Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sam I Am Calls an Audible

Today we headed off to Dartmouth at 6:30 for our 10:30 information session. I am sad to inform the many fans of Team Baloo that the streak has finally ended, the girls were able to beat us to the lobby today by a pretty decent amount. We were still on time of course, but lacked the bare necessities to make it down before the girls. We promise that we’ll come out strong for tomorrow’s late-for-the-ILC-departure time of 11 AM for MIT.

The four-hour car ride went through beautiful parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Unfortunately, a significant portion of our cohort was asleep through a lot of the drive; I personally missed at least a 30 mile stretch of a forest. We had a 12-hour section of running around from Wesleyan to Yale yesterday, so everyone was pretty tired from that, and really, who wouldn’t fall asleep during a four-hour car ride, other than the driver (I hope). The quick power naps in the car rejuvenated the group as a whole, and by 10:30 we were all ready to here just what Dartmouth has to offer.
Our rival Dartmouth tour group
A Dartmouth admissions representative led the info session, and I learned one specific thing about the college that really interested me: Dartmouth is on the quarter schedule, where students take new classes every quarter instead of every semester, which is most typical among colleges I’ve seen. In addition to this quarter schedule, the Dartmouth Plan, as they call it allows students to choose when they take their “summer” break of sorts; they can have any of the seasons off any given year. Dartmouth also requires students to stay on campus for their sophomore summer, which didn’t appeal to me at first (I’m a pretty big fan of summer, even in the seemingly seasonless Bay Area), but after hearing him talk about students who just didn’t want to leave campus, I realized how beneficial it could be to take courses during the summer, opening up one’s schedule for study abroad programs or internships. I yet again learned more about the admissions process when we were told as potential applicants not to write a “grandma” essay, where you talk more about a grandma or other person that influenced you than how they influenced you in the first place. While I wasn’t planning on doing a personal statement like that originally, it is good to get the idea hammered home that the whole point of the personal statement is just to let your potential colleges know more about you.

The third immensely helpful info session we've been to during this trip ended in what seemed like a matter of minutes, and it was time for our tour. Our tour guide was a rising senior, Elise, who was a modified Geography major who studied Arabic and got to study abroad in Morocco. She discussed the housing at Dartmouth, which didn’t have anything as unique to the U.S as Yale’s residential college system; freshmen have dorms led by undergraduate advisors (UGAs) instead of resident assistants. Elise said that Dartmouth was 70 percent Greek, with 17 fraternities and 14 sororities, a huge number for such a small college.

The tour and info session at Dartmouth made me reconsider my idea of staying away from really small liberal arts colleges in general, since my eyes were quickly opened to all the benefits of a smaller college. One thing I found really interesting was the fact that once a quarter, a student can take their professor out to lunch, all expenses paid by Dartmouth, and really get to know their professor on a personal level. The classes are all taught by professors, not grad students, and work well with all the students, especially since a lot of classes only have 20 students at the most.

Elise talked about the traditional snowball fight at midnight as soon as there is enough snow, which doesn’t take too long to arrive in New Hampshire.  I was really confused when she said everyone learned about the snowball fight when Dr. Seuss sent out a blitz. Elise quickly explained that blitzes were just the mass emails to all of the students, and since Dr. Seuss came from Dartmouth, the snowball email just happens to be from Dr. Seuss.

We soon finished our tour and we headed over to the Canoe Club to have lunch with Dartmouth students and staff. I sat with two students, Janee, a neuroscience major who’s pre-med, and Sam, an economics major who decided he was interested in economics as a freshman. Both were rising juniors, and so still understood how difficult it is to narrow down the list of schools and how nerve wracking the application process can be. I also sat across from Jay, a staff member at Dartmouth who runs two outreach programs, one to high school students and another for Dartmouth students. Those 3, along with Justine Modica, an admissions rep for Dartmouth, completely changed my opinion of Dartmouth, and made me rethink what I plan on majoring in. Whenever I had been asked what I want to major in in the past, I would just say engineering since I had always been good at math and science, and have yet to find a particular subject that I’m truly interested in. Jay and Justine both pointed out how quickly things could change, and the more I talked with them about the reasons I thought I wanted to be an engineer the more I realized I had no more reason to try to be an engineer than to wait and find a liberal arts major that genuinely interested me. I know my parents won’t be too happy to hear that yet again I have been unable to narrow down colleges and potential majors, but I think that really just shows how much all these top-tier East Coast schools have to offer. I really enjoyed talking to those four, and this lunch has definitely affected me more than any of our other dinners and tours so far, if only because of how much I learned about myself.

After that delicious and enjoyable lunch, Sam, who had been living in New Hampshire his whole life, recommended a gelato place right down the street, called Morano Gelato. I had caramel, milk chocolate and strawberry gelato, all of which were amazing. Morano Gelato was a perfect end to a perfect day, and Dartmouth has skyrocketed up my list.

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