If you’re thinking of going to Dartmouth College, the only Ivy League school to call itself a college,
here’s a few things to expect:
- First, you’ll love green eggs and ham (and the color green, in general).
- You’ll be tempted to learn new languages, and you’ll probably study abroad at least once.
- You’ll always be taught by a professor.
- Your summer vacations are portable. You can transfer your “Leave Term” to the winter to
avoid New Hampshire weather or compete for an internship in the fall and then return in
the summer to study.
- If you learn to ski, you’ll do it at the Dartmouth skiway.
- You’ll wonder why every school doesn’t have a version of “Camp Dartmouth” on a mandatory
Founded in 1769 by the Reverend Eleazar Wheelock for the expressed purpose of educating
Native Americans and all those seeking education, the college is the ninth oldest college
in the United States. It’s also one of the most beautiful. Nestled between the White Mountains
of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont, the 269-acre campus has its share of
picture-perfect scenery. In fact, visiting the campus for a commencement address in 1953,
Dwight Eisenhower commented that “this is what a college ought to look like.” Affectionately
termed “the college on the hill,” the school’s central green is adjacent to the cozy town of
Hanover, New Hampshire. On campus, brick dorms and administrative buildings are adorned
with ivy, and Baker Library’s tower presides majestically over it all. If you listen carefully, every
day at 6:00 P.M. the bell tower plays a recognizable melody. Selections range from show tunes
Of course, the college has a lot more going for it than aesthetics. A bona fide “college”
rather than university, it prides itself on this distinction. The whole issue was decided
in 1819, during the now-famous “Dartmouth College Case,” in which Daniel Webster, class of
1801, successfully convinced the Supreme Court that his alma mater should remain a private institution
instead of becoming a property of the state of New Hampshire. In what is an oft-quoted
line around campus, Webster summed up his argument by saying, “It is, sir, as I have said, a
small College, but there are those who love it.” From then on, the unassuming institution has fondly referred
to itself in the same way.
If this isn’t the ideal model of what a campus ought to be, it’s pretty much as close as you can reasonably get.
With its northern location, year-round calendar, and focus on the undergraduate experience,
this is perhaps the most comfortable of the Ivy League schools. Its intimate atmosphere
breeds some of the highest student satisfaction rates in the country, which is probably partly
due to the fact that everything balances so well. Though the student population is among the smartest and most accomplished in the country, they also like to have a lot of fun. The campus community is incredibly
close-knit, yet, thanks to the fact that different students and professors come and go each term,
it never feels stifling. Hanover is a beautiful, rural locale, yet the school manages to attract first-rate
speakers, performers, and intellectuals. In fact, you’d probably be exposed to about as
much culture there as you would in any major metropolis. It’s just that Hanover is a
heck of a lot quieter. Student activities see high participation rates, but the school is small
enough so that you never get lost in the crowd. And finally, the school has just enough surprises
so that even when you’re feeling stressed, there’s always something to appreciate.
Finally, the institution is an intellectual powerhouse that offers incredible on-campus and
international opportunities. Besides those tangibles, however, Dartmouth offers something
ineffable. As evidenced by the fact that everyone puts their arms around one another as they
sing the alma mater, there is something very special about going to school up in the mountains.
Perhaps, in fact, this appeal is best summed up by the school’s cryptic last line, which
speaks to the permanency of the experience. Students, it proclaims, find
themselves with “the granite of New Hampshire in their muscles and their brains.” Go there, and by the end, you’ll understand what that phrase means. I know I do.
Despite three top-notch professional schools (the Dartmouth Medical School, The Amos
Tuck School of Business Administration, and the Thayer School of Engineering), as well as
twenty-five other graduate programs in the arts and sciences, the college prides itself on what
seems to be an almost singular focus on undergraduates. Consequently, students
have a unique advantage. All classes are taught by professors and not graduate students. Not
surprisingly, the college consistently gets high rankings for its quality of teaching, as well as for
the level of interaction between faculty and students.
The Dartmouth Plan
The college functions on a unique year-round calendar. An academic year is divided
into four ten-week quarters (called fall term, winter term, etc.), and students typically
take three classes in each. This schedule works particularly well because not only is it difficult
to get bored after a mere ten weeks, but students enjoy being able to focus on just three
subjects at a time.
