The Prospie Paradox
Thursday the 16th was a momentous day for the class of 2007. It signified the one-month anniversary of move-in day, though, like most other anniversaries, it seems to have been forgotten. One month of eating Collis pasta, doing our own laundry and sharing a bathroom with a code no one can remember. One month of having the walk from the River to the gym serve as our workout, nevermind the machines at Kresege. One month of timing how long it takes to get from our dorms to class so we can sleep as late as possible. One month of dodging Safety and Security and the Hanover Police. One month of being full-fledged Dartmouth students.
Thursday the 16th was also the day my roommate was supposed to have two prospective students but had a physics midterm on Friday. I had no midterm, so the prospies were supposed to be passed on to me. Besides the abruptness with which my Thursday night plans went from watching "Friends" to making new ones, there was something very disconcerting about being entrusted with the first impressions of two precious perspective applicants.
The reason is that I, and a number of my friends, still feel like prospies ourselves. A business would be hesitant to entrust new or desired employees to their most junior recruits. Why does our admissions office have no qualms about doing the equivalent? We have an "Older and Wiser" program to introduce freshmen to Dartmouth, and then we turn around and ask the freshmen, by association "younger and more foolish," to act as guides for a bunch of bright and idealistic specs. Somehow, this doesn't make sense.
For one, most freshmen are no more than a year older than these visiting students. Thus, there is almost no perspective separating them. They say that you mature quickly between senior year and freshman fall, but I'm not sure if the transition is quite that fast. So in this case the guide is the same age with the same outlook as the visitor. Not only does this provide little benefit, but it does not offer a view into what college is like after you do go through this fabled change and maturation.
Then there is the academic aspect. For most freshmen, the classes taken freshmen fall are, with the exception of English 5 and seminars, large introductory lecture classes. And while most of these classes are excellent, they do not fit the conventional image of the liberal arts college with small classes and close contact between students and professors. While we do have excellent versions of both, it is not always apparent from the average freshmen fall class schedule.
Freshman fall social activities can also be a skewed representation of the overall Dartmouth experience. Social life at Dartmouth tends to revolve around the Greek system, yet most freshmen have a very limited exposure to this aspect of college life. Besides discovering that frat basements smell weird, most freshmen know very little about fraternities, and even less about sororities. We therefore have very little to tell our prospies about Greek life. On a campus where fraternities and sororities are not only a point of controversy but also one of the more well-known aspects of our school, this can be dangerous.
But perhaps there is a benefit to making our prospies live dangerously with inexperienced guides. For most freshmen, the novelty of college has not yet worn off. We are still excited about Dartmouth, and eager to share that excitement with anyone who will stand still long enough to listen. We are still excited about Blitz and our cross-campus wireless access. We are still excited about staying out late and not having to worry about parents. We are still excited -- hopefully -- about taking classes because they interest us, not because the little AP label might help us get into the school of our choice.
And that is perhaps the other reason why pairing prospies with frosh is not such a bad idea. We are still close enough to the college process to remember what it is like and to sympathize. We still remember what schools we applied to and why. We have not yet reached the point where life anywhere else seems completely implausible. Thus, we have perspective not only on life at Dartmouth, but on the reasons that made us think life at Dartmouth was right for us. Maybe, then, hosting prospies is like our one-month anniversary gift to Dartmouth, in return for all it has given the class of 2007 so far.