Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Engineering at Dartmouth

Maria Laskaris, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid had a great conversation with Joseph Helble, Dean of Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering. We want to thank all our viewers who tuned in live and asked a number of phenomenal questions. It was a great conversation thanks to your questions.

Watch the video and use the notes below as resource in understanding how Dartmouth does Engineering differently. Enjoy.
  • One of the most popular and busy areas of Engineering at Dartmouth is biomedical engineering. Many Thayer faculty, alumni, and even undergraduates have been involved in bio-tech start-ups.
  • Faculty at Thayer are incredibly active with research and entrepreneurship and what's so amazing about Engineering at Darmouth (and this is true for departments across campus) is that undergraduates have wonderfully easy access to these professors. Dean Helble explains that undergraduates can simply go knock on a professor's door (though likely it'll be open already) to chat about possible work and involvement in research. Or undergraduates can just chat with a professor right after class.
  • Computer Engineering at Dartmouth focuses more on hardware while Computer Science focuses more on software, but there's lots of collaboration between the two fields and departments at Dartmouth.
  • For more information about the BA Major in Engineering (liberal arts degree) and the BE (Bachelors of Engineering) visit the degrees webpage.
  • Students can begin taking engineering classes as early as their first year. AP credits can certainly help students get a jump-start on prerequisites for the degree and that can help them graduate in 4 years with a BA and BE.
  • Students interested in Engineering may submit an abstract of their previous research work with their application, though it won't be sent to the Engineering School for review, it'll just help the officer reading your application get a sense of your intellectual work and interests. Please don't send entire papers.
  • All Dartmouth majors require a culminating experience (this can be independent research, a play or performance, a project, or any number of things). Similarly, Engineering at Dartmouth (the major and BE) requires a culminating experience.
  • Engineering, like all academic programs at Dartmouth, requires time and effort, but engineering students are involved across campus with everything from serving as Captain of the Ski Team to being a tour guide.
  • Engineering undergraduates will take courses across campus and fulfill Dartmouth's liberal arts distributive requirements (this is true for BA and BE students).
  • Courses in engineering may be co-taught by faculty from other areas of campus, including the Medical School, Tuck School of Business or other departments. Dartmouth is very interdisciplinary by nature given it's size and philosophy.
  • Engineers from Dartmouth go on to do pretty much anything and everything. Graduates of Thayer are leading corporations large and small, have started their own firms for engineering or architecture or gone into the arts and design. Some go into finance and consulting while others go into public service and the non-profit sector.
Other Great Resources related to Engineering at Dartmouth

Admissions Video Chat: Last Minute Application Tips

On December 21, our Dean of Admissions Maria Laskaris and Assistant Director of Admissions Colleen Wearn hosted a video chat called "Last Minute Application Tips." In case you missed it or wish to watch it again, we have it archived here.

This afternoon (December 22) we will be hosting a video chat with Joseph Helble, Dean of Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering. The chat will begin at 4:00pm EST. Click here to participate in the chat.

The Office of Admissions will be closed for the winter holidays beginning on December 24 and will re-open on January 4.

Happy holidays and good luck to everyone working on college applications!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How to Ace the Alumni Interview

During the upcoming months, Dartmouth alumni across the country will reach out to students in their hometowns that have applied to the College, and invite them to an alumni interview.

Looking for advice on how to prepare for interviews? Check out this inside look at one interviewer's perspective. Blog post How to Ace the College Alumni Interview offers salient advice and lists questions that interviewers love to ask.

More information on Dartmouth's alumni interview process is available here. Please note that applicants do not need to request an interview; alumni will contact students directly sometime after they have applied to Dartmouth (usually Dec - Feb for Regular Decision). The interview is optional, and if you are unable to interview, or are not contacted due to a shortage of alumni in your region, please don't worry--it will not have an adverse impact on your admissions decision.

Finally, I must add a quick personal thank you to all the alumni and students that will spend time interviewing this winter. We on the Admissions Committee really appreciate it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why we do the work that we do

The Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem shared this video with us. After making these hard decisions, it's quite meaningful to us to see the emotions on the other side. Knowing all the stress that's developed around this entire process, we work hard to keep this process personal and human. Thank you TYWLS for reminding us of this! We welcome you to share with us your personal stories of excitement or disappointment.

Untitled from Chris Farmer on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Class of 2014 Early Decision

The Dartmouth Admissions Office posted decisions for Early Decision applicants to the web yesterday afternoon at 4:00pm EST. I am sure there is a wide spectrum of emotions present in our blog readership at this point.

