What is it Like to Attend Dartmouth College?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Dennis is a 2012 graduate of Dartmouth College who currently tutors in Houston. He holds a degree in Government and Cognitive Science and specializes in several subjects including Chemistry tutoring, World History tutoring, and Phonics tutoring. See what he had to say about Dartmouth:

VT:  Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Dennis: Dartmouth is in Hanover, New Hampshire, which is right on the Connecticut River and Vermont border. It’s a rural town on the Appalachian Trail with about 11,000 people. The campus itself is very walkable. If you live in the dorms, the farthest academic buildings are no more than 15 minutes away. Many students also bike. Additionally, the town is very safe. In addition to the Hanover Police, Dartmouth has a blue-light system and Safety and Security force. 

VT:  How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Dennis: Dartmouth is known for its focus on undergraduate education and the quality of its teaching. Less than one percent of classes are taught by teaching assistants, and professors are available during their weekly office hours or over email. If I emailed any professor with a question about class material or future course offerings, I knew that I would have a response the next day. Professors also made sure to involve students in their research, which led to a lot of fantastic job opportunities. 

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Dennis: Dartmouth’s dorms were all built at different times, so there is a wide range of housing. First-year students live together in freshmen clusters, and each hallway has a UGA, or Undergraduate Advisor. Housing is spread out across campus. There is one main dining hall, which recently underwent a major renovation, and a few smaller ones that are part of the student meal plan. There’s also an excellent library café run by King Arthur Flour. The dorms do have common areas, which generally have study spaces/TV’s/laundry machines, but they’re not too commonly used.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Dennis: The top five majors are Economics, Psychology, Government, Biology, and English. Economics, Government, and the Life Sciences are especially strong, but one could have an excellent education in any major and work with some fantastic professors. I double majored in Government and Cognitive Science. I had always been interested in government and was excited to take classes about public policy and international relations. I really enjoyed the education and psychology classes I took early on, and I was able to combine those with Philosophy and Linguistics courses for the Cognitive Science major. Finally, Dartmouth has a fantastic study-abroad program. Due to the trimester system, students are able to study abroad multiple times during their college career, and the college runs most of its international programs. 

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Dennis: There is always some adjustment to college life and new people. One unique piece of Dartmouth culture is the First-Year Trips programs, where 96% of new students go out into the woods with upperclassmen “trip leaders” and their fellow freshman “trippees.” Students meet each other during Orientation week, and then bond as classes and clubs start. The biggest student groups include The Dartmouth (the school paper), The Outing Club, the political clubs at the Rockefeller Center, and the community service organizations at the Tucker Center.

Greek life certainly exists at Dartmouth. There are 16 fraternities, 9 sororities, and four co-ed houses. Freshmen are not allowed to join houses, and students typically “pledge” their sophomore fall. The Greek scene isn’t for everyone, but I enjoyed my time in a fraternity. It was a good way to meet a lot of people at once.       

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Dennis: Career Services is helpful. Their office is a block from campus, and it is easy to set up appointments for graduate school advising and cover letter writing sessions. Students have access to the Dartmouth alumni network, whose members are generally happy to give advice or move a student’s resume up the pile. Many reputable companies recruit on campus—Dartmouth sends many students to the top investment banks, consulting firms, hedge funds, non-profit teaching organizations, and graduate schools. That said, I’m not sure if any college student has the job of their dreams right after graduation.   

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges?  Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Dennis: Students study anywhere, but one of the most popular spots is the four-floor Baker-Berry Library. It’s generally easy to find space there, except during finals week. 

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Dennis: Hanover is absolutely a small town. Part of the school’s appeal is its relationship to the outdoors. Students can easily go hiking, rock climbing, canoeing—the school has its own mountain, and I loved the skiing lessons I took freshman winter. Students are rarely bored. They are deeply involved with their classes, research, and extracurriculars. There are a few places in the one-block downtown that students go to, but a lot of the social scene exists in off-campus houses or fraternities, which are open to anyone with a Dartmouth ID.  

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Dennis: There are roughly 4,400 undergraduate students. Although some of the introductory lecture classes have over 100 students, most of the mid-level classes are capped at 35, and many of the seminars have less than 15. In almost all of my classes, I felt that it was very easy to connect to the professor. 

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Dennis: Senior year, I wrote a thesis with the government department. It was a year-long project, and in May the students went out with their advisors to the Norwich Inn for dinner. Professor Valentino and Professor Clarke, the program heads, gave us all clocks (as they said, to represent the time spent on our papers). Professor Valentino also noted that we had moved from being “consumers of knowledge to producers of knowledge”. That comment has stuck with me since graduating, and I feel that the transition from consumer to producer is a worthy goal for all college students.

Check out Dennis’ tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.