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Opinions on Ohio Schools from Ohio residents

homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 867 Member
Our S19 is interested in Kenyon, Oberlin, and Denison. We will be visiting all three this summer. While we've spent time reading their websites and signed up for their mailing lists, I'd love to hear what the local reputations are from people who live in Ohio. We live in the Chicago suburbs and our school sends kids to Kenyon and Denison each year (just a few) but no one ever seems to go to Oberlin.

He will have a high GPA, 8-10 APs across all subject areas, and should hit a 1500 SAT.

S19 is undecided for major right now. Comp Science is out as is Engineering. He is still considering the sciences (most likely Bio or Environmental Science). He also loves English and I could also see him possibly going the Econ or Poli Sci route. I honestly don't expect this to change in a year so he really needs to be somewhere that will provide options as he searches for his major. Studying abroad is also important to him. As is a little diversity. And he doesn't want an echo chamber when it comes to politics. He's definitely liberal but wants to be in a place where kids can agree to disagree and have good debate.

Any insight would be terrific. Thanks!
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Replies to: Opinions on Ohio Schools from Ohio residents

  • partyof5partyof5 Registered User Posts: 1,712 Senior Member
    All three are very good schools. I just relocated from Ohio to Chicago suburbs, lol. Im not sure how much diversity you are looking for, but none of them are really diverse. Oberlin tends more artsy, but it has a very strong science dept. If he is going econ/poli sci, I would lean towards Kenyon or Denison.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 867 Member
    edited June 17
    Thanks @partyof5 . S19 is both artsy and interested in science. He will have a portfolio from AP Studio Art and is pretty talented. Has taken art lessons after school since he was eight and got the art gene from both sides of the family. In that way, Oberlin seems like the better choice. The kicker is that he's not your typical artsy kid, whatever that means. He's very sporty and mainstream. He loves to draw and paint but won't major or minor in it. His teachers think he has the skill to be accepted into an art program but he prefers for it to remain a hobby. He will, however, attach his portfolio so that schools can "see" one of his major ECs.

    He's very open minded, but also doesn't want to go to school where the feeling of the school is overly "purple hair" if you know what I mean. He enjoys those types of kids but they're not really his pack. He's looking for economic diversity in a school meaning he doesn't want to go to a "rich kid" school. He's already got that here and he's over it.
  • younghossyounghoss Registered User Posts: 2,972 Senior Member
    edited June 17
    Oberlin has had and still has a long-time reputation for being very left politically. Not so left that they riot to avoid hearing "dangerous" differing ideas, but very left. A liberal student attending there would have little opportunity for the learning that comes from challenging one's own views. It is a good place for those that desire only "a little diversity". The school offers some diversity of skin color, with about as many whites there as our nations' general population; but very little diversity of thought. It would definitely have the reputation of being an echo chamber for someone on the left. I'm kind of old school and remember when someone "liberal" politically used to mean broadly accepting. I am not sure how the Op means it. They offer degrees in Art, Bio Chem and Bio, Dance, Econ, Music Theory, and Women's Studies to name a few. They do not offer a major in Business. About 66% of the students had high school GPA of 3.5 or higher. Most students req'd to live on campus thru senior yr.

    I make no judgments what is good or bad about the above, or if it is right for the Op's son. I only tossed out some of the reputation there that the OP asked for, and a few facts from collegedata.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 867 Member
    Thanks @younghoss I agree with everything you've said. S19 will definitely not be a undergrad business major.

    I guess what I'm getting at is- what type of kids go to each of the schools? From those of you in Ohio, I'm guessing there may be a type of student that typically goes to each. Just like I know the local reputations of the schools in Chicago and most of Illinois, I'm guessing that Ohioans have lots of experience with what kinds of kids like each school. It does seem like Oberlin is the brainiest of the three. S19 would like that. Wants collaborative environment but wants bright classmates. Kenyon, of course, seems like a place for thinkers as well. Maybe more English, History type kids. Denison seems like a place kids might go because they don't get into other Ohio LACs? But it still seems to have a good reputation just maybe not as brainy overall?
  • younghossyounghoss Registered User Posts: 2,972 Senior Member
    sent OP a p.m.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 867 Member
    I'm just trying to get a idea of each school's local reputation and the rep of its student body.

