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Oberlin Supplement Essay

Oberlin College is a small liberal arts school located in Oberlin, Ohio. Though the town has a population of less than 10,000 and a student-body enrollment of 3,000, this school has a reputation as one of the most progressive, accepting, and creative colleges in the country. Alumni of Oberlin include Lena Dunham, Alison Bechdel (of the Bechdel Test), Ed Helms, and Liz Phair. That is some very hip company to keep.  

Oberlin’s supplement is short and sweet at a mere 250-word maximum:

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

While this relatively straightforward prompt may seem like a relief after the emotional heavy lifting of your Common App essay, writing a great college supplement is just as important. We know you’re busy, but luckily for you, it’s fairly easy to crack the code on this type of “Why Us?” question.

Read Between the Lines

First, pay attention to the specific language of the question.  They want to know how “your interest developed” in Oberlin. It’s unlikely there is a fascinating story about the first time you heard about Oberlin (if there is, then go forth and prosper), so here it is best to describe a current interest of yours, and connect it to a specific aspect of the school. Put your interests in the context of the school. How do you plan on pursuing your goals at Oberlin? Why did this school pique your interest?

The second prong of the prompt asks you to elaborate on their “college community.” Clearly, communal values are important to Oberlin’s personality as an institution. This is not a large state school where you will be merely a number, lost in thousand-person lecture halls until your junior year. It’s tough to tell a story in 250 words or less, but with this question, they mostly want to see that you’re a match for their school. Are you liberal, open, creative, and accepting? Find a pithy and telling way to convey those traits in as few words as possible.

Do Your Research (No, really. Do some research.)

The brevity of the Oberlin supplement prompt means it is all about research. Did you go on a college tour of Oberlin? Now would be the time to mention it. Stalk Oberlin’s website. Research their alumni. Watch the HBO show Girls, starring Lena Dunham. (Just kidding. Or are we?).

We know you might be unsure of what your college major may be. You’ve only had your driver’s license for a year, so we get that you may not know your exact future career goal. But for this purpose--pick one. Research your chosen program, and then mention one or two specific classes or professors that appeal to you. By showing specific knowledge of their programs, classes, or professors, you’re showing them you are serious about their institution. The admissions board want to know that you’ll be the type of student to show up on time to your 8 am Friday class.

Take it Outside (of the Classroom)

We know you’re not the type of student to spend your semesters sequestered in a study hidey-hole. But tell Oberlin that. Check out the Oberlin student activities page and pick one or two that appeal to you.

The biggest thing here is to make sure you’re not just re-stating a laundry list of extracurricular activities from high school. What do you plan on doing outside the classroom? Does Oberlin have a service-dog training program in their quad on Wednesdays that you would be dying to check out? Let them know that you will be an engaged, participatory student that actively contributes to their college community.  

In Conclusion

In conclusion, never begin a conclusion with ‘in conclusion.’ That’s just, like, against the rules. All you need to do is circle back to your main point and synthesize your thesis. Done-zo. Remember, you have 250 words.

Want help with your Oberlin supplement? Reach out to us here.

General Questions

What testing information is required from me?

Oberlin requires scores from either the SAT or ACT. Optional essay sections for either are not required. Oberlin will accept official score reports from the testing agency, or scores listed on official high school transcripts. See the Application Requirements page for further details.

What high school transcript information is required from me?

Oberlin requires official high school transcripts for each student. Transcripts uploaded to QuestBridge by a high school counselor and forwarded to Oberlin by QuestBridge are accepted as official. Otherwise, your high school counselor must send transcripts directly to the Admissions Office. See the Application Requirements page for further details.

What financial aid materials are required from me?

Students must submit the CSS Profile and federal tax returns to Oberlin. For applicants applying to Oberlin outside of the College Match, the FAFSA must also be submitted. See the Application Requirements page for further details.

How and where do I submit financial aid documents?