For the logistics of this to work out, students are required to spend at least nine
terms on campus, including fall, winter, and spring of their freshman and senior years, as well
as the summer between sophomore and junior year. Often a favorite term, “sophomore” as it is
called, summer allows for a less crowded campus, afternoons of studying outside in weather
that’s finally warm, and a chance to bond with classmates. Students then get to decide what
they want to do with the other terms; choices range from staying on campus to doing a transfer
term at another university to taking part in one of the college’s forty-eight off-campus programs
in twenty-one departments in twenty-three countries. Sixty percent of the student body
will go abroad at least once during their four years.
I chose Dartmouth in large part because of its Russian department, and
spent the spring of my sophomore year on the Dartmouth Foreign Study
Program at St. Petersburg University in Russia. We were in Russia at a time
when the country was changing every day and it was an unbelievable experience
to witness these changes firsthand—and to have the language ability to speak to
people about how their lives were affected. After it was all over, I came back to
Hanover and shared what I had learned with my classmates.
The requirements for the bachelor of arts degree at the college are designed to promote
the overall goals of a liberal arts education: the deep analysis of a single discipline (the
major); the broad introduction to several fields (the distributive requirements); and the
integrating force of interdisciplinary work.
About one-third of the student’s curriculum will be in his or her field of major study,
elected before the end of the sophomore year. Dartmouth offers 56 standard majors, as
well as nearly limitless possibilities for special majors, designed to meet diverse student
needs. Options include: a Modified Major (work in two departments with emphasis in one);
a Dual Major (completion of the requirements for two Departmental Majors, which may in
themselves be quite dissimilar); a Special Major (accommodates students who wish to
design special interdisciplinary or interdivisional programs of study involving two or more
departments of programs); and a Major/Minor. In addition to the above majors, there are
interdisciplinary programs in a number of areas.
The General Requirements
All students study a broad spectrum of courses fundamental to higher learning
and basic to a liberal arts education. Of the 35 courses needed for graduation, students
must take ten courses distributed across eight intellectual fields; three courses that
emphasize three different cultural perspectives (North American, European, and non-
Western); and one course that is interdisciplinary in its focus. A single course may satisfy
two or even three of these requirements. In addition, a course that falls within a student’s
major may also be used to satisfy these requirements.
- International or comparative study
- Philosophical, religious, or historical analysis
- Social analysis
- Natural science
- Quantitative or deductive science
- Technology or applied science
- The Culminating Experience
Each academic department and program includes among its major requirements a
culminating activity, normally undertaken during the senior year. All students will take a
course—or engage in an independent study project—that permits them to pull together
the work of their major and add to this some intellectual or creative activity of their own.
The culminating experience could take one of several forms, including a thesis, a paper, an
exhibition, or a performance.
The Language Requirements
All students are expected to become proficient in a least one foreign language. Unless
exempted on the basis of SAT Subject Tests or advanced placement test scores, students
complete their language requirement by studying a language on campus or by participating
in a Language Study Abroad program.
When I realized that I needed to fulfill an art distributive, I wasn’t sure
what I was going to do. I’m not exactly artistically inclined, but I found the perfect
class. I enrolled in Greek Tragedy, which provided a unique alternative.
Instead of creating or studying art in the forms of paintings or sculptures, we
studied the art of performance in Ancient Greece. It suited me perfectly.
A strong faculty, excellent student-faculty relationships and small classes are a recipe for greatness. Approximately 80 percent of courses have enrollments of fewer than thirty, while only 2 percent of courses have over 100 students.
The most popular departments at the college are History, English, Government,
Economics, Biology, and Psychological and Brain Science.
Foreign Language Program
A particularly innovative academic program among a host of such programs is the college’s approach to foreign language instruction. The brainchild of famed professor John Rassias, the program is designed to make students comfortable speaking their new language. Each day, in
addition to a regular class period, students have a one-hour “drill,” which meets at 7:45 each
morning. (Those who can’t hack the early hours can elect to take a 5:00 P.M. drill instead.)
