Peters: Do Dartmouth for You

by William Peters | 8/21/15 6:12pm

Welcome to Dartmouth ’19s! The College is by far the greatest experience of my life thus far. Being a few years older than the average student (I took a few gap years in the army before coming here), I am lucky to have a few unique perspectives about this place. Even with my age and experience, however, navigating Dartmouth in my first year proved to be quite the challenge. Now in my senior year, I have been looking back on the choices I made in my first three years, and I know now that I could have benefited from someone giving me some straightforward advice. With that, here are a few tips for making the most of your freshman years.

The first thing to know is that you are going to encounter a lot of people in the first couple weeks, and chances are they are moving through the first-year experience just as rapidly as you are. Try not to be too caught up in finding a best friend or even a general friend group. Maybe you don’t even like people and prefer to sleep in the library, or maybe you do better with one or two friends, or as a stranger in a crowd. For this first term at this storied College on the Hill, do what feels naturally socially. Maybe you will find your soul mates on Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips, but probably not. Don’t worry about it right now. Take the first 10 weeks to meet people, but know that you have four years to get to know them.

The next thing I would have wanted someone to tell me is just how many resources there are at Dartmouth and how invaluable they are. Yes, orientation covers a great deal of that, but realistically speaking, most of us get tunnel vision from the high volume of information coupled with the excitement of starting life at a new college. I am sure that someone said something to me about the benefits of the Academic Skills Center, or the Undergraduate Deans Office, or even the value of office hours with professors and administrators — but it somehow got lost in the traffic of courses, majors, programs, sports and whatever else came at me. I missed a lot of readily accessible help that was available to me, and now that I work as an intern at the ASC, I can honestly say that, the team director Carl Thum has working for him is one of the greatest assets a Dartmouth student has. From tutors and study groups, to academic coaching and advising, to even just finding someone to ask for guidance and directions, Dartmouth has a vast network of personnel and resources just waiting make sure you can be the best you can be. It doesn’t matter if you scored a 2400 on your SATs, or that you were valedictorian, everyone will find something that challenges them here, but there are plenty of means at Dartmouth to help you do better. Do not ever feel too proud or embarrassed to ask for help, and make sure you do it early.

Next, try not to get to hung up on the idea that you are coming to Dartmouth on a specific mission. Many of you want to be pre-med, or studying economics, or majoring in Arabic or Chinese. While those goals are great and all, you should keep an open mind to the many ways to get a Dartmouth degree. When I got here, I was set on double majoring in English and government with an education minor. Now in my senior year, I’m an English major with a government minor who has had the chance to dabble in theatre, anthropology and film, and I could not be happier for it. My plan changed, and I want you to know that it is okay for yours to change too. Maybe your parents expect you to get a sweet finance gig on Wall Street to earn back the money they spent on that fancy diploma. Trust me, if you talk to enough juniors, seniors and alumni, you do not need to be an economics major to be successful. If that is what is making you happy and academically successful, however, you should pursue it.

You are entering what is likely to be the greatest time of your life. You get 12 terms, 35 courses and an innumerable amount of memories. You will find life long friends, and receive an education from literal experts of their fields. Take your time, take risks and make sure that you are always doing Dartmouth the best way for you. Welcome home.