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4 Years Later: Reflections of a Columbia College Senior


Replies to: 4 Years Later: Reflections of a Columbia College Senior

  • pwoodspwoods 1078 replies18 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    The Core is a series of classes and distribution requirements. The classes that everyone (in the College, but not SEAS) must take consist of: LitHum and Contemporary Civilizations (small discussion classes focusing on literature and philosophy), Frontiers of Science (a lecture and discussion class that tries to teach you to understand scientific methods and critically evaluate science), University Writing (a seminar class where you practice writing different types of essays and papers), ArtHum (history of art discussion class), and MusicHum (history of music discussion class). The distribution requirements that must be fulfilled are the Science Requirement (2 science-related classes), the Global Core (3 classes dealing with a non-Western culture), and the Phys Ed Requirement (2 PE classes and the swim test). More information is available here: The Core Curriculum

    Regarding NYC, the majority of students do not come from the city or even the surrounding area. I think a plurality of students come from the tri-state area. But there are almost as many from Cali, a bunch from the South, a couple from the rest of the country, and a great deal of international students. Seriously, Columbia is VERY international; around 20% of the class, I believe, is composed of international students. Columbia is definitely not only a school for New Yorkers, but you become a New Yorker by attending Columbia. Don't worry; you'll get acquainted to the city through NSOP week and the rest of freshman year. By the time you're a senior, you'll be a real New Yorker.

    Some students do go downtown every weekend, but the majority don't. When I (and I believe silverchris as well) say that Columbia doesn't have a tight-knit community owing to its location in New York, I mean that it's affected by the sensibility of the city. Manhattanites tend to be independent; New York is not a small town where everyone knows everyone else and people stop strangers on the street to chat. It just isn't. That sort of decentralized atmosphere, where everyone is friendly but not intimately close with one another is also true at Columbia.

    People meet others in all sorts of ways. Most will meet people during COOP (if they go) and NSOP, and also become close to the people on their floor, in their first-semester classes, and in their extracurricular activities. You may only see your classmates in class, but you can always call them and organize a study group or time to just hang out.

    About half of the freshmen (including me) live in singles, so they don't have any roommates. If you do have a roommate, I imagine you'd become close to them and their group of friends. It can be a great way to meet new people and expand your own network. Whether you want to meet new people and/or keep your friends from high school depends entirely on your personality. I know some people who are extremely social and love meeting new people, and others who have a core group of best friends that they've known since high school. There's a lot of variety. And don't be misled into thinking that you only have one shot and then your friends are set for the next four years. As long as you have the will, you can always make new friends and meet new people, even after NSOP week!

    I can't really tell you much about what the frats are actually like. There are a variety of frats, some of which are closer to the Animal House stereotype and some of which are...not. I know that the frats are pretty close-knit and the people involved in that community seem very happy and satisfied with it. Your average (unaffiliated) student at Columbia, though, is apathetic toward the frats and a small but vocal minority absolutely despise them. Some think they're an embarrassment to Columbia's prestige, while others are concerned about their allegedly heteronormative and misogynistic practices. Personally, I've met many cool brothers and pledgees and strong, driven sorority women. I have a healthy respect for Greek life, even though I myself would never pledge. It's just not my style. But if you're interested, definitely ignore the haters and go for it.
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  • collegeftwcollegeftw 532 replies10 threadsRegistered User Member
    hey man, thanks so much for the post. I have some followed up questions to that, if you don't mind lol

    1) yeah I'm acquainted with the classes but I was just wnodering, since the Core is divided up so much, there really isn't much chance of you getting to know other ppl well through classes right, since most likely you won't be in, say, two classes together or something like that?

    2) cool stuff :D

    3) wait, let me get this straight....so you and some other ppl that say columbia doesn't have a community, its NOT because ppl just wander off into the city and forget about campus activities, but rather because ppl bet abstractly imbibed with nyc mentality? how does that work? I mean, how does kids from the south (like me) go to columbia, and without checking out nyc, become all of a sudden ... new york-like? (do you get what I'm asking? sorry if its sounds long and kind of stupid lol)

    4) whoa what is COOP and NSOP? some kind of orientation?

