4.5 out of 5 Stars
Oberlin has two divisions: the College of Arts & Sciences and the Conservatory of Music. The College, which has about 80% of Oberlin's students, is focused on giving students a broad liberal arts education. Students are required to take three courses in each of the three main divisions (math and sciences, arts and humanities, and social studies); they must also take at least one writing-intensive course and at least one math-intensive course. The distribution requirements generally aren't hard to meet, unless you're, say, a physics nut who never wants to leave the science building, or an art student who's allergic to math. The requirements for your major generally take up about a third of your courses. It's quite common for people to double-major. In addition, each year a few dozen students graduate with double degrees: a BA from the college and a BM from the conservatory.
Class sizes are small: there are very few courses with more than 40 students, and everything is taught by a professor, not by a TA. The first-year seminar program offers extremely popular small, writing- and discussion-heavy courses for freshmen. Oberlin was also one of the first schools to offer a Winter Term during the month of January, when students can pursue research and travel, doing independent projects on everything from wolf behavior to circus skills. The "Experimental College" program allows students, faculty, and community members to teach mini-courses, for credit, on any topic that isn't part of a conventional college curriculum.
Advising at Oberlin is great. Everyone meets with their advisor at least once a semester -- more often during their first year -- and there are abundant opportunities to form close relationships with other faculty as well. It's pretty common to be invited to a professor's house for dinner, or to babysit their kids. Students in all disciplines are strongly encouraged to pursue research, starting the minute they get to campus, and every department has an intense honors program.
Although courses are difficult, the environment on campus is much more collaborative than competitive.
It's also worth noting that Oberlin has one of the highest PhD productivity rates of any school in the country, and is very successful at getting students into law school and med school.Quality of Life
We're in a small, quiet town that's dominated and defined by the presence of the college. The college and the town grew up together, and while some people claim that there's a town-gown divide, many students are actively involved in the community, which in turn caters to the population of college students. The cost of living is quite low; you can get lunch in town for $3 and rent an apartment for $150 / month.
The campus is extremely safe... the worst crime that ever happens is the occasional bike theft.
Students are required to live on campus for three years. Most live in traditional dorms, but Oberlin also offers program houses, co-op houses, and "Village Housing" (houses and apartments run by the college). The food is pretty good: there are an abundance of dining halls, plus several places around campus to grab a quick meal or a cup of coffee. The dining program provides vegetarian and vegan options at every meal, and tries as hard as possible to use local, organic ingredients. One of the things that makes Oberlin unique is its co-operative housing and dining system (OSCA) -- nearly a quarter of Oberlin students are members. Rather than living in dorms and eating in a dining hall, they live in co-operatively run houses with industrial kitchens and take responsibility for purchasing, cooking, cleaning, and running the entire operation as a community. Co-ops are substantially cheaper than the college's housing and dining, they have a stronger sense of community, and they're much better at providing for students with special dietary needs.Admissions
Um... I'm a student, not an admissions officer, and I'm concerned about the accuracy of any college guide that asks students (rather than admissions staff) about the admissions process. That said:
Oberlin has two early decision deadlines (November and January) and one regular decision deadline. We don't do early action. Applicants have to fill out the Common App, plus a straightforward, Oberlin-specific supplement with the classic "why do you want to go to school here?" essay.
You need good stats to get in, but once you get above a certain threshold, Oberlin doesn't care about the numbers nearly as much as your personality and your "fit" with the school. We're a small place with a distinct campus culture, so visiting before you apply, or doing an alumni interview where you live, is a definite advantage. The "why Oberlin?" essay is also very important.
I don't know much about financial aid (didn't apply for it myself), but they will do a preliminary evaluation and give you an estimated aid award before you apply so you can be well-informed, especially if you apply early decision. The school is not need-blind, but meets 100% of financial need for admitted students. They give fairly generous merit awards as well.Level
Common Application + Supplement with an essay about "why Oberlin"
Interviews can be offered, but are not mandatory
Early Decision 1 + 2
The College meets 100% of demonstrated financial need through scholarships, grants, work-study packages, and loans.
