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Sunset at Gile Mountain

1. Try to balance your courseload 

At Dartmouth, students typically take three classes a term. This seems a lot easier than the six or seven classes you may have taken in high school. There are a lot of activities in college though that can take up a lot of time, from eating dinner with friends to getting in a quick workout in at the gym. Not to forget that freshman fall comes with adjusting to a new environment and trying to find new social spaces. 

One piece of advice that I got when I was selecting courses was to take one introductory class and two courses that interested me. I also placed a priority on taking classes that didn't use the same skills; for example, choosing not to take two time-intensive lab classes or all reading-heavy classes. My freshman fall course load ended up being a reading-heavy introductory government class, a memorization-based Chinese language class, and a project-based comparative literature class. Most importantly, I relied on resources like my Undergraduate Advisor (UGA), Academic Dean, First-Year Academic Advisor, upperclassmen, and department info-sessions to finalize my selection. 

2. Ask for help

Some people get to college and automatically hit their academic groove. However, not everyone comes from the same academic background and some may struggle initially. This is definitely normal. I personally struggled a lot on the introductory economics class I took my freshman winter. What's great about Dartmouth is that there are many places to turn to if you need some extra support. Making a visit to the Academic Skills Center, signing up for peer tutoring, editing a paper at RWIT, or attending your professor's office hours are all great places to start. 

3. Explore the NRO as an option 

Dartmouth knows that some students want to take a class that's out of their comfort zone, but they may be worried about getting a bad grade. These students can elect the Non-Recording Option (NRO). A student decides the lowest grade she is willing to get in a course, say a B+. If she gets a B+, the grade will be recorded on her transcript. But if she gets a B or lower, the grade will not factor into her GPA. There are some conditions about what courses you can use the NRO for and how often it can be used, but it's something I wish I knew about my freshman fall. 

4. Join clubs, but branch out and don't worry about being too committed 

When I came to Dartmouth, I was tied to my high school identity. I spent four years writing for my high school newspaper and swimming for the varsity team. I decided that I needed to write for The Dartmouth newspaper and join Club Swim, but quickly realized that I didn't like doing any of these things anymore. Instead, I joined Women in Business and started writing as a student blogger. I decided to focus on hitting my academic stride, knowing that I could join clubs later. Because of the unique structure of the D-plan, students are always new recruiting club members. In fact, I'm still joining new extracurriculars as a senior! 

5. Get outside, especially at the beginning of the term 

You will never have more time to explore Dartmouth's beautiful campus than during your freshman fall. The Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) and House communities run trips, such as apple picking at Riverview Farm and hiking Gile Mountain. Definitely take advantage of these free opportunities — many of which are posted on Trailhead, a website students use to register for activities with the DOC

6. It's okay if everything doesn't go according to plan 

This is cheesy, but I strongly believe that rejection is redirection. You are going to get rejected from a club, study abroad, internship, or job. It will feel devastating in the moment, but it is also a chance for you to find an opportunity that will make you happier or to push yourself to reapply next cycle. College is a time of change and discovery. You're not going to experience that immense growth if you succeed all the time. You got this! 

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