Twins at Dartmouth say it's sometimes nice to see double
Most students view college as an opportunity to establish a new identity and start their whole life over after four claustrophobic years in high school.
For twins, the situation is usually worse as a teenager. Most twins go through high school being mistaken for one another and one would think they would relish the chance to go to college and establish a new, separate identity.
But every year, at least two or three sets of twins enroll at Dartmouth together. In fact, most Dartmouth students with a twin brother or twin sister say they could not imagine life at the College without their twin.
Coming to Dartmouth together
Most twins said Dartmouth is a large enough school that they could both enroll at the College yet still maintain separate lives.
"This campus is big enough that you aren't constantly reminded of being a twin, as you can be in high school," said Andrew Obenshain '96, who came to Dartmouth with his identical twin brother, Greg '96.
"We see each other about five times a week now," Andrew said. "That's because we have two classes together."
Greg Obenshain agreed with his brother, saying it is easy to establish an individual identity, even at Dartmouth.
"We're completely independent. It wouldn't matter if we were together or not," Greg said. "We have our own identities, especially in college."
Della Bennett '96, who enrolled with her identical twin sister, Laura '96, echoed the Obenshains' sentiments.
"Dartmouth provides a large environment where it is easy to find your own space," Della Bennett said.
David Reymann '96, who is joined on the Dartmouth debate team by his twin brother Jonathan '96, said establishing individual identities is more difficult in high school.
"For twins in general, I think it's more of a problem during high school," David Reymann said. "Hopefully, they would have developed their individual identities by college."
Applying as a twin
According to Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Karl Furstenberg, the College has no specific policy for considering applications by twins.
"All cases, whether it is the case of twins or not, are reviewed individually," Furstenberg said. "With twins, it is difficult because they often have the same credentials and are actually quite similar."
"When applications from twins come in, we make a note of that, but we wouldn't go through them together," he continued. "We treat them individually. That is the only fair thing to do."
Applying with one's twin sibling could be stressful and cause disharmony among the two. But most of the twins said they handled the decisions individually and applied for different reasons.
"Our mom wouldn't let us see each other's mail," Laura Bennett said. "So we made our decisions separately. It turned out that both of us wanted to come to Dartmouth."
Kelly Hannigan '97, who came to Dartmouth with her twin sister Elizabeth '97, said her family had a history of twins at the College.
"My father and his twin brother are part of the class of '71 at Dartmouth and so we had family who came to Dartmouth," Kelly Hannigan said.
"Before college, we had never known a set of twins who hadn't gone to college together," Kelly said. "We chose a school where we would be happy at and it turned out that both of us liked Dartmouth."
Jonathan Lee '99, who enrolled with his fraternal twin Douglas '99, said both he and his brother chose to apply because they both liked Dartmouth.
"It wasn't a matter of staying together that we both came to Dartmouth, we just both really loved Dartmouth," Jonathan Lee said.
"We were really close in high school and we did everything together," Jonathan continued. "There was friendly competition that brought out the best in each of us."
"One concern during the admissions process was that it would have been hard if either one of us were turned down," he said.
Furstenberg said the College does not automatically accept all sets of twins and sometimes accepts one but not the other.
"What happens in the cases where one is accepted and the other is not is because the two applicants are quite different. It is obvious that one is stronger than the other," he said.
According to Furstenberg, only about four or five sets of twins apply to Dartmouth each year. If both twins are accepted, the twins themselves often decide to attend different schools, he said.
Life at Dartmouth
Most of the twins interviewed said it is not difficult to have a life separate from that of the other twin.
"Our mom always told us, 'Do what you want to do. Don't let what your sister is doing influence you,' " Laura Bennett said.
Both Laura and Della Bennett participate in many of the same activities. Both are on the equestrian team and are members of the Student Assembly.
However, they have separate activities as well. They are part of different sororities and Della is an undergraduate advisor while Laura is a teaching assistant for biology classes.
