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Dartmouth vs Middlebury vs Bowdoin

jujunette01jujunette01 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
I’m very interested in Dartmouth, middlebury and Bowdoin (as well as Rice and Tufts) and I was just wondering some of the big differences as well as overall opinions. I prefer Dartmouth’s size (<2000 seems small). I know I don’t want an urban setting, but I don’t mind between rural and suburban.

Another factor that’s holding me back is the
lack of engineering at Midd and Bowdoin. I’m
Not sure that I want to do engineering but I would like to explore it and have it as an option.

My major concern about Dartmouth is the social life. I don’t mind frat parties but it seems like they really dominate the social scene. I wouldn’t say I’m a crazy party person, or super into Greek life.

Lastly, I’m a current junior from PA with a 5.0 GPA and several APs but my SAT is only at a 1410 (should go up soon though).

Another recommendations in terms of schools or advice on getting in? Right now I’m thinking Dartmouth early but I’ll see.
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Replies to: Dartmouth vs Middlebury vs Bowdoin

  • circuitridercircuitrider Registered User Posts: 2,459 Senior Member
    Generally speaking, engineering isn't something you can just explore like an ordinary liberal art or science; you pretty much have to decide going in whether you are going to pursue a graduate degree or not. Graduate school as an option gives you some breathing space to perhaps look at engineering from an interdisciplinary approach or perhaps an introductory course or two. Otherwise, freshman year will be devoted to nailing down prerequisites.

    There's a lot to recommend about Dartmouth other than engineering; it's the most undergraduate focused member of the Ivy League. It's also the most polarized politically. Some people will call it "balanced", or "diverse" politically, but, the truth is that the college's alumni have been at war with each other for much of the past forty years.

    Why and how other New England colleges have avoided this kind conflict would take up too much time to recount now, but, Wesleyan. Amherst, Bowdoin and Williams, by comparison, are fairly liberal places that have managed to survive co-education (Middlebury has been co-ed for over a hundred years), affirmative action, gay rights - most of the culture wars of the 80s, 90s and naughts - without a lot of internal conflict. Just my observation.
  • TTdd16TTdd16 Registered User Posts: 145 Junior Member
    @circuitrider, what you say is true regarding Dartmouth and polarization on campus/national issues, but the flip side of it is a sense of community that few colleges can match and that override that polarization (if that makes sense). It's been many years since I graduated, and we have some very vocal members of our class on each extreme of the political spectrum. But the bonds as a class and among individuals transcend those differences in a way I don't see happening many other places. How many other colleges have almost half of their class, decades after graduating, participate in an active Facebook class group? How many others celebrate a certain day of the year ('82 Day) with photos and life updates built around a theme--and have literally hundreds of alums participate? So, yes, we all get riled up over various issues and have ever since I attended. But it generally doesn't affect individual relationships or our love for the college.

    As for the social life, there are plenty of students who don't drink or who do so only lightly, and plenty who don't participate in Greek life. And do understand that Greek life isn't just the Animal House stereotype (though that's there, of course, as it is at many colleges) There are coed frats and others that are very different from the typical image you might have. And unlike many colleges, parties are usually open to all, making them much less elitist than at certain other Ivies.
  • Sam-I-AmSam-I-Am Registered User Posts: 534 Member
    Midd has a program with Dartmouth for engineering. You do 2 years at Midd taking your foundational courses like math, physics, chem and bio. Then you study engineering for year at Dartmouth (while many of your Midd classmates are overseas doing junior year abroad). Then you return to Midd for your fourth year and graduate with your Midd classmates with a B.A. Then you return to Dartmouth in year 5 to finish your bachelors in engineering. Refer to both schools' websites for more details. The straight Dartmouth engineering program is pretty much 5 years (4.5) as well. Take your pick.
  • citivascitivas Registered User Posts: 487 Member
    ^^^ Bowdoin has the same program with Dartmouth. They let you do it two ways -- 3:2 or 2:1:1:1 (the latter as described above). They also have programs with Columbia and a few others. I suspect the same is true of Midd.
  • CorbettCorbett Registered User Posts: 2,714 Senior Member
    edited December 6
    Another factor that’s holding me back is the lack of engineering at Midd and Bowdoin. I’m
    Not sure that I want to do engineering but I would like to explore it and have it as an option.
    It is not really possible to "explore" engineering as part of a liberal arts curriculum, unless you are prepared to commit to five years of college, rather than four. The problem is that a traditional, ABET-accredited engineering BS is a professional degree with extensive and specific requirements for science, math, and engineering coursework. These requirements are much more demanding and inflexible than the typical requirements for a BA in a liberal arts discipline, like English, history, or math.

