Incoming students get to go through the stressful process of choosing somewhere to live when they begin at Oberlin. All students can pick between three types of residence halls (traditional dorms, program houses and co-ops), but only students who have
Junior or Senior class standing (barring a few exceptions) can choose to live off-campus. College Housing is run by Residential Education and Dining Services (ResLife). See Housing Selection for more info on how the choosing works.
Hey incoming students: don't kill yourself over finding the perfect dorm for you. It's not too difficult to move around once you get on campus, even later in the semester (though it depends on how many open rooms there are in the dorm you want to move into). Also, don't forget that in the long run, where you live doesn't matter that much.
Finally, keep in mind that even though most halls have somewhat of a personality, it varies greatly depending on the students living there that semester. (So don't be frightened off when someone tells you that everyone in Fairchild is a militant vegan and everyone in North are zombies.)
In a Nutshell
- Traditional dorms are just what you'd expect: a building with lots of other students who may or may not be your age, living in rooms of varying (but mostly small) sizes, usually with one roommate (though sometimes two or three, and sometimes none). All-gender housing is available in some dorms.
- Program houses are organized around a theme, usually a foreign language or culture. Theme halls are similar but usually smaller, such as a single floor of a building.
- Co-ops are groups of students who do the housework themselves, so they cost less than other housing options. Because co-opers get much more say in how their halls are run (by proposing and directly voting on house policies), co-ops are traditionally very lax on the College's living rules (e.g. smoking, pets, quiet hours, mixed-gender roommates, all-gender housing...). Also, no co-op has divided doubles, and singles are rare. Finally, living in a co-op means you can eat in one too. Most Oberlin co-ops are members of OSCA. This costs less than other College living options.
- Village housing is only available to upperclassmen or older students; you live in one of the many residential houses that Oberlin College owns around the campus. This costs more than other living options.
- Off-campus housing is also only available to (a decreasing number of) upperclassmen or older students; you lease a room in a house from one of the many enterprising landlords in Oberlin. Prices and quality of rooms can vary.
- Fraternities, Sororities, and Secret Societies: There are none, and students can purportedly be expelled for attempting to start one. There are (unconfirmed and vague) rumors of an "underground" sorority...? They were allowed in the '90s: "President Nancy Dye said her understanding of the rule is that its development was directed at the Masons" 
Off-campus/Village housing notes
The College has recently declared and taken steps to make Oberlin a more "residential College". What this means is that off-campus housing will be drastically limited, so many students (aside from the high-handed manner in which this decision was made) will be forced to live in overpriced College housing for all 4 or 5 years.
There are exceptions to this rule. Anyone who...
- is over the age of 23,
- lives with parents within 50 miles of Oberlin,
- is married or in a domestic partnership, or
- lives with children
...can apply for a housing exception (and also get off board). Students have been known to file for domestic partnership simply to get off-campus housing.
Not all halls have all these rooms. These only apply to Oberlin's residence halls; for off-campus living, it's gonna depend on the house.
- Super-Singles are rooms classified as doubles, but are occupied by one person. They cost a lot.
- Singles are a smaller room with one of everything. There aren't too many of these on campus, and first-years rarely (if ever) get them.
- Open doubles are a room with two beds, two desks, two desk chairs, two closets, a double bureau, a mirror, and a "comfy chair". They're the most common.
- Divided doubles are like open doubles, but there's a thin wall down the middle of the room. Good if you don't want to see your roommate often or don't get along with other people. It also makes sharing things (e.g. a fridge or what have you) a little more difficult if you two don't already know each other.
- Triples are a larger room with three of everything. Again, not too many of these. There are no triples in all of OSCA student housing; formerly one was located in Old Barrows, but as of the 2010-11 academic year it has been converted to a double.
- Quads are actually three small rooms: the "room" door opens into the middle room, which has two small closets and is supposed to have two chairs, a small couch and a table; two doors on either side of the middle room lead to bedrooms with two beds, two desks, two desk chairs, two closets, and a double bureau each.
- Sometimes, when too many new students enroll, first-years are placed in lounges. These rooms vary in size and accommodations.
Other Things to Consider
There are a few single-sex halls in the bigger dorms. The second floor of Dascomb has a set (women on the eastern hall, men on the western one), as does South. Burton's 4th floor is also women-only. Somewhere in North is single-sex too.
See theme floors and the individual pages therein for the most up-to-date info.
Most (if not all) halls have a vote early in the semester to decide the availability of the hall's bathrooms to various genders. Gender-neutral bathrooms are pretty common.
(Want some amusement? Chuckle at this.)
- ResEd's page on Housing
- on LiveJournal...
- Incoming students talk about where to live (2006 Jan 26)
- Getting a house; seniors and off-campus status (2005 Nov 30)
- Ongoing student opinion survey on dorms (2004 May 8)
- Dorms, and some debate over the stereotypes at work in such threads (2004 Jan 14)
- the where and way of group showers (2003 Jun 7)
- on dascomb mainly (2003 Jun 6)
- various dorm descriptions (2003 Jun 5)
- in defense of un-loved dorms (2003 Feb 19)
- choosing a dorm type: co-ops, single sex, and other useful tales (2003 Feb 1)