As a freshman, I’m sure you have many preconceived notions about Dartmouth. No, I’m not about to tell you to go into everything with a completely open mind. Although in an ideal world, this would be the way to do things, in the real world you need a starting point. I’ll do you a favor and say it like it is, so you can replace your current preconceived notions with something that will be a little bit more useful and relevant, something that will help you jumpstart your Dartmouth career.
The people are hands down the greatest thing about Dartmouth. As a rule, Dartmouth students are friendly, outgoing and love to have a good time. You will meet people of all types, from all kinds of backgrounds, from all over the world and of an enormous range of opinions. That said, do not assume you know what somebody is like without talking to him or her. Instead of instantly grouping with those who are the most similar to you, take the time to talk to and become friends with people who are different from yourself. Doing so will only enrich your experience. People at Dartmouth are open and friendly, and will be more than happy to show you what makes this school great for them.
Challenging but reasonable. You have to work for an A, but at the same time you have to make an effort not to do work to get a C. Sciences are much more intense than the humanities. Because a science course consists of a specific curriculum that must be covered, at Dartmouth a semester of work must be squeezed into 10 weeks. In the humanities, there is simply less material covered than would be covered in a similar course at a semester-based school. As an English major, I am continually reminded of this by friends who major in mad science.
The D-plan is funny. When one of my buddies commented to an administrator that the point of the D-plan is to enable Dartmouth to over-enroll, the administrator denied this reality and stated that the College doesn’t know why it has the D-plan, they just do. That said, it remains one of the best things about Dartmouth. It is the D-plan that allowed me to be a ski bum in Jackson Hole last winter. Nowhere else would I have been able to do this. So take advantage. Unless you know exactly what you want to do with your life, don’t mess around with an internship just because it sounds like the responsible thing to do. Have some fun with your time off.
Administrators straddle a fine line between evil and comical. In a way they are kind of like comic book super-villains. I always kind of wanted to be able to complain that “The man is keeping me down.” Now I can say this, and it sucks. The administration shows an utter disregard and contempt for student opinion (including the voice of the Student Assembly). Administrators institute all their new and disagreeable policies (such as allowing Safety and Security officers — the college officials who play cops on campus — into private homes under the false pretext of checking for leaky pipes) during the summer when the student body is at its weakest. The administration is not to be trusted.
The Greek Houses
The administration is a master of propaganda. Do not let them brainwash you into the belief that the Greek system is a bad thing that propagates racism, sexism and misogyny. I find that my house is more diverse and tolerant than any other organization with which I have been associated. Greeks are not about drinking until you boot. Students agree that the Greek houses are a positive aspect of Dartmouth, that they contribute immeasurably to the community and they love to have a great time. So come by for a party or just to hang out, and do so with a disregard to stereotypes you have heard of specific houses or the system as a whole.
The DOC is awesome. The organization takes advantage of the greatest thing we have in New Hampshire — the outdoors. The DOC ranges from the types who just like to be in nature and enjoy its serenity to the more aggressive breed that likes to go fast or go big on bikes, skis, kayaks and other cool toys. Although the DOC might appear to be cliquish, it is not exclusive. They merely bond together out of a common love of the outdoors. In every DOC club, there are people who dedicate hours upon hours to helping others to get involved and teaching them the necessary skills. DOCers love what they do, and they love to share their passion with others. Take advantage of the outdoors, and try something new. In other words, ditch the high heels for an afternoon, sweetheart, and realize that you’re not in New York anymore.
Winter at Dartmouth kicks ass. Granted, it is cold. There was a point last winter when I remarked how unseasonably warm it was. The thermometer read 10 degrees. Unfortunately, too many people let the thermometer depress them, and they hibernate inside on the sofa growing fat, pale and grumpy. Get involved in a winter sport. Ski, snowboard, play hockey, ice climb, go on winter hikes. Doing so is the key to getting through the winter, and making it your favorite season instead of your most dreaded.
You’ve got an exciting four years ahead of you at Dartmouth. Make your experience great.