Should I transfer out of Oberlin? :(

I am in quite a pickle and I’d like to get some second opinions on my situation.

I’m currently a freshman at Oberlin. I ended my senior year of high school in a pretty bad place (family problems, mental health issues, and a downward trajectory in terms of grades/academic performance) and somehow ended up at Oberlin after a very chaotic college application season. On paper, Oberlin seemed like a decent fit - it was intellectual, liberal, laid-back, a bit off-kilter, had a lot of music and art events going on. It seemed like the polar opposite of my uber-competitive NYC magnet high school, which was what I thought I wanted in a college education.

Turns out I was wrong. The student body is way too homogenous, the idealistic politics are grating, and the rural setting does nothing but amplify everything else I dislike about this place - it feels like I’m suffocating and I can’t escape. The students here are comparatively much less intelligent than my peers were in high school, which is a bit demoralizing… I miss being in an environment where I felt constantly challenged and inspired by the people around me. More than that, I miss the diversity of the city - I’m Asian, and people here tend to be sheltered privileged white kids with ridiculously impractical worldviews. The POC circles are no better; everyone is just so completely whitewashed compared to what I was used to - hell, I was probably the most whitewashed out of my Asian friends back home. An academic dean even recently told me that I was “rare” on campus because most Asian students here are international, and most Asian-American students have white parents (meaning they’re adopted). What the hell.

I had a pretty shoddy first semester (depression/anxiety came back, tricky dorm situation, got involved in an unhealthy codependent relationship) and I took most of my classes Pass/No Pass and ended up with a single B on my transcript. Since then I’ve taken strides to improve my personal situation and I’m now on antidepressants and regularly seeing a therapist, and somewhat adequately keeping up with assignments. I’m confident that I can bring my GPA up to a respectable level by the middle of my sophomore year, which is when I intend to send transfer applications out to Barnard and NYU, and possibly some other colleges - I want to go somewhere that’s less of a bubble, where people are better acquainted with the “real world.” I want more options for courses, majors, and minors; diverse people and diverse opinions; a bottomless vat of resume-building opportunities at the tips of my fingers… I miss ratty subways and dinky bodegas and hot people (honestly) and the convenience, the energy, the variety, the feeling of boundless opportunity and complete insignificance that comes with living in a big city.

I’m not sure if I’m completely delusional to try transferring when my academic record is so poor (I got a not-insignificant amount of B’s and C’s in my later years of high school). I’m also not sure if I’m being overly pessimistic and refusing to embrace the positives of being at Oberlin. But from my conversations with older students - especially POC students from big cities - I know that I’m not alone in feeling this way, and I know of at least two Asian-American students in the grade above me who transferred out of Oberlin by their sophomore year. Another concern is financials. For some reason Oberlin decided to give me merit aid, and while it’s not a huge sum, it’s more than I think I’d get as a transfer student. I don’t think I’d get any financial aid either, and I don’t know if it’s worth the money to transfer when I’m already at a pretty decent school.

Very Conflicted Please Help :frowning:

If you’re getting help for your depression that’s great. It sounds like you prefer going back to NYC and attending school there. There’s nothing wrong with that. If finances are an issue NYU isn’t an option. If your freshman transcript is mostly pass/no pass with a single letter grade then you may have to spend some time at a CUNY until you bring your GPA up. Good luck.

I wonder if now that you are getting treated for your depression, if Oberlin will start to feel better too.

You are right to be concerned about merit aid as a transfer.

Any chance of studying abroad next semester?

@freshbeans Graduate from Oberlin and then get on with your life.

Oberlin also has some approved semester-long “study away” options in New York. Talk to the study abroad office to see which programs you might be able to do in NYC next year that would allow you to see how you feel if you are back there. If you go on an approved program, your merit aid still gets applied.

I think you should look at transferring, but… I think you have to give up on a ‘smarter’ school. Your stats are what they are. Accept that you want a bigger city and more diverse place, there is nothing wrong with that. Take a gap year if you need to. Then apply to schools that match the stats you’ve got. I do think Oberlin is a school that isn’t for everyone, and trying to continue to fit in there when you don’t would be a struggle.

@JaneyM offered a great suggestion to use your merit scholarship award to do an away semester domestically or abroad.

Hard to offer advice as readers cannot gauge how much your untreated, and now treated, depression affected your view of studying at Oberlin.

