Ten Months of Dartmouth Immersion...

by Hillary Wool | 8/10/07 3:53am

Actually, if I recall correctly, I left my AP Physics class C (Oh, the absurd things I did to get into this school...) 10 minutes early, to check my application status online at precisely 3:00 p.m. My facial expression and the chatter of my Ivy-aspiring classmates that followed my return gave away that I hadn't actually dissapeared to the bathroom like I'd said. (My parents actually opened the real letter before I arrived home that day.)

From the moment I saw the word "Congratulations" on that computer screen until my freshman fall, I embraced every cheesy opportunity to discover more about Dartmouth and meet the classmates with whom I'd spend my next four years.

Looking back on those months, I can't help but laugh at how my experiences with other accepted Dartmouth freshmen epitomized everything I would now make fun of about the '11s.

Most of the first college classmates I met were from surrounding towns and knew friends of mine through various nerd endeavors.

"You have to meet Lee! He's in youth orchestra with me and worked at my biochemistry lab with me all last summer," one girl informed me of a fellow early admit she knew.

And as the science fair season got into swing on Long Island, I met a handful of new classmates -- and got my first glimpse of how Dartmouth students try to cover up their inner nerdiness with the pretense of being sweet.

At Round I of the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair for example, I met one fellow '09 who said, "Yeah, I don't give a shit about this project. I didn't do anything, this is so stupid."

A note of background: most of these projects (presumably including this kid's) are the result of summer-long, or even yearlong research efforts at university laboratories. And to think that two years later, I'm practically failing Astro 3.

As senior year of high school came to a close and summer got underway, I recall a series of events for '09s in neighboring towns, both organized by the Dartmouth Club of Long Island and by individual students.

These functions were at once exciting and awkward, involving herds of dorks pretending that they are cooler than they actually are, interspersing self-calls about how much they drank in high school with shameless references to their SAT scores and other accolades.

Some of these things reminded me of first grade birthday parties, back when you invited the whole class and boys and girls thought each other had cooties. At one particular pool party, arranged by the DCLI, I remember three distinctly separate social groups. There were the boys running around diving into the pool, showing off their masculinity long before they would join fraternities, while the group of girls looked on, seated in a circle of plastic chairs as they picked at fruit salad and made small talk. There was one other click -- the boys who were less comfortable with their topless bods, and perhaps uncomfortable talking to girls in general. Meanwhile, a few '08 volunteers tried to be social mediators, running around trying to facilitate contrived conversations. (I think that's an oxymoron.)

Meanwhile, on the technological front, a MySpace group titled "Dartmouth 2009" popped up, serving as an unofficial forum for enlightened commentary from anxious classmates. Oh, it was so convenient that the "Web 2.0" movement entered our lives as we prepared to enter college.

Needing to do some digging around MySpace to refresh my memory on the particulars of my pre-matriculation internet communications, I logged onto MySpace for the first time in over two years. The mere existence of my account is a relic from a time when my brother, then in his Screamo phase, convinced me that I would be lame if I didn't get one senior year of high school. (My profile is so un-updated that the photo is one of me with my high school boyfriend, who I broke up with freshman fall.)

Here's one of the messaages I found in my inbox:

Apr 22, 2005 12:14 PM:

Hillary!! You are such a sweetie and I had an awesome time with you at Dimensions. We should def hang out sometime. So sad that you couldn't stay longer... Leo and I learned how to Pong it up! Mwa hun

And yes, I was tooly enough to make a one-day appearance at Dimensions even though, as an early admitted student I wasn't technically invited. (I swear it was just because my friend was going and had room in his car.)

Merely a couple of months after Dimensions, one particular message on the MySpace bulletin board signaled a turning point in our pre-matriculation careers:

Topic: Blitz is up

Posted: Jun 23, 2005 8:35 AM

well, this is pretty much self explanatory. if you wanna log in its firstname.middle initial.lastname for the user name, and the pass word is the last 8 digits of your ssn

Just hours later, another girl wrote this:

Posted: Jun 23, 2005 1:46 PM

omg i am sooo excited to blitz and facebook!

Thanks to the communicative ease of Facebook.com, our newfound electronic toy allowed for the planning of yet another hallmark of pre-matriculation tooly-ness: The infamous Cape Cod trip. Organized by a few overzealous '09s, this mini-vacation, which took place in August, was an excuse to ditch our senior summer jobs for a week of uninhibited substance abuse in a rental house down the street from the rocky New England coast. We showered outside -- clothing optional. It was a commune of sorts; we had a money jar that people withdrew from to fund dinners crafted from on-sale slabs of meat marinated in supermarket brand mustard.

I remember telling my boss at the Country Club pro-shop that I would be absent from work due to a pre-orientation freshman trip. It was apparently convincing enough, and before I knew it, I was tanning on a beach with a bunch of my new classmates, many of whom I was meeting for the first time.

I recall at one point, sitting around in the living room of our rental home with a group that couldn't have been more eclectic, thinking to myself, "Um, two months from now, we're all going to be like, 'There was such a random group of people on that trip.'"

And I couldn't have been more correct, although I do admit it was one of the most fun weeks of my life.

Not long after the trip -- equipped with blitz, Dartmouth gear given from friends and family and bumper stickers on our beat-up hand-me-down senior year of high school cars -- we were ready to officially begin our Dartmouth careers.

After nearly a year of anticipation, DOC Trips and First-Year Orientation finally arrived -- sheer and utter sweetness heralding our entrance to the College.

Orientation week was everything an 18-year old kid could ever dream of, minus waking up at 8 a.m. to take a Spanish placement exam while hungover. It was seven days of nonstop partying, making new friends, and just hanging out. No classes, and more importantly, no parents.

I watched my male classmates embrace their newfound love of pong, as they suppressed Beirut urges. They made frequent rage-calls like, "This is nothing compared to the sweet parties we threw in high school" asserting their sweetness like true Dartmouth students. Not yet familiar with the term "self-call," we were powerless in articulately criticizing our peers.

In the weeks -- and well, entire year that followed, we collectively realized our naivete and tooly-ness, stopped being quite so lame and toned the fuck down. (Most of us at least.)

Looking back on the beginnings, it's easy to laugh at ourselves and poke fun of the ridiculous attitudes and behaviors that were so pervasive. However, obscured beneath the self-calls and incessant premature Facebook-ing lies a shred of value in our early College experiences. These naive moments were, after all, the seeds of our Dartmouth experience.

Consider your strongest friendships, your most valued pursuits at Dartmouth, and perhaps even your romantic relationship. As silly as it all was, some of my relationships stemming from pre-college gatherings developed into the most powerful friendships I've ever had. I can trace my decisions to join certain organizations and take certain courses to conversations I had with upperclassmen during Orientation week and even prior. Some of these endeavors would become pivotal to my Dartmouth experience.

As we move along in our Dartmouth careers, we should take a moment and reflect on what it felt like to be a clueless freshman. We're on our way to being those upperclassmen we once looked up to without questioning -- and though we may make fun of shmobs of '11s just weeks from now, we should remember that we were them not so long ago.