To read the official Dartmouth press release about this year's Early Decision process, click here

In many conversations and meetings over the past few days, the admissions officer staff has been reflecting on the tremendous strength we saw in the Early Decision pool. As Dean Maria Laskaris noted in the press release, this year's ED applicants were an extraordinary group, not only in terms of tangible academic credentials, but also with respect to the qualitative elements and intangible intellectual and personal qualities that are essential when building a residential academic community. In light of the strength of this pool, we have admitted more students through the Early Decision process than we have in previous years.

We recognize that, as is the case every year, we also must disappoint a lot of deserving students with the decisions that we make (hence the spectrum of emotions referenced at the start of this post). A few thoughts:

If you were deferred:

As Tom Petty once sang, "The waiting is the hardest part." Your application will be reviewed again during the Regular Decision round. We recognize that you will need to file applications with other schools, but we encourage you to update your Dartmouth application in the early weeks of 2010. You should submit your final grades from the fall semester/term of your senior year when they are available. If you did not have all required standardized test scores as an Early Decision applicant, we hope you will complete your testing profile for our Regular Decision review. You may wish to submit additional material such as an update on significant awards or accomplishments, another writing sample, and/or another teacher recommendation—any and all of these are optional. If you were not offered an alumni interview as an Early Decision candidate, it is possible that one will be offered to you in the Regular Decisoin process. For an overview of how the alumni interview program works, click here. Deferred students are admitted to the class at roughly the same rate as Regular Decision candidates.

If you were denied:

As an admissions staff, we are honored every time a student thinks highly enough of Dartmouth to submit a binding application to the College. One of the consequences of working within a highly selective admissions process is that many of us spend just as much time thinking about the students we do not admit as those we do. We feel this all the more because of the emotion and conviction that we know is behind every Early Decision application. On the one hand, we are appreciative that our Early Decision applicant pool has grown over 25% in the past few years, but we recognize that this also introduces much more disappointment for candidates with a great desire to attend Dartmouth. Our thorough and holistic review of every applicant almost always leaves us confident in the student's potential to succeed academically and personally at the College; the pressures of such a large, qualified applicant pool and a limited enrollment capacity force us to turn terrific candidates away.

Congratulations to the those admitted to the Class of 2014! We look forward to welcoming you to Hanover in just 9 months!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's D(ecision Release)-Day!

We are well into the final stages of our Early Decision review process, and all ED applicants will be able to check their decisions online beginning at 4:00pm EST.

Applicants: click here to log-in and check your decision (but not until 4:00pm EST).

Stay tuned to the blog for additional news and information on the Class of 2014 Early Decision process later today.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pre-Med Video Chat with Dean Laskaris and Frances Vernon '10

Additional references and resources:
Also, don't miss Colleen's post about Pre-Health at Dartmouth. She provides numerous specific examples of how Dartmouth's Pre-health Program stands out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Facebook and Applying to College

I've heard many admissions "conspiracy theories" out there about all types of things. One that many seem to believe is that Admission Officers inspect Facebook to learn more about you when making our decisions. One major purpose of this perspectives blog is to debunk the myths and misconceptions out there about Dartmouth admissions. So let's debunk this one (at least as it relates to Dartmouth admissions. I don't and can't speak for other schools.)

Never would we use Facebook to learn more about you for making an admissions decision. Honestly, if I was on Facebook while reading applications I would be hard pressed to get through even a single file given how easily I'm amused by what my friends are doing.

Also, you should definitely set your privacy settings so only your friends can view your profile. Although Dartmouth was one of the very first schools to become part of Facebook (back when it was thefacebook.com), we don't have any special connection that would allow us to see anything more than anyone else. We take privacy and confidentiality very seriously.

Also, the reliability of information on Facebook is questionable. We don't want to see the photos your friends tagged you in. Nor do we want to hear what your friends have to say about your status update at 3am.

How we do use Facebook: Discover Dartmouth
Currently the one way Facebook may be used in the college search process is through our Discover Dartmouth Facebook group. There's a wonderful group of current students who are available in the group to answer your questions and offer information about Dartmouth. If you have a question a student can't answer, they'll contact me or another admissions officer and we'll reply as soon as we can. It's the people who make Dartmouth special and we hope you'll use Discover Dartmouth to meet these people and hear directly from them.

