. I just felt really behind in my knowledge, so freshman year ended up being a crash course for me in getting to know how people are talking about issues of race, gender, sexuality, politics, etc.”

– Caroline Edwards, Biology major, Class of 2018

“I have found that just going with my gut and doing things that I want to do, even if it might seem like a risk, can lead to so many great opportunities and options that might not have been available or considered before.”

– Justine Gonzales, Psychology major, Class of 2018

Student Scale

Quality of Academics: A

Professors: A

Classes: A-

Quality of Social Life: B+

Extracurriculars: B

Campus Events: A-

The Vibe

Hipsterland of passions and quirks. It’s the mason jars and thrift store clothing of the midwest. But don’t get me wrong, the students here remain unique in their own ways. People feel driven to create the new, challenge the system and change the world. But they all do it following the road less traveled.

What It Feels Like to Go Here

Oberlin feels like the Island of Misfit Toys—in a positive way, of course. Every individual is… well, individual. You walk through the beautiful Tappan Square—which lights up with flames of orange and yellow during the fall—to see one of the famous albino squirrels and a pack of students wearing eclectic boots (or no shoes at all). These students might be going to one of the 500 concerts the campus holds per school year, or to a talk by one of the brilliant speakers who come to campus, like the executive editor of The New York Times or Zadie Smith. But they also know how to let loose, even on Wednesdays for “Splitchers” (half-price pitchers) at the ‘Sco, the school bar.

Never Have I Ever

Q: How much are students partying?

A: With no greek life at Oberlin, there are two ways to party at this school: house parties and the ‘Sco. You’ll find the hipsters prefer low-key wine sipping in their groups while others, especially the athletes, run the party scene. Overall, Oberlin won’t serve as your huge party school. It’s just as acceptable to spend a Friday night watching a special movie screening at the Apollo Theater as it is to get wasted.

Q: What will you get in trouble for at your school?

A: Not much, really. The reigns are loose when it comes to drinking and smoking. Just don’t cheat on anything or park in the wrong places. Those parking tickets add up fast.

Q: How much sex are students having?

A: Yik Yak definitely reveals the sex life, or lack thereof, at Oberlin. You’ll find people either hooking up like bunnies or complaining about their unquenched thirst for some action. Yaks range from “I like to write my name in hickeys going all around the torso like a sash” to “Here I find myself more or less spooning with my cat.”

Top 5 Quirks

1. Albino Squirrels

2. Dining and Residential Cooperatives

3. Preferred Gender Pronouns (ex: “Hi, I’m Melissa and I prefer she/her/hers”)

4. “Ex-Co’s” (student-taught courses for credit, like SexCo, Swing Dancing, or League of Legends)

5. The “Living Machine” (uses poop to help treat wastewater)

Top 3 Majors

  1. Biology
  2. Politics
  3. Economics

Bragging Rights

  1. First college in America to adopt a policy to admit African American students and the first to grant bachelor’s degrees to women in a co-ed program.
  2. The college’s Allen Memorial Art Museum collections places it among the top five college art museums in the nation.
  3. Ranked #46 in the nation and #6 in the Midwest by Forbes for America’s Top Colleges.
  4. In 2010, Architect Magazine polled 150 green building experts and named the Adam Joseph Lewis Center, the environmental science building, the top green building built since 1980.

Getting In

Oberlin doesn’t let any hipster in. With a reputation as one of the best schools in the Midwest, Oberlin definitely looks for academic excellence. However, that only scratches the surface. Oberlin students are revolutionaries, inventors, servers of the community and passionate in all they do. Oberlin loves students who stay true to themselves while striving to change the world. It’s a community that works to challenge the status quo and help each student seek self-discovery in doing so.

Although test scores and GPA may be important, the application essay provides a place for perspective students to shine. It gives admissions a sense of who you are, what you’re passionate about and how your unique experience thus far fuels your future endeavors and your desire to contribute to Oberlin’s mission of “Learning and Labor.”

Melissa Harris is an Oberlin College sophomore. She's an athlete, artist, pianist, writer, and proud biracial Filipino-Swedish American. She's a sucker for cute animals, warm cups of tea, and the soft sound of raindrops on windows.

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