One Year Later: A look back on the decision to come to Dartmouth

With the college commitment deadline almost upon us, the Class of 2025 reflects on why they chose Dartmouth and how they feel about their choice one year into college.

by Parker O'Hara | 4/27/22 2:10am

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by Kalyn Dawes / The Dartmouth

Though the stress and excitement of Ivy Day, when many Ivy League colleges release admissions decisions, has passed, a difficult decision awaits the 1,207 students admitted to Dartmouth for the Class of 2026. As opposed to students admitted via early decision in December, students admitted on Ivy Day are not bound to accept their decision. Rather, they have the gift — or burden — of being able to choose where they will enroll.

From the perspective of a high school senior, this decision can feel nearly impossible. College is not just a place where students will spend the next four years — it’s also a pivotal time with the potential to change the rest of their lives. Especially during the college admissions process, the prevailing narrative is that choosing correctly means the best four years of your life followed by success and fulfillment, and it seems like picking the wrong school could set your life trajectory permanently off track. In reality, college is not the only pivotal moment in people’s lives, but it is a big one, and the college decision isn’t one most students make lightly.

Over the past few weeks, hoards of prospective ’26s have swarmed to campus in an attempt to find last-minute insight to bring clarity to their college decision. Directed by student tour guides  who are employed by the Admissions Office, these groups of anxious-looking high school seniors arrive at Dartmouth hoping to gain a sense of what their life might look like at the College on the hill. 

For ’25s admitted during the regular decision cycle last year, the presence of prospective ’26s is a reminder of that difficult process, which has inspired some of them to reflect on why they chose Dartmouth and how it’s living up to their expectations nearly one year later. Ultimately, each of the ’25s I spoke with saw something in Dartmouth that distinguished it enough to sway their decision.

For both Logan Dailey ’25 and Jamison Poate ’25, visiting campus was instrumental in making their decision. Just as prospective ’26s are doing now, visiting gave them an opportunity to experience student life and campus culture from a more authentic perspective.

“When I came and visited, everyone was super nice,” Dailey said. “Some girl gave me an unofficial tour even though we had just met, which was dope. ​​She was super welcoming and showed a lot of passion for the school which was one thing that influenced me to choose [Dartmouth].”

Poate recounted a similar experience.

“When I visited, everyone was out on the Green and they were all really nice,” Poate said. “It just looked like a really fun place to be.”

For Gracie Kim ’25 and Kevin Cao ’25, Dartmouth’s unique identity as the only liberal arts college in the Ivy League was an appealing characteristic. 

“I felt that in a lot of other universities a lot of opportunities would only go to graduate students,” Cao said. “Here, we specifically had the most resources and there was best teaching around solely for undergraduates.”

Particularly for Kim, who “wasn’t sure what [she] wanted to do at first,” the prospect of academic exploration was enticing.

“I am able to explore and be educated in a whole host of different areas and fields,” Kim said. “For me specifically, I’m currently very interested in music, economics and computer science, and I feel that Dartmouth allows me to pursue all three.” 

One of Dartmouth’s most unique qualities — the D-Plan — was the final deciding factor for Sam Roth Gordon ’25. 

The distinct academic schedule, Roth Gordon explained, “allowed for taking more classes in a wide range of topics without having to worry as much about major requirements, as well as the ability to take multiple off or study abroad terms.”

Now, after surviving the newness of freshmen fall, the frigidness of winter term and the first few exciting weeks of their final term as freshmen, ’25s reflected on how Dartmouth has lived up to their expectations. Have the factors that made them choose Dartmouth — the liberal arts education, the undergraduate focus, the D-Plan and the tight-knit community — played out in the way they had hoped?

Given the various ways Dartmouth has differed from their expectations, students reflected on their decision to attend with sometimes mixed feelings. Will Ermath ’25 said his experience has been different than expected, but not necessarily because of the College. Rather, he echoed a familiar sentiment for many Dartmouth students.

“I thought I would have more things figured out — like what I am going to major in,” Ermath said. “Now I realize that is unrealistic, and I still need time to figure out what I like to do and what I want to study.” 

Dartmouth’s relatively remote location in the New Hampshire woods can be frightening for prospective students. Aran Flaherty ’25 admitted she shared this doubt, but was pleasantly surprised by the wide array of activities she has found.

“I was expecting to be a little bored in the woods,” Flaherty said. “I knew I’d have fun and have a good time, but I was a little concerned about what do [students] do here? But there’s obviously so, so much to do.”

Of course, student satisfaction is variable, and how much someone likes Dartmouth depends on when you ask. Perhaps the loneliness of the first few days or the frequent dips below zero degrees pushed this answer temporarily toward the negative. Maybe the excitement of the Homecoming bonfire or leisurely days spent on the Green confirmed they made the right decision. 

Denise Lee ’25 and Kim both seemed to have no regrets about their decision, except the mouse problem in the River Cluster dorms and disappointing Foco dining options.

Flaherty has only ever felt regret when realizing that Dartmouth’s sports culture left much to be desired compared to other schools, although this was not enough of a negative to make her regret her decision. As a high school senior, she was deciding between Notre Dame and Dartmouth.

“The only time I ever have regretted my decision was when I went to our football game. Notre Dame has amazing football game days … everything,” Flaherty said. “I got over that obviously, because we offer so much to other stuff.”

For both Poate and Grant Foley ’25, the people have made the place. 

“I wasn’t expecting to find as good of friends as I did so quickly, but I think everyone here is very outgoing and friendly,” Poate said. “From the first day on campus, I really noticed that. I was originally thinking it was going [to] be a school that didn't foster [good friendships] because of its competitive academic stature, but it does.”

When measured against the metric of friendship, Dartmouth didn’t disappoint.

“A large part of the Dartmouth pitch was how wonderful the other students and the community are, and I have found that to truly be the best part,” Foley said. “When winter gets difficult or when life here becomes overwhelming, friends continue to be the highlight.”

Correction appended (Apr. 27, 9:42 a.m.): A previous version of this article included incorrect pronouns for Flaherty, who uses she/her pronouns. The article has been updated. 

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