Choosing classes at Dartmouth can be no easy task. Even if you go into course selection time with a fixed mindset, like as not you'll be tempted by this Government course or that Philosophy lecture, and soon enough, even if you're awfully set on, say, an Economics major, you'll end up with a list ten courses long which includes Victorian Literature and Medieval History, facing the difficult task of narrowing ten amazing options into three.
The professors at Dartmouth are among the best and brightest, and their classes are so interesting they often lure brilliant minds from all corners of campus… including brilliant minds who really, truly, had not intended on taking this-or-that class but found they couldn't resist the allure of pursuing it.
There's no shame in that, guys. In fact, that's one of the wonderful things about Dartmouth! I couldn't tell you how many upperclassmen have shared that they discovered their path of study after taking a class which seemed interesting—and falling in love with the subject—and lived happily ever after!
But it's your freshman fall. You're just starting out and you want to make your three classes count. Here's what I recommend:
1: Choose classes that both interest you and meet Dartmouth's general education requirements, so that even classes which seem to deviate from your original intentions are earning you valuable credits. That's three classes, so three General Education requirements.
*Personally, I find it wildly useful to keep track of all my courses in a General Education sheet, which you'll receive from your Undergraduate Dean. Also note that, if you're confused about any part of this process (which you almost certainly will be, whether it's what you'd like to study or how best to get there), reach out to your Dean! They are a wonderful group of people whose doors (or inboxes, during this era) are always open.
2: Dartmouth has a foreign language requirement! Yes indeedy. You can waive this by taking an entrance exam, which will determine which level of placement is correct for you or, if your fluency level meets/exceeds the requirement standards, will waive it altogether! You don't have to meet this language requirement your first year, either. But do keep a corner saved in your D-Plan for when you pursue it! (You can often finish out your requirement while studying abroad, too!)
3: First year writing! This does have to get done during your first year (hence the illustrative name). By now you'll have been placed into your writing class: either Writing 2-3, Writing 5, or Humanities I/II. All 3 options require two consecutive terms to complete them, so as a freshman you can do this during either Fall-Winter or Winter-Spring. The second terms of Writing 2-3 and Writing 5 are both First-Year Seminars (these span an enormous range of topics and are, as a rule, fascinating). The second term of Humanities I is Humanities II, should you continue in the Humanities circuit. (You can also take Humanities I and then switch into a First Year Seminar for your second term—I did this and found it exceedingly rewarding, as the decision allowed me to learn from two first-rate professors on two completely different subjects!)
4: No matter what advising tells you, most freshman have a dilemma similar to what I did: as we only have 3 classes per term, I was determined to take the most difficult coursework I could, so as to make the most of fall term. I didn't allow myself to pursue any interests that deviated from my intended major and minor. Focusfocusfocus. I did this all through winter term, too. But by spring, I finally took a fun fourth course for the heck of it and realized, wow, that was also super rewarding! The thing is, even if some classes seem incongruous with your intended major(s), every class weaves together to create a bright and diversified college experience!
*Bonus: consult LayupList. This is a Dartmouth-centric website in which students review classes they've taken. You can peruse your potential classes on this site and it may help you choose a lineup that excites and motivates you but doesn't burn you out entirely. Learn from others, guys!
Let me just say, whichever classes you choose, you'll learn a lot. No two Dartmouth experiences look the same, so they say, and it's true. As someone who envisioned myself as a decided Economics major with a Chinese minor, I never imagined taking coursework that included Neuroscience, Investigative Memoir, or Playwriting (for the heck of it).
But I did, and not only did all these classes contribute to my general education requirements and degree at large, they changed the way I look at the world. I learned so much and enjoyed myself profusely. Don't forget that challenging yourself should go hand-in-hand with inspiration and motivation.
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