There, they meet with an upper-level teaching assistant who puts them through the rigors
of conjugating verbs and practicing dialogue. The session, accented by liberal amounts of
pointing and clapping on the part of the instructor, is incredibly fast-paced and lively.
Although taking—and then teaching—drill got me up at 6:30 A.M. for
most of my college career, I’m convinced that Dartmouth is an ideal and nurturing
environment for anyone hoping to learn another language. Hundreds of
students flock to drill each day to witness Professor Rassias’s unique “in your
face” approach, which is probably part of the reason I fared so well in my foreign
language classes. It gave me such a good foundation, in fact, that now I’m fluent
in French, in graduate school for Spanish literature and education, and learning
Italian in my spare time.
With over $200 million invested annually in grant-funded research, world-class laboratory
facilities, and strong support among the faculty for student research, the opportunity
to participate in faculty research proves to be an invaluable complement to classroom
learning for many students. Because the college’s graduate student population
is relatively small, undergraduates enjoy access to funding for research and in
many cases serve as co-authors on faculty publications.
As a Presidential Scholar research assistant, I had the opportunity to
assist my government professor on an article he was writing about the timing of
presidential economic initiatives. He involved me almost every step of the way,
providing me with first-hand exposure to the correct methodology for conducting
political science research. I am currently using this knowledge to further my
own research on media coverage of women gubernatorial candidates. In fact, my
thesis proposal on this topic was accepted at the Midwest Political Science
Association’s Annual Meeting, and I presented my results at their annual convention
In addition to participating in faculty-led research, many students pursue their own
endeavors, often with funding from their department, the college, or outside agencies.
Dartmouth students also pursue more than 1,000 independent studies for academic course
credit during each academic year. Through this close collaboration with faculty mentors,
many students find that their professors transcend the role of “instructor” and become colleagues
and close friends. Forty percent of students pursue independent research.
- Dean of Faculty Office
- Dickey Center for International Understanding
- Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and Social Sciences
- First Year Office
- Office of Residential Life
- Academic Departments
Formal Research Programs
- First-Year Summer Project
- Women in Science Project Research Assistantship
- Presidential Scholars Programs
- Senior Fellowship Program
Participating in the Senior Fellowship Program allowed me to study the
life and work of a woman named Theodate Pope Riddle, one of the nation’s first
women architects. Because I was required to take only a couple of classes during
the year, I had the chance to visit Riddle’s buildings and travel to museums to do
archival research. I also learned a lot from my advisor, a professor who specialized
in architectural history. By the end, I had written a biography that was more
than 200 pages long and produced an accompanying video documentary.
It’s not just senior fellows who fare well with research, either. As students will attest,
funding for almost any sort of academic endeavor is readily available.
Much money is doled out by the Rockefeller Center, named for Nelson Rockefeller, class of
1966. The center houses the departments of economics and government, and has financially supported everything from internships at the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador to research on
the institution’s role in the Civil War. The center also draws a number of prominent speakers
for panels and discussions. In recent years, it has hosted former Prime Minister of Israel
Ehud Barak, chairman of the Pakistan Press International Foundation Owais Aslam Ali,
Pulitzer Prize winner Laurie Garrett, and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, ’68.
The final thing to know about academics at this hidden gem of the Ivy League is that students spend a lot of time
in one or more of the college’s nine libraries, which contain over two million printed volumes.
Baker is the largest and is an architectural wonder. The wood-trimmed Tower Room
is a popular studying spot, as is the reserve corridor, which is framed by the murals of
Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco. Painted between 1932 and 1934 when Orozco was the
artist-in-residence, the famed murals depict the barbaric nature of the colonization of the
New World. The college also has related libraries for biomedical science, math, business,
physical science, engineering, art and music, and English. One thing to check out is the
Sanborn English Library in mid-afternoon; every weekday at 4:00, students break for tea,
cookies, and talk.
Most Popular Fields of Study
Dartmouth’s admissions process is highly selective. Analysis has shown that, on average, the middle fifty percent of admitted students score between 660 and 770 on the math, verbal, and writing sections of the SAT and between 29 and
34 on the ACT.
