Should I Go To Oberlin College?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach—they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Sasha received his Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Philosophy from Oberlin College. He is currently a tutor in Chicago specializing in philosophy tutoring, Spanish tutoring, and several other subjects. See what he had to say about his experience at Oberlin College:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options.

Sasha: I attended Oberlin College, in Oberlin, OH. The campus was extremely easy to get around—it was arranged in a grid, which was only slightly longer than it was wide. Many people bike, and there is a bike co-op that is all about learning to repair bikes, and increasing bike accessibility (more on co-ops later). Coming from Philadelphia, the campus felt very quiet, and it is perhaps the safest place I will live in in my life, and certainly in the foreseeable future. There were, of course, crimes, but relative to city life, they were sparse and significantly less violent. At night, there is a free shuttle that you can call for a ride if you feel unsafe walking. Safety and Security also provides this service 24/7.

How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants at Oberlin College?

Sasha: I could not imagine the professors being more available. I scheduled meetings for later in the same day, and I often found that directly after class, professors would make time to talk. Beyond just providing their time, professors generously shared contacts and advice, and they were genuinely supportive people. Beyond the classroom, I have had meals with professors, both on campus and in their homes, and I organized multiple social events that included both faculty and students.

How would you describe the dorm life—rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Sasha: The dorms at Oberlin College are quite diverse in terms of cleanliness, upkeep, and, for some, programming. Dorms are assigned based on a lottery system, which is randomized within semesters in-residence. Your number is constrained by how long you have been on campus, and it determines your pick order. There are some very nice dorms, and there are some more antiquated dorms. These do tend to be the first year dorms, however, the experience of living in them is likely worth it. First year dorms provide an easy place to meet people, and to hang out with your neighbors. That being said, it is not the vibe everyone wants. If you desire a strong social system, but are not one for the crush of humanity that is living in the first year dorms, the co-ops may be a good choice. Admission to the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association (OSCA), which is not owned by the college, is also run by lottery. However, it is totally random, and semesters in-residence do not matter. OSCA is owned and run by its members, and it functions largely independently of the college. OSCA offers more affordable housing and dining, along with an extremely dedicated and close-knit community. Living or dining in a co-op does commit you to a few hours of work each week, largely in the upkeep of the space, or in preparation for meals. There are also programmed dorms, if you’d like shared cultural heritage or hobbies to help determine your neighbors. Outside of dorm life, opportunities for socializing abound. There are hundreds of clubs, spanning a massive set of interests.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?

Sasha: Politics, English, and biology are probably the most popular majors in each of the three divisions (social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences). Beyond these, comparative American studies, classics, and neuroscience are some other popular and well-supported majors. I studied neuroscience and philosophy because I wanted to approach the questions I had and continue to have from multiple directions. Oberlin College, through its faculty, made me feel very supported in my studies, and I was often asked difficult and necessary questions.

How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Sasha: Freshman year, it was very easy for me to meet friends, many of whom I am still close with, and a few of whom I live with. There is no Greek life at Oberlin College, which I think is fantastic. The lack of a de facto social scene means that people are, in general, more intentional about seeking the sorts of friendships they want. People are also much more friendly than I was used to, so talking to strangers quickly became easy.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services at Oberlin College?

Sasha: I’m not especially qualified to speak to this, as I made minimal use of the Career Center and other support services. The Registrar’s office was quite helpful when I needed them, as was the Office of the Student Union. The rest I cannot really speak to.

How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges?

Sasha: The libraries are large, and the librarians work hard to make them useful, productive spaces. The student union is a big mish-mash of room types, and it is used for all sorts of things. It could do with some redecoration, but it serves its purpose well. These sorts of buildings are well located on campus, and they rarely feel over-full.

Describe the surrounding town at Oberlin College.

Sasha: The town of Oberlin was founded after the college (if only by a few years), if that gives you a sense of its size. There are some great stores in town, but don’t expect much diversity within any category. There is a hardware store, a general store, an antique shop, a theater, etc., but not more than one of these sorts of things. The restaurants are inexpensive if you are coming from a city, but cost more than other small towns in Ohio. The town of Oberlin is fun if you can structure your time and be creative. There are things to do, but the town isn’t going out of its way to amuse you. People live there, and do cool things, but you need to be proactive about finding them.

How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Sasha: The student body is about average size (without doing any math) for a liberal arts college, and it feels likes it (that is, small). That was never a bad thing for me, but if you want to only see the same people once a month, look elsewhere. Faces will likely become familiar, even if you don’t know everyone’s name. I liked the sense of community that arose from this, as I think many of the students do.

Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Sasha: A memorable experience… in my senior year, I took a seminar called The Neurobiology of Addiction. As you can infer from the title, the class was both science-heavy, and of significant social importance. About halfway through the semester, following discussion with the class, my professor decided to cancel the remaining oral presentation. She did this so that we could spend our time preparing a series of activities to teach the local 8th graders about addiction in a factual and approachable way. I already knew I liked teaching, but having a chance to teach a subject that is so often mired in fear mongering and misinformation was rewarding and exciting. The 8th graders and their teachers responded very favorably, as did my classmates. My professor’s desire to make what we were learning useful, instead of just checking off boxes on the syllabus, was an experience I won’t soon forget.

Check out Sasha’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.