Not sure that you have many options due to weak grades & finances.

You can probably find a way to do a full year (rather than a semester) in a program abroad or in a major US city if that would help your situation.

Are you sure that NYU and Barnard are realistic given your grades and need for merit aid? If you are serious about transferring, I think you need to also look at adding some less competitive schools to your list. And have you spoken to your parents to see if they are willing/able to pay $70,000+/year for you to finish college up in NYC (without loans/hardship)?


It’s just my first semester that’s mostly P/NP, and I’ll probably have a semi-decent second semester transcript. I know that Barnard and NYU are pretty unrealistic, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to try transferring, as long as it doesn’t impact my mindset to the point that I stop trying to enjoy being at Oberlin. I expect my grades to show a steady upward trend by the time I submit transfer applications, and I guess I’m holding out hope that if Oberlin sent me an acceptance letter despite my poor high school transcript, some other admissions officer would be willing to do the same… haha. I know that I’ll probably grow into Oberlin eventually, but I also know that I’ll be much happier somewhere else, and I’m not willing to write off that possibility without giving it my best shot.

@JaneyM @Publisher

Interesting idea. But I’m not sure if it would be best for me to avoid being on campus when I should be working to find my place within it. I guess I could consider getting an internship in the city, which I could probably pair with a study-away program… hm…


Aha, I’m not trying to go to a “smarter” school; I was just providing some context for my disillusionment. Really I’m just looking for a place that’s less of a bubble.

I have a lot of empathy and shared experience with depression. It can affect your thinking very dramatically. I have made a lot of decisions in my life that I now can see were affected by disordered thinking during depressive episodes. So that’s where I’m coming from. Total empathy and a lot of experience with depression.

I’d encourage you to give yourself time to experience the positive effects of your therapeutic relationship and medication before taking on the stresses of transferring. Oberlin is not a perfect fit for you. But you’re there, you have $$ aid, and you have options. Why not explore them and plan for your big-city life after graduation? I’d be concerned that you’re adding new stresses and potential losses (finances, security, some prestige) by leaving Oberlin too precipitously.

Be kind to yourself.

Definitely focus on your mental health and on keeping your GPA up as much as you can.

I am wondering if you should seriously consider transferring to one of the SUNY’s. You will see a more diverse group of students, and have the opportunity to get a very good education in a wide range of potential majors at a reasonable cost. One of the SUNY’s would be less of a bubble compared to Oberlin and just reading your post might be a better fit.

I am a parent of a sophomore daughter (asian) at Oberlin. My daughter experienced some of the issues you’ve identified in your posting while at her first year. She was born and raised in Cali where she was always able to walk to, or drive to, people or things asian. Her first year at Oberlin, an only child moving to the middle of Ohio, however, shattered her world. I’d be lying if I said she didn’t call me her first semester crying she’s at a “wrong” college. Now, a year later in her sophomore year, I can’t convince her to come home for a visit. In her second year so far, she’s travelled East-West from NY to SF and North-South from Chicago to New Orleans, all in funded programs. Oberlin assisted her with a summer internship in Cleveland - in the field she’s is interested in. She’s also managed to land two study-abroad programs she’s applied to for her junior year, one in Europe and one in Asia in Singapore.

Oberlin experience made her unapologetically herself. When her Singapore program got approved (she’s not Singaporean or Chinese), she knew this is a once-in-a-life opportunity to live and study in Asia, a potentially transformational experience. It looks like she’ll be jumping at this chance. She may not return home to Cali for 9 more months.

One of the advices I always gave my daughter is to stay on top of her studies - and get tutoring help sooner rather than later. Especially at lower divisions, there are free tutoring at Oberlin (from peer tutoring to professors’ office hours.) If you are a shy person, organize a group and go together to professors’ office hours. Oberlin is a place where professors will welcome you - and help you. As your grades improve, you’ll have greater opportunities - at Oberlin or elsewhere.

Sending you hugs…

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Based on the common data set, students at Oberlin seem quite well academically prepared compared to those at the large majority of U.S. colleges. It’s a surprise, then, to read in your post that you don’t find them intellectually stimulating.


I think it really speaks to the size of this school (and the low Asian-American population here) that I think I know who your daughter is just from briefly skimming through your post history. Lol.

