Oberlin is one of the top liberal arts colleges in the world, without dispute (the very top in my opinion, though that might be disputable). All of the programs Oberlin has to offer are top-notch, and there is a wide range, especially for such a small school. Oberlin is very strong in the sciences, which is unusual for a small liberal arts college. At the same time, Oberlin is equally strong in the Humanities and Social Sciences, which is unheard of. Oberlin also requires students to complete 9 hours in each division: Social Sciences, Humanities, and Natural Sciences, as well as 9 hours in Cultural Diversity classes. Some complain about this, but my thought is that we chose a liberal arts education, and my problem is actually choosing a major because I like everything, so I have no sympathy for them.
The academics are what you make of them. Many professors are door-always-open types: they really want you to excel and if that means sitting with you every week to review class material, then that's what they will do!
I spend a lot of time with my professors outside of class because I'm a theater major and many times my professors are people with whom I'm working on a show. I came from a small High School, so I really enjoy being comfortable with my professors in that way.
Professors are super accessible. You will be friends with at least one by the time you graduate (and by that I mean, go over to their house regularly, know their spouse/kids/dog, talk about life, the universe, and everything, etc.).
You will have classes you LOVE and classes you hate. Same with professors. The ones you love will make up for the ones you hate. You will find the department you love, and that will be the one you major in. (For me, it was Politics.)
Expect to spend a lot of time studying. My strategy is to take classes with different kinds of work (i.e., one class that focuses heavily on reading; one that focuses on writing; one that is more math- or science-based so it focuses on problem sets or labs; and one that is in a foreign language or a practicum or something else different) to break it up.
Oberlin is nice because you only have general distribution requirements (a couple classes in Math/Science, a couple in Social Science, a couple in Humanities) so you get a broad education without having to take classes that you know you won't be interested in.
Oberlin's degrees are based in liberal arts and they don't offer pre-professional programs, so it might appear that Oberlin doesn't prepare you for the real world, but in reality, they offer tons of internship/fellowship opportunities. I got an all-expenses paid trip to intern on a political campaign in California for a summer through the Cole Scholars program in Politics.
Academic life can be very different depending on the major you have chosen. But one thing that crosses departmental lines is the passion of the faculty. Oberlin professors are hired to teach first, do everything else (research etc) second. Each professor is required to have open office hours each week, where students can drop by to talk about homework, problems in the class, or just to say hello. We have an inside joke here at Oberlin which goes "If you haven't been to a professor's house by the end of your first semester, there's something wrong with you". So Oberlin has a very personalized approach to learning.
Academic life is pretty varied. Students have to take a broad range of classes in the three divisions (social sciences, natural sciences, and arts and humanities) to graduate, which is natural for a liberal arts institution. These requirements are easy to fulfill though, I'm on my third semester and almost done. Also, the ExCo or Experimental College program is fantastic, which is basically student run classes on anything from Tango classes to the Office to Korean.
I was shocked at how challenging the academic atmosphere was when I arrived, and pleasantly surprised at how intelligent most people were (with some exceptions). I went to a good high school, and was always lazy about academics, and was able to glide through with decent grades without doing much. Then I got to Oberlin, with few if any serious aspirations, and realized I would need to get my act together If I was going to do even remotely well. I credit Oberlin with seeing the potential in people, placing them in a challenging environment, and expecting them to live up to expectations. I loved 95% of my teachers and was genuinely in awe of their abilities. As much as I loved Oberlin in other regards, without the legitimacy of the education that I got It would be a completely different story.
It is very easy to skate through, riding the proverbial "B." Having intellectual conversations in the middle of Tappan Square during a snow storm is pretty pointless--or having one just about anywhere, at any time as well. People are way too serious.
This is for SCIENCE majors 'cause that's what I know about. The Oberlin faculty is unbelievably dedicated to their students. You WILL look forward to their classes. You WILL go to their office hours. You WILL have dinner with them, have a beer (shh, don't tell Finney) with them. There is a certain east-coast competitor to Oberlin that proudly boasts that it has more NSF science grants than any other liberal arts college. Big deal. That means that the faculty are into grant-getting and their own research. In every field in science, Oberlin blows away all the other elite 4-yr liberal arts colleges in the number of alums who go on to get PhDs. Why is this? Because faculty pay incredible attention to what they teach, how they teach, to helping you out in lab, to schmoozing with you about science, to bringing you on to their research projects and making you a part of it. Let me tell you how good the faculty is: I became a professor myself (at Brooklyn College) and my ideal, the kind of professor I strive to be is based on my teachers at Oberlin. They are the model. They are the gold standard.