    5) really? 50 % live in singles? that's weird I thought all college dorms have roommates....lol shows I'm a noooooob. Although, would having a roommate be a big disadvantage over singles?

    6) oh haha I had no idea greek life was so intricated. I always thought it was just a club sorta where ppl get really close (friend wise...lol) and partay all day haha

    thanks :D
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  • shockwaverideshockwaveride 173 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member

    LPhiE (the frat your friends were talking about), the rest of the asian frats, latino frats, black frats are all organized under the MGC (multicultural greek council). The "normal" frats (plus ADP) are under the IFC (interfraternity council).

    MGC frats dont really have much contact with IFC frats (partially because none of the MGC frats have houses and are all stuck in EC suites) and thus never have many issues. MGC sticks to socializing with MGC, IFC sticks to socializing with IFC.

    I know from a friend that LPhiE always has issues with PDPsi (the other asian frat) because they're always jockeying for the same guys to join and control of the various asian-centric clubs. Similarly, SigEp and DeltaSig (the two big non-athlete frats) have a bit of hatin' going on cause they target the same prospects. Other than that, there really aren't any major issues between houses.

    I'm not going to go into detail about the particulars of my fraternity just for the sake of keeping some shroud of internet-anonymity (if you really wanted to, you could probably figure out who I was or at least narrow it down to a handful of people already). Within a brotherhood, there can always be issues, especially election time. Some houses that attract social climbers will be prone to have those issues. Some houses are a bit more chill and aren't as prone to inter-chapter beef. Regardless, almost every house has an internal standards/judiciary board to mediate if anything really serious becomes an issue.

    Also, I'll encourage you to take a look at all of the houses before you accept a bid and sign papers with anyone. By take a look, I mean actually go to an event or two and meet a couple of brothers. You can go to collegeacb or wherever and catch a lowdown on the reputations of everyone but those arent always correct and almost always biased. I came from a different position in that I didn't think I was going to go Greek, but the point is the same--what you want and who you want to associate with will change ALOT. This is especially true for your first semester of freshman year.
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  • silverchris9silverchris9 282 replies16 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    vis a vis question 1, I've found that a class by itself is not a great cementer of friendships, but a class plus some other reason to interact can lead to a friendship. Or if you're sort of friends with someone, being in the same class will mean you see each other often enough to keep the friendship going.

    And for 3... it's not that people are running out into the city, nor that they are imbibing NYC. More like Columbia has imbibed NYC and students imbibe Columbia. And it's not like each individual student is new york like (although many people do pride themselves on being city-savvy. Like me and my friends make fun of the stupid people who like, walk through Riverside Park at 3am by themselves and then are all shocked when they get mugged, or the idiot who walked into the bank at 5am while walking back from Harlem near Morningside Park.) It's just that the culture in general is very NYC-ish, with the whole "we don't always make a big show of our school pride" thing.

    Also, agreed that you'll be a New Yorker by senior year. You'll be navigating the subway, you'll understand the bus lines, and you'll refer to the place where you live as "my building" along with everybody else.

    NSOP is the orientation program (mostly lame), and COOP is a pre-orientation program involving hiking, rowing, or biking (I think) that has a magical power of creating cultlike friendships and will automatically get you invited to at least one party during NSOP and one or two parties a semester (or so it seems). I didn't do COOP, but people are obsessed with it, and I kind of wish I had.

