Legacy students forge their own paths

by Michaela Artavia-High | 10/26/18 2:10am

Every student’s college experience is influenced by their parents, whether they helped choose what college to attend, what major to pursue or what activities to participate in. However, when one attends the same college as one or both parents, this influence can be compounded. Sharing a parent’s alma mater can become an act of balancing their informed advice and guidance with the desire to forge one’s own path. The advice legacy students receive from their parents can reflect the College’s changes across generations, or demonstrate that, despite the decades between two students, the spirit of Dartmouth holds true.

Jessica Weil ’21, a legacy student, first visited Dartmouth at her mother’s reunion for the Class of 1991. When Weil later made the decision to attend Dartmouth, she traced it back to that first visit to the campus.

“My mom going here didn’t really affect my decision to go here except that it brought me here in the first place,” Weil said. “Just being here for [the reunion] really felt like home.”

After coming to Dartmouth, Weil’s primary focus was finding activities that she enjoyed.

“I’m trying to live my life and do what I want, and I think that doesn’t really have to do with what [my mother] did,” Weil said.

Weil says, however, that she sometimes compares her experiences at the College to her mother’s and wonders about the things that might have changed since her mother attended.

“It’s weird for me to picture her here [at] my age, especially because the buildings are different,” Weil said. “A lot of things are different.”

While attending the College, Weil’s mother wrote for The Dartmouth and sang in the Glee Club and Rockapellas. Weil followed in her mother’s footsteps by joining the Rockapellas.

“I really wanted [to join] the Rockapellas as an acapella group, not just because I went to their open rehearsal and felt really good about it, but because I recognized them,” Weil said. “I heard my mom talking about it and her time with them, and I really wanted to be in their group.”

However, Weil says she is just as influenced by what her mother didn’t do than what she did do.

“[My mother] did say that she was too scared to study abroad, so I am making an effort to go out of my way to study abroad,” Weil said. “My mom told me that her biggest college regret was not trying enough new things, so I’m trying to put myself out there more.”

Another legacy student, Alice Bennett ’20, is one of several people in her family who attended the College, including her mother. Bennett said that there wasn’t any parental pressure to attend Dartmouth, but she enjoyed her frequent visits. Ultimately, Bennett chose to attend the College because of her connection to the campus.

“I knew Dartmouth better, so I was a little bit more drawn to it,” Bennett said.

At the College, Bennett is part of the acapella group The Sings; Bennett is the first of her family to participate in acapella.

“They love [acapella], but they would never have done that,” Bennett said.

In comparison, her mother was a member of the field hockey and lacrosse teams, Bennett doesn’t participate in any sports teams.

“I think I’ve managed to lead a very different Dartmouth career than anyone in my family has,” Bennett said.

While her family doesn’t directly influence her experience at the College, Bennett believes that they do play a part in guiding her ultimate choices.

“With family members saying, ‘Oh, are you doing this like your mom did?’ it was a push to be different, but it was also nice having the familiarity of being able to ask for advice,” Bennett said.

Bennett added that despite differences in their chosen activities, she and her mother still bond over shared Dartmouth experiences.

“My mom and I both love the winter here, so a lot of the stuff she was doing in the winter here, I find myself doing,” Bennett said. “And then [I] realize, ‘Oh wait, I feel like my mom did this.’”

Bennett said that she and her mother will often bond over anecdotes of similar experiences, ranging from winter activities they both took part in to professors they both had class with.

“It’s really nice to have someone I was … close to outside of Dartmouth, and then to come in to Dartmouth and share that kind of stuff,” Bennett said.

Both of Eleanor Mitchell ’20’s parents attended the College, her mother in the Class of 1992 and her father in the Class of 1993. When choosing what college to attend, Mitchell said she looked at several before selecting Dartmouth. Mitchell knew she wanted to go to a small liberal arts school, but didn’t feel pressured to choose Dartmouth because of her parents. Mitchell said she ultimately chose to attend the College for the freedom to choose and change her academic path as an undergraduate.

“My parents didn’t pressure me at all,” Mitchell said. “I was looking around. I knew I really liked Johns Hopkins. I really liked Brown [and] Vassar. I was definitely looking for a small, liberal arts kind of experience. But I think what drew me was [that] I liked that I didn’t have to pick what to do right off the bat [at Dartmouth].”

Mitchell’s time at Dartmouth shares a few similarities with her parents’ time at the College. All three participated in the arts — her father played cello in the Symphony Orchestra, her mother pursued studio arts and Mitchell herself is involved in theater.

Despite surface similarities, however, Mitchell said that her experiences at the College are largely the result of her own choices.

“Our paths were different, and I’m sure our Dartmouth experiences have been different,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell believes that her parents’ experiences on campus gave her family new ways to bond through their shared enjoyment of the outdoors and familiar academic experiences.

“My mom and I still joke about professors that they had,” Mitchell added.

Mitchell said that both she and her parents also shared in the strong emotional connection of the College’s student body and campus.

“I think the love of this place has stayed the same,” Mitchell said. “I think everyone here is super passionate, and they’re passionate about the campus as well.”

While some of their experiences are shared across generations, Mitchell’s choices are usually free of her parents’ direct influence. Mitchell said attending the same college as her parents didn’t define her path.

“Dartmouth is very [much] what you make of it,” Mitchell said. “It’s not Dartmouth itself that makes the experience different, it’s me.”