Hi All. I received a likely letter from Dartmouth back in February and I spent the next month learning more about the school and "falling in love" with it (if I can use a cliched phrase) before I received my official acceptance. While I really like what I've heard about Dartmouth having a relaxed culture (no cutthroat grade competition and stress in classes), an exceptional undergraduate focus, and natural beauty (I've never visited), the more I learn about Dartmouth's overall campus culture, the more I find myself confronting the things that didn't quite click in the course of that research, and the more I find myself wondering whether I'd end up unhappy if I chose to attend Dartmouth. I know that 60% of Dartmouth's eligible students are in fraternities, and I've read both the Rolling Stone piece on frat life and informed defenses of the college which acknowledge that it's imperfect, but not the den Rolling Stone makes it out to be. But I'm still honestly ambivalent about the frat-dominated social scene: to describe myself, I have a good sense of humor (I hope!) and have always tended to be relatively shy, sticking with a few close friends over large groups. I've been to maybe 4 parties in my entire life, and I don't know how to dance; moreover, as a male, I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the "raw" notions of masculinity projected by frat cultures (where it seems that "bangin_ b_tches" is somehow a measure of self-worth) and I've never been a fan of the crude. I've always been a rather painfully awkward "aloof"-"intellect" type, and while I think I'm getting better (and one of the main appeals of Dartmouth over, say, UChicago, lies in the fact that it doesn't seem to encourage awkward nerdiness), I'm worried that the gap between who I am and what Dartmouth's social life demands I become might be too great for me to bridge. I'm also unsure of how to feel about Dartmouth's sportsy atmosphere; although I like to play certain sports recreationally, I'm not sure that I could see myself as an enthusiastic member of the Dartmouth Outing Club. I really don't know if I'd find Kayaking/Hiking that enjoyable, and, frankly, I've always been a rather terrible skier - but from what I've heard, athletics form one centerpiece of how Dartmouth students bond.
Sorry for the long post, and I really hope some of the Dartmouth regulars I've seen can give me some insight here.
You write just a nice and thoughtful post. I see why you got a likely letter to Dartmouth. I am hoping that you would be just fine at Dartmouth for all the reasons that you state that you fell in love with it. My son is starting in the fall, and while he doesn't sound exactly like your twin, I do know he wouldn't want to go to a school where someone like you couldn't be very happy. He's a bit shy, but not so much anymore. He's not a big party guy, but I can see his exploring a bit in college. He's not focused on Greek life at all, but will enter Dartmouth with an open mind about frats. I honestly don't believe that with this many bright and creative students, the social life is as boorish as the Rolling Stone article makes it seem. I hope you can visit Dartmouth also, but if you can't, you need to go on a mission to talk with as many current students as you can. If you have to, call the admissions office to get contacts with whom you can discuss your worries. Ask them all for other contacts to talk to as well. Another avenue for maybe a more unbiased view would be contacting the alumni group in your area and getting them to put you in contact with their own children who might go to Dartmouth. You need to get the facts somehow so that you can make a good decision. I bet you'll be surprised at how many people are willing to talk with you honestly. I worried about my son for the same reasons you mentioned as he was deciding to apply ED. From all the info we gathered, we concluded that Dartmouth is an inclusive, wonderful place without pressure to conform. I sure hope you decide to go. It sounds like you will enrich the school. One more thing...my oldest son is a sophomore in a beer-drinking, girl-chasing fraternity at a different highly selective (wonderful wonderful) school. Even in this frat, the guys aren't PIGS! They are nice kids who like to have fun. They don't abuse women and they look out for their pledges. He said that the Rolling Stone article sounded ridiculous and that he really doubts what he read there just from a wild frat perspective. Where else are you considering?
