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Dartmouth Forest

As finals creep around the corner and the fall term progresses into its final stages, I've been thinking a lot about everything I've learned as a first-year Dartmouth student. What made my term good? What made my term not so good? What am I getting excited about for next term? What do I need to work on? Hopefully, I can create a comprehensive guide that answers these sorts of questions, and you can absorb a bit of practical advice through a first-year student lens!

First-year academics

Coming into Dartmouth as a first-year student, you really have no grasp on what the academic rigor is truthfully going to entail. Personally, this was a lot of what kept me up at night the summer before freshman fall. In retrospect, after going through my first term, here's some quick-fire advice: 

  • Even though it's hard not to, these types of  "what if" questions have absolutely no bonus. Everyone else is just as worried as you are, and if they exclaim they aren't, they probably aren't being entirely honest. Practically speaking, Dartmouth courses are definitely difficult, but it's an entirely different kind of difficult. I prefer rewarding, classes at Dartmouth are rewarding. Instead of dreading academic rigor, I've transitioned into getting excited about truly diving deep into a subject or problem.
  • Spend time studying. This might seem obvious, but in high school, I didn't really study all that much. At Dartmouth, it's imperative you look over everything you've learned multiple times a day. The quarter system moves quickly, so filling any initial holes in your knowledge is key, and is something I wish I would've emphasized earlier in my first term.
  • Work hard, but don't overwork yourself. Early on in the fall, I found myself sacrificing sleep as well as my mental health in the name of grade chasing. I quickly realized losing sleep was not only hurting my mental and social health but my academic performance as well. What I've found works best for me is to set clear deadlines for when I'm going to stop working and focus on myself. Once I started constructing deadlines, I began working more efficiently and managed to get more hours of sleep and time with friends simultaneously!

Dartmouth Forest
I enjoy going on walks and exploring campus during my study breaks. This is a forest I explored recently! It's only about a 15-minute walk from my dorm

Social life

Balance is key at Dartmouth, here are a few things I wish I would've known, pertaining to social life and specifically balance within social life, before arriving as a first-year student:

  • Study in group settings from time to time! Whether it be floormates, classmates, or both, I found it surprisingly beneficial to simply surround myself with other people while studying even if we weren't necessarily working on the same assignment.
    Dorm study
    This is my friend Caleb! He's my go-to study partner.
  • Carve out time to meet new people. As a first year, and even beyond, almost everyone feels at least a little anxious about finding their people. I'd consider myself an introvert, so if you are too, rejoice! This idea is a lot more benign than you'd initially think, especially at Dartmouth. I feel like If I had internalized that early on, I would've been significantly less anxious.

Resources

Something I really didn't anticipate was the sheer amount as well as the variety of resources Dartmouth provides to undergraduate students. Everything from mental health support, community building, and academic support, just about anything you could ever want or need in order to thrive mentally, academically, and socially, is at your disposal.

I mention this specifically because it's relatively easy to ignore the resources Dartmouth offers—I was guilty of this at first. My beloved trip leader (Diana D'souza '23) puts it like this: on top of your education, you want to go ahead and squeeze out everything you can resource-wise, that's its purpose! Use your resources! 

Looking forward: winter term 2023

It feels like I started my fall term yesterday. I still remember that jittery feeling of finally realizing I'm living on my own for the first time—ah! The good ol' days. Only joking, I am quite excited for winter term here, though. I'm excited to ski with friends at the Dartmouth Skiway, and I'm excited to do things like participate in Dartmouth's annual Winter Carnival and ice skate on the green. I'm also excited about my new courses, which are outlined in my previous post. Go check them out here, winter-term-anticipation, if you haven't yet!

All things considered, I hope my advice has been relevant to some of your questions or worries. What I've learned is to enjoy the hardships, enjoy the good times—all of those things combined shape who you are, all the time!

Take care of yourself! ( :

Your friend,

Garrett

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