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The Dartmouth
March 2, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Lessons from Dr. Seuss

A portrait of Theodor Geisel ‘25 hangs in the Dr. Seuss Room, along with books and other paraphernalia.

Welcome, Class of 2023! In case you haven’t yet received Dartmouth paraphernalia with “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” splashed across the cover, it’s time you learned about your new favorite author. Also known as Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel graduated from Dartmouth in 1925 before he went on to write over 60 books. While in Hanover, Geisel worked for the Jack-o-Lantern, Dartmouth’s humor magazine, adopted his famous pen name and even violated prohibition laws. Though Geisel is no longer with us, his legacy lives on in the Dr. Seuss Room in Baker Library, at the Geisel School of Medicine and, of course, in the hundreds of millions of children’s books on shelves around the world. One might even say that Geisel is Dartmouth’s most successful alumnus of all time. So sit back, relax and take notes from the Doctor himself.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

When you step off the Dartmouth Coach for the first time as a student, take a moment to fluff your ego. They say that getting into an Ivy League school is the hardest part — the jury’s out on whether or not that’s true. But no matter how you got into Dartmouth, you have already shown the world (or the admissions office, at least) how smart and accomplished you are. Remind yourself that you deserve to be here. You earned it.

“Everyone has bad days, disappointing test scores, tough relationships or long, sleepless nights.”

Starting with orientation week, Dartmouth will throw opportunities at you like dodgeballs. You will want to catch as many as you can, but how can you avoid getting pummeled? Freshman fall, watch the campus events listserv for clubs and events that suit your interests or pique your curiosity. It’s okay if you gravitate toward the same activities you participated in during high school. It’s also okay if you join nothing at all and focus instead on making friends. Just remember that there is no “right” way to do Dartmouth. In time, you will find the people and organizations that help you learn, grow and have a crazy good time along the way.

“Starting with orientation week, Dartmouth will throw opportunities at you like dodgeballs.”

“And when things start to happen, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.”

That being said, it might take more than a term, or even more than a year, before you know where you fit in at Dartmouth. That’s normal. Allow yourself time to find communities that suit your personality and interests. For some people, that might not happen until Greek recruitment sophomore year. Others will be lifelong best friends with their freshman floormates. 

You might feel like you need to have the future planned out in perfect detail, but in reality, most people change their major or career plans before finishing freshman year. Don’t panic if you find yourself hating biology, despite already telling your friends and family that you were pre-med. It’s never too late to change your mind and discover what you really want to learn and do. Taking classes in different departments and trying different activities is the best way to figure it out.

“You have to be odd to be number one.”

Looking around at your new peers, you might worry that they are all smarter or more accomplished than you. So many members of the Class of 2023 were valedictorians, team captains or debate all-stars, and it’s easy to feel lost or insecure when you are surrounded by such impressive and ambitious people.

Luckily, the term “duck syndrome” exists for a reason. Your classmates might look like they leap every hurdle, no sweat — but no one at Dartmouth is perfect. Everyone has bad days, disappointing test scores, tough relationships or long, sleepless nights. Ask an upperclassman, and they will verify that not a week passes without stress or exhaustion. Don’t feel pressured to be the best in your class. Instead, focus on meeting your own goals and doing the best you can do.

“When he worked, he really worked. But when he played, he really played.” 

Dartmouth students work hard, but we play hard too. Regardless of whether you go out every “on night” (which includes Wednesdays and sometimes, Mondays) or you prefer chill nights in, you’ll soon catch on to these weekly campus mood swings. By day, Dartmouth students flood the library, research labs and study spaces. But by Friday night, people holler in the streets, tramping through snow or rain to get to frat row.

Having fun (with or without alcohol) is an essential way to de-stress and enjoy your time in Hanover. We aim for a balanced lifestyle. The options might seem limited at first, but adventure awaits beyond just Webster Avenue. Take a walk to the golf course and gaze at the stars. Set up a movie in your common room and spend a meal swipe on popcorn. Sit by the river watching car lights bounce across the water — before it freezes over. And no one will judge if you need to finish that history paper before 12 on Friday night.

“It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.” 

If you do decide to drink, watch out for yourself and your friends. Many Dartmouth students didn’t drink much before college, and people might not know their alcohol limits. Know that a “Good Sam” call is always an option — the best option if you think someone is in danger — but try not to reach that point. Before going out, take care of yourself. Drink lots of water. “Carbo-load” on Collis pasta or Foco pizza. Stay with a good group of friends, and make responsible decisions. 

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” 

The Upper Valley might be a quiet place, but it’s also beautiful, and opportunities for wholesome fun abound. When you arrive for orientation, campus will still be green, alive and bubbling with summer energy. Gather a group of friends and go to the Hanover farmers’ market on a Wednesday afternoon. Buy some kettle corn (a fan favorite), and watch locals strum banjos and children spin cartwheels across the Green. You are almost guaranteed to see cute puppies too.

On a sunny day, take a break from studying and walk through Pine Park, which you can access through the golf course. Mysterious forces (see: chainsaws) have recently thinned the forest, but the trail remains lovely, snaking through the woods and along the river. You might even spot crew teams racing upstream through the glittering water. When you pop back out onto the golf course, the vast skies and rolling hills will take your breath away.

“I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.”

Unfortunately, the perfect fall weather won’t last long. By now, someone must have warned you about New Hampshire winters. Don’t fret: Winter may seem endless and dreary, but there are many ways to keep your spirits up when the temperatures sink low. Dartmouth offers P.E. credit for learning how to ski, so take advantage of our very own skiway down the road. Upon first snowfall, get out there and battle your friends in the late-night snowball fight. On weekdays, curl up in Sanborn with free afternoon tea. It might be cold out there, but it’s always cozy inside.

“No matter what path you follow, Dartmouth will force you to grow, expand your horizons and leap out of your comfort zone.”

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

You’ll soon find that time passes strangely at Dartmouth. We measure time in 10-week chunks, punctuated by midterm season (which actually stretches from Week 3 to Week 8) and a “big weekend” each term: Homecoming in the fall, then Winter Carnival and Green Key in winter and spring. After your first term, you will settle into the stop-and-start rhythm of our short academic terms, and the weeks will start to fly by. 

“Just tell yourself, Duckie, you’re real quite lucky.” 

You should cherish the time you have at Dartmouth, before it’s too late. It might feel weird to talk about endings before you’ve begun, but four years pass in the blink of an eye. No matter what path you follow, Dartmouth will force you to grow, expand your horizons and leap out of your comfort zone. Cherish every minute here — even during the hard times. The lonely nights. The study sessions that make you want to scream. These are just growing pains, and you will emerge stronger and wiser after you’ve made it to the other side.

Every day, take a moment to appreciate how lucky you are to live and learn at Dartmouth. This school provides opportunities that you’ve probably never dreamed of — from studying linguistics in New Zealand to hiking 50 miles non-stop across New England mountains. Squeeze out every drop of experience, challenge and joy that Dartmouth has to offer, and you won’t have a single regret.

This article is a part of the 2019 Freshman Issue.