Mountains, Dartmouth, Simon Ellis
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Q:

How hard are classes? Have you ever failed a class?

A: Simon headshot

Let's be honest, I don't think anyone is ever 100% ready for the academic transition from high school to Dartmouth. Whether you come from a small public school like me, a big private school, an international school, or whatever it may be — the Dartmouth system is super unique, and so when I get asked questions like this I try to first prepare prospective students, maybe like yourself, that no matter what it is going to be different. I wanted to address some questions about academics this week and talk a little bit about how my transition was and what you might expect, given my personal experience, from academics here!

First of all, I want to stress that my transition was not easy. I was used to getting great grades with very minimal effort in high school, and even classes that challenged me always felt manageable. Everyone's high school is different, but I found mine to be much slower paced and easier going than Dartmouth classes my freshman year. The quarter system moves very fast and it definitely a challenge to get used to only taking three classes rather than the seven a semester I took in high school. I struggled a bit, and although I didn't fully fail any classes, my Freshman Spring I dropped down to two classes due to the difficulty of one of them and got grades that I would have been appalled at in high school. 

Luckily, there were tons of resources that I began to use Sophomore year to bring up my spirits and my GPA. There is a fully free student tutor service where students who have gotten good grades and are approved by professors in a given class can tutor you and help you understand concepts a little bit better. There is a reading, writing, and rhetoric center called RWIT that helps you edit your essays (also free), and on top of these two student-run resources, I started meeting with professors to change my expectations for each class. I found that my friend had also been academically struggling, and that even though everyone here seems to be (and are) super smart, a little help now and then never hurt. 

By now I feel much more comfortable with the pace of the quarter system, adapting to different styles of classes such as lecture or discussion-based, but I still have my ups and downs. I took a class this Winter called "The Ethics of War and Peace", and I was super excited because it was my last Government Class ever and I had a very close relationship with the professor. In that class alone, I found that I had to re-write essays on 3 different occasions because I scored so poorly on them. This was pretty devastating, but all the work I put into the course paid off not in the form of a fantastic grade, but when I had discovered the professor had given me a citation. Citations are given very sparingly (this is the only one I have ever gotten) to students who produce really exemplary work. Academics are definitely something to be thinking about when applying to Dartmouth — after all, we are a college before anything else! Hopefully this can help give you some insight if you are nervous, and feel free to hit me up with any questions about the ethics of war and peace, I got you covered ;).

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