Merit-based scholarships offeredLevel
small class sizes
super accessible professor
great professor:student ratio
common app + unique application questions
I applied Early Decision ILevel
The term 'exceptional' is probably the best word for the academics at Oberlin. They are unlike anything I've ever experienced and they are as challenging as I imagined them to be when I was in high school. The 'core requirements' can be as diverse as the kinds of minds that attend the college: it is all about the student. Class size never goes over 100 students and the majority of our classes are capped at 30 or 40 students The best way to describe 'competition' at Oberlin is nonexistent. I don't think I've ever been asked what my grade was; students are competing with the best they can do personally, not other students. Study abroad is probably the best part about Oberlin. I was allowed to study in Prague and Southern Africa in the same year! I will still be able to finish two majors and I am an honors candidate in both! This year has been the most influential in my life so far and I owe it to Oberlin.Quality of Life
Cost of living is definitely lower than where I'm from (New York City), though it is tempting to eat out because - believe it or not - there's some really good food in Oberlin. I Love being on campus. From the womb chairs in the library to any event taking place after classes, I typically never do the same activity twice.Admissions
You fill out the common Application and then there is an application supplement with questions like, "What do you see yourself doing at Oberlin?" and "Why Oberlin?" When I was applying, Oberlin offered early decision for both the conservatory as well as the college. I believe there are two dates of ED for both departments. Regular decision is usually the preferred mode of application. What I was initially impressed with was how many ways there were to get to know the school: tours, interviews (my favorite) and a lot of online material. Now, Oberlin has all kinds of blogs online for each department and each year some form of "Class of ____" shows up on facebook. The application process can be fun and, most importantly, informative.Level
The process included the Common Application and a supplement to the application with questions pertaining to Oberlin College. I also interviewed with an admissions intern. I applied as a transfer student, which I was learned was a more selective process than regular admissions and this has made me realize how honored I am to be an Oberlin College Transfer Student.Level
Early decision was available, I think - they did the common application and had a question "Why Oberlin?" and scheduled an interview with me while I was visiting. I auditioned for the Conservatory as well on two instruments.Level
We have pretty good facilities but are required to live on campus. It is not enjoyable to live in dorms for three years and the fact that the school is trying to keep people in dorms makes living less attractive. We have a great cooperative association. The community is safe. The library has incredible resources. The community relations are OK. We are working on a town wide green initiative but need to increase the quality of life in the town.Admissions
I did an interview and applied early education. It was the common application with one extra question which was simply "Why Oberlin."Level
There are no core classes, but there are general graduation requirements. You must take 9 credit hours in each of three areas: natural science, social science and humanities. You also must fulfill the cultural diversity, quantitative proficiency, and writing requirements. All of these requirements are easy to fulfill, and they promote interests in fields you might not have previously considered. I love that there are no core requirements. I still feel like I'm taking a wide variety of classes, but I'm not "wasting time" on a class that doesn't fit my interests at all. I have taken classes that I didn't think I would like but tried them because I'd heard the professor was great and ended up loving the field!
Class sizes are for the most part really great if you like a discussion atmosphere. Intro courses are usually larger (between 50 and 100 students). But as soon as you get past those, many classes include at least some participation. Personally I love this aspect because it not only fosters community, but allows students to learn from each other in addition to the professor. Further, professors like learning from students, which allows for constant flow of ideas and information.
There are plenty of research opportunities, and professors are always more than willing to talk about options and possibilities.
Oberlin students are not competitive with each other... we are more competitive with ourselves. I've found that students are incredibly supportive of each other and truly want to help each other do better. Study groups, peer editors, and student tutors are the norm. Students here are helpful and really love talking about classes and what they are learning.
Grading depends on the professor but I've found that it is usually fair.
The workload also depends on the combination of classes. Oberlin is a hard school... professors have high expectations, but I've found that I love doing the work and readings that are assigned.