Admissions, however, is not based on book smarts or academic standing alone. What distinguished
the exceptional applicants admitted from the thousands of other qualified candidates
is intellectual curiosity, and academic or extracurricular passion, and an eagerness to be
a positive member of a diverse and international community. In essence, the school is looking
for students who will add to the community, inside or outside of the classroom.
Beyond the Common Application for admissions, the college requires a
unique supplement. In addition to two teacher recommendations, you’ll also need to solicit one of your more eloquent friends to write a peer evaluation. The institution realizes that the best way to understand how you might
interact in our community is to see how your peers in your own environment evaluate your contributions.
Conducted by one or more alums in the applicant’s home district, this personal conversation
allows the student to convey their interests in the admissions process in ways
that a written application might not easily facilitate. the school does not require an interview,
nor does it favor students who have one with alumni.
Finally, here’s one more bit of advice. If you’re completely psyched to go to Dartmouth,
apply for Early Decision before the stated deadline. If admitted, you’ll be finished with the entire college
application process in time for the holidays. Keep in mind that the Early Decision
admissions process is binding, meaning that you have to go if you are admitted. Although
the percentage of applicants accepted for Early Decision is typically slightly higher than
that of the normal applicant pool, the selection process is comparably competitive.
Once accepted, students and their families receive one of the most comprehensive financial
aid packages in the Ivy League. Roughly half of all students are eligible for need-based scholarships
from the college.
The school recently announced a number of
exciting new enhancements to the financial
aid program for current and prospective students.
This latest initiative provides free tuition for students
who come from families with annual incomes below
$75,000 with typical assets, replaces loans with scholarships
for all scholarship recipients, assures need-blind
admission for all students, and replaces one
“leave term” earning expectation with additional
Student Financial Aid Details
With everybody going to and fro so often, it might seem that the college would have a
hard time fostering a sense of community on campus. Ironically, the opposite is true. Bonding
begins early, in fact, before students even officially matriculate. Over ninety percent
of the incoming class elects to participate in a first-year trip sponsored by the Dartmouth
Outing Club. Each group of eight to fifteen “first-years,” led by an upperclassman, faculty member,
or school administrator, take to the woods for three days of hiking, canoeing, biking, and
rock climbing. There are few rules, but one remains firm: no showers. After the three days are
over, students convene at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge on Mt. Mousilauke (still
no showers) to practice singing the alma mater, learn the Salty Dog Rag, and pay tribute to
Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, class of 1925. (This is also where the green eggs and ham
come into play.)
Besides first-year trips, the college has an impressive network set up to unite incoming
students. Organized by residence, each dorm floor has a U.G.A. (undergraduate advisor)
who organizes movies and ice cream sessions, plus dorm formals and barbecues. Dorm
life tends to be incredibly social during first year, although it undoubtedly lessens as the
years go on. Surprisingly, however, even after first year, eighty-seven percent of students
remain in the dorms. Many Dartmouth students are surprised to find that the dorms, for the
most part, are far more spacious than other living quarters. More than one person typically
would share more than one room, and private bathrooms (although not showers) are not
uncommon. Plus, many have fireplaces, which is an especially appealing feature as you’re
living through a long Hanover winter.
As if freshman trips, hall-bonding, and a host of common interests weren’t enough,
there’s one more thing that tends to unify a diverse group of undergraduates: a fondness for
their school. Student satisfaction ratings are among the highest in the country, and tend to
breed an odd phenomena: the “I-love-everything-that’s-green-and-related-to-Dartmouth” mentality.
At first, anyway, it seems exceedingly hard to find anything you don’t like. Of course,
students do not love it blindly. In the past years, issues of race and sexuality have
sparked debates, as has the age-old issue of whether or not the Greek system should be abolished.
And despite impressive numbers of students of color (they compose approximately twenty
percent of the student body) and international students (they compose more than seven percent
of the student body), the institution continually strives toward a communal balance of supporting
affinities and interests with the institutional need of integrating students to enrich the
intellectual discourse. As a perfect example, the school supports affinity housing (such as
Cutter-Shabazz for students interested in learning more about African-American issues), but
has the housing available to all students with genuine interest. Though these issues certainly
reflect the issues in society, the sense of community yields a dialogue that is open and respectful.