Classes tend to be small enough so that you do get to know the professor and visa versa. Most of the time, the professors do take an interest in their students, not only as to academics, but their personal lives too.
Oberlin logo or emblem is Learn and Labor. That's all. Tighten your belts and be ready for Oberlin academics. All life is library. Students are flying in sky. Everyone has the highest intellectual characteristics. First time in life that I saw academic conversations everywhere. Anyway, you will learn and you will be prepared for Labor.
Professors are very often helpful one-on-one; some can still be distant. I feel comfortable talking to most of my professors on a first-name basis.
Students are fairly intellectual; we work hard and play hard. Not like those suckers at Swarthmore. Not competitive academically.
The psych major is underwhelming. I could've chosen a better school for it.
I haven't been given enough guidance on grad school - I'm a junior and have NO IDEA what to do.
Classes range from 5 students in seminars-120 students in intro course, (PSYCH). I took an anthropology class of 12 students callled "Ethnographic Perspectives on Small-Scale societies". We looked at hunting-gathering, fishing, agrarian communities around the world and engaged in great conversation about the role of outside influences interrupting and affecting their lives, among many other topics. I wrote 3 papers of the Hadza tribe of northern tanzania after i had traveled there the summer before. Many classes have just papers and some have tests and papers...depends of the class and teacher. Spending time with professors outside class if rare fairly rare but many teachers are great about wanting you to attend office hours.
The requirements are not bad, unless you hate the sciences and are forced to take 3 course in either math or science. It can be intimidating, but really, you can get around it in different ways. It's not so bad. Some people study endlessly, others not at all. I don't study very much and still do well (3.3 so far). It's all up to you. If you're NOT MOTIVATED you will NOT BE HAPPY. Oh, and our libraries are fucking sweet.
Education at Oberlin is definitely geared toward "learning for learning's sake," even in the conservatory. In fact, it is so much this way that many seniors find themselves at a loss when it comes to considering "life after Oberlin." In the conservatory, this is not as much of a problem because most kids just go on to graduate school. In the college, there tends to be more ambiguity--i.e. what does one do with a Classics major? The college is working on improving resources for life after Oberlin--there is now a pretty helpful Career Resources Center located in Stevenson Dining Hall.
Professors are generally very open to meeting with you outside of class. Some of them even require that you meet with them at least once at the beginning of the semester so they can get to know you! Professor Beers night is, so I've heard, a great way to get to know your professors in an informal setting. There is also Azariah's cafe, in Mudd library, where you can meet one-on-one with your professors. But don't expect all of your professors to know your name, particularly in the larger 100-level courses! For first-years, first-year seminar courses are great if you want small (less than 10 students per course), discussion-based classes.
The academics are pretty rigorous. Professors are demanding, expecting you to be incredibly thoughtful and non-judgmental particularly in essay writing.
Academics are a high priority at oberlin, and the professors have pretty high standards for their students. One benefit is the professor/student ration, which is small. The professors are very accessible for talking about papers, etc. Also they make an attempt (sucessfully) to learn your names.
During the weekdays, most people study. Conservatory students spend on average 3 hours practicing their instruments.
Professors are where Oberlin really shines. Best in the land. Not a teaching institution, so undergraduate students get the best of both worlds: lots of research opportunities AND attention from professors.
Our professors are real people, and some are confident enough with themselves to let us call them by their first names and meet us for drinks at our local bar, the Feve.
In the Philosophy department, the professors got to know the students very well. Small class sizes and mandatory seminars made the whole group of majors very close. My best friends are Philosophy majors for this reason. Only one professor is a bit stilted, but his teaching is still excellent by any standards.
In the Chemistry/Biochemistry department, the intro courses are the most difficult (same with all institutions by nature of the major material to be covered? maybe.) but the 200-level courses and beyond are EXCELLENT. I learned more than I ever thought I would in this major, and the professors and students both aided me. The professors and students are slightly less personable in this department, but if you ask lots of questions and don't put on airs you will optimize your education without pretention.