Facebook is Your Space
We know the college admissions process is stressful enough. Please don't get yourself worked up about your Facebook profile. That's your space and we do not look at it for admissions. In fact we have a policy not to befriend applicants so that we respect your space in this process. If you're going to be concerned about what's on Facebook, be concerned because your mother, teacher, or possible employer could be watching (but I don't mean to start any more conspiracy theories). Relax. We're not.

I'm afraid to ask, but what other admissions theories have you heard? I'd love to provide the real story behind the myths and misconceptions.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Testing 101

Today, I got an e-mail from an applicant who wanted to know how much a student’s SAT scores affect his or her chances of being admitted. I’m sure she is not alone in wondering about testing's place in the admissions process at highly selective schools like Dartmouth. I was certainly worried about the SATs when I applied years ago. So here goes...Testing 101.

The SAT is an important factor in our admissions decisions but if you look at the breakdown of testing in our pool of admitted students, you will see that just like there is no set formula for becoming a Dartmouth student, there are no magical cut-off scores that will automatically compel the Admissions Committee to admit or deny a student. The middle 50% of our admitted students score somewhere between a 660-770 on all 3 sections of the SAT I. This means that 25% of the students we admit score higher and 25% score lower.

Testing is considered in conjunction with your transcript, the rigor of your curriculum, your GPA and your teacher recommendations. Let’s say you are an applicant with the following profile:

  • You did not do as well as you had hoped on the Critical Reading section of the SAT I.

  • You consider English your strongest subject in school.

  • You got an A+ in your junior AP English class.

  • You scored a 4 on the AP exam.

  • You asked your AP English professor to write one of your Teacher Recommendations.

  • So yes, the Admissions Committee will see your less than ideal Critical Reading score…but we also have your grades, an AP score, a teacher recommendation and, let’s not forget, an actual writing sample in the form of your personal statement to help us get an idea of how strong you are in your favorite subject area.

    Let’s face it- some students do not test well. Other students revel in exams like the SAT. What we suspect is that what type of tester you are may have something to do with your level of familiarity with the exam and whether you have had access to test prep. Performance on the SAT is highly correlated to parent income and level of education. This does not mean that parent income and level of education are categorically determinative of a student’s SAT scores, nor does it mean that the SAT is a biased exam; however, it does mean that there are limits to its value in the Admissions process.

    Together with your high school GPA, the SAT I is a good predictor of how a student MIGHT do in his or her first year in college. In other words:

    SAT I or ACT + 2 SAT Subject Tests + High school GPA
    Good Correlate to First Year College GPA

    It is important to know that there are many indicators in your application OTHER than your SAT score report and GPA that are also very good, if not better, predictors of whether you will be a successful Dartmouth student- your willingness to take intellectual risks and ability to meet challenges; your willingness to ask for help when you need it; your intellectual curiosity; your level of motivation and discipline; your social and intellectual maturity; your leadership qualities, and much more. It is also important to know that the SAT’s predictive value fades after the first year. For these reasons, we don’t put all of our eggs into the SAT basket when deciding whether to admit a student.

    On a final note, if you are the student who has scored perfect 800’s on the SAT, yes, we are impressed by that…but make sure the rest of your application is as impressive!

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Thoughts on AO Contact

    Like many of my colleagues, I follow the treatment of the college admissions process in the media, and an article in The NYTimes "The Choice" column caught my attention this morning. Jacques Steinberg poses the question: "Is there a danger in pestering an Admissions Officer?" As touched on in his response to this question, there are a few different issues at play here:
    1) Does it make a difference whether a student or parent is contacting an Admissions Officer?
    2) Will calling or e-mailing an Admissions staff member help your chances of admission?
    3) Is there a tipping point at which some contact becomes too much contact?

    I think the confusion surrounding the topic of student (or parent) contact stems from the fact that colleges and universities approach this matter in very different ways. As Mr. Steinberg notes, "many (Admissions)offices will keep track of the number of queries they receive, particularly from the applicants themselves, as a possible measure of interest." In the Admissions world, we sometimes refer to this type of contact as "demonstrated interest," the idea being that students who visit campus, call, and e-mail are more interested in attending your institution, and are therefore more likely to matriculate if admitted.

    The Admissions Office at Dartmouth College DOES NOT consider demonstrated interest as a factor in our admissions process. I recognize that this is difficult for some students, parents, and guidance counselors to believe, but it's true. If you take the time to apply to our College, we consider that to be the only necessary demonstration of your interest in attending our institution. Our job is to carefully review each application that comes into our office and thoughtfully select a great mix of students for each incoming class. Once we decide to admit you, it is our responsibility to convince you that Dartmouth is the best place for you to spend the next four years.

