Being Undecided @Dartmouth
As I applied to college, I remember I felt a lot of pressure to know exactly what I wanted to study. The area we are most drawn to academically often plays an important role in where we want to go further our education, and I remember I put a lot of importance on this fact. Personally, I knew that because I had a wide range of interests, pursuing a liberal arts education would be crucial. Being able to delve into a variety of different subjects without feeling guilty for not focusing more on a working towards my major was very important to me during the application and decision process.
At Dartmouth, I've found that I've been able to discover more about my interests with a wide range of academic freedom. In fact, because of the college's distributive requirements it is encouraged if not often necessary. These distributive requirements make it so that students take courses with a wide range of focus such that it fulfills the following areas:
- Art: creation, performance, history or criticism; (ART)
- Literature: the history, criticism or theory of texts; (LIT)
- Systems and Traditions of Thought, Meaning and Value; (TMV)
- International or Comparative Study; (INT)
- Social Analysis (two courses); (SOC)
- Quantitative or Deductive Science;(QDS)
- Natural and Physical Science (two courses); without/with lab (SCI/SLA)
- Technology or Applied Science; without/with lab (TAS/TLA)
At least one of the courses in category 7 or 8 must have a laboratory, experimental, or field component (LAB).
Each student should take one of each to fulfill the world culture requirement:
- Western Cultures (W)
- Non-Western Cultures (NW)
- Culture and Identity (CI)
With these requirements, it means that it is necessary to become acquainted with different areas on various levels. Because many classes can fulfill the same distributive requirement it is also possible to stay within one's interests. In general, we are advised to not take classes primarily based on the distributive during our freshman year since there will be more than enough time to fulfill all distribution requirements by graduation in senior year.
While I came in thinking I would be a Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies major, I have now deterred from those initial aspirations. During the fall term, I took three classes which were all drastically different from one another and which I enjoyed thoroughly. These classes were a religion course titled "What Matters" that delved into the meaning of life and how humans derive value, an engineering class focused on virtual medicine and cybercare, and introduction to calculus. Through my fall term experience, I came to love the Dartmouth education and in all of its scope. Here, there is so much academic support and faculty that is at the top of their fields with a love for pedagogy. I couldn't have been happier with my course load as it has allowed me to adapt to life in college while also exploring interests I didn't think I had.
This winter term I am continuing to narrow down my focus while also trying out different things. I am now taking a class on global health offered by the Geography and International Studies departments, introduction to environmental science, and a writing class that is mandatory for all first-years—mine focuses on the Supreme Court.
Overall, I have found that the Dartmouth education encompasses everything I initially sought in my college experience. Being undecided has also been particularly manageable as it gives ample time to discover deeply while also giving students structure through the quarter system. Exploring different fields through instruction from amazing faculty devoted to undergraduates has been priceless.