My professors were all very good. Usually we're on first name basis with them, even visiting ones. There is a sense of comeraderie and exploration in the classroom, you're never talked down to or even merely at. Teachers are very available at office hours or beyond; they have coffee with you, you'll see them at campus events. Some seem more like friends to me now that teachers almost; I've even gotten to work with some of them and so we're colleagues.
Academics can be quite challenging, but you'll work you're way up to it and teachers are usually forthright about what they expect from you for the course. Talk to others who've taken it though. The trick is too balance your time and schedule. It can be very tempting to do too much, too many classes, too many clubs, too many shows; and that can really kill you in the end. Trying things is good, but overkill is not.
Students are competitive, but mostly just to better themselves than comparing themselves with others.
The average class size at Oberlin is about 33 students, and your classes will NEVER be taught by anyone but a professor, so there is a great close-knit environment in the classroom. Professors generally know your name and are extremely accessible- they want to spend time with you outside the class and answer all your questions, and every week the club on campus hosts Professor Beers- (discounted beer if you bring a professor), which is a great way to get to know your profs in a different setting. Academics are extremely rigorous, but the competition is only with yourself- there is very little student-student competition, which is great because it means that you really have a chance to work with and get to know the people in your classes and students are very willing to help each other. I love the 9-9-9 system of requirements, because it's the perfect compromise between having a strict core curriculum with required classes and having no guidelines at all. And the few requirements we do have are very very easy to fill- I was done with all of them in 3 semesters without even trying. Students definitely have intellectual conversations outside of class- I'll never forget one time when I was walking around campus and I passed three groups of people in a row, the first discussing a symphony one of them was in the middle of writing, the next debating philosophy, and the last heatedly discussing the primaries - I thought, wow, where else could this happen but here?
Oberlin is a tough school academically and very well respected. What I like best is the opportunity to form relationships with your professors. It really is a community and they are part of it. I can often see my professors riding their bikes, taking strolls with their family, and sometimes you even get invited to their house. This can be especially useful if your in the sciences or some other research-based field where having that relationship with a professor can really give you a leg up.
The classes in general are very active. Participation is usually up to the instructor's discretion; usually, it is allowed and in fact, it is encouraged. The only time where it might be put off is during a very important lecture in a very large class (the latter being somewhat rare at Oberlin). There is a lot to go into at Oberlin, and there are a lot of ways to make it happen. The great thing about Oberlin is that its requirements aren't extremely strenuous - it is not uncommon for students to finish the requirements at the end of their first or second semesters. This gives students a lot of time to do the things they want to do.
Oberlin's a place where you can make really profound relationships with your professors. The classes are small and intimate. Your classmates push you to do better. It's competitive, but not in a malicious way. Everyone wants to keep class interesting. It depends on what you study, but most students at Oberlin work hard because they love what they are studying. There are a lot of discussions about political topics and recent events. My favorite class was The Fungi, a first module class where I learned a lot, got three credits, and got to walk around in the woods mushroom hunting twice a week. What a time! Every Thursday there is professor beers, where you can bring a prof to the 'sco and get free beer. Sad to say, I never did go to one prof. beers. I have gone to my professor's houses before for dinner. I go to office hours a lot just to talk and hang out. The education is mostly geared toward learning for it's own sake. Most people that come out of Oberlin agree that we learn how to think, not how to get and do a job.
Oberlin has high academic standards without all the nasty competitiveness. Collaboration with classmates is encouraged, and each class is like a family. Teachers are super accessable, and often fun to hang out with. There's an inside joke on campus, that if you haven't been to a professors house by the end of your first year, there's something wrong with you. And it's true! My roommates professor took me and her and his wife out to dinner over fall break, and I'm hanging out with my econ professor when he comes to california in august. I learn really well one on one, and oberlin is perfect for that. There's a lot of studying involved in the classes, but just work hard and keep in contact with professors, and you can do well. OH! and we don't have specific general ed classes, which is AMAZING! I got to take a history/jewish studies course called "Good and evil: ethics and decision making in the Holocaust", which counted as one of my writing proficiency courses (in lieu of an english requirement that other colleges have). It's also great having an entirely undergraduate student body, because the professors really just focus on TEACHING.