Financial materials should be submitted to Oberlin’s Office of Financial Aid. Depending on the material, email, mail, or fax may be required. Contact information for that office is below:

Oberlin College
Office of Financial Aid
52 West Lorain Street
Oberlin, OH 44074
Fax: (440) 775-8249

Do you provide fee waivers for the CSS Profile?

The College Board automatically provides students with fee waivers for up to six schools based on financial information submitted on the CSS Profile. Beyond those six waivers, Oberlin is unable to provide additional fee waivers or assistance.

Can I apply to Oberlin’s Conservatory of Music through QuestBridge?

No. Oberlin has separate applications, admissions offices, and application requirements for its two division: the College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music. Oberlin’s QuestBridge partnership is for and through its College of Arts and Sciences (College). Oberlin’s Conservatory of Music (Conservatory) is not a QuestBridge partner, and students wishing to only pursue a bachelor’s degree in music should not apply for Oberlin’s QuestBridge College Match as it is not an application for the Conservatory.

Students interested in applying to the Conservatory of Music must submit a new Common Application for the Conservatory and meet its application requirements. QuestBridge applications are not accepted by or shared with the Conservatory’s Office of Admissions.

Can I apply to the College of Arts and Science through QuestBridge and also submit a separate Conservatory of Music Application?

Students matched to Oberlin through QuestBridge may also apply to the Conservatory as a regular decision applicant and take part in Oberlin’s Double Degree program. The student will still be expected to enroll in the College regardless of the outcome of their Conservatory application.

Non-matched Finalists may apply to the College using their QuestBridge application, and as mentioned above, submit a separate Common Application for the Conservatory of Music to be considered for both divisions.

Students only interested in majoring within the Conservatory of Music must submit an application to the Conservatory using the Common Application.

Questions about the College Match 

Will Oberlin consider International students for the College Match?

No. Oberlin’s College Match Program is open only to U.S. Citizens, U.S. Permanent Residents, and undocumented students (students who live in the U.S. but do not have a current visa).

Will Oberlin consider undocumented students for the College Match?

Oberlin will consider undocumented students (students who live in the U.S. but do not have a current visa) for the College Match.

Is Oberlin’s College Match decision binding?

Yes, students matched with Oberlin through the QuestBridge College Match are expected to enroll at Oberlin and withdraw applications to other schools. 

For Non-Matched Finalists

How can I apply to Oberlin?

Non-matched QuestBridge Fnalists may choose to apply to Oberlin as a regular decision applicant using their QuestBridge application. In December, QuestBridge will provide the student with information on that process, which will involve the student selecting to forward their QuestBridge application to Oberlin. In addition, students will be required to submit an Oberlin Supplement before their application is complete.The Supplement will be emailed to the student after their QuestBridge application has been received and processed.

Students may choose to apply to Oberlin as a regular decision applicant by submitting the Common or Coalition application instead of their QuestBridge application. They should only submit one of these applications; Oberlin does not require multiple applications and no preference is given to any application type.

Students interested in applying to Oberlin as an Early Decision II applicant should email the Admissions office stating that intention and Oberlin will process accordingly.

How do I know if you’ve received my materials?

After we receive your application from QuestBridge we will send an email to the address listed within your application letting you know it was received, and providing you access to an online application portal where you can view received materials, any missing requirements, and learn other pertinent information.

What financial aid is available for me?

Oberlin guarantees to meet 100% of the demonstrated need for every admitted student. Grants and scholarships - money a student does not have to pay back - typically make up 75-85% of the financial aid package. Because of this, admitted students with significant financial need often receive very generous aid packages. Visit the Financial Aid section of our website to learn more.

How do I apply for financial aid?

Oberlin requires both the FAFSA as well as the CSS Profile for all students wanting to apply for need-based financial aid. Visit the Financial Aid for Prospective Students page for details on all of the financial aid requirements.

Does Oberlin have an application fee?

Oberlin does not have an application fee. All students can apply to Oberlin for free.