It is safe to say that students have a very real fondness for their school—not only
during the years they attend, but in the years to follow.
A host of other popular programs falls under the auspices of the Tucker Foundation,
which organizes all the volunteer activities on campus. About one-third of the students
devote time to programs like Big Brother/Big Sister, Adopt-A-Grandparent, Students
Fighting Hunger, and Habitat for Humanity. To facilitate volunteering, the Tucker
Foundation has cars that students can use to travel to their activities.
In addition to organizing—and often funding— volunteer activities, Tucker is also the
umbrella under which all the campus religious organizations fall. Most recently, the school
dedicated the new Roth Center for Jewish Life, which will provide space for Jewish religious
services, an annual Holocaust commemoration, and social events.
Students also spend a lot of time participating in groups organized by particular
racial or ethnic affiliations. Groups such as the Afro-American Society, The
Dartmouth Asian Organization, The Korean-American Student Association, Africaso,
Al-Nur, La Alianza Latina, and Native Americans at Dartmouth all have large memberships.
The Dartmouth Rainbow Alliance, a campus gay and lesbian organization, also tends to
be a vocal force on campus.
Working on student publications is also popular. The Dartmouth, said to be the oldest
college newspaper in the country, resides in the same building as the campus AM
and FM radio stations, which are completely student-run. The newspaper is supplemented
by a number of specialty publications, including the Stonefence Review, a literary magazine, Sports Weekly, Main Street (the Dartmouth Asian Organization’s publication), Black
Praxis (the Afro-American Society’s publication). Woodsmoke, an outdoors magazine, and
The Dartmouth Review—the reason that so many outsiders mistakenly think of the college
as a conservative bastion, The Dartmouth Free Press—the liberal campus newspaper, and
The Dartmouth Independent, which strives to present varying viewpoints on pertinent
Campus Committees and Groups
Students also serve on campus committees, in the student government, and in organizations
that try to educate the campus about problems that affect the campus,
such as alcoholism, sexual assault, and eating disorders.
Many also sing in one of the eight a cappella groups on campus. For those who don’t
sing, attending their shows is a favored pastime. (About now, you’re probably beginning to
understand why that daily planner comes in handy.)
Hopkins Art Center
The Hopkins Center, or the “Hop,” designed by the architect who was responsible for
both Lincoln Center and the U.N., is the hub of the arts on campus. Interestingly, it’s
also the home of the campus mailboxes. They were put there, goes the rationale, so that students
would be forced to take notice of all of the Hop’s artistic offerings. Besides housing
three departments (art, music, and drama) and a jewelry studio, the Hop has incredible
films, plays, and concerts. In a recent term, for example, the Hop played host to:
- Ang Lee (on campus for the U.S. debut of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)
- Wynton Marsalis
- Itzhak Perlman
- Oliver Stone
The hop also features movies; you could conceivably see about thirty-plus
films per term, time and responsibilities permitting.
The school’s other cultural center is the Hood Museum, which houses over 60,000
college-owned artifacts. The collection, which draws over 40,000 visitors annually, is
particularly strong in African and Native American Art, nineteenth- and twentieth-century
painting, and contemporary art.
Parties, Carnivals, and Fun
OK, so students are busy, you say. But do they have any fun? The resounding
answer to that question is yes. Dorm parties are a big deal first year, as are
Homecoming (fall), Winter Carnival (winter), and Green Key Weekend (spring). Each fall,
it’s the responsibility of the first-year class to build a big wooden structure in the center of
the green—and make sure that it’s still standing on Friday night for the big bonfire. On that
night, there’s also an alumni parade, many speeches no one hears, and lots of parties.
Winter Carnival, perhaps Dartmouth’s most famous social tradition, is complemented by
a huge snow sculpture on the green, and for the very brave, a dip in the local pond.
Besides the dorms, fraternities, sororities, and coed houses there are central party
areas. No one joins a fraternity, sorority, or coed house until sophomore year, but those who do
generally form close relationships with the people in them. The merits of the primarily single-sex
Greek system are heavily debated on campus, although for the time being it seems to be
here to stay.
For those who aren’t into the Greek scene, there is a host of other social opportunities.