    As far as singles vs. doubles, in my experience, how tight-knit your floor is had absolutely nothing to do with rather it's in Carman (doubles) or John Jay (singles), so ultimately having a roommate isn't an advantage or a disadvantage. It has more to do with what you want/what you're most comfortable with.
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  • EisenmannEisenmann 46 replies10 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I understand this is an undergrad subforum, but can anyone comment on the graduate life at Columbia for an engineering major? My undergrad school had little school spirit and pride (I'm a senior and I don't even own any school spirit apparel). I have no friend or family in NY and worried that finding a "community" will be difficult.
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  • admissionsgeekadmissionsgeek 1645 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    graduate school (outside of true professional programs - law, med, biz) is a rather lonely experience anywhere you go. so you really ought to know this first regardless of where you decide to go. it is less lonely for master degrees than phd, but still the rule applies.

    i knew quite a few master students from engineering as an undergrad and many hang out amongst themselves, join up with students in arts & sciences, or seek folks in the professional schools to be friends with, and then there were those that were younger and found it easier to hang out with older undergrads. the social ones i found not to have any trouble making friends and forming a community. plus if you are in the same cohort of an area, it is easy to know all the other master students.
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  • admissionsgeekadmissionsgeek 1645 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    1) there are some 50+ odd sections of lit hum and cc. capped at 21 students. i became very good friends with most of the folks in my classes, though they were not my best friends.

    2) rent a new yorker - may not be your best friend, but find the kid who already knows the subways, the places to go, and for the first few months explore with him/her. you may end up not being close friends, but its good to get out there. eventually you can do it yourself, and depending how close you are with the boy/girl, you guys will figure things out from there.

    3) my best friends from college fall into three groups - a) folks that i lived with freshman year in an LLC suite; b) folks that i met freshman year through social engagements, but didn't become good friends until the end of the year; c) folks i met at the end of junior year into senior year because i started to meet and run in different circles.

    of the people i was closest with after orientation, i actually don't keep in touch with anyone, and most of them i kind of lost track of pretty early into college. your first friends are not the people you end up being with. like any relationship you know who really is a friend after you have your first dumb fight.

    4) covered,

    5) I had a roommate and didn't like it, but I thought it was an experience someone who has had his own room his whole life should have. I just think I had a bad roommate. But even if you don't have a single your first year, you can subsequent years. And to correct whoever said that - 50% of the rooms are singles, but that means only about 33% of students live in singles. Overall, 70%+ of columbia rooms are singles, which does mean overall most of the students at columbia live in singles.

    6) Most fraternities that fall under IGC are part of new wave Greek Life that de-emphasize hazing, treat frats as a networking and socializing tool, truly embrace community service, and usually have an academic component to being a member. At Columbia, Beta, Sig Ep, Fiji sort of follow this mode the most. I knew a few lamdas, they were cool, but many of them used it as a secondary affiliation to the cultural group they were apart of (CSC, KSA, TASA, etc.)
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  • collegeftwcollegeftw 532 replies10 threadsRegistered User Member
    hey guys thanks for the responses! definitely gonna help me out a bit
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  • slipper1234slipper1234 9044 replies40 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Hey - I just stumbled upon this thread, my perspective might be outdated but I think Columbia is a great experience for many, but its not perfect for everyone. It depends on what you are looking for in a college experience. Personally it wasn't the right fit and I transferred to Dartmouth which I found to be much more intimate and tightknit. I do know many who would perhaps have wanted an urban experience, just as I know many who feel as if they are missing out on something by choosing an urban college. My biggest issue is something other in this thread seemed to hint at - there just isn't much student controlled space for off campus parties, dorm parties, house parties, etc which makes it hard for students to congregate in mass. It just isn't "event driven" like the other Ivies where everyone knows where this big party or event is on a given night.
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  • confidentialcollconfidentialcoll 2480 replies11 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Hey - I just stumbled upon this thread, my perspective might be outdated...

    you posted on the first page of this thread not even a month ago... what has Dartmouth done to you :p
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  • monydadmonydad 7830 replies158 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    "My biggest issue is something other in this thread seemed to hint at - there just isn't much student controlled space for off campus parties, dorm parties, house parties, etc which makes it hard for students to congregate in mass. It just isn't "event driven" like the other Ivies where everyone knows where this big party or event is on a given night."

