Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dartmouth Beckons

The landscape around Dartmouth
Today was another day of driving up the East Coast visiting colleges. It already feels like I’m establishing some sort of routine here. In case you haven’t been following, today we were scheduled to tour Dartmouth College. After only receiving about two hours of sleep last night, I was considerably less enthusiastic this morning, and it took several attempts by my roommates to wake me up. We left bright and early this morning for the long three and a half hour drive up to Hanover, New Hampshire, two states over. Originally we had intended to reach the campus by 10:30 AM for the only tour of the day, but unfortunately we were delayed by traffic. Knowing that we would be late, we stopped on the way for a quick breakfast at McDonalds.

We arrived at 10:45, right in the middle of the information session, which turned out to be before the tours had actually started. Dartmouth was situated among rolling hills of forest, which stretched as far as the eye could see. Prior to today, the only thing that I had known about it was the beauty of its campus, and my expectations were more than met. Upon arrival, I was immediately blown away. The large grass lawn, surrounded by classical and Greek style buildings and trees created a relaxed and totally ‘at home’ atmosphere. Of course, the sunny weather today only augmented my impression of Dartmouth.


The info session covered an interesting aspect that Dartmouth has to offer: The Dartmouth Plan. Basically, the school year consists of four terms—fall, winter, spring, and summer. Except for a few terms, students have the freedom to organize their own schedules and decide when they want to take courses on campus, learn abroad, or take leave. Since sophomores are required to stay on campus during "sophomore summer", there are students on campus all year long The flexibility the program gives is unique to Dartmouth and opens up so many more options for its students. The speaker, an admissions officer, also told us that while general such as GPA and SAT scores do matter, Dartmouth puts greater emphasis on the applicant as a person—they look more at recommendations and personal statements to make the final decision.

Baker Hall
Our tour was led by Elise, a rising senior geography major, who was very energetic and outgoing. As Elise led us around to various facilities, each just as beautiful as the last, she explained various parts of campus life. I was surprised to find out that 70% of students pledge to the Greek life, which is really more of a facilitator for social events rather than being exclusive. The community at Dartmouth is very diverse, and 53% of its students belong to minority groups. A valuable characteristic of Dartmouth College is its extensive and vast alumni network. Even after graduating, most of the alumni maintain a strong and dedicated relationship with the school, reaching out to aid current students. Elise also talked about Dartmouth traditions, including the freshmen homecoming bonfire, the first snowball fight that takes place at midnight after the first snowfall, Winter Carnival, and several other major alumni reunion events. After the tour we had a nice walk through downtown Hanover, which was right by campus for some sightseeing and brief shopping.

In these past few days, I've found that the best way to really learn about a school is talking and getting to personally know its students and alumni, who offer a different perspective outside of just the facts. After the tour, we went to the Canoe Club restaurant downtown, where we first met June Chu, the assistant dean of undergraduates who unfortunately had to leave shortly but provided contact information for us in case we had questions for her. Soon, more people followed: an admissions officer, an outreach officer, and four students. Mr. Crosby, David, Taylor, and I shared a table with current students Jessica Womack and Adriana Flores. Jessica is a rising junior art history major who hails from New Orleans and Adriana is a rising senior who majors in Spanish and minors in Italian, having studied abroad at both Spain and Rome.  The students fondly shared memories and aspirations for Dartmouth. When asked why they chose Dartmouth, Adriana told us her story. She had grown up in El Salvador, moved to LA, and enrolled in high school without knowing English. Four years later, she graduated at the top of her school. Out of the huge list of 25 colleges that she applied for, she was accepted into 21, wait listed at 2, and only rejected by 2. She chose Dartmouth because she wanted to go to a smaller college.

We also spoke with Justine Modica, a new admissions officer who just graduated in ‘09. She was able to answer all of our questions about the admissions process. I'm glad that she discussed my most dreaded aspect, the personal statement, in specific detail. She gave us specific examples of the topics applicants have, ranging from bad dancing, to insights on different stereotyping. Justine told us that we could write about anything--as long as it includes plenty of our own reflection. I thought the lunch was another great success in that we really connected with everyone that we talked to, and they were all very helpful and encouraging us to continue to reach out for more opportunities.

Out of the three stimulating tours that we've experienced, Dartmouth was perhaps the most engaging so far. My outlook on college is continuing to broaden and I really can't wait to keep exploring. 

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