The college often sponsors comedy clubs, hypnotists, concerts, and something called “casino
night,” which tends to be incredibly popular with the high rollers on campus. And, contrary to
popular belief, people do date while taking classes. However, the on-again, off-again nature of the
D-plan—you’re there for nine months, and then gone for six—has been known to put a crimp
in many a budding romance. Sorority and fraternity formals are popular date functions. Finally,
right outside campus is the quaint town of Hanover, which has one good movie theater, a few
bars, and a ton of reasonably affordable restaurants.
People always asked me what I found to do in Hanover, but the truth
was, I was busy all the time. I loved the fact that my friends and I couldn’t go
anywhere particularly exotic: it made us all so much closer to one another. Had
there been the distraction of a big city, I’m not sure I would have formed the fabulous
friendships that I did.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
More than seventy-five percent of the campus participate in either intercollegiate,
club, or intramural sports programs. The athletic center’s modern facilities include
two pools, basketball courts, squash and racquetball courts, an indoor track, a brand new
14,000-square-foot recreational fitness center, a ballet studio, and a gymnastics area.
Outside, there are tennis courts, an outdoor track, and the football stadium. The school
also has its own skiway about twenty minutes from campus, and buses run to and from it
six days a week during the winter. If you decide you want to ski, you can get a season pass
to the skiway, a seasonal bus pass, and rent skis, all for under $200.
My skiing lessons were Tuesday mornings, and as I was headed up the
lift, I always used to think how crazy it was that I was here skiing, when almost
everyone else I knew was either in class or at work. Was I spoiled!
Dartmouth churns out large numbers of graduates headed for lucrative
jobs in investment banking and consulting; hundreds of companies have gone “headhunting” at the college, looking to recruit prospective employees.
Of course, not everyone from the school heads
off to the world of big business. Medical school and law school are both popular options for
many recent grads, as are M.A.- or Ph.D.-tracked graduate programs. In a recent year, about
twenty-five percent of the senior class was headed right back into school. Additionally, by the
time they’ve been out of school for five years, about seventy-three percent will have gone back
to some school.
The working crowd, meanwhile, tends to be attracted to jobs in education, social services,
advertising, and publishing. Others teach English in foreign countries or head off to parts
unknown with the Peace Corps.
Even with so many varied directions, the one thing you can be almost sure of with most
graduates is that they’ll come back to Hanover at some point. The alumni network is incredibly vibrant, and Homecoming and reunions are always well-attended.
The alumni magazine is one of the strongest in the country. Each class produces a newsletter
several times a year.
Graduates don’t just stay in touch with each other, either. They also stay in
touch with the college. Over two-thirds of alumni contribute to the school’s alumni fund, making
the endowment one of the largest in the country. Alums also keep up with recent
graduates. The Career Services office keeps extensive files on alumni who are willing to be
contacted about their jobs, and the networking connections are consistently strong. Naturally,
graduates tend to like their school, and like others who went to their school.
Since I’ve been out of college for over a year, I’m surprised in a way by
how involved I still am with Dartmouth. I recently attended the twenty-fifth
Anniversary of Coeducation and was heartened simply by the sight of so many
bright, articulate women who shared my alma mater. Dartmouth has exposed
me to so many wonderful ideas and people that I’m realizing it’s something I
never want to give up.
- Salmon P. Chase, Former Secretary
- Louise Erdrich, Author
- Robert Frost, Poet
- Buck Henry, Film Director
- Laura Ingraham, TV Commentator
- C. Everett Koop, Former Surgeon
- Norman Maclean, Author
- Robert Reich, Former Secretary
- Nelson Rockefeller, Former U.S.
- Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), Author
- Andrew Shue, Actor
- Paul Tsongas, Former Senator
- Daniel Webster, Orator and
- Henry M. Paulson, 74th United State
Secretary of the Treasury
- Timothy Geithner, 75th U.S.
Secretary of the Treasury
- Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator
from New York
It’s an understatement to say that the college has an incredibly strong faculty. Likewise, student-faculty relationships are excellent, and classes for the most part are small. Also, the most popular departments at the school tend to be the strongest, so you can expect to find a lot of
history, English, government, chemistry, and language majors.