Growing up in Los Angeles, California, I could never have imagined that I would end up attending Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. In fact, I had no idea where Oberlin, Ohio was. Not to mention the fact that it was a top liberal arts college and potentially, my future.
I found out about Oberlin College at our high school college night. I was immediately engaged by the college representative who talked about cornfields and committed students; alternative educational models; food co-operatives; and events at the homes of professors. Having studied ballet and modern dance since early childhood, I was also attracted to Oberlin’s artistic emphasis as the site of one of the world’s best conservatories. As a history major, I was drawn to the rich and progressive history of the college as the first to admit African Americans and women.
As one of the highest ranked liberal arts colleges, Oberlin was really out of my league. I was a very good but not an extraordinary student. My weighted GPA was a 3.85; but that was because I had taken a lot of honors and advanced placement classes. My SAT was low in comparison to the median test score of those accepted to my alma mater. However, I was a devoted applicant.
I followed up with the college representative from the evening event where we had first met. When it was time, I interviewed with an Oberlin graduate and we had a meaningful and engaging conversation. I wrote a deeply personal essay about my upbringing and how and what I could add to the college campus environment. Still, I never really expected to get in. I started planning my future around the University of California, San Diego where I’d already earned admission.
I still remember the day in April of 1986 that an office aid interrupted my theater class to pull me aside. My mom had called the office; no cell phones back then of course. She had called to let the high school staff know that a large envelope had come in the mail from Oberlin
College, and she had opened my acceptance letter.
I spent the next four years happily explaining to my friends back home that Ohio is not Iowa nor Idaho, but the edge of the once burgeoning American frontier. And, the home to a top liberal arts college where I would study.