Recently Visited: Dartmouth College

In early June I spent a very enjoyable day at Dartmouth, smallest of the Ivies with an undergraduate enrollment of 4196. Hanover, NH, where Dartmouth is located is green, leafy, small and seemingly quiet (at least when I was there, which was during summer term, and possibly uncharacteristic).

Besides the power and cachet of its Ivy League membership, Dartmouth has many progressive and attractive features.  Foremost among academic innovations is the D-Plan, which gives students incredible latitude to plan the sequencing of much of their enrollment. Built around Dartmouth’s four ten-week terms, the plan requires students to be present on campus for 12 of 16 terms, including during fall, winter, and spring terms of freshman year; summer term of sophomore year; and fall, winter, and spring terms of senior year. Apart from this, provided that requirements have been met, students are free to participate extensively in study abroad, pursue internships, and engage in other pursuits that enhance their educational experience. The Dartmouth website showcases multiple ways that students have taken advantage of the D-Plan: www.dartmouth.edu. I also really appreciated learning about the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric (so cool to address writing AND speaking in an academic enhancement center), and the Big Green (vegetable oil-powered) Bus, a student-run sustainability initiative. According to the website, the BGB is currently spreading the word in Las Vegas, of all places.

Campus buildings are lovely and impressive, especially the libraries. In the main library I sneaked away from the tour group in order to see the “Hogwarts Room” on an upper floor once I learned that it wasn’t a part of the tour. It would make an inspiring study site. I also slipped into the Rauner Special Collections Library, also not on the tour, and was impressed by its precious holdings, including the papers of Daniel Webster, an 1801 grad, and oversized first edition of Audubon’s Birds of America.

Dartmouth isn’t cheap, with a tuition charge for the class of ’14 of $40, 437, and is ultra selective as are all Ivies. Just 11.7% of applicants were accepted in the last season. In addition to its undergraduate programs in the arts & sciences and engineering, Dartmouth has noteworthy graduate programs: the Thayer School of Engineering, the Dartmouth Medical School, and the Tuck School of Business. The photo is of my Denison friend Seth, then just a week away from graduating with his MBA from Tuck, and his dog Harry.

 

RECENTLY VISITED: Introducing a Blog “Column,” If You Will

Something I particularly love about my profession of independent educational consulting is the chance to tour many schools over the course of the year in order to be able to give my clients first-hand reports and up-to-date info.  The expectation and necessity of touring and attending campus information sessions is no burden for me; it has long been true in my case, even before I became an IEC, that one of my favorite settings/places to hang in the world is a college campus.

I believe it is very important, although not absolutely essential, for students to conceptually and experientially connect with a college. To my mind, a felt connection with an institution isn’t unlike the “chemistry” of a one-on-one love match.  Social science data show that arranged marriages appear to work, and have statistically better success rates than the passionate “love matches” favored in western nations. Being a social scientist myself, but also being a somewhat typical westerner, I will advocate for both: a college that fits on paper, but also in the heart.

How many students have I known who said something like, “From the moment I set foot on campus, I knew this was the place for me”? And yet I’ve known some, like my friend Seth, who applied as a resident of northern California to Denison University, in rural Ohio (where I then worked), site unseen. Seth’s interest was based solely on the avid recommendation of a fellow employee at the video shop where he worked as a high school student. It proved to be a beautiful match-up, and by the time he graduated with his degree in philosophy, Seth was distinguished as a Denison Presidential Scholar. He followed his success at Denison by becoming a personal assistant to the playwright Tony Kushner in New York City, and eventually became an employee of the New York Times. At present he is completing his MBA at Tuck, the Dartmouth College School of Business.

I digress. Competitive colleges fall all over themselves to make an impression on prospective students. Some even suck up to folks like me, with some degree of IEC “bling” – like the lovely bag of stuff I received from Washington University-St. Louis last November. It even included an oversized pennant … how did they know I collect pennants from the colleges I visit??

Most all colleges offer regular tours and information sessions that profile key institutional factoids. Really enterprising and/or classy colleges offer additional opportunities, like the chance to sit in on a class, stay overnight in a dorm, or meet with a professor or admission staff member one-on-one.

Whatever route you choose, tour as much as possible, and make sure your visits are “official” (noted by the Admissions Office): many colleges view a campus visit as a sign of sincere interest on the part of applicants, and count a visit as a positive element of an application package.

Next Recently Visited: University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Lisa Ransdell, Ph.D., is an independent educational consultant in Denver, CO, a 27-year higher education professional, and head of Pinnacle Education Consulting, LLC: http://www.pinnacle-educ.com.