Funny...you sound a bit like my son, especially the aloof intellectual part as well as the recreational sports. I, too, was worried about the social scene and athletic atmosphere before he attended. He didn't seem too concerned. He is currently a freshman in the River dorms(substance free housing) and has many, many similar, like-minded friends. He loves Dartmouth. He loves his classes, he loves the people, he loves all of his new friends. They do not frequent the frats but have gone on occasion ...he described them as a big, loud sweaty mass of people. Their group of dorm friends find lots of things to do together and they seem very happy. When we visited in the fall and when we moved him in, I couldn't help but notice that these new freshman were such a nice, welcoming, open and very diverse group. Somehow, Dartmouth seems to be able to pick those really special people.
Like you, he is not a big outdoorsy type, but loved his DOC hiking trip and made one of his closest friends on that trip. He also took a snow sculpting PE class over the winter which he really enjoyed and is taking another PE this term that he also loves.He signs up with friends from his dorm or classes.
I second Magnum's suggestion...Go to Dimensions next weekend if possible.
You sound a lot like my S. He is highly intellectual, introverted, with a wry sense of humor. In HS he was a 3-season athlete, but not a jock and not an outdoorsman. He had a group of close friends, but wasn't a party animal at all. Most people thought that he was born for the U of C. To the surprise of many, he selected D over the U of C after visiting both at accepted students weekends, partially because "I thought that if I went to the U of C I might become one of those people who never come out of their rooms."
moreover, as a male, I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the "raw" notions of masculinity projected by frat cultures (where it seems that "bangin_ b_tches" is somehow a measure of self-worth)
I'm happy to hear it. But I must tell you that this attitude is NOT universal at fraternities, and definitely not at D fraternities. People join fraternities at D who would never consider doing so elsewhere. Yes, there are some "hard guy" frats to which guys of that sort might tend to gravitate. But you don't have to go there, and you have many other choices, including coed houses or not pledging at all. And, since the social scene at D is very open, you can choose to socialize at fraternities where and when you feel comfortable without being a member.
Go to Dimensions, is my advice.
BTW,, I love the U of C. I've known many people who went there as either grad students or undergrads (including myself). I wouldn't take all of that "fun goes to die" stuff as gospel any more than I would believe all of the lurid tripe peddled by Rolling Stone.
Last edited by Consolation; 04-17-2012 at 11:26 AM.
All the replies and messages have been really great. To respond to some of the points that have been brought up, I will be attending Dimensions in a few days and I am also considering UChicago, Duke, Williams, Swarthmore, and Cornell. I'm trying to supplement the few visits I can make with other perspectives, and I'll definitely see if the admissions offices can do what DartDart recommended!
Location: Somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean
Great advice from all the parents. My S was unable to attend Dimensions. But he selected DC anyway. He was in substance free dorm in the Choates and loved every minute of it. He really bonded with his dormmates and his trippees and has made life-long friends. He also considered similar schools as yours but selected DC. We are glad he did because he is the happiest we have ever seen him. He has friends who went Greek, and friends that didn't, but they are all having positive experiences at DC. Have fun at Dimensions, and meet and talk to as many prospies and students as you can.
Just because school is known for something specific doesn't mean that every student adheres to that standard. I am sure you will be able to find your own crowd of friends and enjoy Dartmouth. Since you've only gone to about 4 parties make it 5 at Dartmouth lol
Last edited by collegeboundJon; 04-17-2012 at 05:21 PM.
Hey Fidelic. I'm also a senior making a very similar decision (between Dartmouth, Duke and UPenn) and I'm also ambivalent but I'm still leaning towards Dartmouth. Hopefully Dimensions should solidify my decision -- Dartmouth has a wonderful student body who truly loves going to the school, and though I don't know if I want to join a frat, I love that every frat is inclusive (in terms of the parties they throw). Still, from students that I have talked to, 40% of non-frat members means that there is still a TON of stuff to do on campus. Unlike other schools where students can go off campus on weekends, you can't really do that at Dartmouth which means there is a vibrant campus life aside from the Greek System.
Hope this helps, and maybe we'll see each other at Dimensions (though we won't know it, lol).
