How to Write the Oberlin Supplement 2019-2020

Hi Students! If you are looking for the Common Application supplement for the Oberlin College of Arts and Sciences (not the Conservatory of Music), you'll probably be glad to hear that Oberlin removed it as of September. While there was a supplement in the past, there is no longer!

There are a few reasons why colleges decide not to use supplements. For example, reading supplements lengthens the amount of time it takes to review each application. This means paying more people to do more work than they would be if there weren’t a few extra questions. There is one particularly strong reason, however, that has nothing to do with money but has everything to do with clout. One of the ways that colleges are ranked is by the number of applications they receive. Another way they are ranked is based on their acceptance rate. High number of applications + low acceptance rates = better rankings.

The fastest way to increase the number of applications without having to invest any money is by removing a supplement. The easier it is to apply, the logic goes, the more people will do it. More applications for the same number of slots also means a lower acceptance rate, so it’s a one-two punch.

We don’t know whether this is why Oberlin chose to be supplement-free suddenly, but it is a trend among colleges, especially small liberal arts colleges. We’re keeping our original post below incase Oberlin changes again: 

Oberlin College is the oldest co-ed liberal arts school in America, big emphasis on the word ‘liberal.’ Known for its protests of slavery, Vietnam, and modern-day cultural appropriation, the Ohio college attracts artists from across the disciplines, particularly those who seek out its renowned music program. With an acceptance rate of 34% and an undergraduate enrollment of 2,800, this is the ideal school for someone interested in true small liberal arts college experience. (By the way, they even have a program in which students can rent famous works of art for $5.00/semester).

The Purpose of the Supplement

Before you do anything, consider the entire application process. There are myriad parts (of which the supplement is just one). You submit your grades, your classes, test scores, teacher recommendations, a personal statement, and a resume, among other items. Stop and ask yourself: what’s the point?

We don’t pose that question in a hopeless, rhetorical sense. We ask it literally. The reason colleges want all that information is they want to get to know you. Consider, then, that each part of the application should tell them something new about you. You’re going to spend a lot of time and effort on all components of each application, so you want to make sure that each one counts.  

Start at the Top 

Put yourself in the shoes of the person reading your application. They know nothing about you except what they see on paper in front of them. Their job is not just to decide if they like you, but to see if you’re a good fit for Oberlin. (Being likeable helps, too). The supplement is meant for you to highlight who you are and how that person (you) is a good fit for this school.

The Oberlin Supplement

How did your interest in Oberlin develop and what aspects of our college community most excite you? (250 words)

The Oberlin supplement is as straightforward as it gets. The question is really “why do you want to go here?”  

Do some heavy research into Oberlin. Think about how you want to position yourself academically. Your classes, scores, and extra-curriculars should tell a story about an area of expertise you’ve developed. Your intended major needs to be in line with that area of expertise. (One note: don’t ever say you’re not sure about what major you want to pursue. You can decide to go in undeclared later, but for now, be committed to something specific). 

Next, do some deep research into that area of expertise at Oberlin. If you want to study music, don’t just say   “I want to go here because I love music and the music conservatory is world-renowned.” Identify the classes, professors, and extra-curriculars that would be the logical next step for you based on your high school experience. Think niche.  

How do you fit into the picture? Tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end about an experience in high school that ties into your niche area—your academic and extra-curricular focus until this point. Remember, it shouldn’t be something redundant. It should be newly illuminating as far as your whole application goes. Tie-in the specific aspects of Oberlin that you would like to be a part of with the intention of highlighting how those two spheres—who you are and what Oberlin has to offer—are a great fit.


Need help writing a great supplement? Reach out to us here. We are experts at helping students identify what makes them unique.