Dartmouth College is hidden in the woods of New Hampshire. It takes 2 hours to get there from Boston. It’s really in the middle of nowhere—albeit beautiful nowhere. Dartmouth is in Hanover, New Hampshire, a town of 11,000. Hanover is a tiny village with one commercial street with shops that have appeal to college students. There’s a J Crew, a North Face Store, a couple of Dartmouth gear shops, a few restaurants, a movie theater, an optometrist, a bank etc. Dartmouth’s ski slope is 15 minutes away. A major skiing area is 45 minutes away. The area is replete with outdoor adventure. It’s peaceful. It’s a bit isolated. It’s very cold in the winter. And the students who go there never want to leave. There is a unique sense of community at Dartmouth that is hard to understand if you haven’t visited. Dartmouth is probably the most collaborative Ivy League School. Everyone there seems to hold the place near and dear to his heart. I can think of only one other school where the students have as much pride in community and love for their campus.
Dartmouth looks like it’s been made for giants. Every building is big. The quads are big and open. The paths are wide. The doorways are overly tall.
There are 4200 undergraduates at Dartmouth, which makes it the smallest Ivy. It is the only Ivy League School to be designated a “college” as opposed to a “university.” First let me briefly explain the difference. Liberal arts colleges tend to have fewer than 4000 students. They are generally known for a focus on undergraduate teaching and small classes. Usually a liberal arts college will have a small graduate program or none at all. A university, on the other hand, usually has more than 4000 students. Perhaps there are bigger classes, less focus on undergraduate teaching, and more focus on research output. Usually a university will have a graduate school as large as its undergraduate school. Universities may be more vibrant with more going on and as a result may be less intimate. Dartmouth is unique in that has many of the qualities of a liberal arts college. It’s on the small side, it is famous for its undergraduate teaching, and it’s collaborative socially and intimate academically. While its graduate programs aren’t large with a total of 1700 students, they are significant. Dartmouth has the Tuck School of Business, the Geisel School of Medicine, the Thayer School of Engineering, and the Dartmouth Graduate Studies School in Arts and Sciences. These graduate schools bring an energy and relevance to the college that can sometimes be scarce on liberal arts campuses. Dartmouth somehow bridges the gap between small liberal arts college and mid-sized research university.
Sixty-two percent of classes have fewer than 20 students; 29% of classes have between 20 -49 students; 9% of classes have over 50 students. The average class size is 23. There are some large intro classes. All classes are taught by terminally degreed professors—no teaching assistants. The only teachers without PhD’s are in performance music. All professors have 2 hours of office hours/week. There are 2 required classes freshman year. One is a writing seminar with 14-16 kids, and the other is a discussion seminar. A select group of students are invited to apply to be in a 2-quarter humanities class that spans great works of literature in lieu of these two freshmen seminar classes. This humanities class is rigorous, yet wonderful—it is writing and reading and discussion intensive. Dartmouth espouses a strong philosophy in interdisciplinary learning. There are no walls and no barriers to interdisciplinary study. All students can take anything.
Dartmouth has an excellent study abroad program. There are 45 Dartmouth programs that are run by Dartmouth, filled with Dartmouth students, and taught by mainly Dartmouth professors. Students can study abroad for up to three quarters. There is a unique method of learning a language at Dartmouth called the Rassias Method, which immerses students in fast paced and intense language study. In addition to regular classes, students meet 4-5 times per week with a native speaking student who drills them consistently to improve language skills.
There is no core curriculum. Instead there are “distributive groupings,” wherein students take one or two classes from different groups of classes. There is a lot of freedom academically. Seniors all have a Senior Culminating Experience. Dartmouth students seem to love learning for learning’s sake. They didn’t get to Dartmouth because academics were a grudging chore. The students are multi-dimensional and not nerds at all, but they do take their courses seriously. Academics are a priority on the whole.
Dartmouth has amazing research opportunities in all disciplines. The college will fund research or community service proposals by students. There is something a little scattered about the organization of administrative matters so that students must be pro-active in their funded efforts. In the sciences there are many more research opportunities than can be filled by students. Dartmouth College established WISP in 1990 to address the under-representation of women in science, mathematics, and engineering. Dartmouth designed WISP with a focus on retaining women in science and an emphasis on women in their first year. The program includes mentoring, hands-on research experience, role models, access to information and building a strong community in science.
Dartmouth is on the quarter system, which they call the D-Plan. While students all go to school 3 quarters/year, they don’t all go in the fall, winter, and spring quarters. There are times when students attend Dartmouth in the summer quarter instead of one of the other quarters. Sophomore summer is a favorite Dartmouth tradition. The D-Plan allows for flexibility and creates certain advantages for students. For one, it’s easier to attain a competitive internship (because kids aren’t competing only for summer internships.) There are more options in study abroad with the D-Plan. Students can escape the bitter cold winters or the notoriously messy springs. However, some students complain about the D-Plan because friends are missed for their off quarter, especially when it is adjacent to a study abroad quarter. Freshman and seniors are required to be on campus fall, winter, and spring. The regular workload is 3 classes/quarter.
Student life revolves around the campus at Dartmouth. There are lots of traditions. 60% of students are Greek. This is a huge percentage of students, however fraternities and sororities are very different at Dartmouth and very appealing to this bright and inclusive student body. Rushing doesn’t happen until sophomore year. While Greek life is big, students still don’t have to be in a fraternity to totally enjoy the fraternity scene. Only a small percentage of students live in the houses. The students don’t eat in the houses. All parties are inclusive, and the entire campus is invited. Interestingly, 1% of entering students say that Greek life did not factor positively into their choosing Dartmouth, yet 60% of these same students end up joining. This means that obviously Greek life at Dartmouth is not the Greek life that the students expected or anticipated but rather something much more appealing. There is a great performing arts center, the Hopkins Center, that brings in 40 performances/year. The tickets are affordable though sometimes hard for students to obtain. This past year Yo Yo Ma performed. The Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra supports a rigorous repertoire. It’s one of the top Ivy League student symphonies. It’s in a growing phase, and Dartmouth is considering more high school outreach for potential orchestra members. Interested students should certainly submit a music supplement. There are over 300 other clubs as well. The most popular club is the Dartmouth Outing Club. Each year 98% of incoming freshmen participate on a DOC Trip before freshman orientation.
Freshman and sophomores are guaranteed housing. It’s rare that someone who wants housing doesn’t get it. 85% of students live on campus all four years. Freshman live in freshman dorm clusters with only freshman.
Dartmouth is considered to be the Ivy League school that focuses the most on undergraduate teaching. It is very special in that the students are not cutthroat competitive and are in fact collaborative. Perhaps the isolation promotes such a strong sense of community and love of college. Perhaps it is the focus of the admissions office on students who not only demonstrate amazing academic talent but also must pass the “roommate test.” Admissions requires a peer recommendation and seeks students who are good members of their community.
Dartmouth would be improved by more food choices since the city of Hanover doesn’t have a ton of eating options.
For the class of 2016 Dartmouth got 23,110 applications and accepted 9.4%. The numbers were up about 2% for the class of 2016. Dartmouth evaluates:
Do not hesitate to submit a creative writing supplement or a music supplement.
Dartmouth’s mid-range scores
The 2016-2017 cost-of-attendance: ~ $70,000
Dartmouth meets 100% of demonstrated need.
As an Ivy League school, Dartmouth offers no merit awards.
Freshman retention rate: 97%
4-yr graduation rate: 88% (engineering often takes 5 years)
5-yr graduation rate: 93.8%
6-yr graduation rate: 95%