Make sure to visit Duke if it is high on your list. I am a grad from a ways back and I found that I really didn't gel at Duke because of the empahsis on the greek scene. There was so much social pressure from the rich kids from prep schools and from up north. I was poor, southern and from a very unsophisticated background. On the surface, it was a "bad fit" but very quickly I ended up with a small group of amazing friends and I was very active in political groups that had a lot of grad school students involved. We went back to visit/tour with my HS junior D recently and I really felt that, if anything, the frat scene and the arrogant preppy types were still very numerous...even so, I think at these universities, like D, you can always find likeminded people and being surrounded by so many talented/smart people is such a great motivator. I am very glad I went to Duke. I will never go to reunions at the school, but I donate to scholarship funds (now I can afford to). I am proud to have had such a great education and I still keep in close touch with my small group of friends (all made the first week of orientation!). Ironically, our kids are now looking at colleges and we all are of the attitude...go where you think you will get the best education...the social stuff will work itself out because with thousands of potential new friends..you will make some!
Dartmouth has a reputation as a boozy, skirt-chasing frat-boy place because, IMHO, it was male-only for so long. It is no different than any other college, except for its reputation. S2 just graduated and loved it. You get from it what you want.
Fidelic - I am a current freshman loving my experience at Dartmouth. Other than the sports/outdoors (I'm very involved in the Outing Club), you voice very similar concerns to those I had as a prospie. I am thrilled I chose Dartmouth despite those worries and can't imagine being anywhere else right now. I know this is very last minute, but please PM me if you're interested in meeting up at any point during Dimensions - my schedule is pretty free and I'd be happy to talk with you.
If you do come, I would definitely recommend living in a substance free dorm. I'm also living in River (KnowsNothing, I wonder if I know your son?!) and it was certainly the best choice for me. I'd also be happy to answer any other questions you have later and will try to post a longer response when I have more time.
I hope that you two post after you get back from Dimensions and share your thoughts and experiences.My middle son is on the Dartmouth Coach right now on his way to Boston to fly home. We haven't talked, but I've gotten some great texts from him indicating that he's already bleeding green-- as they say. It's a good thing, because he applied ED and is going to ( = Dartmouth.) no matter what! And Axel, if you need a great comparison of Duke and Dartmouth, PM me and I'll forward to you a thoughtful response I got from a current Duke student who almost went to Dartmouth. This is from a great kid I interviewed for Duke. He helped our family out by sharing his decision process when my middle son was deciding whether to apply ED to when Duke was high on his list. (He also loved U Chicago and Brown and certain things about Yale.)
I'm a Duke alum -- so is my husband. Our oldest is a sophomore at Duke. I think I can shed some light on the differences. Duke is AMAZING! My son there, who is a beer drinking frat boy, says that there are way more kids like his brother (not the fratty type at all) than like him. He loves it and has found his niche, but says that his brother would have loved it too in a different way. I hope my middle son finds at as many opportunities that I know exist at Duke. Duke has a huge endowment which is spends on student learning in and out of the classroom. They fund so much research and community service travel. Such lovely smart and engaged kids there too. I get the same feel from the kids we know. Good luck. You both are very very smart young people!
Still distilling/recovering from Dimensions. Super-eventful weekend. Initial impressions: the upperclassmen are extremely friendly, the student body is pretty non-judgmental and relaxed, the couple professors I greeted seemed like very accessible types, there're tons of entertaining groups to get engaged in/follow (acapella, improv comedy! XD), and the dorms are very nice. I dormed at UPenn over the summer, and I can say that even Choates (supposedly a "bad" dorm) definitely surpasses UPenn in terms of dorm bathrooms (which are, of course, the most important part of the dorm). The frat life does seem very prevalent, though I ran into an alternative social scene (religious organizations) which, on the one hand, truly seems to provide a separate experience if desired, but, on the other, does seem somewhat like it's necessarily "sidelined" by the frats if only because they're so core to the college, by which I mean that they're self-consciously aware of themselves as distinct from the frats, which are on everybody's mind, whereas at campuses with smaller greek lives I feel that other organizations wouldn't need to define themselves relative to the Greek System.
EDIT: I'll post more thoughts as they come, still haven't let all the impressions settle properly yet.
Last edited by Fidelic; 04-22-2012 at 03:45 PM.
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