    So if you want to finish a traditional engineering BS in four years, you pretty much have to commit to the engineering program from Day One. This is not really consistent with the LAC ideal of intellectual exploration, which is why few LACs offer engineering. LACs commonly offer 3-2 or 2-1-1-1 programs in engineering, usually in conjunction with Dartmouth or Columbia, but these 5-year programs are rarely utilized in practice.

    Dartmouth (and some other schools) offer a non-traditional, non-ABET-accredited BA in engineering that has less demanding coursework requirements, similar to those of other liberal arts BA programs. The problem here is that a non-ABET BA does not have the same value to engineering employers as the traditional ABET BS (in other words, it's not considered a "real" engineering degree). Dartmouth will allow you to "upgrade" the BA to an ABET BS -- but this normally takes a fifth year of study.
    My major concern about Dartmouth is the social life. I don’t mind frat parties but it seems like they really dominate the social scene. I wouldn’t say I’m a crazy party person, or super into Greek life.
    If you are interested in "a school like Dartmouth, only without Greek life", then Midd and Bowdoin would certainly be strong options, but my top pick would be Williams.
  • jujunette01jujunette01 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    I’ve looked into Williams but it has seemed very sporty/preppy (more so then the others discussed here). I horseback ride, which is something I’d be looking to continue in college. Dartmouth actually has a varsity equestrian team, but I’m not sure if that’s something I’d want to do.
  • jujunette01jujunette01 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    Ive looked into a BA in some type of engineering (biomedical?) but would you say it’s a “waste”? 5 years of intense math and science seems like a little much to me... I also like Dartmouth’s quantitative social science major, as well as just the fact they offer so many more.
    I’m also infeeested in languages (esp Roman- I speak french fluently and Spanish almost fluently) and I would like to study Portuguese or possibly Romanian (since my dad is from there). Dartmouth is the only of these schools that offers even Portuguese.
  • jujunette01jujunette01 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    These 3-2. 4-1-1-1 programs seems very beneficial, but why not just go to the engineering school in the first place? It seems like it’s easier and more convinient to not have to make a transition senior year/ switch back and forth so many times.
  • jujunette01jujunette01 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    There has be to a reason why Dartmouth has one of the strongest alumni networks (even compared to the other Ivy’s) other than the unparalleled academics.

    I wouldn’t consider myself politically active, but I’m definitely more on the liberal side of the spectrum. Some schools like Wesleyan seem to be rather liberal and politically active in comparison to what I’d be looking for in particular.
  • patattypatatty Registered User Posts: 65 Junior Member
    Very few people do the 3-2 or 3-1-1-1 programs. If you think you might want engineering, you should look at schools that offer a 4 year engineering degree. Why pay for 5 years to get what you can do in 4 at other schools (or in 5 and graduate with a masters)? You mentioned Rice in your first post - that looks like it meets all of your requirements - strong engineering, no fraternities, nice size. Have you done a lot of college visits? If so, I would suggest visiting some schools, particularly those with engineering programs, and talk to the students about their programs and lifestyles. My daughter was undecided until late junior year, when after an amazing tour with an engineer, she decided that was exactly what she wanted. She then shifted her focus to large engineering programs because those programs at the smaller LACs that offered engineering were way less exciting to her. As an example, we visited Lafayette after seeing Cornell and Northwestern. After going through the engineering school on the tour, my D said "That's it? That's the whole engineering school? Where is all the cool stuff?" She is now a very happy MechE major at Cornell. I'm going through the same thing with my son, who is a junior now. We just came home from a visit to University of Michigan, which had the most impressive engineering facilities that I have seen so far. His jaw was practically on the floor the whole time. I have a feeling that anything we see from now on will pale in comparison.
    Even if you are undecided, you can start as an engineer and switch out pretty easily at most schools. It is tougher to switch in, because the engineering curriculum is set right from the beginning. My D has a friend that started as a biology major and decided halfway through the semester to switch to biomedical engineering. Even though he made the switch early on, missing that first semester in engineering put him behind in math and an engineering class, which he will have to make up at some point, such as in the summer.
  • circuitridercircuitrider Registered User Posts: 2,459 Senior Member
    @jujunette01 wrote:
    There has be to a reason why Dartmouth has one of the strongest alumni networks (even compared to the other Ivy’s) other than the unparalleled academics.