Professors here are incredible! Most have become my role models! They really care about their students and are dedicated. Honestly, the professors and students are tied for first in terms of the best things about Oberlin.Admissions
The essay question was fairly normal, but I loved that the interview was with a current student. That gave me an opportunity to have a low pressure conversation with a current student; it also showed me that the college truly values its students' opinions (they trust the students enough to interview prospective students). Having a current student conduct the interview proved that Oberlin respects, values, and trusts its students' views and opinions... that was important to me in choosing a college. Further, I didn't apply for a scholarship, and my family didn't qualify for financial aid, but I received a merit based scholarship with my acceptance letter. Needless to say, that was a plus!Level
Oberlin uses the Common Application with a Why Oberlin essay -- it makes the application easy but specific. I interviewed near my house with an awesome alum, who made me more aware of how Oberlin fit me.Graduation Year
Oberlin has an exceptional academic program. While there are no "general education requirements," Oberlin does have a "9-9-9" distribution requirement. That means students are asked to take nine credit hours in the Social & Behavioral Sciences, the Humanities, and Natural Sciences. Students are also expected to complete a Writing and Quantitative Proficiency requirement, as well as Cultural Diversity. Students find that they complete these requirements "by accident" without having much difficulty completing them.
In terms of academic advising, students are assigned an advisor (in their field of interest if noted, or with a general professor if not stated). The student is required (but often does so on one's own) to meet with the advisor at least three times in the first semester. Advisors are an invaluable resource for students, especially new students who may not be aware of how to navigate the academic terrain of Oberlin.
Class sizes are also exceptionally small. Oberlin only offers four classes above 100 people, and the rest of the introductory classes are at most 30. As soon as students reach upper-level classes, the sizes drop dramatically. For instance, this semester alone I had a class with 8 people in one, 12 in another, and a private reading with myself and my professor. (I went to her house every Tuesday night for three hours to have dinner and discuss literature--how cool?)
Professors are as accessible as humanly possible. In any given semester I will meet with my professors at least three times to discuss my papers, the progress I am making in class, or just to have a conversation about our favorite television shows.
In terms of research opportunities, they are abundant. Our new science center (new since 2002) has more lab space than classrooms, all with the hope that students will get into the lab as soon as possible. It is not uncommon for students to be published in a scientific academic journal by the time they graduate. For the humanities and social sciences, students are asked to write research papers on a weekly basis. Many students find ways to work one-on-one with professors to help aid in their professors' research or conduct their own. I found ways to fund a trip to Stockholm in the summer of 2009 to conduct field research about Muslim immigration into the European Union. Research opportunities are abound!
While the academic rigor of Oberlin is certainly present, competitiveness is virtually non-existent. Oberlin students, in generally, are highly self-motivated and have high expectations for themselves. That being said, they do not compete with one another. If anything, students are encouraging and collaborative. If a person in my class asks "how I did on a paper," they are not secretly ploying to find out my grade, rather are genuinely interested to see how I felt my research turned out.
While grading varies from professor to professor, very rarely is grading arbitrarily difficult. Professors will write numerous notes throughout the paper and will often give a paragraph or two summary of their final thoughts before showing the grade. If a student is willing to go to office hours and work with their professors, less-than-desirable grades can be improved.Quality of Life
Housing is guaranteed all four years, and about 90% of students will choose this option for their entire time.
Dining options are many at Oberlin, especially given the presence of OSCA (Oberlin Student Cooperative Association) on campus. OSCA are living and/or dining communities that are entirely student run--students make all the decisions, from what food to buy, where to buy it, who will be pizza maker, bread maker, tasty things maker, and who will clean the toilets on any given day. Students are asked to work four hours a week if they are part of the co-op and often save a significant amount of money by living and/or dining in a co-op.
The library is amazing. There are 2.2 million volumes within our library alone, while we are also connected to "OHIO Link," connecting us to another 40 million. It has a 70s vibe that continues to be of great pride for its students, with the womb chairs on the second and third floors and roof access during nice weather.
Safety is not a problem.Admissions
Oberlin College requires that students fill out the Common Application with an accompanying supplemental essay. In addition, students may choose to send other materials included art projects, creative writings, or other displays of one's talents. Oberlin also allows students the opportunity to apply for one of two early decision deadlines--one in November, one in January--allowing the student to know early in the admissions process if they were accepted. Early decisions are binding and students are expected to withdraw applications at other schools if they are accepted to Oberlin.
As a transfer student, my application processes asked me to describe the reasons I wished to attend Oberlin, specifically.Level