Classes at Oberlin are, for the most part, small. In four years at Oberlin, I have had two classes with over 20 people. Most of mine have between 6 and 14. The best classes really are those where the teacher engages with the students, though in classes where this doesn't happen, students tend to engage each other in energetic intellectual debates. Studying is basically Oberlin's sport. Students are in a perfect position to be assholes about their coursework, but instead of being hypercompetitive, they're extremely cooperative in their approaches. There's always some competition, especially in tough majors like music and theater, where a select few move on each year, but at the student level, no one's stepping on each other to get ahead.
I'm a composer, and the major cuts 2/3 of its students within the first two years. The remaining 1/3 is then "in" for good. Classes in my department consist of music theory and history, orchestration, compositional techniques, and private composition lessons with a member of the faculty.
Faculty members readily make themselves available outside of class time. At my orientation tour as a freshman, the guide said, "If you finish your sophomore year without going to your professor's house for dinner, you're taking the wrong classes." And it's true; I've been to no less than three professor's homes for various parties and events. It's certainly possible also to spend time with professors during the day. I've run into some in town and just had conversations on the street, or outside a restaurant. Granted, some professors are more available than others, and usually this depends on whether they live in Oberlin or not.
Academically, Oberlin allows people to either be totally focused on one topic or to branch out and experience a wide variety of subjects; I myself have opted for the later. Although I love my major and the department I belong to, some of my favorite courses have been with departments outside of my major, especially the history department. Classes are usually small, especially in the humanities and social sciences. Professors know their students and, for the most part, want them to succeed. Studies can be hard but if you need help, there are many ways to get it. Education is for education's sake and learning how to think and write is a major focus.
Classes are small and the professors are good. I don't have any major complaints about my professors my freshman year. You'll find Oberlin students discussing a wide range of topics outside the classroom, so expect more than just run-of-the-mill conversations when you are walking around campus. I will say that though the classes at Oberlin are amazing, the college is in NO WAY geared towards getting a job after college. We have one of the worst percentages of students working immediately after graduation.
Every teacher seems pretty concerned about how you, as a person, are doing in class. The creative writing workshops are great examples of the one-on-one attention every student gets at Oberlin. Intellectual conversations outside of class are definitely the norm, and students always have extremely intelligent comments in class (though one or two students often dominate.) Professors always arrange outside coffee get-togethers to further discuss topics that weren't reached in class. Speaking of which, classes usually get behind schedule because students and teachers become involved in such intense discourse about a particular subject that they forget to move on. At Oberlin, learning is definitely for learning's sake.
Academics at Oberlin are overall quite good. The quality of students is high, and the professors, in general, expect a high level of work from their students.
I've found that the small departments cause an issue with getting in all the classes you want - this comment relates specifically to the sciences and math. Specifically in the math dept, there are some really cool and useful classes that are only offered once per year, every other year, or even once every four years, so it is sort of a "right place, right time" type of deal with whether you get to take that class.
on the plus side, the classes are small - in everything except the big freshman lecture classes such as psych 100 and the like, the teacher gets to know you quite well, which is good for applying to grad schools and jobs because you will get a personal recommendation instead of a recommendation from a large state school only based on what grade you got in the class. Most of the higher level math and econ classes have between 8 and 20 people in them.
I don't have much to say about academics. I think I got a quality education at Oberlin, but I probably didn't make the most of the resources at my disposal. I felt a definite lack of guidance. When it came time to find a job, the career service people didn't help me, my advisor didn't help me. Most of my questions and ideas about where to look for a job came from other students. So yes, my education was great. But did it help me get a job after school was over? No.
I've had a really great academic experience here. I have a great relationship with my adviser, and most of my professors have been great. Classes are small, especially in the humanities, and so your professors get to know you pretty well.
We have a lot of work, though. I generally spend a minimum of 5 hours (outside of class) a day on schoolwork. I'm a bit of a perfectionist though.
Students are competitive, but it's generally about pushing themselves rather than comparing to other people. Unlike in high school, I don't know what kind of grades my friends get.
Students are definitely always talking about "intellectual" topics outside of class. I don't take a lot of classes with my social group, but we talk about interesting lectures and readings, or about papers we're writing.
