Am I Crazy? Help Me Decide.

<p>I am posting this in the parent's thread to get some other-side perspective. For some reason, with the odd array of colleges I applied to, I have ended up here at the end of April, trying to decide between Johns Hopkins and Oberlin.
As many people have pointed out, they are opposites. I agree. But I feel that at this point in my life I can just go... either way. I have visited both, and love the amazing art history and writing seminars programs at Johns Hopkins. But at the same time, I didn't feel like I fit in with the students there, in that I am pretty much anti-sorority/fraternity, and they mostly seem driven and willing to sacrifice a more enjoyable undergraduate experience for work, goals, career, "success..." Honestly, although the challenge is tempting, I do NOT want to be miserable and overworked and stressed for four more years, maybe not even for the best academics. That really isn't my definition of success. But still, am I crazy to give that up?
Then with Oberlin, while I do feel more at home with the student body, I am worried somewhat that the emphasis there is well… less. I don’t want to get out of there with a head stuffed full of academia and liberal artsy stuff that won’t help in getting a job. (Though a lot of getting a job is just being capable and smart, I think.) And I don't know if their art history/creative writing programs are that great (not that I'll for sure end up in those fields.) But I will probably have a better undergraduate experience there, because honestly, I want to be happy, healthy, and learning. I don’t want to be overworked at Johns Hopkins, and miss out on one of the best times of my life… which it feels like I might. I am just hoping the workload/classes/learning at Oberlin is fairly intense, not too laid back, and challenging enough for me. (Also, two kids I know will be going to Oberlin too… and it’s only 3 hours from my city… which is okay but iffy.)
And I just learned today, with an adjustment from JHU, that the price for each is about the same, $7,000ish a year.
Help. Sorry this is so long, but there are a lot of factors. I feel like I just need some adult counseling. Or if I knew “who I was,” that would help too.
I guess I can always transfer. <em>Sigh</em>

<p>Hmm, my opinion is 3rd hand at best. S wanted to get into JHU in the <em>WORST</em> way (and didn't, so according to his sister, I guess I'm supposed to hate you or something, but I won't) and the D of good friends is a Jr or Sr at Oberlin. These are each great schools and your classmates would envy you your dilemma. You may want to ask "why should I attend this school or what makes it special to you?" on their respective forums, esp. if you can ask on something like the JHU student blogs.</p>

<p>Yes, JHU seems to be very goal and results-driven on the surface, if that is what you want to do. Expect a demanding workload, but they would not have offered you admission if you didn't appear capable. It's up to you to get out of the experience what you want and you are one of the top universities in the US to do it. My S was also interested in the writing program and it seems to be top-notch. And you have the advantages of city life close at hand. A friend who attended recently cannot speak highly enough of the school. </p>

<p>Oberlin seems to me to be a classic small liberal arts college. The student body is very liberal, and much into political causes and what I'd call social action. A much smaller school, and one that seems to develop intense passion and loyalty in it's students and alumni. You are sort of out in the boonies, so much more of your time and life will be spent around campus. I know they do a lot with the surrounding communities, I'd talk with current and recent students for that. D of good friends attends and loves it there; she turned down Wellesley, UVA, and some other top schools to go there.</p>

<p>Regardless of which school you attend, what you get out of it is what you put into it. You could goof off or thrive in either environment. If you haven't visited the schools, you need to. Discount fact of friends going to Oberlin or it's proximity, 3 hrs is far enough you won't be heading home every weekend. You really need to talk with current students to get a feel for the place - I am sure the schools' admissions offices can put you in touch with ones in your areas of interest, and I know there's at least one writing programs major in the JHU student blog area. </p>

<p>If you need a more analytical process (can't help it, I am an engineer), get out 2 sheets of paper, draw a big "T" on each, then start listing EVERYTHING you LIKE about JHU on one side and DO NOT LIKE on the other side of the T. Repeat for Oberlin on the 2nd sheet of paper. Does one school appear to have a lot more "likes" than the other? That might be your answer. Sleep on it, and if you're still OK in the morning, go for it. Good luck.</p>

<p>Orangepeel, </p>

<p>I have always loved both art history and creative writing-- but these are not highly employable fields at any school. I think that both schools are excellent and either one is a good choice-- but you really seem to prefer the people at Oberlin. I think you should go there.</p>


<p>You need to have a reason TO go to either school, not reasons NOT to go to the other school, thereby driving your decision by default. Make a list of all the things you want in a school and put either an O or a JHU next to them. Rank them by importance. If O has 8 things you want but not the top two and JHU has only two but they are the two top things, for example, then that should outweigh some of the other factors in O's favor.</p>

<p>I say this because my S has ended up with a choice between 2 vastly different schools (not the same ones as you) and he keeps on vacillating as well. We are trying to get him to feel driven to one of his choices so whichever he chooses he knows that there was a clear reason in its favor.</p>

<p>In the end, you will get a great education at either school.</p>

<p>JHU has a very good creative writing program, but so does Oberlin -- in recent years, there have been several successful novelists coming out of Oberlin; Oberlin's English department is also top-notch. As to your other interest, Oberlin's Allen Art Museum is one of the best college art museums in the country and there is an excellent art history program to go with it. And Oberlin is certainly challenging -- and its students are successful academically: it notably sends a large percentage of students to graduate schools. If you feel that Oberlin is a better fit, you can't go wrong by going there.</p>

<p>The art history and creative writing programs at Oberlin are second to none--they're absolutely in the same league as Johns Hopkins'. And Oberlin graduates do as well on the job market and grad school admissions as those from any other school. Not sure why you think it wouldn't be challenging.</p>

