Evolution of Dartmouth Students

by Michaela Artavia-High | 9/19/18 2:20am

Source: Sunny Tang/The Dartmouth Staff

Dartmouth is home to a thriving ecosystem with a variety of flora and fauna that fill its environment, ranging from friendly canines to historic pines. Among this biodiversity, there is one animal of chief interest to the modern zoologist: the Dartmouth student. The Dartmouth student is a peculiar species with a distinct four-part metamorphosis. While the full life cycle of the Dartmouth student can take a variable amount of time, each stage comes with its own specialized skills and behaviors, marking the slow transition of a Dartmouth student into an adult alumnus.

The first stage of this life cycle is the freshman stage. Much like a tadpole or larva, this stage is considered the infancy of the Dartmouth student. The freshman begins their strange new existence in a state of incubation scientists refer to as “orientation.” During this period, they learn the basics of survival, such as finding food, navigating campus and, most critically, connecting to the WiFi. This is the most delicate part of the Dartmouth student’s life cycle, when they are most vulnerable to the harsh climate and the overwhelming schedule of Dartmouth’s environment.

To combat these vulnerabilities, freshmen display several social behaviors unique to this stage of their life cycle. Most notably, they will travel in groups of other freshmen, sticking close together. Biologists have many theories to explain this behavior, the most popular of which is that they group together for warmth. Other hypotheses include that this group movement prevents freshmen from getting lost or that it provides them with some necessary social interaction. Some scientists even believe that it serves as a preemptive defense against the large predators of the surrounding environment — such as cars and squirrels — which they perceive as a threat in this fragile state. 

Freshmen live primarily on campus, although as they enter their second and third term, more and more will venture outside their natural habitat, exploring beyond the boundaries of their campus home. Freshmen also display peculiar eating habits in comparison to other students, with a marked preference for eating food at the Class of 1953 Commons. As they mature, their patterns start to take after their older counterparts, and they begin to eat more at Collis Café and the Courtyard Café. Following three successive terms as freshmen, the Dartmouth student will spend a summer engaged in little to no activity, storing energy for their transformation into the sophomore.

The sophomore is the second stage of the Dartmouth student’s life cycle. By this stage, they usually have formed overlapping social networks, which will prove vital to their survival as the challenges of their life cycle wear on. They spend a great deal of time deepening these social bonds through elaborate rituals where they share food and drink. Many of these sophomores choose to enter into closely bonded social networks referred to as “Greek Houses,” wherein the participating members display a sibling-like relationship within the microcosm of their network.

Sophomores also display heightened levels of nocturnal activity. Where the Dartmouth freshmen may hesitate to venture out after dark, or go out only in groups, the sophomore has reached a certain level of security with the nightlife of Dartmouth’s campus. They can often be seen in designated socializing areas called “basements,” where they engage in erratic movements timed to music, or demonstrate their skill in a species specific game called “pong.” While this nocturnal behavior is present throughout all four stages of the Dartmouth student’s life cycle, sophomore year seems to be where it emerges as a key tenet of their behavioral patterns.

While sophomores, the Dartmouth student will begin to specialize, with each individual choosing to expand upon specific skills. This specialization will usually occur in either winter or spring, following a great deal of deliberation on the part of the student. Many sophomores will seek the advice of older members of the species, called upperclassmen, in addition to receiving guidance from designated caretakers, or “faculty advisors.” While there are certainly popular choices, each individual’s skill set is likely to be deeply personal and unique. These developments serve to arm the maturing Dartmouth student with what scientists term “job marketability.” Once the student has fully matured, they will rely on these skills to provide themselves food and shelter outside the Dartmouth campus.

The final months of the sophomore stage are almost always spent in intense heat, as they remain on Dartmouth’s campus throughout summer to prepare for their advancement into the next part of their life cycle. During these hot summer months, their focus will shift from major specialization to internship and job searches, indicating their arrival into the third stage of the Dartmouth student life cycle.

This next stage, the junior, marks the first stage of the “upperclassmen” portion of student life. Here, students will focus on honing skills that they have laid the foundation for in previous stages. The junior is often preoccupied with finding new opportunities for them to grow, often termed “gaining experience.” In this year, many students will leave the Dartmouth campus for extended periods of time, joining other communities through “jobs” and “internships.” 

The junior shows increasing independence through these endeavors, and often becomes more solitary in this stage of life. While their social networks are still strong, they no longer rely upon others for basic survival as an early freshman might, but rather to enhance and support themselves through the difficulties of a rigorous environment. Juniors also show an increased interest in mentorship: while many students begin to form caring relationships with younger students as early as the late freshmen stage, the behavior becomes most prominent in students as they reach the upperclassmen stage of life. 

The junior will begin to show increased interest in concepts likes “the future” and “stability,” and will demonstrate a growing maturity, indicating their impending transformation into the forward-thinking senior. Often this is indicated by research into taxes or sudden worries about utility bills. They may take up more responsibility and leadership roles as they continue to through the last part of this third year. As the junior portion comes to a close, the students prepare for the fourth and final stage.

This last part of the student life cycle is the senior, the culmination of years of growth. During this stage, there is an almost single-minded focus on two specific behaviors. The first is a “job,” an object of desire for most seniors. To procure one, they will spend a great deal of their time writing applications and sending emails. This is the hunt for which they have prepared all this time. They will utilize not only the skills they have developed, but also the social networks that they have built in pursuit of their elusive prey. For some students, this job is actually further education. Many will apply to “grad school” in hopes of gaining further skills and honing their abilities.

The second fixation is colloquially called “graduation,” which serves as a catch all term referring to the intense academic responsibilities of this cohort of students. They are obligated to finish a number of required courses before the end of their time as seniors, the completion of which serves as a signal of their peak maturation. In a number of cases, these requirements are supplemented further by projects of their own undertaking. Due to the rigor of their classes and the intensity of their pursuits, seniors are often some of the most active students, with an almost equal amount of diurnal and nocturnal activity. They are preparing for their final metamorphosis, and using every moment to do so.

At the end of this stage, the student, having completed their life cycle, participates in one last, notably large social event, akin to a mass metamorphosis. Several hundred seniors will gather together, and, through a ceremony, become adult alumni. They will bid each other farewell, and indulge in several celebratory behaviors seen in all species of students, such as throwing caps. Following this final act, they will disperse from the Dartmouth campus and begin the rest of their lives as fully matured Dartmouth students.