Appreciate the advice - I know that maintaining a good academic record is the most important thing to focus on, and I’m aware of the resources that Oberlin offers, I guess it’s just hard to undo years of self-critical thought patterns and self-destructive fears and habits that ultimately get in the way of academics. Just gonna focus on keeping myself accountable and taking things one step at a time.

Thanks for the hugs ʕ ᵔᴥᵔ ʔ


At this point I’ve accepted that my high school really was a special place, and I probably won’t experience anything else like it. It was so inspiring to be surrounded by intellectually curious people from all ends of the socioeconomic spectrum, who were smart in unconventional ways and quick to grasp concepts, and who didn’t reek of privilege or a blind thirst for achievement. Mix in the excitement of exploring my peers’ neighborhoods all across the city and getting to know their different backgrounds… in retrospect, high school really was an unforgettable experience, as masochistic as that sounds.

Former CC poster @cobrat was in a somewhat similar position.
I think he was a middle-of-the-roader or worse at Stuyvesant, wound up getting good merit scholarship to go to Oberlin. I see he’s been banned, but you can look through his old posts.

As I recall, I think he made it work for him. Since he was (self-assessed) smarter with better developed work ethic, he did well academically there. And seemed to adjust otherwise, somehow.

But that was him.
If you can’t figure out how to make it work for you, by all means transfer. But obviously you’ll need grades for that.

Try to find some thing(s) to get involved in extracurricularly, would be my one suggestion.
And/or get part-time jobs, if you can. If you can develop a group of a few people you like to hang out with that should help a lot.

I’ve taught at Oberlin for a long time, and “reeking of privilege or a blind thirst for achievement” absolutely does not describe most of the students I know. Maybe you just need to meet some different people?

I actually agree that “blind thirst for achievement” also doesn’t match the Oberlin kids I’ve know.

@dave72 @intparent

I agree that “blind thirst for achievement” isn’t a good descriptor for Oberlin students - I was thinking more about my high school friends’ current classmates at other colleges, like what you would imagine if someone were to say “elite college student.” In terms of Oberlin students, I would take it to mean that a lot of Obies don’t seem to be intellectually invested in the course material; rather they just see it as a means to an end. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just not what I expected. People here do generally give off sheltered/privileged vibes though - they’re not preppy in the traditional sense, but I’m sure you’ve heard the joke that students here “dress like they’re rich homeless people.” It would be tolerable if it weren’t for the aggressive progressive politics and the blatant contradiction between students’ experiences/actions and the things that they “advocate” for.


That’s a lot to sift through! I didn’t go to Stuy either, or any DOE school, for that matter. I think Oberlin might have put me off of the social sciences entirely and I might want to go for pre-vet or pre-med now. Seems like that would be better accomplished somewhere in-state…hm…

FWIW, my D1 went there, and was definitely “intellectually invested in the course material”. and was certainly not preppy in any sense. (Though was not buddies with the “aggressive progressive politics” contingent either). Oberlin is one of the leaders in future PhD production, it seems like some people there must be “intellectually invested”, no?

It sounds like you would have been happier with D1 if she dressed in more costly clothing? Perhaps with strands of pearls?? Adopt a more “princess-ly” demeanor? Sorry, she’s not being phony but that’s just not her. She wanted to go to a school with fewer of those people. If you’d prefer to see people dress and act like that there other schools that would better suit you. To be sure.

They give financial aid at Oberlin, how do you distinguish between the 1%ers and the aid recipients? They don’t wear badges, do they? Maybe the people you are most annoyed by are actually broke??

Do you think the pre-med students, wherever, will have less “blind thirst for achievement”, than the average non-pre-med Obie, and are less likely to conduct themselves as if they were engaging in a “means to an end”?

My intel was the Politics department was good, you needn’t be put off there IMO. But my info is old now, there may have been some retirements since then.


Re-read what I posted, I said that Obies are NOT traditionally preppy, and that Obies aren’t focused on achievement for achievement’s sake. Class discussion tends to be slow and unengaging - there’s frequently silence after the professor asks a question - so even if the students are curious about the material (and outside of class, of course some of them are) it doesn’t come out in a classroom setting.

Oberlin has need-aware admissions. There is definitely less racial and socioeconomic diversity than at other colleges of its stature, especially because of its rural Midwestern location. And of course you can’t make assumptions about everyone’s background but through conversation it’s frequently clear how similar people’s experiences are. It’s a pretty homogenous place.