    Do the more intellectual-type Ohio kids split up and some head to Kenyon and some to Oberlin if they stay in-state? They seem to be the two most selective LACs in Ohio. Do any of the high achieving students go to Denison? If they do, is it because Denison offers merit more easily?

    Does Oberlin feel more like an east coast school than Kenyon and Denison? Meaning, are the kids just more intense overall? I'm thinking that could be true since Oberlin has a higher percentage of east coast kids than the other two schools. Maybe that's because Oberlin is the most liberal and Ohio kids may be more conservative. (I know that's a vast generalization but Ohio is a red state!)
  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 11,941 Senior Member
    edited June 17
    Am not a local, but have some familiarity with the three Ohio schools.

    If one's interested in the natural sciences, Oberlin is the strongest of the three as biology is one of their strengths.

    If English, Oberlin and Kenyon have strong departments with Kenyon's possibly edging them out depending on who you talk to among writers and Lit academics.

    Politics, Oberlin.....especially if your son is interested in comparative politics*.

    * I was a Politics minor at Oberlin.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 867 Member
    edited June 17
    @cobrat Thanks. I think this may be our conundrum. Seems like Oberlin may be best option if S19 is undecided between English, Poli Sci, and the sciences. I like that it's a big bigger and less secluded than Kenyon. I've had friends visit, though, and think the student body is just too extreme overall. And I saw a recent post here from a student who is trying to transfer out because the liberal politics are just in your face all of the time. S19 definitely wants a place that respects all political leanings even though he himself is a Democrat.

    The question remains about Denison. Wondering where it fits in the mix and what kind of kids go there. Kids who like Oberlin's offerings but not its politics? Kids who couldn't get into Oberlin? Kids who like a more Midwestern type feeling at their school? Or like the Greek system?
  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 11,941 Senior Member
    And I saw a recent post here from a student who is trying to transfer out because the liberal politics are just in your face all of the time.

    Keep in mind the OP in that thread is a libertarian which would place him at the far right end of the political spectrum....especially by current Oberlin/millennial standards*.

    * While there are millennial libertarians, my impression is as a generation, millennial on average are far less supportive of libertarianism/GOP politics than was the case in my generation(tail-end Gen X).

    Granted, I attended a public magnet HS which was heavily populated by libertarian classmates....especially Ayn-Rand Objectivists. None of them would have entertained a thought of applying to Oberlin unless they were of the gadfly type with extreme grit to withstand Oberlin's campus culture....especially considering it was much more radical back then compared to now.
    Kids who like Oberlin's offerings but not its politics? Kids who couldn't get into Oberlin? Kids who like a more Midwestern type feeling at their school? Or like the Greek system?

    My personal politics especially when I matriculated at Oberlin was certainly much further right than that of most students at the time(mid-late '90s). Then again, the campus culture back then was much more radical to the point even being a Green party supporter meant one was "too right wing"....not to say a democrat. However, Oberlin has substantially mellowed and gone much more mainstream to the point being a mainstream democrat is accepted in the last decade and half....which wasn't the case when I attended.

    If someone likes the Greek system, I would definitely recommend AGAINST Oberlin not only because most students who opt to matriculate there chose it precisely because there's no Greek life, but also because the college itself bars maintaining membership in fraternities/sororities or any "secret societies" as a condition of matriculation/continuing enrollment since the 1870's.

    While there were/likely are underground fraternities/sororities, one has to ask themselves is it worth the risk of serious penalties from the college if one is caught and more importantly, if greek life is that important...why choose Oberlin when there are plenty of colleges with reasonably good/elite academics.