    So what happens if you call or e-mail our office? Unless you are contacting us with an update to your application (please e-mail these in, instead of calling!), nothing. I will do my best to answer your questions in a thoughtful manner, and then I will hang up or delete your e-mail and go back to what I was doing.

    Does it matter to me whether a parent or child is contacting our office? Not really. I think it's important for students to feel like they are in control of this process, but I also understand that there are many different family dynamics out there, and to be honest, people call our office for a variety of reasons.

    I often field calls from parents who are simply concerned - they love their children and want the best for them, but there are so many myths and competing sources of information about the admissions process that they just want to make sure they are doing everything they can to help their child succeed. I often don't get the name of the parents placing these calls, and I don't mind having these conversations. This can be a confusing, frustrating, and tremendously disappointing process for families, and if a short phone call can help to relieve some of this tension I am happy to help. That being said, I do think that parents should encourage their children to take responsibility for their own college search and application processes.

    (I was lucky to have parents who encouraged me to take charge of the process, but also understood that, as a 17-year-old high school student who had never been to the east coast before, college was still in many ways an abstract concept for me. I needed my independence and their support, and I was fortunate to have both.)

    Finally, when does some contact become too much contact? I think common sense and common courtesy should be the rule here. Unless you don't have regular internet access, my colleagues and I would appreciate it if you avoided calling or emailing our office with questions that can be easily answered by our website. If you have done your research and still have questions, we are happy to hear from you. Similarly, I would avoid sending in constant updates to your application. As I mentioned above, we are not looking at demonstrated interest, so it is the quality of the materials in your application and not the quantity that matters.

    Think about it this way - our process requires me to file each update to your application in your electronic file. If you send in approximately one update a week between January and March, you could easily have 10 additional pieces of information in your file by the time we enter the final stages of our decision-making process. When readers open electronic applications, especially as we move towards the final stages of our process, they are encouraged to look at new information first. So one of our readers is going to open your application, and the first thing they will have to do is dig through 10 short e-mails with minor updates that you were only really sending in because you thought you were supposed to in order to show us how badly you wanted to attend our school. Is this going to change the outcome of your application? Probably not. But I know that if it were me, I would want a reader to see the big picture first, and I wouldn't want to dilute the impact of my personal statement and recommendations with a bunch of emails about how I was named student-of-the-week for the 3rd week in a row. If you have important information that you want to add to your application, by all means send it in. But be thoughtful about what you are sending, and try to create a single, well-written, comprehensive update instead of allowing your message to get lost in the sheer volume of material your are adding to your application.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Busy Night at the Hopkins Center

    The Hopkins Center for the Arts was the place to be on Saturday night, as both the Spaulding Auditorium and Moore Theater were host to significant student performances. The Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra performed gave its fall concert in a sold-out Spaulding Auditorium, while the Dartmouth Theater Department gave the penultimate performance of its fall musical production, Rocky Horror Show, in the 480-seat Moore Theater.
    I attended the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra performance. I really enjoy the symphony and have fond memories of being a ticket subscriber for a major metropolitan orchestra before moving to the Upper Valley. This would be my first DSO concert, and, having listened only to professional ensembles in recent memory, I was not sure what to expect in terms of musical quality or audience support.
    There was a great energy to the room as I settled into my seat in the sold-out 900-seat concert hall. An impressive number of Dartmouth students had purchased discounted $5 tickets to listen to their peers perform, but the turnout from the community was amazing. This was truly a "night out at the Symphony" for the Upper Valley community and, while smaller in scale, it had every bit the buzz of a major metropolitan orchestra concert.
    The orchestra gave a splendid, pleasing performance featuring works by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich before a rousing performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor (I confess that it was Beethoven's 5th that prompted me to attend the show). The Orchestra was joined by Bonnie Thron, principal cellist of the North Carolina Symphony (and NH native) for Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1. Overall, the quality of the musicianship was magnificent.
    During the intermission, I ran into an admissions colleague who was seeing Rocky Horror Show just down the hall from the Symphony concert. We agreed it was a great night for the Arts at Dartmouth. There are myriad ways that Dartmouth students seriously persue their artistic interests at the College, and, importantly, appreciative audiences to take it all in.

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    You hit 'submit'...

