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Course selection, course selection, course selection...

It seems so simple, yet it can be so challenging at times. I quickly realized upon arriving at Dartmouth that three classes per quarter only provide you with three precious slots to fill your time with meaningful and influential experiences. Each class is sort of like an investment, and what you glean from a class is not nearly as important as the people you meet and possibilities that open up in your mind (i.e., a class can open your mind to a new career or dismiss another). 

As a quick recap, I took Biology, Calculus, and a class called "Humanities 1" for my writing requirement. I learned a lot through these courses; however, I am also very happy with my new courses for this Winter term.

While I could have enrolled in Math and Physics, I decided to take Chemistry and Earth Science courses. Over winterim (winter + interim = winterim, Dartmouth's 6-week winter break), I've realized that an engineering career may not be the best fit for my interests; currently, I have interests in graduate school and teaching. Furthermore, I've come to the conclusion that the Biology and Earth Science departments have quantitative courses that will complement the "raw content" that I learn in the majority of each department's classes. In this sense, I've freed myself up to delve into the subjects that interest me the most and not get caught up in the need to load prerequisite courses for a major I'm uncertain of. It's also only my second term! These courses will count towards a STEM major and possibly even modify my Engineering major. My writing seminar, "Investigative Memoir," may also become my new favorite class—no regrets there (though I'll have to follow up on this).

To provide you with an idea of what flexibility is like during your first year (it's pretty flexible, but you still need some planning for Engineering and Pre-health), I'll go over some general class requirements and considerations.

  • Dartmouth students have nine courses your first year (unless you take a two or four-course term, which is not common)
  • First years take a writing course and a more specialized writing seminar (two writing-based courses)
  • Students have a language requirement to fulfill by graduation, which many first-years tackle early on (ranging from one to three courses, depending on individual language background).
  • For Pre-Health, Engineering, and most majors, odds are that you will be taking a few prerequisite and major courses.

Because of these guidelines, I am always sure to be very thoughtful during my course selection.

For example, my thought process for my new Earth Science course, "The Evolution of Earth and Life," was that I would be able to explore geology, evolutionary biology, and paleoclimatology—all topics that can be covered in individual courses but are also all included in this introductory course! I'm essentially trying to explore multiple sub-disciplines within departments through one class! (hopefully, I'm right! So far, it's been great). 

I hope this provided you with an internal perspective exploring courses, choosing courses, and the overall course situation during one's first year at Dartmouth!

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