"The best thing about being twins here at Dartmouth is that you have your best friend with you," Laura said. "Another thing is that you meet twice as many people; there are always people that she knows that I don't know."
Like the Bennetts, Kelly and Liza Hannigan are in separate sororities and are involved in different activities. Liza manages the women's lacrosse and field hockey teams. Kelly plays on the women's lacrosse team.
The Obenshains said while they have the same interests, they do different activities at Dartmouth.
"We do have the same interests because we grew up together," Andrew Obenshain said.
Greg added, "We tend to think we're more alike than other people think. I could easily have done what he is doing."
Andrew plays rugby, is a biology major and French minor and is a brother at Alpha Delta fraternity. Greg rows heavyweight crew, is a history major and is member of Amarna undergraduate society.
When asked about sibling rivalry, Andrew responds, "We compete against each other more to joke around. I could care less if he does better than me or not."
An instant friend
"I love having a best friend here at school. During freshman year, I'd always have a dinner date," Kelly Hannigan said.
Other twins agree: a twin on campus equals an interest best friend or dinner company.
"We make time to get together for lunch and to talk every day. I really like having my brother on campus. Even kids who aren't twins miss their siblings a lot. It's comforting to know that he's around," Jonathan Lee said.
"It's nice having family around. It's not a problem being together. We got along well when we roomed in a quad with four singles during our sophomore summer," David Reymann said.
On a campus as small as Dartmouth, for twins, the obvious problem arises of mistaken identity.
"We don't make it a point to tell others that we have a twin on campus. We like to leave it as a surprise when we meet new people," said Amie Harper '98, who came to Dartmouth with her twin brother Talmaldge '98.
"We were together so much during freshman year that people thought that we were going out," Amie said. "Now I make it a point to say that I'm looking for my brother, and then people would ask, 'Oh, you have a brother here?' and my brother would do the same."
Jonathan Lee said people often mistake him for his brother and vice versa, so he tries to prepare his friends for this occurrence.
"I try to go out of the way to tell people that I have a twin brother so they won't get confused when they see him and he gives them a cold shoulder," he said.
The Bennetts said they are frequently the victims of mistaken identity.
"Della has short bangs that she is growing out, but we don't think we look alike at all," Laura Bennett said.
"It doesn't annoy me when people confuse us. We want people to know who they are talking to," Laura said.
"We prefer people to try to tell us apart because we are individuals. It is always better than labeling us as 'the twins'," she added.
"We wanted everyone to know at first. We don't want people to think we're not being friendly," Laura said. "We don't like to try to confuse people. We don't feel that we look enough alike. We're not comfortable impersonating each other."
And while Greg Obenshain said "People who've never seen us together don't confuse us," he said sometimes he and his brother confuse each other.
"In the Hall of Mirrors, sometimes I think I see him so I'd want to kick the mirror and say 'Hey!' but then I realize that it's actually my own reflection," Greg said.
Most twins said since they came to Dartmouth with their twin, it is hard to imagine life without him or her, even if the twin is on a foreign study program.
"With Jonathan in Scotland this term, this will be the first time he and I have been separated so long," said David Reymann.
"It's hard to communicate with him because of the time difference. It's weird. Sometimes I expect him to be here, but he's not," he said.
"My twin, Liza [Elizabeth], is away on an Foreign Studies Program to Spain this term. I'm very excited to see her when she gets back in December," said Kelly Hannigan.
Laura Bennett said she has almost never been away from her sister.
"The longest we've been apart was for two to three weeks when I went to summer camp," Laura said. "There I introduced myself by saying, 'Hi, I'm Laura Bennett. I'm an identical twin,' even though Della wasn't there with me. Now I just say, 'I'm Laura Bennett.' "
Still, Laura said it is important for her and her sister to have space.
"We've never roomed together," Laura said. "We've always had separate rooms. It gives us our own space."
"Since we have our own rooms, sometimes we would get to class and see that we are wearing the same clothes. One of us would tell the other to go home and change," Laura added.