Career Exploration and Opportunities
Disclaimer: In this post, I will be speaking on behalf of my personal experiences during freshman year. While I intend for you to use this as guidance, you will have your own unique experiences as you enter the Dartmouth world, so please remain open-minded. Also, I will be giving advice through the lens of a STEM-oriented student, so be sure to keep that mind!
I've always been the type to push myself to my limits academically. If there was an opportunity present, I would jump on it—no question. Before I stepped foot on Dartmouth's campus, I had researched ways to get involved in research during my first year. As a person who's interested in climate science and meteorology, I wanted to get started as early as possible. So, the summer before I started my first term, I researched professors at Dartmouth and their research focus. For me, this was the number one priority my freshman year—to gain practical experiences to better my career. I was able to get in contact with a professor in the Earth Sciences department, and we emailed back and forth a bit that summer. When it was time to head to campus for the FYSEP program, I met with him, and we discussed my academic plans. He advised me to take it slow and to really appreciate the flexibility of a liberal arts education my first year—advice that I'm just now starting to resonate with. To be clear, I was dead set on a career in meteorology, and I could tell he knew that. Though that hasn't shifted much, I want to emphasize the importance of exploring your academic interests during your first year. Although this professor, who is now my research advisor, wanted me to take it easy, he knew how eager I was.
I was able to take a class with my research advisor in the fall, EARS 14: Meteorology, and I fell in love. Later on in fall term, we wrote a research proposal to the Irving Institute for Energy and Society via their mini-grant program that got approved! I spent a good amount of time winter term working on that research, and I presented it later in the spring term. It was a commitment, but I liked the work. At this point in the late fall to early winter, I was debating on whether or not to write another proposal for a URAD research assistantship term that allows you to conduct research with a faculty mentor. I had already applied for outside internships for the summer of 2022 (I'm finishing up my first internship right now), so I decided to take spring term to take a break from the flow of research I had just engaged in. Although I felt I was not maximizing my opportunities, my grades benefited, my mental health improved, and this allowed me to explore my more broad academic interests. I took a government seminar (GOV 7.14) that made me want to pursue a minor in Public Policy (I couldn't imagine not taking this class!). Stepping back and taking a breath was the best decision I made. Not only did it give me a well-deserved break, but I was able to reignite my love for weather and climate science so that I had the motivation to do well in my summer internship!
There are numerous ways to get involved with research your first year at Dartmouth; I just named a few ways—through the mini-grant program and URAD research terms. There are several others that you could easily investigate by doing a quick google search of "Dartmouth Undergraduate Research." When you come on campus, definitely check out the "Dartmouth Undergraduate Research Association" or DURA, which I am an executive member of! We help promote undergraduate research and get students off on the right foot. However, my biggest piece of advice here is to take it slow. Your first term or even year of college is more than getting a leg up on everyone else in your career. Take the time to make friends, go to various events, join clubs, and make memories. You will have plenty of time to pursue your career interests, so remain open-minded and explore anything you want to explore. Then, do some research and get in contact with a few professors whose research interests you think most align with yours, and give them a shout! Everyone at Dartmouth is here to help you, and I'm so grateful for the guidance I got my freshman year!