    That's what D2 was saying too. She wasn't into the frat scene, but wasn't finding the alternatives, besides a bunch of people trooping to bars downtown. At her current school she routinely goes to,and throws, house parties at the private houses rented by bunches of friends in the area just off-campus where many upperclassmen live. That's a big thing there. They are completely outside of the purview of university housing, no swipe access or guarded entry, no university-imposed restrictions on parties, etc. They do what they want, and they do it routinely, and often. She did not find an analog to this scene when she was in morningside heights. But she was across the street, too, I thought that could potentially make some difference. But evidently one can feel this way on both sides of Broadway.
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  • calmomcalmom 20585 replies167 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Question for almamater:

    Why do you think it matters whether a university runs its own study abroad programs?

    Columbia students can choose from a very broad range of approved study abroad programs - see Office of Global Programs and Full List of Columbia-approved programs

    My daughter (Barnard) studied abroad via a program administered by a different college. The process was seamless -- her financial aid transferred to pay the tuition, there was no problem getting credit for courses completed. As far as I can tell, Columbia's financial aid policies for study abroad are the same as Barnard's-- see Study Abroad | Columbia University Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid and Educational Financing

    My daughter met American students prestigious colleges all over the US, and lived in a dorm with students from her host country, attending the same university. When she was selecting among programs, she looked at what each program offered -- I doubt she paid much attention to which university or agency sponsored the program. The program she chose is also on the list of approved programs for Columbia.

    Students generally study abroad for the experience of attending a different university in a different country. I can see why students attending public universities would find it important that their university sponsors study abroad programs, just for the sake of affordability. But I don't see why it would make much of a difference for a Columbia student whether the particular program abroad is sponsored by their own university.

    I would consider it quite limiting if a student was likely to meet only other students from their home university while studying abroad. Also, as parent, I would be very concerned by policies that limited the types of program, such as this one:
    Dartmouth does not offer financial aid for study-abroad programs not run through the College.
    From: Study Abroad & Off-Campus at Dartmouth

    I'd note that Dartmouth does NOT offer an academic-year study program in the country my daughter chose -- only a brief summer language study program -- so at least in our case, my d. would not have had the same opportunities at a college like Dartmouth. So if anything I think students are better off if their universities encourage study abroad through different universities and agencies, rather than focusing on its own programs, given the broad range of excellent programs that are available.
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  • slipper1234slipper1234 9044 replies40 threadsRegistered User Senior Member

    I think you might have a misconception of how Dartmouth study abroad works. Simply its amazing. Over 66% of Dartmouth students study abroad, I believe Columbia is probably around 25-30% tops. The real difference of having Dartmouth run its programs was profound. 1) Study abroad was not only for languages but also for majors - so you have Environmental Science in Africa, Anthropology in New Zealand, Philosophy in Edinburgh, Music in London, etc. 2) The curriculum for language study abroad is incredibly in depth, requiring deep verbal training through drills before the program. The biggest benefit, however, is how much Dartmouth invests in the programs themselves. For my Spanish program, for example, every Saturday Dartmouth would take us on an excursion to a museum, a monastery, or a cultural hub. For a whole week during Semana Santa they paid for a trip through different parts of Spain. We had a full tenured native speaking professor as a cultural Chaperon, inviting us for dinners and being a defacto guide. Its a small thing that made a big difference.

    Because Dartmouth runs the programs, you get Dartmouth quality throughout. And it strengthens the bond you have with the institution and with a group of your classmates who almost always become strong friends when you return to campus.
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  • calmomcalmom 20585 replies167 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I looked at the Dartmouth site for study abroad programs in the country (language) my daughter chose, and there was only one program, which was summer language study only. It also happened to largely replicate a program my daughter had done in high school (same institution). So I know for a fact that if my daughter had attended Dartmouth, her opportunities for study abroad would have been reduced.

    Was your Dartmouth program open to students from other schools? What sort of housing did you have? Did you take classes in the language of your host country? Did you have an opportunity to befriend and socialize with students in the host country?