Excellent. Competitive but not cutthroat. Professors in the History department really challenge you to think outside of the box and go out of your comfort zone.
There are pretty minimal requirements but enough that it would not be possible to just take classes in a couple departments. There are a couple requirements (writing and quantitative proficiency) that are kind of annoying but easy to get.
I love learning, and professors are very involved with their subjects. You'll have to work really hard o get A's, but its an easy school to get a B in.
One experience I will never forget during my first semester at Oberlin happened in my geology 120 class. My friends and I had studied hard for the final exam of the semester and walked into class ready to be finished with our finals. To our surprise instead of simply handing out the exams and exiting the room, our professor walked around the room and handed each student a personalized slip of paper, a slip of paper showing our current grade in the class and what we needed to get on the test to improve. At first, I was struck with shock-if I put all this time and energy into studying for an exam then why wouldn't I want to display my knowledge by doing well on this test when it hit me. I didn't take this class because I wanted a good grade on my transcript, I took it because I love learning and I wanted to learn more about the world around me.
That day, I chose not to take the exam and instead took my passion for geology.
Oberlin is truly an institution where a wonderful education can be gained. Professors are top-notch and personable, and the academic environment is not competitive.
the biology department is pretty remarkable at oberlin. they've got many faculty members doing all kinds of research, and since oberlin is so small, students basically get to pick which faculty they'd like to work with. the professors are consistently excited to teach and interact with students.
My professors all know me by name, which is great and a lot more personal than most high schools. I love the English classes here, as the discussions are always lengthy and intellectual, and students definitely participate and do the work to be prepared. People definitely have intellectual conversations outside of class, as we talk about our classes and what we're doing a lot. Not too much though, we're laid back enough that it's not obnoxious and we still joke around and have fun. Lots of people get close to professors and see them out of class, and every professor has office hours a couple times a week for us to be able to privately talk to them.
i can't really speak on other students' experiences here, but mine have been pretty good. i'm challenged, but i'm not swamped or overwhelmed. i like all of my classes and professors. i know people who have professors that they hate and classes that are boring. but not me.
Professors are very friendly and all make an effort to know your name. My favorite class was European Sports History. Least favorite Aural Skills, its essential for becoming a better musician but very hard.
I'm a college music history/theory major, therefore I spend more time in the onservatory but I'm not actually a "connie." Some people will hold that against you, but for the most part you feel part of the conservatory's student body.
The oberlin academic requirements are geared towards making the student a more well rounded person. Therefore all students must take math or science, social studies, literature courses regardless of their major. This is good because it forces you outside your comfort-zone.
Oberlin does produce many academics, but others do pursue jobs out in the "real" world.
class size is generally small (except in some of the intro classes), so all of the professors you have know your name and face (especially if you visit them during office hours when they are always happy to talk to you and help you out). Students are pretty studious when they have to be, but not to the point of insanity. On beautiful days you will always see crowds of students gathered on the quad playing frisbee or listening to music, etc. Education is definately geared toward learning. Oberlin has some of the highest percent of students going to grad school, etc after college. Students have a lot of intellectual debates and things outside of class. Most people are politically well-informed and socially aware if not highly active.
The best academics in the Mid-West bar none. The professors are not only accessible as resources and friends, in many cases they are the go to people in their field.
Intense academics, but interesting and fun. Profs are all amazing. you don't even realize it. Learning for it's own sake is what oberlin is about.
Every professor you are currrently in a class with (at least in every class I've ever taken) will make at least a concerted effort to learn your name ... sometimes it's difficult in a class with 65 people but they try their best and genuinely apologize when they get it wrong. It is rare to find a class where students do not participate in the development and direction of a class discussion. If students are at all competitive, it is against themselves, always trying to do something better than they did before. It is not uncommon to walk out of a room with a group of students who continue their class discussion all the way down the block and through a meal. The most unique academic class I've taken has to be History of American Sexuality. The education here is not really geared toward getting a job, it is far more about learning for the thrill and pleasure of it, but it is not difficult to craft your course load so that you will learn desirable skills for the job market (if you already know what job you want and what those skills are - most people are far more unfocused than that, though).
Ok so the classes are small, some professors will give a shit about you, others wont. All the professors appreciate genuine interest. I'm a psych and neuro double major, and the neuro classes are really challenging, and I consider myself someone who knows how to study. But there are some very easy majors.
