Just this past weekend, my co-leader and I hosted our first "Pine Pod" meeting with our newly admitted '25s! Pine Pods is sort of modeled after Dartmouth's First-Year Trips program, in that it consists of a pair of leaders and around 10-15 new students. The idea is that the students get to meet one another and the leaders can help answer questions and welcome them to the Dartmouth community.
After a year of presenting info sessions, writing blog posts, and even getting to read some applications, I find it amazing that we've nearly arrived at the decision deadline for prospective students.
While almost all members of my Pine Pod have already committed to Dartmouth, some themes came up in this meeting that I figure probably apply to other high school seniors thinking about this next big step. After all, you're committing to where you want to call home for the next four years!
In terms of fears or trepidation about going off to college, I've noticed some recurring themes, both from my conversations with '25s and from my own experience.
First, is the school far from home? Will the adjustment to the weather be too difficult? Personally, I've loved being able to toss all my stuff in the back of a trunk and drive a couple hours straight up 91 North to get to Dartmouth. My current housemates are from Canada, Montana, Colorado, California, and the UK, so they definitely don't have the luxury of an easy trip. However, they saw going to school far from home as a new adventure and, as long as you have the right winter gear, you'll learn to love this beautiful spot in the Upper Valley.
Next up, how does one go about making friends? What is the social life like and is there a range of activities and clubs available? I met my very first friends at Dimensions (Dartmouth's admitted student program) and from that moment, it's been clear to me Dartmouth students are friendly and eager to get to know each other. I met some of my other closest friends nearly two years later through my sorority during sophomore summer, and I've continued meeting people through classes and extracurriculars well into senior year. If you're a 'joiner' like me, it can be fun to jump into a variety of clubs during freshman fall; you'll see familiar faces all over campus and maybe discover a new interest. Some of my friends took a different approach and got deeply involved with one or two clubs early on and have focused their attention primarily on those organizations. Whatever your approach is, you're bound to find a sub-community within the 350+ student groups on campus!
Lastly, what is the campus culture like? Is it collaborative or competitive? Will people be uptight? Is there a strong sense of community and school spirit? Although it's hard to adequately describe the campus culture in a few sentences, I would say that the people are the defining aspect of Dartmouth. Overwhelmingly, I've found Dartmouth students to be collaborative, humble, and passionate about their respective interest areas. There is a pervasive sense of love for Dartmouth that you'll experience as soon as you attend your first Dartmouth event. People care deeply about this school–one metric is that we are #1 on the grateful grads index–and remain committed to changing the institution for the better.
I hope this post helped to address some of the common questions and concerns you may have as a prospective student. As always, feel free to contact me or another blogger through the Connect with a Student page and we'd be happy to give you any information that would be helpful in guiding your thinking.