    I also think you misunderstand what other programs typically offer. My d's program had organized trips within her host country -- but she and the other students also were able to choose their own university courses and to travel around and explore their host city extensively on their own. The programs you describe seem highly structured and very limited -- for example, the "Philosophy in Edinburgh" program you listed seems to require that the students take 3 specific philosophy courses during their semester -- it is not clear from the web site whether they can take any additional courses or electives.

    As far as I can tell, students who opt to enroll directly to the University of Edinburgh through their study abroad program -- http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/visiting-exchange/study-abroad - would be able to choose any courses. Columbia student could opt to spend a full academic year at Edinburgh, studying whatever they wanted.

    My d. was a poli sci major and was able to take courses to satisfy major requirements while abroad. She had no complaint about the academics -- and her grades earned abroad seemed about the same as what she earned at Barnard/Columbia for equivalent courses-- so I have no reason to believe that the academic expectations were materially different. In any case, it looks like a Dartmouth student who wants to go to Edinburgh would have to be studying either philosophy or religion -- whereas the U of Edinburgh program would be open to Columbia & Barnard students in all disciplines.
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  • calmomcalmom 20585 replies167 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I just want to supplement my last post -- I was focusing on Edinburgh as an example, but didn't mean to single it out. But it seems from the Dartmouth web site that the problem would be the same for every site -- there is a single, 8 week long program for Anthropology & Linguistics in New Zealand, based on Auckland - again with prescribed course offerings - but nothing in New Zealand or a student who wants to study history or economics. In contrast, a Columbia student who want to study in New Zealand could choose among 4 universities - Auckland, Canterbury (Christchurch), Otago (Dunedin), and Wellington -- again choosing any course of study.

    My kids were poli sci majors -- Dartmouth does not have a political science major, but offers a Government major instead. I checked the department web site and found only one study abroad program, a fall term program at the London School of Economics. Columbia students could opt to study poli sci or related course work just about anywhere in the world, including the London School of Economics, where they could opt to spend a full academic year.

    I'm sure the Dartmouth-sponsored programs are excellent -- but again, the whole point of study abroad is to widen horizons. It seems that by its own policies, Dartmouth greatly restricts the options available to individual students. Sure, there are probably about 50 different overseas programs listed -- but a given student will qualify for only a handful, because of the way each program seems to be tied to a pre-ordained course of study.

    Given the previous discussion in this thread about social life and a sense of "community" -- it seems that Dartmouth is a good option for students who prefer to live in a bubble -- it is a small town college, and by keeping its foreign study options in-house, it provides students with the opportunity to spend time abroad ensconced within the cocoon of fellow Dartmouth students. Yes, bonds with fellow Dartmouth students may be strengthened after spending time studying collectively abroad ... but what about making connections with people outside of Dartmouth?

    Students at Harvard, Yale & Princeton can choose from an array of programs that is similar to, and overlaps, Columbia's. So it isn't a matter of Columbia vs. "other" Ivies -- on the contrary, Dartmouth seems to be somewhat unique among Ivies in the limitations its in-house approach to foreign study seems to impose on students. The other Ivies also have financial aid policies that fully support study abroad in approved, outside programs, even if they have also developed extensive offerings of their own.

    I have no desire to bash Dartmouth -- again, I'm sure that it has excellent programs -- but they seem to also have a highly structured and limited approach to foreign study. It seems to me that Dartmouth's high study abroad participation rate really reflects the fact that Dartmouth's in-house options for short-term study abroad, integrated within various majors or language departments, makes it very easy for students to sign up for and participate in the particular options that exist for them. Students at other universities have to put in more effort to research programs, go through more planning and paperwork to apply to the outside programs, and may face issues fitting in full semester or year-long programs with course requirements for their majors -- but they also have far greater options.
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  • admissionsgeekadmissionsgeek 1645 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    slipper - i think few students before applying know about the Dartmouth plan. I am a huge fan, I wish it were better known amongst students. But we should remember that when your home base is Hanover, NH, study abroad is something the university has to invest in. i am similarly impressed by the offerings that students at uchicago have with their self-run programs throughout the world, but sometimes this is the nature of where you are rather than being somehow a reflection of your university's merit.

