Dartmouth College is hidden in the woods of New Hampshire. It takes 2 hours to get there from Boston. It really seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere—albeit beautiful nowhere. However, the more time you spend there, the more you realize that there are a lot of little villages and hidden away places in New England. It’s just not as obvious as suburbia. Dartmouth is in Hanover, New Hampshire, a town of 11,000. Hanover is a tiny village with 3 commercial blocks 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. along Main Street, which is walking distance from the Dartmouth Green. The town of Hanover offers a little more commercial life, and Lebanon, NH is a 10-minute drive away. There are several other New Hampshire and Vermont villages within a 30-minute drive. 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 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 their heart. There are few other schools 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. The campus is very safe.
There are 4400 undergraduates at Dartmouth, which makes it the smallest Ivy. It is the only Ivy League School to be called “college” as opposed to “university.” In actuality it is classified as a university, however the intimacy of the academics and the coziness of the campus make Dartmouth very reminiscent of liberal arts colleges. It is helpful to understand the difference between a liberal arts college and a university. LACs are generally known for a focus on undergraduate teaching and small classes. A liberal arts college will have a small graduate program in relation to its undergraduate population, or none at all. A university, on the other hand, usually has more than 4000 students and also a sizable graduate population. 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 and also many advantages of a research university. With its smaller student population, it is famous for its undergraduate teaching. Professors are an integral part of student life, and undergraduates are welcomed into research opportunities. Dartmouth is collaborative socially and intimate academically. While its graduate programs aren’t large, with a little more than 2000 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; 30% of classes have between 20 -49 students; 7% of classes have over 50 students(with only 1% having over 100.) 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 tend to be multi-dimensional and very socially adept, and they also take their courses seriously. Academics are a priority, but never at the expense of great social bonds and friendships.
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.
The Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth is unabashedly proud of its commitment to the liberal arts. It’s a wonderful program, but it’s unusual and not for every kind of engineering student. There are two undergraduate degree options, and understanding them helps shed light on the school’s philosophy. Students all get an AB in engineering. To get the AB, students take 9-11 courses in the major, which is the same number of courses in any major at Dartmouth. (This is substantially fewer classes than engineering students are required to take at many other universities, and Dartmouth does this on purpose.) Half of a student’s courses are non-engineering courses. The second and more popular option is to get a BE degree, Bachelor’s in Engineering, in addition to the AB degree. The BE degree is similar in scope to a BSE degree, which is commonly offered at other universities. BE degree candidates take the requirements for the AB degree; however, they also take an additional 9-11 courses in the major. Because Dartmouth will not relax the liberal arts requirements for its students, those who seek the BE degree usually must remain at Dartmouth for 1-3 extra terms. Dartmouth Engineering has no research requirement. Students can find research opportunities if they proactively look for them, but undergraduate research is not embedded in the program philosophy. While students can concentrate in a specific field, like chemical or biomedical engineering, the degree is in general engineering. Dartmouth’s reputation for being tops in undergraduate teaching is upheld in engineering. The Thayer School is the smallest and most personal engineering school in the Ivy League. Dartmouth is clearly a great option for engineers who value and want to stay committed to a broad-based education. And yes, you DO have to pay for those extra terms. Dartmouth prepares students to be as competitive in the job market as any other school. In some ways, the Dartmouth engineers are better prepared for the world because they have such a broad base of knowledge and have excellent critical thinking and writing skills, which they have developed in the study of liberal arts. However, the program is different in design than other engineering programs, so it’s a good idea to look at the requirements carefully before deciding on Dartmouth engineering.
Student life revolves around the campus at Dartmouth. There are lots of traditions. About half of the students participate in Greek life. However, fraternities and sororities are varied and diverse 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 or sorority to totally enjoy the fraternity scene. The college has been clamping down of fraternities in a never-ending battle with students and alums. Freshmen are not allowed at Greek parties for the first 6 weeks of college. Rushing is sophomore year. Only a small percentage of students live in the houses. The students don’t take their meals 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 45% 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 enter that brings in 40 performances/year. The tickets are affordable though sometimes hard for students to obtain. 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. Students are placed in groups of around 8-10, and have an outdoor adventure of their choosing- ranging from serious rafting and rock-climbing to organic farming, and lots of difficulty levels in between. The students spend 3 nights in nature and then convene with many other groups at the Dartmouth lodge for the final night. This special program is a hallmark of Dartmouth. Students bond with their “trippies” and often remain friends for life.
Freshman and sophomores are guaranteed housing. It’s rare that someone who wants housing doesn’t get it. 100% of freshmen and 85% of all students live on campus. Freshman live in freshman dorm clusters with only freshman. When upper classman move off campus, they generally move into houses with friends within a block or two of campus.
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 seem to understand the Dartmouth community. Admissions strongly recommends a peer recommendation and seeks students who are good members of their community.
Do not hesitate to submit a creative writing supplement or a music supplement.
Dartmouth’s mid-range scores
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%