Why Oberlin? How to Write an Authentic Oberlin Supplemental Essay (Example Incuded!)

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Back in the 1830s, Oberlin College became the first college to accept both women and black students.

Today, Oberlin ranks #26 nationally among liberal arts colleges and has a 32.7% acceptance rate.

Whether you’re applying to the College of Arts and Sciences or the Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College, you’ll complete the Common Application.

The College of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin also accepts the Coalition Application instead, so you can decide which application’s prompts you like best before choosing which one to fill out.

Important: If you’re completing the Common Application, you must submit the supplemental essay separately to have a complete application.

Why Oberlin in 250 words

In addition to a personal essay, which you’ll write as part of the Common App or Coalition App, you’ll need to write one supplemental essay with a 250 word limit.

This is the quintessential “Why This College” essay.

How did your interest in Oberlin develop, and what aspects of our college community most excite you?

Even though this essay is much shorter than the other essay you’ll write, you should spend a considerable amount of time crafting your response in order to stand out.

To make sure your response isn’t generic, use this guide to really figure out why Oberlin is your #1 choice.

Prompt Break Down

Oberlin’s supplemental prompt can be broken down into two parts, and you’ll want to be certain to address both parts of the prompt to provide a complete essay.

  1. How did your interest in Oberlin develop?
  2. What aspects of our college community most excite you?

For the first half of the prompt, you’re really being asked, “When did you first hear about Oberlin, and why did it keep your interest?”

Unless you’ve been dreaming of going to Oberlin your entire life, you’ll want to briefly mention what about the college attracted you to it in the first place.

  • It could be anything from it being near your home or an athletics recruiter contacted you.

Make sure what you write is personal and authentic to you, or you’ll risk sounding generic.

  • You should be able to address this portion in 2-3 sentences to allow most of the focus to be on what excites you about the community.

For the second half, if you haven’t already, do some research on the college and surrounding area.

The “college community” extends past the campus. Here are questions to get you thinking about your future at Oberlin.

  • Why do I want to go to Oberlin over other colleges?
  • What do I like best about Oberlin that other colleges don’t offer?
  • What opportunities does Oberlin offer based on my interests?
  • How do I see myself succeeding at Oberlin?

Writing the Oberlin Essay

With this being a short essay, there are ways to ensure you can make the most of your supplemental essay.

  • Here’s a key piece of advice from Oberlin about completing the supplemental essay: “Remember, we aren’t looking for perfection.

We are looking for the human being behind the roster of activities and grades.”

Focus on Oberlin and how it ties into your interests.

Part of this reflection might find you comparing Oberlin to other colleges you’re applying to.

It’s important that you don’t write a compare/contrast essay.

  • Instead, keep your focus and writing on why Oberlin stands out without mentioning other colleges.

Make sure to choose elements of Oberlin’s community that appeal to your interests and personal themes.

What does Oberlin offer that is unique to the college?

This doesn’t mean you should list all of the awards or rankings Oberlin has been recognized for.

The admissions reps already know about those, so make sure you express how that prominence is personal to you.

  • For example, Oberlin received the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification for their community service and civic engagement.
  • If you love giving back to the community, this might be something to research more and make a connection with to use as a foundation for your essay.

Does an aspect of the college intertwine with your major?

There’s more than majors offered at Oberlin. There are several offices that house a variety of initiatives the college holds in its core values.

  • You may go in as an art major with a desire to create sustainable art. Oberlin’s Office of Environmental Sustainability could be a great place to learn more about sustainability practices to inspire your creative mind.

You might even have a goal to get your work displayed there. How can partnering with or participating in the college further your experience as a student?

What major would you create?

That’s right! You can create your own individual major at Oberlin by integrating curricula of multiple programs from the 50+ offered at the college.

  • If you’re having trouble picking one major, this could be the focus of your essay.
  • How will the combination of studies help you achieve your academic or professional dream?
  • You could be the next notable alumnus that got their start at Oberlin, and admitting you is only the first step.

What clubs stand out to you that you can see yourself joining?

Oberlin has a community of over 175 clubs and organizations for students to become involved in while they study.

  • You don’t have to be a part of the conservatory to join CHALLaH cappella.
  • Anyone can join the Harry Potter Alliance.

Sift through the current clubs and organizations to see if one really excites you, and if there isn’t one, discuss what club you would create.

Oberlin will love knowing how you plan to be involved on campus outside of the classroom.

Are there any events that you’re already excited to attend?

Every college has their own traditions and annual events, and every college has its own unique ways of celebrating their campus.

How do you identify with a particular event or tradition at Oberlin?

Not every college has Bassoon Christmas or art rentals available for students for just $5 a semester.

Use Your Voice.

With a short prompt like this, you should focus on making your personality shine through words and portraying the confidence that Oberlin is the place you want to be.

Write about your personal experience with Oberlin rather than what you’ve heard about the college.

