Dear ’24s: Freshmen Reflect, in Their Own Words, on Fall Term
The following piece is a letter composed of responses to an anonymous survey shared with the Class of 2024, which asked freshmen to reflect on their first term at Dartmouth in a message to their pre-fall selves. While responses have been edited for clarity, the content comes directly from the freshman class. I hope that by reading this letter, ’24s, upperclassmen and the rest of the Dartmouth community may gain a better understanding of how freshmen experienced their unconventional first term.
Dear Class of 2024,
These 10 weeks have flown by much quicker than I expected. I was nervous to be on campus, but I'm now very grateful that I came. I’m going to miss being here.
The experience certainly wasn't what I originally expected. Given the circumstances, some things were difficult.
In classes, for example, it’s become hard to stay motivated when everything is online. It makes it feel like a very low-stakes game, which is not the reality. It was challenging to adjust to the academic load and to online schooling at once.
The COVID-19 restrictions have been a lot stricter than I anticipated. I definitely came in much more satisfied with the guidelines than I am now. I am grateful that we are on campus, but the guidelines were inconsistent and unreasonable. The zero-tolerance COVID-19 policies scared most students into not being social. The whole point of college is to educate yourself and build a network of friends, and it’s hard to do that when you’re shut in your room.
It was especially difficult to make connections with people only for them to get sent home. I’d spend time worrying about whether I would be sent home next for trying to socialize in a small group on a weekend. Over time, I sadly saw classmates’ Zoom backgrounds change from their dorm rooms to their homes. The number of students sent home did not make sense to me, considering there were very few student cases on campus this term.
Due to the unusual nature of this term, I feel like I haven't been a part of any meaningful Dartmouth traditions. I wish we could have had the bonfire. I’m looking forward to experiencing Dartmouth traditions like Homecoming, Winter Carnival and Green Key in the future.
Despite these challenges, some parts of the term were better than I ever could have imagined.
Dartmouth is an amazing school and has exceeded my expectations in some of my Zoom classes. Academics have been fantastic. The professors are great, and the classes are so engaging even when online. Some of my smaller classes have been the best experiences of my term. My professors do a great job of including everyone in group discussions and offer incredible guidance. I even had one in-person class, which was always really fun.
The activities I’ve taken part in here have been wonderful. I’ve had a lot of fun in the marching band as well as club baseball. I went on a lot of trips with DOC sub-clubs, and those were always a good time. I loved being outside, especially when there was good weather. Later on in the term, I was just as excited to see my first snow! I wish I had hiked more, but I’m looking forward to doing that in the future.
I love the students here even more than I thought I would. They are warm, welcoming, lively, quirky and fun to be around. Getting to know them has been the best part of Dartmouth. On a daily basis, I am amazed at how friendly and open people are here. You can sit next to anyone, and if you go about it right, start up a conversation and possibly a new friendship. Plus, the friends I’ve made in my hall mean everything to me. I’m glad to have met such an amazing group of people. We grab dinner together almost every night, and they were 100% the highlight of my term.
While I was worried at first that there would be a great deal of competitiveness among students, fortunately, I've found the exact opposite to be true. Nearly every person I've engaged with or sought help from this term — ranging from deans to professors to classmates and even upperclassmen — has been extremely helpful and welcoming, which definitely makes me feel much more confident and excited about my decision to spend the next four years at Dartmouth.
The experience will not be what you expect, but take it all in: every friendship, every Foco cookie and every “first” you encounter. The Dartmouth community is like no other.
The Class of 2024