    You've done your research. You've visited some campuses (or lots of campuses). You've made your list (and changed your list). You've asked your teachers for recommendations (or that's on your to-do list). You've completed your Common Application (or that's on your to-do list right after "ask teachers for recommendations"). You've narrowed your list of potential friends to write your Peer Recommendation and decided to go with the friend who just knows you the best, despite the fact that English (and writing) aren't her greatest strengths. You've taken the SAT (or ACT) and two SAT Subject Tests (they went well - not quite as well as that last practice test, but you're okay with the scores). You've given your college counselor the Secondary School Report to send with your transcript and recommendation. You're getting ready to hit the submit button (or you hit the submit button as an Early Decision applicant several weeks ago and you're waiting anxiously for your decision). But what happens to all of this stuff - and all of that time and effort - on the other end?!

    A very important question! And perhaps one that many Early Decision applicants are wondering about as they imagine what their applications are up to right now - and a question that many Regular Decision applicants are considering as the January 1 deadline draws near.

    So what do we do with all of those applications and application materials? We read them (carefully). And we think about them (a lot). We read your application individually and holistically. There is no magic formula (see Colleen's post) but perhaps the following will give you a better sense of what goes on as an admissions reader engages with your application...

    I usually read in my office (sometimes I read at home, too; it depends on how persistent my dog is in her attempts to engage me in games of fetch). We have a paperless reading system, so all application materials are reviewed online. The materials that are submitted electronically are loaded into our system, and the paper pieces we receive are scanned in (think about this when are you are considering sending in a funky shaped newspaper clipping... will it run through our scanner?) One of the first things you'd probably notice in my office is the 24-inch monitor that is flipped vertically and affords me a great full-page view of your application materials. I get my coffee (or tea) and settle in to read...

    What kind of applicant is Dartmouth looking for?

    In the most basic terms, students who are:

    intellectually engaged,
    actively committed to their personal interests,
    and reaching beyond their current circumstances.

    (Think about how you show us these things throughout your application.)

    As I read your application, I am thinking about five basic questions:

    1. What opportunities have been available to this applicant?
    2. What are the things that matter most to him/her?
    3. Given these two, what choices has he/she made?
    4. What are the applicant's successes?
    5. How has he/she had an impact on others?

    I consider your application, thinking about these questions and how the pieces of your application come together to answer these questions. I take some notes and I write a summary of my thoughts, along with a recommendation for a decision. Your application then makes its way on to a colleague, who engages in the same process (without looking at my notes or recommendation). We begin to reach decisions based on these individual reads.

    But Dartmouth receives so many more outstanding, qualified, talented applicants than it has space for in its First-Year Class, you say? How can we possibly distinguish between such strong candidates? There either must be a magic formula or we just close our eyes and pick randomly at the end.

    It is very true that Dartmouth's applicant pool has continued to grow and grow over the years, and the number of talented, interesting, well-qualified students in our applicant pool greatly exceeds the number of spaces in our entering class. But we don't plug in numbers and generate a decision (there are so many aspects of your candidacy and who you are that can't be captured in numbers). We consider the questions I listed above, and we consider your application materials as a mutually supportive set of parts. Just before I get ready to write my summary and recommendation, I ask myself: what will this student add? What kind of impact might he/she have at Dartmouth? And I think about how all of those individual voices and contributions will come together and form an interesting, diverse First-Year Class (perhaps the greatest class Dartmouth has ever seen?).

    Think of it this way - I heard a fellow admissions officer use this metaphor recently, so I'm stealing it. You're hosting a party, maybe a dinner party. You're cute and funny, so you have lots of friends. You can't possibly feed (or fit) all of your many, many friends at your party, so you think about what group you are going to ask. You think about who might make for some lively conversation and a great party, and you invite that group. It's not that you don't like your other friends, but for this particular party, you decide to go with the group that you think will be interesting and engaging for one another. (And my guess is you would probably base this on a number of different factors, not just your friends' standardized test scores.)

    How can you improve your chances? Check out Ben's post. I have to get back to reading applications for the Class of 2014.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    What is the Greek system really like at Dartmouth?

    This question was on my mind when I first visited Dartmouth as a prospective student. I had not applied to any other schools with a Greek system, and based on what I had seen in the movies, I figured it was wise to avoid universities with a fraternities and sororities. Dartmouth's Greek system was its one negative on my color-coded spreadsheet of colleges' pros/cons (yes, I'm a little type A).

    And yet, Dartmouth made my college list. I loved the mid-range size, the D-Plan, the tight-knit community, the enthusiastic students I had met. In the end, the positives out weighted my hesitations about the Greek system; I took the risk, chose Dartmouth, and packed my bags (somewhat nervously) for Hanover.

