I just started looking into Dartmouth college after they decided to eliminate need-awared admissions against int'ls (hurray!). I've done a little bit of research, and I've heard that Dartmouth's u-grad experience is at par with those at Princeton and Yale.
How strong is the Econ, psychology (social psych), and International Relations program at Dartmouth?
Also, is it possible to double major (Econ & IR) and do a minor (psych)?
Dartmouth's undergrad experience is probably superior to most universities. I'd say Princeton might conceivably be par. We're basically an LAC with some grad schools tacked on as an afterthought.
Our econ program is nothing special (basically the same as at any other top university), and I heard we used to have an awesome world-renowned psych/neuroscience prof, but he quit, so I don't know how we fare now. I'd suppose it's also par with other universities in Dartmouth's league. We don't have an IR program per se, but the government department has a lot of IR courses. I've heard complaints that they approach IR too much from an American-centric perspective, though.
Dartmouth's econ and gov programs are the most popular majors here, and are both very well developed. It's also very popular to double major or major/minor in both. The school has excellent record of placement at prestigious firms exceeding most top-tier universities. There are enormous alumni connections and you avoid the impersonal and bureaucratic nature of large universities and get a more personalized education.
For example, one of my professors told a story about how he interviewed for a position at a prestigious research university. The first thing the department head told him was "here at X we don't give a ***** about undergrads. We're a research school." I'm so glad I don't go to a school like that. All my teachers know me my name - my gov professor actually came up to me after class and tried to convince me to major in gov. You won't get that sort of attention other schools on this caliber.
In summary: That's what we mean when we say Dartmouth is like a liberal arts college. However, Dartmouth is an extremely strong school with resources, capacity, and strengths that far surpass a typical LAC.
Well, you have time to think about it. I would stress that there is no major difference in top-tier colleges' economics programmes, not at the undergraduate level. It might be cool to take a class with Greg Mankiw at Harvard, and certainly (at least from what I've heard) Dartmouth's Bruce Sacerdote is both an awesome academic and teacher, but these don't make a huge impact on your overall experience as an undergrad, even if you major in economics.
Re campus-friendliness, I have heard bad things about Yale and the crime rate in New Haven (though I suspect they are a bit overblown). The Dartmouth campus is small relative to other Ivies, but quite pretty. (At the moment, it's very muddy and wet though.) People are generally very friendly if you approach them, although if you're reclusive (like me) you won't stand out either. The social scene is very centered around frats and there are concerns it's not the healthiest thing around; I have heard some internationals complain that Dartmouth is a bit more jockish and a bit less intellectual than they expected. I personally don't like the huge emphasis on drinking, but nobody forces you to drink at all (unless you join an athletic team or sketchy student organization, in which case beware).