Expectations versus Reality

by Alison Flint | 11/8/12 11:00pm

The days leading up to your first days at college can be either your most stressful or your most exhilarating. There are various reasons people choose Dartmouth, but in most cases picking a college comes from a gut feeling rather than thorough knowledge of the school. Freshman fall is a test both of the College and of yourself. We hold Dartmouth to certain expectations, and it can either fall short of these or prove better than ever imagined.

In the academic realm, the transition from senior year of high school to freshman fall at college is drastic for everyone well, maybe not everyone. Jake Gaba '16 described Dartmouth as "easy peasy" academically because he spent more time in class in high school.

Koryn Ternes '16 gave Dartmouth academics an eight out of 10 in difficulty. Her perception of the difficulty of Dartmouth academics was shaped by the "mono-like sickness" she caught partway through the term. Unlike high school, getting sick in as fast-paced an academic environment as Dartmouth made keeping up with her schoolwork extremely challenging, she said.

Socially, Gaba said he never expected to get as close as he did with his freshman floor or have so much fun spending time in his dorm in the River cluster.

"If you're with your friends, it doesn't really matter if you're in a frat or in your dorm," he said.

Hao Chang '16 said that while he knew that Dartmouth's social scene centered around Greek life, he was not expecting the dorms to be as "ragey" as he has found them to be.

"[The Choates] have weed brownies," he said. "I hear they're high all the time, and they drink vodka."

Beyond the social scene, Chang said he was excited to incorporate the rural setting of Dartmouth into his extracurricular activities, hoping to try mountain climbing and skiing for the first time. He has not found time, however, to take advantage of the hills of New Hampshire as much as he would like.

Some students, oddly enough, were surprised that they were able to even make friends at all during freshman fall. As a recruit for the women's rowing team, Mackenzie Garrity '16 was not expecting to make friends beyond her fellow teammates, but she was relieved to find an automatic group of friends in her trippees.

"Everyone just gets along, even if you have no idea who they are," she said.

Silpa Raju '16 said that Dimensions helped her bridge the gap between reality and expectation when she arrived at Dartmouth. Dimensions showed her that Dartmouth students were "smart, witty, not cocky at all," according to Raju. However, she said she was caught off guard by the number of people who were not necessarily interested in learning for learning's sake.

"At an Ivy League school, I thought that would be an overwhelming majority," Raju said. "There are definitely people here who are just good at life and are good at getting good grades, but they see college as a vector to a career."

In the end, although one's freshman fall experience may not always be completely positive, it is a time in a student's life that can critically shape one's character in unexpected ways.

"I've been forced to grow up quickly in so many ways," Raju said. "Every mental faculty has been pulled, but I've grown so much from it."

Coming to college is universally expected to change you, but up until you arrive in Hanover, no one knows exactly how it will. Your first term is subject to many predetermined notions, and particularly at Dartmouth, it is difficult to fully understand the experience until you actually live it.

"When you're a student, all of a sudden it comes together," Garrity said.