campus encounters

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Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College (visited 4/12/14)

~Darmouth library

Dartmouth library

Every day at 4:00 pm, Dartmouth students can get tea and cookies for 10 cents in Sanborn Library, the main library on campus. Several years ago, the university was going to raise the price, but an alum stepped up to fund an endowment to keep the price at 10 cents forever.

Dartmouth looks like you’d expect: lots of old brick buildings surrounding a quad, but with enough modern buildings to keep up with the times. The Quad sprawls along a main street of Hanover, a quintessential New England town. Main Street has everything students need: great gelato (I tested it after the tour!), restaurants, and shopping. Because of their location, there are lots of outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and swimming. Although they’re relatively remote, the students don’t feel stuck. Each semester, Dartmouth runs a bus at least 7 times to Boston and twice to NYC.

~Darmouth quad 2

Main quad

Nothing on campus is more than a 10-minute walk from the central Green, home to several campus traditions. One popular yearly event is the multi-story bonfire built by freshmen; they’re supposed to run around it 100 times plus the year of their graduation, but usually that’s too far so they’ll do the year of graduation only.

~Darmouth sculture swingInterestingly, students refer to their class by year of graduation (“I’m a ’16”) rather than the traditional freshman, sophomore, etc. Almost all incoming freshmen participate in pre-orientation, 5-day trips in groups of 6-8 students. They choose from a variety of options such as hiking, nature photography, kayaking, mountain biking, and cabin camping.

Dartmouth is still called a college because of the undergraduate experience, even though they have grad programs. My tour guide said that her largest class was Chem 101 with 150 people (the largest lecture hall on campus can fit 180 students); on the first day of class, the professor started calling people by name because he had memorized who they are. Writing Seminars include classes like Political Debates in Archaeology and Native American Representation in Pop Culture.

~Darmouth archDartmouth runs on the Quarter Plan. Students take 3 classes a term and must complete work in 8 distribution areas. “D Plan” says that students must be here for the summer quarter after sophomore year. In exchange, they take off a quarter of their choosing during sophomore or junior year. Our tour guide loves this; students can get internships more easily during their time off. During the summer on campus, they get to know others really well, they can “test run” leadership positions in organizations, and “it’s the best weather of the year.”

~Darmouth acad bldg 1When I showed up for the tour, I was told that I was not allowed to attend the Student Forum, open only to prospective students so they could ask questions without adults. However, the two students at the desk were more than happy to answer questions. “One of the biggest challenges at Dartmouth is not getting involved in everything!” said one. The other told me about his favorite activities: Humanitarian Engineers and Habitat for Humanity.

The Director of Admissions stopped down for a few minutes. Although there was a slight drop-off in applications this year, they are still at about double the number from 10 years ago. There is a rise in diversity and strength of the applicants. He called it a “crowding at the top” in terms of numbers, so nuance becomes increasingly important. They’re looking for engagement, people who are curious about their world, and those who push beyond what’s right in front of them. This can manifest itself in lots of ways: probing to real depth in academics, the way they engage peers and pushing conversation in class, getting involved in a social pursuit. About 40% of their class is admitted through the Early round. Several of these are recruited athletes and legacy students.

~Darmouth dorms


There are many amazing opportunities for students:

  • The performing arts building has a movie theater, and there are concert halls where big name performers come including YoYo Ma, George Winston, world famous dance troups, and more. Many of these people or groups will run student workshops before or after performances.
  • Any student can use the university woodworking, ceramics and jewelry workshops, paying only for materials.
  • The Hood Museum doesn’t just display items. Our tour guide got to work with a mummy shroud at the museum on campus.
  • The Psych Department has an fMRI machine for brain imaging, and priority access is given to undergrads.
  • Dartmouth is home to the largest gym in the Ivies. Students can earn PE credits by ice fishing, white water kayaking, Zumba, wilderness rescue, and more.
  • Public Policy students work with the NH Senate and even present to them.
  • Our tour guide works with cancer nanotech lab at Dartmouth Hitchcock med center.
  • The Women in Science Program will fund 1 term of research.
  • They have the only geography department in the Ivy League.
  • The “Take Your Professor to Lunch” program gives students $40 gift cards to restaurants in town so they can get to know professors outside of class.
  • They have the longest running independent student paper and actually pay rent to Dartmouth.
  • The Dartmouth Ventures Entrepreneurship Competition evolved from an initiative from an alum who wanted to encourage student innovation. Two students from the class of 2016 won with their invention, Tray Bien, an ergonomic serving tray after hearing waitresses complain about tendonitis and carpal tunnel. First place internationally competing grad and undergrad.
~Darmouth greek house

One of the Greek houses

Many dorms are Affinity Houses, and each area has clusters of first-year students. Over 90% of students live on campus all 4 years, just over half (51%) are in single rooms. There is a bit of Greek Housing, but relatively few opportunities to live in a Frat or Sorority houses. Greek Life policy delays rush to sophomore year; my tour guide said that she never expected to want to become affiliated, but she’s glad she did because it’s not at all like the stereotype. All events are open to anyone, and there are even 3 coed groups.

© 2014

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