    Once I arrived on campus, I realized the Greek system at Dartmouth was very different than what I expected based on media images and stories from my home state university. Here's why:

    * Dartmouth students cannot pledge a fraternity or sorority until sophomore year. This removes the pressure to join a Greek house in order to find friends. At Dartmouth, everyone makes friends freshman year through the dorms (all first-year students live together in residential clusters), classes, teams, etc. Come sophomore year, students can choose to join the Greek system if they want to meet new people, but they usually have a solid group of friends already so there is no pressure. A little over half of the sophomores choose to join a fraternity or sorority, and about half decide not to.

    * There are no dining facilities and very limited residential space in the in the frats/sororities, so even if students join a Greek house, they still eat in the dining halls with everyone else and usually live in the dorms too. The average Greek house at Dartmouth can sleep only 15 - 20 of the 100 or so members. This means the Greek system does not dominate most students lives on campus -- rather than an all-consuming place, it is just an added social option.

    * Events and parties at Greek houses are open to everyone. True to the feeling of the Dartmouth's community in general, the Greek system is welcoming and non-exclusive. The Greek houses put on tons of events that enhance the social options for everyone, including dinners with professors, slam poetry competitions, fundraiser for charities, and parties like Disco Inferno (my favorite! Don funky neon clothes and donate a can of food to rock out to 70s music).

    When my sophomore year rolled around, I decided that I wanted to join a sorority, much to the surprise of my parents & friends from home. After all my uncertainty about the Greek system, they could not believe that I was becoming a "sorority girl." I explained that one of the best parts of Dartmouth was meeting the amazing people here, and I figured a sorority would be a great way to make friends with girls that had totally different interests than mine.

    It worked beautifully. I met awesome girls in Sigma Delta, but also kept my best friends from freshman year. I never lived in the sorority, preferring the dorms instead. I still spent most of my time with friends from the crew team, outing club, mock trial team, etc. But the Greek system did give me a chance to have my own social space, host parties and events I wanted to see on campus, and get to know a really diverse group of people. In the end, the aspect of Dartmouth that I had been most nervous about turned out to be one of the best components of my Dartmouth experience.

    Big Sports Weekend at Dartmouth

    Dartmouth's campus was a hive of athletic activity over the weekend, as Dartmouth teams hosted many matches and games across numerous different sports. Here's a condensed listing:

    • Women's Volleyball - wins overBrown and Yale

    • Women's Hockey - win over St. Lawrence

    • Men's Soccer - win over Cornell

    • Women's Soccer - win over Cornell

    • Women's Tennis - won the Big Green Invitational

    • Football - win over Cornell

    It seems worthwhile to linger over the football team's victory for a couple of reasons. First, the team came back from 10-0 deficit at the start of the 4th quarter to defeat Cornell 20-17 in double overtime. The game included freshman quarterback Greg Patton breaking the Dartmouth single game rushing record in his very first varsity contest. The Big Green blocked a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation, and got a game winning kick from Foley Schmidt in overtime.

    Equally as entertaining as the game was watching Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim roam the sidelines, congratulating players as they came off the field and encouraging the crowd to stand up and cheer at key moments. President Kim, who was a high school quarterback while growing up in Iowa, has been a prominent figure on the Dartmouth sideline this season, even braving a driving rain to cheer on the Big Green during their Homecoming win over Columbia. He's pictured below with Dartmouth's athletic director Bob Ceplikas and U.S. Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire:

    While cheering on the football team may seem like a small thing, Dr. Kim's energy and enthusiasm for supporting students in many different settings has already become notable in this early part of his tenure as Dartmouth's President. I am not going to say that he does this more than other College Presidents, but I bet he can throw a better spiral than any of them. Chalk it up as another plus for Dartmouth!

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    So you want to be pre-med?

    When talking to prospective students and parents, we field a lot of questions about how Dartmouth prepares students for medical school. Our Admissions staff met with Dartmouth’s pre-health advisors earlier this fall, and below are some key points from our discussion.

    Many Dartmouth students are interested in medical careers. Typically, about 1100 students – a quarter of the student body – follow the Nathan Smith Premedical Society email list. About 180 to 200 students per year apply to Medical, Dental, or Vet programs. Learn more about the Nathan Smith Society.

