Picking a School (Dartmouth!) Amidst Coronavirus
Choosing which university to attend is a daunting task for anybody, much less having to do it while the entire country seems to be in quarantine. Before I say anything else, I want to reach out to our '24s and say from the bottom of my heart: I am truly so sorry for how your senior year has turned out, and really empathize with your loss. Yes, there are greater tragedies happening in the world right now, but I personally don't believe that this fact negates your experiences or emotions. Though we can't do much to change the circumstances, we here at Dartmouth are still committed to you guys as you make your decision come May 1st (and beyond!)
So how does one choose where to go to college?
When I was choosing schools this time last year, I had narrowed down my list to five schools or so. At the time, the thing that really helped me make my decision was visiting every university and seeing what life I could have at each campus. Prior to senior year, I had actually never visited any school whatsoever and when most of my last schools offered to fly me and one parent out to visit, I gladly took the opportunity. Now, though I think that one could make this decision even without having ever stepped foot on-campus.
In reality, most admitted student weekends look the same: an activities fair, mock classes, free food, and tours. What I've found is that, if you've done your research and sort of have an intuition about the school and its ~vibe~, you won't be surprised when you get there.
If you think about it, it is in each school's best interest to get their message and priorities across in their online presence. Though it won't match 100%, you can be relatively assured that your gut feeling about a school is correct. Whether you have a certain pull towards a school no one else wants you to go, or you dislike a school that is incredibly prestigious, you should take account of this sort of "premonition."
For me, I associated Dartmouth with the great outdoors, a strong student body, great student-faculty connections, and a crowd who is passionate about their studies without being inaccessible or overly pretentious. When I visited Dartmouth for Dimensions, this is exactly what I found! My host was extremely kind and introduced me to her friends and her bosses, and led me around campus. I loved seeing the DOC building and the mountains surrounding Dartmouth, and could definitely see the "outdoorsy" sector of campus when hikers sat on the Green after a long day. The various student programming was so different from the other admitted student weekends and really showed to me the strength of the community here on-campus. Before coming here, I had a certain image of Dartmouth and even wrote in my journal that if I were to discount things like prestige or ranking, this school would be my number one choice. After getting in and having to choose between schools, I strongly felt like this was the best place for me to go, and I would have made the same decision regardless of whether I could visit or not.
So while our '24s can't come visit us in person (even though we wish you could!), it's not the end of the world. How does one choose their school? By spending a lot of time researching, talking to current students, and doing some reflection. You will come out of this with an image of the school that is closer to reality than you may think. And just as our Dartmouth adcoms saw you having a place here, I believe that you will, too!