How to Write the Oberlin College Application Essay 2016-17
Founded in 1833 as an Oberlin Collegiate Institute, Oberlin College is the oldest coeducational university in the United States. Located in Oberlin, Ohio, the college is a private liberal arts institution that boasts a small undergraduate student population of 2,500 and one of the largest undergraduate libraries in the country. Oberlin notably has the oldest music conservatory in the country, and the conservatory is available to all students studying at the college.
Admissions to Oberlin are fairly competitive. With an acceptance rate of 33%, a good essay could make the difference between acceptance and rejection for an on-the-fence application. The average SAT score is a 2069 using the old standard and 1440 with the new standard. The average high school GPA is a 3.59 and the average ACT score is a 31.
The music conservatory at Oberlin is an integral part of university: Even students who are not seeking to major in music can still stand to benefit from one of the nation’s best music conservatories. Oberlin also prides itself on its commitment to diversity and inclusion; students who are attracted and inspired by social justice will easily feel at home here. Ultimately, Oberlin is ideal for students seeking an experience at a prestigious small liberal arts college.
Oberlin College Application Essay Prompt
How did your interest in Oberlin develop, and what aspects of our college community most excite you? (250 word limit).
The best part about writing the supplemental essay for Oberlin is that there’s only one prompt and it’s fairly short. This means, however, that you should focus extra attention on the prompt and make sure that every word and phrase is chosen with care.
At its core, this prompt is essentially asking you “Why Oberlin?” Generally, with “Why us?” prompts, there are two key factors that are necessary to writing a good essay: specificity and tone. Some degree of research into Oberlin as a school and details about the particular programs or majors that you’re interested in will be an important part of this essay.
The tone is also important in this essay. Given the short length, you should utilize every writing tool that will help you craft a better essay. The tone of this should convey a true and genuine desire to study at Oberlin College — it should include a few adjectives that stress commitment and conviction about wanting to becoming an Oberlin student.
A necessary challenge is to convince the reader that you have thought deeply about the school, done your homework on the school, and would be an amazing fit for the school. Look into the specific programs or majors that appeal to you and even go so far as to mention a specific professor or class that really draws you to Oberlin.
It’s important to note that a part of this prompt is also personal — they’re also asking you how your interest in the college developed. This is an opportunity to connect a short personal anecdote about a particular passion or interest of yours and connect it to specific traits that appeal to you at Oberlin College.
That being said, we would advise you not to focus too much on the first part that asks about how your interest in the school developed. Although it can be a useful starting point and provide a nice personal touch, given the required brevity of your response, it is more prudent to focus on the part of the prompt that asks you why you want to attend Oberlin, as this is likely to be more helpful.
If you’re someone who grew up playing an instrument, you can write a short story about how you are passionate about music as a complement to a rigorous academic curriculum. That kind of story would resonate with Oberlin admissions people in particular, given the musical tradition on campus. Alternatively, if you’re someone who’s really interested in social justice, consider mentioning Oberlin’s strong tradition of activism and protests about the issues facing the nation.
It’s generally not a good idea to speak generally of the values of a liberal arts education, given how nonspecific a liberal arts education in general is to an Oberlin education. Although it might be okay to briefly reference them, Oberlin knows that a large portion of the students who apply are also applying to other liberal arts schools; they already know that’s what you want. They want to know why Oberlin College specifically is the best liberal arts school for you and what about the school’s unique identity excites you the most.
Ultimately, the college draws some of the most competitive liberal arts applicants. Given that there’s only one prompt and it is fairly short, making sure that you have a strong supplement is ever more important in this application.
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