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When I first stepped off the Dartmouth Coach in early September to begin my freshman year at Dartmouth, I thought that I was dreaming. It was the kind of afternoon that those of us familiar with northern New England’s erratic climate hope to experience once or twice a season. With golden sunshine reflecting off of the rooftops, brightly colored autumn leaves and a bright blue sky set against the silhouette of Baker-Berry Library, Dartmouth’s beauty enchanted me the second I laid eyes on campus. Heaven, I thought, could not be more wonderful than my beautiful new school.
Almost every weekend at Dartmouth, you can find me scrambling up mountains, skiing through the woods, or running and biking along quiet roads lined with pine and birch forests. Yet I have only recently begun to declare myself an “outdoorswoman,” despite having fallen head-over-heels for the out-of-doors almost immediately after joining the Dartmouth Outing Club at the end of my freshman fall. At first, my deniability was somewhat plausible — I was simply an amateur trying out a new novelty. As time wore on, though, I was forced to admit that my hours spent in the forests and on the mountaintops of the Whites were more than just a passing whim. I loved the mountains and felt most in touch with myself and those around me when outside.
To most people walking through Robinson Hall on any given day, Room 110 wouldn’t seem to be anything but ordinary. If anyone did stop by, they might notice that the small, rectangular chamber has a few lopsided old couches and a rickety wooden table accompanied by four creaking chairs and a layer of dust.
The recent college admissions scandal has focused national attention on college admissions processes at elite institutions. However, only some of these accounts considered the influence of social inequalities on students’ experiences after admission. Especially at elite colleges, social inequality between students runs deep, unfairly disadvantaging some students. These inequalities can effectively bar disadvantaged students from the same opportunities that their privileged peers enjoy.
Deviance is defined by sociologists as the violation of expected rules and behavior by a member of a group, resulting in discord between the individual displaying the deviant behavior and the social context in which they reside. Though what is considered “deviant” varies greatly based upon a group’s conventional behaviors, deviance itself generally serves as a way for communities to define and clarify the socially normative behaviors and identities expected from its members. However, an individual’s motivation for engaging in deviant behavior has been subject to a wide range of sociological theories that have attempted to explain why people choose to renounce the establishment of their communities.
A recent analysis by the American Historical Association revealed that nationwide, the number of students who pursue an undergraduate degree in history has dropped precipitously in recent years. With only 5.3 history degrees awarded per 1000 students, the discipline is shrinking rapidly with no end in sight. Though the study identified several reasons for the sharp decline, Benjamin M. Schmidt, the analysis’ author, believes that most can be condensed into reduced receptivity to the holistic philosophies of a liberal arts education. Students and parents, he contends, are now looking for a faster and more profitable return on their investment into higher education than ever before.
A sullen silence filled our kitchen in the early morning before I left the house to board our team bus for a cross-country meet in Duluth, Minnesota. A receipt for the Nov. 2017 SAT subject tests lay on the kitchen table next to my packed cross-country bag. My ears rang with shouts from the night before, disbelieving exclamations of “You want to skip your SATs to run in a cross country meet?”—angry and cutting, even in the quiet of the early morning. As time ticked away, I was reminded of my impending choice: the decision to continue as I always had, on the path that others had set for me. Or the opportunity to forge into the unknown territory of disobedience, alone. Closing my eyes, I picked up my cross-country bag and left the house without looking back.
“What high school did you go to? Where are you from? What are you involved in on campus? What classes are you taking? What are you going to major in? What are you planning on doing with your life after Dartmouth?”
As we sped down Highway 89 en route to my very first college debate tournament, the four walls of our team’s rented minivan vibrated with the beat of pop music blasting from the front of the car. My teammates shouted over the music and each other, our deafening six-man circus drawing annoyed glances from passing cars. Squeezed into the back row, the ruckus from the front and the sound of my fingers tapping anthropology notes into my computer provided the harmony to the opening chords of the Moana soundtrack, played on a loop through my earbuds for the duration of our two-hour journey.