    Dartmouth has fantastic resources for pre-med students. Chief among them:
    • Dartmouth Medical School (DMS). The medical school is on campus and many professors have dual tenure with DMS and Dartmouth College. Undergrads can collaborate on research projects with med school faculty and students.
    • Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC). One of New England’s best hospitals is located just one mile from campus, providing incredible research and internship opportunities for undergrads.
    At Dartmouth, students do not “major” in pre-med, but they CAN take all the courses they need to be ready for medical school. Their major can be in a related area, like Biology, or in a completely different subject like Anthropology, International Relations, you name it. In fact, less than half of our medical school applicants are science majors – and this can be a real asset in the medical school admissions process.

    Support for students interested in health professions abounds! Our Health Professions Program assists students applying to Medical, Dental, and Vet schools. Open office hours are available 4 days per week to assist students with course planning, internships, and applications.

    Unique advantages to Dartmouth’s pre-med program:
    • The advising system lasts 4+ years – we continue to work with students through graduation and beyond.
    • Because of Dartmouth’s small size, the advising and letter-writing processes are very personal. Most universities have a pre-health committee that writes letters of recommendation. At Dartmouth, students select who writes the summary letter on their behalf (a faculty member, dean, etc.) This creates a much more personal letter than what typically comes from a committee.
    • Dartmouth has very strong extracurricular programs that allow students to test their interests before they make a commitment to pursue this as a career.
    • We have about 300 Dartmouth alumni in medical school, who have specifically agreed to assist students interested in pursuing medical school. (For example, they often host Dartmouth students visiting for interviews.) Students can also draw on the overall strength of our alumni network.
    • We offer excellent support in the medical school admissions process, and the Dartmouth Medical School Admissions Office also offers guidance.
    What is your medical school acceptance rate? This question comes up time and again. Here is the short answer: If a student comes to Dartmouth, works hard, utilizes pre-health resources, and has an average GPA and MCAT score, they are VERY likely to be accepted to medical school.
    • Nationally, the medical school acceptance is about 45%, and Dartmouth’s is far higher (approaching twice) that average.
    • 11 of 85 students in this year’s Dartmouth Medical School incoming class are Dartmouth College graduates.
    More resources for our pre-med students:
    • 80 Medical School Faculty members offer shadowing opportunities in a wide range of medical specialties. We also have community vet and dental shadowing programs.
    • The Health Professions Program maintains a research opportunities directory, and students engage in a wide variety of medical research projects.
    • Women In Science Project (WISP) connects students in their first or second year with paid part-time research internships with science faculty members (or researchers in nearby industrial or government laboratories).
    In short, if you decide the medical field is for you, Dartmouth will provide the support and opportunities to make you successful!

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Early Decision Kick-Off

    Early Decision applications are in, and they are up by about 3% (see The D coverage of this topic here). Our office will officially begin to review ED applications on November 10th. For now, staff members are finishing up a few final recruitment trips and slowly trickling back in from the road. I met a lot of wonderful students, parents, and alumni on my last trip (12 days between Iowa, Nebraska, and Connecticut), but its great to be back in Hanover, and it will be nice to be back together as a whole staff once everyone gets back.

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Go Green: Environmental Sustainability at Dartmouth

    Dartmouth has a long history of being "green" and in recent years the College community has done some impressive work related to clean energy and sustainability.

    Dartmouth's Office of Sustainability works on a number of programs to help make Dartmouth more environmentally friendly. Environmental projects at Dartmouth include:

    • The Big Green Bus, a Dartmouth student led effort to convert a bus to waste-vegetable fuel and drive cross country teaching communities about alternative energy.
    • The Sustainable Living Center, a residential community where students commit to reducing their carbon footprint through a number of efforts.
    • Sustainable Move-Out and Move-In, a program that recycles dorm furniture, clothes, and other student supplies.
    • The Dartmouth Organic Farm, a working farm where students can work, take classes, or learn on their own about sustainable agriculture.
    • Farm-to-Dartmouth, helping give student access to locally produced foods in Dartmouth's dining halls.
    • Dartmouth has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.
    Some other really important and interesting ways the College demonstrates its commitment and creativity when it comes to sustainability are:
    Beyond simply programs to improve sustainability on campus, Dartmouth researchers (both professors and students) are developing new technologies to help improve energy use. Projects include research on cellulosic ethanol technology at the Thayer School of Engineering, the GreenLite project that is now being formed into a business to market this effective conservation tool, and other research projects in Environmental Studies and departments across campus.

    How do you think Dartmouth is doing with sustainability? The College can continue to do more, but I'm impressed by all the programs students, staff, and faculty are undertaking to help the environment.

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    I heart affinity housing.