    It is the same argument people make about Brown - "omg you don't have an open curriculum like Brown, it must be horrible." Hello if you go to school in Providence, where Brown is the most interesting thing in town, structure is kind of an obnoxious construct. We need to realize that schools are different, cultures are different, and each place has different needs.

    37% of students at the College, and 30% of students overall study abroad at Columbia in traditional study abroad programs. This does not include work-abroad programs that are expanding. It is on the lower end. But let's deduce why this might be the case.

    A) the Core has something to do with it, makes it harder to study abroad. But also the Core offers you something incredibly unique that few universities left in the world offer. It provides a full immersion for all students in an incredibly cost-intensive practice. Supposing Columbia cut the Core, 1) there would be a lot of money to make its own study abroad opportunities, 2) there would be more time for students to study abroad. But this would never happen. Why? Because the core is about the last thing Columbia would give up at this point. It is so distinctive, and special that Columbia would rather lose students that don't care about the Core than appease folks. However, if you look at the number of summer options that Columbia has opened since you transferred out, you'd be impressed just how much emphasis they put on international education during the time of the year where it is most flexible around schedules.

    B) New York City. The appeal of the city is pulsating. It is like studying abroad in so many ways, and allows for everything you could imagine and more. Why study environmental sciences in Africa when you could be part of the Earth Institute and Lamont Doherty (easily one of the top envi science institutes in the world), or Philosophy in the city that is home to some of the most important thinkers in the country, what about ethnographic research in one of the most fertile laboratories for anthropology and music in the city that houses most of the country's and world's major cultural institutions. New York is so multifarious that it renders the idea of studying abroad not explicitly necessary as it might in other cases.

    I didn't study abroad in a traditional sense because I didn't want to lose any time at MoHeights. I loved it there, and studying abroad would mean not being able to be involved, losing out on seeing friends, and plus I am fully aware of these 'language intensive' programs and I can affirm that they are not all that language intensive enough for me to drop everything and go on a paid for vacation. I did, however, use monies from Columbia to research abroad for a pair of summers. So it was not as if I was missing any amount of internationalism if even I am not one of the 30% or so undergrads who study abroad.

    And lastly, with the expansion of global centers, I know for a fact that it is making Columbia run programs easier to maintain and center. Further, instead of housing such programs in ad hoc centers at other universities, Columbia will have its own facilities to house professors and perhaps hold classes that will make such an experience distinct and unique.
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  • ihateharrypotterihateharrypotter 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Hello. My name is Jose Linardi and I was simply wondering if making friends and finding your clique is easier in college or easier in high school. Thank you much for your input.
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  • monydadmonydad 7830 replies158 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Suggest start a thread with this topic in the CC "College Life" subforum.
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  • monydadmonydad 7830 replies158 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Dartmouth's study abroad options may indeed be much more limited than what is available to many other students, or at least it seems this way from the above.

    But as pertaining to the point of this particular thread, programs involving mostly students from your own institution are more conducive to developing relationships that will carry over back to your own institution. Thereby creating more contacts, a wider social network, more people you know and can see daily at your own institution. I think that was the point slipper1234 may have intended to focus on, as far as this particular thread is concerned. Having a network of friends elsewhere across the country, while obviously still a good thing, is not as immediately useful in a situation where some people seem to be facing relative social isolation at their own institution. They would prefer to have these additional contacts close at hand in that case. I guess that would be slipper1234s main point. Though he can speak for himself.
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  • slipper1234slipper1234 9044 replies40 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Monydad- Indeed I got slightly distracted from my main point which was that the depth of the Dartmouth program was simply fantastic ,and that the benefits lasted long after and strengthened ties on campus. Its simply one example of how a truly undergrad focused institution provides some intangible benefits that are more than meets the eye.
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