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 summer term.
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 to Beethoven.
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.