    * Disclosure: I was asked to join an underground frat while at Oberlin and declined due to not being interested.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 61,464 Senior Member
    I'm from Ohio...but no longer live there.

    All three are good schools. When I was there in the Stone Age, Oberlin was considered to be the strongest. Denison was a one of the many LACs in the area and was also viewed as a fine school...not as strong as Oberlin. Kenyon really wasn't on the radar screen at my high profile suburban high school...at the time. But it has had a growing excellent reputation.

    I would suggest visiting all of them. They are in nice college towns...but not really in urban areas...at all.

    I think your son needs to get the feel of these locations with a visit. All are good schools...but they "feel" different. Does that make sense?


  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 11,941 Senior Member
    All three are good schools. When I was there in the Stone Age, Oberlin was considered to be the strongest. Denison was a one of the many LACs in the area and was also viewed as a fine school...not as strong as Oberlin. Kenyon really wasn't on the radar screen at my high profile suburban high school...at the time. But it has had a growing excellent reputation.

    When my HS(NYC public magnet) classmates and I were applying to colleges, Oberlin was considered the strongest of the three academically followed by Kenyon and then Denison.

    Oberlin tended to draw students who were interested in the natural sciences along with the humanities, social sciences, arts, and music(conservatory/double-degree).

    Kenyon tended to draw students heavily interested in the humanities...especially their renowned English/lit program.

    While Denison was known, there were no applicants from my year or several preceding graduating classes.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 867 Member
    @thumper1 Thanks. Yes. That makes sense. We are seeing Kenyon and Denison this summer. I feel like S19 might be able to decide how he feels about Kenyon even without kids there. I understand it's particularly quaint and secluded. If he likes the feeling of campus, we would come back to visit when there are students there. Same with Denison. If he likes the presentation this summer and the academic offerings and the neighborhood, we will return when there are students.

    I think an Oberlin visit requires going while there are students there since I feel like he would love the offerings and the campus. It's really the feel of the college that he would need to consider. Maybe we can fit in a visit this winter.

    @cobrat That's pretty interesting that you think Oberlin has become less radical. Hoping that's true and we get that sense if we visit. S19 not interested in Greek life. I never even thought about underground fraternities. That seems almost worse than having a Greek system that's on the up and up. If it still exists, I hope it's not something that changes the feeling of the school that is supposedly non-Greek.

    Still curious if kids kids choose Denison over Oberlin or Kenyon...and why.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 61,464 Senior Member
    Denison offers some of those kids better merit aid...and a lower net cost...than Oberlin.
  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 11,941 Senior Member
    edited June 17
    That's pretty interesting that you think Oberlin has become less radical.

    This was from maintaining contact with some Profs who are still teaching there and from chatting with younger alums...especially those who graduated in 2003-4 and later. One noticable difference was how inactive students were in launching and sustaining campus-wide protests* in the 2003 and later classes than was the case when I attended and earlier.

    There's also a noticeable difference in the younger Oberlin alums as opposed to those who graduated in my year and moreso earlier. Many of the younger alums while "liberal" and "progressive" by the standards of the current US political spectrum(Which has moved rightward since my undergrad days in the mid-late '90s) would have been considered very conservative by most of the classmates of my time and moreso earlier.

    In fact, this is one reason some older alums I know feel there's a substantial "gap" between those of their era and alums who graduated after 2003 and later. Ironically, today's Oberlin would likely be a much better fit politically for yours truly than the one at the time I attended. On the other hand, several older Oberlin classmate friends are bemoaning how recent Oberlin students have become "too conservative" and "conformist" to the mainstream US politics compared to our day.

    * Campuswide protests were such a commonplace presence when I attended that they were our equivalent to sports at many Div I schools. What you see in the news nowadays doesn't compare in terms of the prevalence, vociferousness, or level of political radicalism.
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 9,863 Senior Member
    edited June 17
    ^ That really depends on what one means by "liberal" and "progressive".

    There's not a one-dimensional spectrum and both the Right and Left in this country are splintering and realigning across multiple axis.
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