Thursday, July 5, 2012

New Experiences In New Hampshire

Today we drove to New Hampshire and visited Dartmouth College. I enjoyed my experience there a lot - something about the atmosphere of the college really clicked with me, and a lot of what makes Dartmouth unique as a school appeals to me also (I'll go into more detail later on in this blog). We attended three events related to the school; an information session, a tour, and a lunch with some Dartmouth admissions officers and current students.

Dartmouth had a beautiful campus

The information session was led by an admissions officer named John. He covered a lot of ground in the session, including Dartmouth's distribution requirements, the Dartmouth Plan (D-Plan), study abroad options, and the admissions process. 

Dartmouth's distribution requirements are different than the "core" curriculum that many schools have. Dartmouth requires every student to take one class in a each of several general departments, but the student can choose classes within the departments that appeal to them personally. For me, I think these open guidelines would be helpful, because I would get a taste of a lot of different types of subjects while still having the freedom to choose what interests me. I've recently come to the realization that even though I often tell people that I'm interested in a couple certain areas of study, I'm actually interested in nearly everything, and I honestly don't know what I ultimately want to major in during college. I am curious about so many different things that I will probably need to try out a variety of different college courses before I decide. This is one reason why I like Dartmouth's distribution requirements over an open curriculum and over a typical core curriculum (which is more classical and strict in terms of what students have to take). It gives students some guidance without restricting them to classes that they won't be interested in.

The D-Plan is Dartmouth's scheduling system, which is entirely unique to their school. Basically, Dartmouth is on a quarter system, with four ten-week sessions every year. This system allows students to take more classes than they would be able to take otherwise. It also gives students more freedom regarding when they take their time off - they can take classes during any of the four quarters, and can take any one quarter off each year. Additionally, students, are required to take classes on campus during the summer of their sophomore year. I like the D-Plan because it gives students more flexibility in their schedules, and also the opportunity to take more classes. John told us that it is even possible to triple-major at Dartmouth! 

60 % of undergraduates at Dartmouth study abroad at least once, and many study abroad twice or even three times. There are two different general study abroad programs at Dartmouth - the LSP  (Language Study Program) and the FSP (Foreign Study Program). Students doing the LSP travel to a country specifically to learn the country's native language, and they often do a home stay with a family there. Students participating in the FSP, on the other hand, go to a country to do research in specific subjects and take classes there in English. I am definitely interested in studying abroad at some point, and I think it's great that Dartmouth gives its students so many opportunities to do so. 

John also talked about admissions; Dartmouth has a unique admissions process that involves getting a peer recommendation. I think this is an interesting idea, and it makes sense in that the admissions officers will be able to see what type of person you are in terms of morals and friends. John also gave us advice on the essay, saying that it's not necessarily important to talk about all the amazing things you have done, but rather to take an experience you've had and show what it reveals about you as a person. 

After the information session, we were led on a tour by a rising junior named Michael. He covered some of the same topics that were covered in the info session, but he also told us a lot about the social and community scene at Dartmouth. He talked about some traditions that the school has to welcome incoming freshman to the school, and he also told us about Greek life at Dartmouth. I enjoyed the tour a lot because it gave me a chance to see what the students were up to around campus; because of the D-Plan, there are a lot of students going to class even right now. I liked the atmosphere of the school a lot, and it seemed like nearly everyone was acquainted with one another. Michael said hi to several students that we passed during the tour, and this was also confirmed by the people I talked to later at lunch. 

The tour guides! Michael, our guide,
is the one on the far right.
Some of the Dartmouth dorms

As our group was walking off campus toward our lunch destination, we came across several pianos sitting outside in various locations throughout campus. It turns out that in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dartmouth's performing arts center, Hopkins Center, Dartmouth put out 50 pianos around the campus for people to play. They were decorated in fun, creative ways. At one piano, a guy was accompanying several people singing. A few of us wandered over to check it out, and Mrs. Kaplan and I joined in for "What A Wonderful World." I found this impromptu singing session really sweet, and I think the fact that all sorts of people can come together like that over music is powerful. 

Spontaneous singing! The piano decorations were really creative.

At lunch, I sat at a table with Maddie, an admissions officer (who is also a Dartmouth grad) named Isabel, and two current students named Adriana and Sam. Talking to them was fun and informative. They elaborated more on the sense of community that Dartmouth has; students are not separated by cliques, and it is easy to go up to random students, start a conversation, and become friends. Nearly everyone on campus knows everyone else at least by face. Professors are a big part of the community as well; all the classes at Dartmouth except for two are taught by professors, and the average class size is about 25 students (they range from 200 students for intro courses to 6 students for senior seminars). Professors make a big effort to get to know their students on a personal level, which I think will be important for me when I'm in college. Sam, Adriana, and Isabel also said Dartmouth alums are incredibly supportive of the school and its students after they leave, which shows that students who attend Dartmouth generally love it a lot. Adriana said that she feels like Dartmouth is a second home to her. 

The topic of music was brought up, and everyone at the table enthusiastically told us about the Hopkins Center, which is where the performing arts department at Dartmouth is. Dartmouth offers a general music major with concentrations in several different areas. It also brings in a variety of professional performers from across the US; everyone from Steve Martin to Avicii to Yo Yo Ma has performed there. According to Isabel, a lot goes on in the performing arts center both academically and socially.

I learned so much about Dartmouth today that it will be impossible to put everything into words without this being several pages long. One thing that is clear, though, is that Dartmouth is full of creative, inspiring, accomplished people who end up changing the world in countless different ways. Everyone I talked to today from Dartmouth was personable, intelligent, and fun to listen to and talk to, the campus was beautiful, and the academics sound intellectually stimulating. Undergraduates have a lot of opportunities to do research, which is really nice as well. Overall, I was happy with the visit and I learned a ton of useful information today. I liked both Wellesley and Dartmouth, but I felt that Dartmouth was more welcoming, and I liked the sense of "home" and community that Dartmouth seems to instill in its students. Dartmouth students seem to have a lot of support and a lot of academic freedom at the same time. I feel that I learned more from visiting Dartmouth than I did from visiting Wellesley because we were able to have lunch with some admissions officers and students from Dartmouth. Clearly, both schools have stellar academic programs, and lots of amazing opportunities await at both places.

The eight of us!

No comments:

Post a Comment