<p>Thanks for these replies, they've been quite helpful, although I'm still going crazily back and forth. My mom is still influencing me towards JHU, by continually emphasizing how it's on the East Coast, how the professors are some of the best (... at teaching, or at doing research, or both? eh...), how it's on par with the Ivies and it's like a step-up in the world (I don't know, is there something to be said for a "top" university's resources/connections? eh, dunno about the prestige thing), and how I've worked so hard for something big like this. And I have worked hard. I don't know for what. Currently I feel a little brain dead, I'm depressed, and I don't have time to do any extracurricular things that I love. And taken with a grain or salt or no, I am getting a little scared off by some student reviews of JHU that are in a similar vein.
Then my mom starts talking about "Camp Oberlin" (haha what?) and how the advisors would be breathing down my neck and how I'd have to work in groups all the time (lol okay mom) and I wouldn't have the independence or motivated atmosphere or whatever it is she doesn't see there. She thinks I should break from what I'm comfortable with, I guess. But I think I might need that guidance. (Plus, if I go into conservation biology... not sure there's really an environmental program at Hopkins? But okay that's random.)
I'm trying not to listen -too- closely to her. I made a pro/con chart. But still no hallelujah chorus over either one.
What I'm learning from this whole process is that most people don't seem to know completely what they're talking about, and I don't either.
But I'm grateful for these replies! Yay for the internet.</p>

<p>Orangepeel- Did you visit both schools? How recently? Would it help to go back and talk with students, profs, etc? </p>

<p>Regarding felling a little down, I'm guessing it is simply because you haven't made a decision yet and feel the time pressure. You'll be 'right as rain' once you decide. Also, in the grand scheme of things, there is no perfect school and you will probably be fine at either school. Good luck!</p>

Or if I knew “who I was,” that would help too.


<p>Who do you think you are?</p>

<p>If what you are interested in is writing and art history, you will find legions of students with similar interests at Oberlin. Hopkins is great, it has a great writing program, no question. Other than for medicine, however, it doesn't have a meaningfully better reputation than Oberlin. Anyone who is plugged into the world of elite colleges knows that Oberlin is first rank. So "reputation" should be off the table as a factor either way (unless what you care about is reputation with your great-uncle Fred, who maybe has heard of Johns Hopkins but not Oberlin).</p>

<p>I am generally someone who would choose a research university like Hopkins over a LAC like Oberlin. But given what you are feeling, and what your interests are, honestly Oberlin sounds like where you belong. You will be mainstream at Oberlin, not so much at Hopkins. (Which may, of course, be a point in Hopkins' favor.)</p>

<p>I know many Oberlin grads, by the way, and not one has failed to earn a perfectly good living.</p>


<p>It sounds like your mom may be the one who thinks Oberlin is too easy or not prestigious. Any chance you could let her see these threads? Could you ask someone in admissions to connect you with a professor or someone on staff who could show your mom how challenging and prestigious a university it is? One of the smartest young people I know went to Oberlin. Both parents were Harvard grads and they were very excited for their child to go to Oberlin. But, in the end, it does sound like she will support you in whatever your decision is. They're both wonderful schools; go where you will be happy. You will get so much more out of a school if you are comfortable in your own skin while you're there.</p>

<p>Aagh one day closer to deciding... and this is giving me a lot to think about. I have in fact visited both schools, Oberlin this past weekend and Johns Hopkins the middle of the week before. The class I visited at JHU felt great, the campus was pretty (but the security cameras everywhere were creepy,) and the students were all v. nice and v. nicely dressed, (which was also a little creepy, ha). I liked the professors, (although one made a point to warn me about the intense workload.) Oberlin felt a little dinky (Amish neighbors, anyone?) but more familiar. The students were friendly and enthusiastic, but some seemed quite far off the beaten path.
Then today after running into my guidance counselor, I was almost positive I was going to Oberlin. Which may have had something to do with her calling Johns Hopkins students very intelligent but a little shallow or button-shirt-and-tie or something. Which is a gross generalization... but c'est vrai, I'm not sure the student body and I would jibe.
But maybe I should put myself outside of that comfort zone. Get out of state, experience a new region of the country- is now the time to do that, to experience that urban life, energy, and culture? Or will I be too busy studying to do that anyways? At Oberlin a big outing might be going to the mall in Cleveland, while from Johns Hopkins it could be going to Washington D.C. That dream of getting away and being in a new world in a new state is a little hard to let go of. Or maybe I could try that for a year, and possibly transfer if I'm unhappy. (But oh god, I can't go through that whole college search and apply thing again, especially since fin aid would probably be less.)
Again, thanks for the advice! This is a great sounding board for my mental gridlock.</p>

<p>Even at JHU, you WILL find "your people". Sometimes a smaller environment may seem more comfortable at first. But that "comfort" can become stifling if you are a person craving a broader experience.</p>

<p>I don't know anything specific about either school. But I think you should consider how much you will grow and change during the next 4 years in your new home. </p>

<p>Good luck. Please let us know what you ultimately decide. Either way, as others have said, you'll get out of your college what you put into it. Enjoy the opportunities!</p>

<p>Orangepeel-After reading your original post, I want to commend you on being able to articulate what you want from your college experience-wanting to be happy and realizing that desire will go a long way in helping you accomplish your goals.</p>

<p>I can say this as a mom-it seems like your instincts say Oberlin and your mom is encouraging JHU. If you can deal with the pressure from your mom, I would say go to Oberlin. The people on this thread who know Oberlin seem to feel confident in the school's academic standing vs. JHU As you said in a follow-up post-you can always transfer from Oberlin to JHU if your instincts prove wrong.</p>

<p>Congrats on getting admitted to two outstanding schools-I vote for the school where you overall comfort level is the greatest.</p>