Learning is for its own sake but with an eye towards practical application, not necessarily a specific job, since our majors are not that specific. (small school- so we have psychology, not clinical psych versus developmental psych as two seperate majors)
Oberlin students definitely have intellectual conversations outside of class. I have like 10 a week.
Students are not that competitive. You need intrinsic motivation here.
Favorite class: Approaches to Western Art with Erik Inglis. He is amazing, so helpful. The class was easily the best reason I have ever found to wake up before 9 AM. Art history can be boring fairly easily, but Erik made the class enjoyable, starting out by telling us that "I don't know" are the best three words and that we're going to look stupid at some point, but that's okay because that's how you learn.
Graphic Narrative with Dan Chaon is for the comic book nerds among you, and those who strive to be comic book nerds. Dan's great.
Students study a lot, but they know when to take breaks and how to manage time so they can make it to the improv show at the Cat in the Cream later, or to their Poi Exco Monday night.
Professors are ridiculously helpful. Take advantage of Office Hours if you're having trouble. I ended up having amazing conversations with several of my professors when I finally went to Office Hours. My art history professor found out I want to work in a museum and started telling me what classes would help me most and what extracurricular programs would be helpful as well.
I love Oberlin professors. I have not yet had a professor who I didn't like. I may not have found their lecture style interesting or been annoyed at quirk in their grading style but I have never disliked a professor. Professors here are generally very easy to approach at office hours or if you're just walking by their office and see them in there. I've also been invited to (and accepted) invitations to professors' houses for dinner or end of the year banquets. Even if you're not in a small class (less than 20 students) profs go out of their way to learn your name. I have a professor who I had first semester freshman year remember me and my name on the first day of class this semester (2nd sem junior yr). If I run into a professor from a previous year or semester they remember me and its not uncommon for us to just have a conversation about something either related or unrelated to the topic of the class I took with them. Professors are genuinely interested in seeing students succeed and will often hold review sessions, help a student one on one or set up a student tutor if further help is needed.
Academics here are rigorous and challenging. I never feel as if I'm breezing through a class and in my more difficult classes there are always options available for help like review sessions, profs office hours, student study groups, student tutors. There is a lot of freedom in designing your course of study at Oberlin since there aren't any required classes. Instead there are distribution requirements making sure you take a broad range of classes in many different departments. This let me explore some departments I might not have explored otherwise such as the religion and anthropology departments. Even major and minor requirements generally offer a great deal of flexibility. So while there are no concentrations that appear on your transcript if you are interested in plant bio you probably won't take any animal physiology or development courses. But if you're interested in both you can take both animal and plant courses. I do spend a considerable amount of time on school work, especially as I have started taking more upper-level courses but my friends and I always manage to find time to have fun.
A really neat program at Oberlin is the Exco program. Exco is the Experimental College in which students, profs, even townspeople can teach classes. There are so many fun things like juggling, swing dancing, horse care, pottery, martial arts, reading Calvin and Hobbs, watching Firefly. You can count 5 Exco credits toward your general graduation total.
Academics are tough and classes are demanding - especially in terms of being expected to think for yourself. I think Oberlin doesn't always try to prepare students for a job as much as for loving learning, or for academia or the next degree.
Oberlin academics focus on teaching students to critically think and analyze things for themself. Professors are intelligent and helpful. Classes cover a wide variety of topics, with an emphasis on a liberal arts education. The natural science department (particullarly biology and chemistry) is among the best in the country. Humanities courses are excellent. The only departments to really fail to impress are the Comparative American Studies and Philosophy departments.
Students at Oberlin are not competitive. They learn because they want to. Professors are for the most part very nice and easy to get to know. Some professors are very good and some are not. As with all schools, visiting professors are hit or miss.
Oberlin is not a "hard" college. If you are smart or study a lot, you will do well. This is not to say it's not a good college--I learned a lot in each class I have take. Professors make it easy to learn. Requirements are easy to fulfill so you can explore and take what you want.
Class discussions are often boring. Some students don't seem to have smart things to say in class. Good professors have A LOT to say and are very knowledgeable and fun to listen to.
Excellent, excellent, excellent.
Also, it's easy to study abroad for a semester: Oberlin really encourages it.
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