  1. Use the campus tour as a foundation for why you want to attend Oberlin. When someone asks about your visit to Oberlin, what’s the first part you tell someone about? Did you go back and visit a particular area again after the tour ended because you had to see more?
  2. Stay away from words you wouldn’t normally use in your daily life. You don’t need to use a thesaurus to make sure you’re not repeating words too often or try to sound like someone you’re not. The only words you might use in everyday life that should be excluded from this essay are any abbreviated words commonly used in text messaging. Besides that, be yourself. Think of it as writing a journal entry rather than a 5-paragraph essay.
  3. Have a friend or family member read your essay to see if what you wrote sounds like you. You are the one person who knows your best, and your friends/family are the ones who can tell if you’re trying to be someone you’re not. Aren’t they usually the people who sometimes say you’re different before you even realize it?
  4. Sentences should begin with phrases like “I can see myself doing….” instead of “I think I’d enjoy doing…” Confidence is what will best convince the admissions rep that you deserve a spot at Oberlin. If you only “think” you’ll like it there or “might” enjoy an aspect of the college, then they might think of offering admission to someone else. Words like “believe,” “can,” and “will” are more powerful and exude confidence.
  5. If you’re not completely sure why Oberlin is your #1 pick, take more time to reflect on why you’re applying in the first place, then revisit the supplemental essay. Oberlin is not a carbon copy of any other university, so there should be at least one thing that stands out to make you want to go there. Even if Oberlin isn’t your #1 pick, you should have a strong argument for wanting to be admitted, even if it’s just a feeling. If you lack a physical reason for aspiring to attend Oberlin and the only way to sum it up is emotionally, that’s something. When you think about the possibility of being a student at Oberlin, when else have you felt that emotion? Use this brainstorming guide to expand your thinking process.
  6. For those applying for the conservatory, relate your favorite song to your admiration for Oberlin. As a music-lover, you probably have a favorite song or artist. Regardless of genre, does the excitement of going to Oberlin match the excitement you have when you hear your favorite song? If you can genuinely describe that, your chances of getting admitted may have just gone up.

Oberlin Supplemental Essay Example

We’ve provided an example essay to give you a visual on what an Oberlin essay could look like. Never plagiarize. It’s a serious offense.

I’ve gotten a lot of college mail. Bland, repetitive taglines and cutesy phrases plucked straight from a motivational speaker’s repertoire, covering brochures and pamphlets all designed to stand out. On one occasion, when I took the time to flip through the most interesting, recycled packaging caught my eye: a booklet from Oberlin College and Conservatory. Unapologetically queer, committed to equality and sustainability, it became obvious that Oberlin shares the same basic principles that I do, and a passion for social justice and action.

Oberlin’s commitment to interdisciplinary study and diversity in not just education but in students excites me. I’d love to combine my interests, however nontraditional the contrast may be; from history to international relations to music and feminist studies. It seems clear that at Oberlin, students are encouraged to draw connections and delve into ideas that interest them.

Between the subjects I’m passionate about, my education at Oberlin would help me critique existing and dysfunctional social institutions and discover solutions to help marginalized groups prosper. However, on the Oberlin campus itself, I know that each individual is valid and respected as a member of a community, which I greatly appreciate. A wide variety of students come together at Oberlin with a shared goal to make a difference somewhere somehow, tying any plethora of academics and extracurriculars together.

I think that one person can change the world. Oberlin provides the resources and opportunities to help me do that.

Conclusion: A Short & Sweet Oberlin Essay

There is room to add details within your essay, but don’t go overboard when you’re in the final editing phase.

If you discover you didn’t stay on topic or used too many adjectives, those should be the first things to go.

  • If you’re being recruited by the athletics department, focus on a specific conversation that was meaningful rather than the entire recruitment experience.
  • Instead of describing how you can see yourself in various parts of campus, pick your one spot.
  • Try a past, present, and future theme. The first half of the prompt will address the past, the second half will address the present, and then manifest the future you with the remainder of your word limit to create a 360-degree vision of your success at Oberlin.
  • You can spend all 250 words describing the entire process of why you want to attend Oberlin but pinpointing the “aha!” moment will be more powerful.

Speaking of proofreading, go over your essay before submitting it.

No matter how amazing the content is, simple grammar and spelling errors could be what keep you from getting an acceptance letter.

  • Double check that you spelled any names of professors, alumni, or buildings you mention correctly.
  • Make sure Oberlin is spelled correctly each time you use it!
  • Break up any run-on sentences to allow your thoughts to be interpreted clearly.
  • Your style can be casual, but not twitter-style casual. All words should be spelled out rather than abbreviated.
  • This is a persuasive essay, so have a point or edit your thoughts to make one. Oberlin says, “A well-written essay won’t help if your supplement answers are sloppy and uninformative.”
  • After editing, read it out loud in the mirror. How convincing were you? If you can’t convince yourself with what you wrote that Oberlin is where you want to be, how will an admissions person believe you belong at Oberlin?

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