    It's no mystery. Go to any northern New England NESCAC discussion forum and you will see the same arguments: four years at a bucolic, relatively isolated, outdoorsy campus makes for strange bedfellows. The undergraduate alumni giving rates at these places are almost always >50%. It is also worth mentioning that Dartmouth, along with Princeton, are perhaps the two most tradition-bound Ivies which can be a lot of fun, that is, until they bump up against much needed change. They either move glacially, as in the case of Princeton, or provoke insurgent reactions, as was the case at Dartmouth, beginning forty years ago.
  • CorbettCorbett Registered User Posts: 2,714 Senior Member
    edited December 7
    Ive looked into a BA in some type of engineering (biomedical?) but would you say it’s a “waste”?
    If you want to become a practicing engineer, then a non-ABET BA in engineering may not cut it. On the other hand, that doesn't mean that a BA in engineering is a "waste": the BA could work for a job in an engineering-related field like technical management or finance, especially if paired with a relevant double-major like economics. Double-majoring is typically quite feasible with BA programs.
    Dartmouth is the only of these schools that offers even Portuguese.
    Middlebury is very strong for languages, and has a Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese with lots of Portuguese and Brazilian offerings. http://www.middlebury.edu/academics/span/courses
  • CorbettCorbett Registered User Posts: 2,714 Senior Member
    edited December 7
    5 years of intense math and science seems like a little much to me...
    At most universities, the intense math and science needed for a professional engineering BS degree is compressed into only four years. This leaves relatively little opportunity to explore anything else.

    At Dartmouth (or at LACs with 3-2 programs), that level of math/science intensity is not expected, so there is room to explore or double-major in other fields. But now the downside is that you can't complete the full professional engineering curriculum in four years. If you want a "real" engineering degree in this situation, you should expect to spend an extra year in college.

    The fundamental problem is that a traditional engineering program includes a lot of depth, while a traditional liberal arts curriculum includes a lot of breadth. You simply can't squeeze all of that depth and all of that breadth into four years. In a four-year program, you have to sacrifice either the liberal arts breadth or the engineering depth; if you want both, you should plan for five years. Dartmouth engineering students typically go the five-year route:
    Most students complete both the AB and BE programs, usually in 5 years.
    {In Dartmouth terminology, "AB" = "non-ABET BA", and "BE" = "ABET BS")
    https://engineering.dartmouth.edu/academics/undergraduate/ab/
  • Sam-I-AmSam-I-Am Registered User Posts: 534 Member
    @Corbett makes a good point. And keep in mind if you choose a 4-year engineering degree, that many of those that start down that path will not finish. Rather, they switch majors due to the rigor of the engineering curriculum. In addition, many more will not finish in 4 years but with finish in 4.5 or more. So pick the program that you believe will give you the greatest opportunity to succeed as a student.
  • CorbettCorbett Registered User Posts: 2,714 Senior Member
    edited December 7
    It is not really possible to "explore" engineering as part of a liberal arts curriculum
    Students at liberal arts college who want some degree of 21st Century technical fluency typically "explore" computer science, rather than engineering. Nearly all LACs (including schools like Bowdoin, Midd, or Williams) have credible CS departments, with BA programs that can be readily integrated into double-majors with traditional liberal arts disciplines.

    In other words, engineering doesn't mix well with liberal arts -- but computer science does.
    I’m also infeeested in languages
    Then computer science seems like a potential fit.

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