Huebner: The Responsibility of '20s

'20s have an obligation to pay it forward to prospective students.

by Julia Huebner | 9/29/16 12:30am

I recently came across my list of reasons of why I chose Dartmouth. Before enrolling in Dartmouth’s Class of 2020, I had scribbled out a few bullet points on April 24 while I was visiting campus independently of Dimensions. Two days later, on a rival college’s campus, I committed to Dartmouth.

Before finding my list, I had forgotten exactly why I enrolled here, assuming that I had written something about our cultish alumni network, undergraduate focus and stellar outdoor programs.

My favorite point on that crumpled piece of paper? “2. They [students] talked to me in the bathroom.”

They also chatted with me at the tables in the Class of 1953 Commons, in dorm hallways, at late-night Collis, on the Green and during class. I won’t forget when the friends that I stayed with invited me to a birthday dinner at the Jewel of India and when education professor Donna Coch asked for my opinion of her class. Unlike at other colleges, people did not expect me to matriculate.

I chose Dartmouth because the people, the ’19s in particular, pulled me into their community; I wasn’t willing to leave that community when I boarded the Dartmouth Coach a day later. Even now, ’19s I met last year stop me on the Green to talk or schedule meals at King Arthur Flour with me. They are not just polite; they are genuine.

Last weekend, the tables turned for me. I was the Dartmouth student who answered questions, grabbed dinner and shepherded prospective students, also known as prospies, around campus. I chatted about my intended area of study (perpetually undeclared) and my experience thus far (days of comfort with a healthy sprinkle of risk). Although Decision Day feels like a different world, many of us first-years were also college hopping just five months ago. We all remember the stress of uncertainty, travel logistics and managing adults’ expectations. Regardless of our titles and leadership positions on campus, it’s vital to tap into that empathy — a trait rarely discussed and easily glossed over.

During our two short weeks as Dartmouth students, my classmates and I have spent a good amount of time talking about privilege. In our current political climate, “privilege” is a buzzword easily used but seldom acted on. At Dartmouth, students differ in race, gender, class, ability and countless other hats, but the one privilege we all share is our label as Dartmouth students. From this objectively privileged position, it’s unethical not to help the next person in line.

Thus, taking a few minutes out of my day to entertain potential ’21s shouldn’t make me a good person or a particularly welcoming Dartmouth student. On the contrary, I’d expect that behavior from every one of my classmates. I don’t care if you’re an athlete with an absurd practice schedule or a pre-health student taking two lab classes per term: failure to reach out displays a lack of empathy and a lack of understanding of our Dartmouth privilege.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that you should sugarcoat your experience. On the contrary, if prospies ask what you don’t like about Dartmouth, answer honestly. No college is perfect and Dartmouth is far from it. Students serious about the College are looking for vulnerability and a holistic picture — not another sales pitch or an “impressive” statistic. As a prospie, I was more impressed that random students remembered my name than by Dartmouth’s student-faculty ratio.

Additionally, students don’t have to connect with prospies in the same way. If your daytime schedule is lighter, take a prospie to lunch. If you both share the same academic interest, take them to class. If you know a prospie personally, host them in your dorm. If you can’t meet in person, offer your contact info and follow through. The medium doesn’t matter; the sentiment does. Your 15 minutes could result in a different life choice for a 17-year-old, just as someone’s 15 minutes might have tipped the scales in favor of the Big Green for you.

I hope to convince just one prospie to choose Dartmouth for the same reasons that I did. Think about why you came here. How are you going to convey that to future ’21s?