    Tonight I am joining a group of students and faculty at the Sustainable Living Center (SLC) for dinner (all local & organic - yum!) and then movie showing of Food Inc. followed by discussion. The SLC -- the newest of Dartmouth's many affinity housing options -- is a student initiative designed for students looking for an eco-conscious housing alternative. Members of the SLC learn how to reduce their environmental impact by minimizing energy inputs and waste outputs. They have a food co-op (buying many products from Dartmouth's Organic Farm and local farmer's markets) and at least once a week they host a communal dinner, discussion, or workshop.

    If green living isn't your passion, there are oh so many other affinity houses to choose from! Hillel Apartments, Inter-faith Living Center, Chinese Language House, International Residence, Native American House... and many more. Even I was surprised at the length of the full list of options on the Residential Life website. Check it out.

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    What's the deal with testing?

    I give Information Sessions at least once a week and it seems the most common questions I get are related to testing, typically from the parents. Clearly, families put a great deal of emphasis on testing. We do require that students submit SAT or ACT scores and we certainly look at them, but I always wish families (especially the prospective students themselves) would ask more about non-test, non-GPA, non-number based parts of the application.

    Testing is just one piece of the application and I'd guess it's the best understood part (you can find pretty much everything you need to know online). Why is it that families come all the way to Hanover, NH to ask me about the SAT? Remember, testing is just one of many things we consider.

    If you're going to stress about your college application, stress about how you can positively contribute to your community, not about how you can improve your test scores. At least then others will benefit from your stress. I hope that future posts to this blog will help prospective students, families, and their counselors better understand what's happening in the minds of the people reading these applications.

    What do you think about testing? Really...I would love to hear your thoughts! Comment away!

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Just for fun...

    As application deadlines rapidly approach, I thought it would be nice to post something fun for those of you who could use a little stress relief. I'm a big fan of the book World War Z, and if you want a different way of comparing colleges and universities, my suggestion is to go to the World War Z website and use their Risk Calculator to determine how likely you would be to survive a Zombie attack depending on where you go to college. Is the US News and World Report going to start ranking colleges based on Zombie preparedness? Probably not. Would I buy a college ranking guide that did, even though I already graduated from college? You bet.

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Dartmouth Olympians

    I have spent most of the past two weeks traveling in Canada with the "Ivy Plus" group -- admissions officers from other Ivy League schools, plus Stanford. As a form of light-hearted competition, we admissions representatives started trying to one up each other with fun facts about our schools, often centered around color (really, how can brown compete with green?) or the number of athletes/medalists we had in the recent Olympic games. I know Dartmouth always has a great showing at the Olympics -- in fact, I have a trip planned to the Winter Games in Vancouver this February to see several of my Dartmouth classmates compete in skiing & biathlon! However, I had never researched the full extent of our Olympic presence until prompted by the friendly rivalries from peers. The stats below are pretty impressive. Go Big Green!

    From "Ask Dartmouth":
    Has Dartmouth had a strong presence in the Olympics over the years? What is the medal tally of Dartmouth Olympians?

    Dartmouth has a long and distinguished Olympic history, dating back a century to when Arthur B. Shaw 1908 won a bronze medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the Games of the Fourth Olympiad in London in 1908.

    Over the years, Dartmouth has sent nearly 150 representatives to the Games, including all but one Summer Olympics since 1908 and every Winter Olympics since the winter Games was founded in 1924. Among the Big Green’s notable Olympians are Dominic Seiterle ’98, who won a gold medal rowing for Canada at the 2008 Games in Beijing; Adam Nelson ’97, who won the silver medal in shot put at the 2000 and 2004; four-time Olympian Cammy Myler ’92, who competed in luge; and Carlie Geer ’80, the first Dartmouth woman to medal, taking the silver in crew at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. Dartmouth’s Olympic roster also includes 12 coaches, in sports including skiing, kayak, basketball, diving, and ice hockey.

    As for the medal count: through 2008, Dartmouth athletes have claimed 20 gold, 21 silver, and 12 bronze medals.

    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    College Fair for LGBT & Ally Students

    From the road: I represented Dartmouth at the Northeast Campus Pride College Fair for LGBT & Ally Students & Families on Wednesday at the Massachusetts State House. Wow, I have never attended a college fair held in a state house before, but what a cool space! Campus Pride hosted the event in partnership with Friends of GLBT Youth, Inc. The coordinators estimated that over 200 students came through the fair, along with parents, teachers, and other mentors. I'll be attending the East Coast Fair at the LGBT Community Center in NYC on November 6. Check out more information about the fairs and resources available through Campus Pride. These are great programs for prospective LGBT and ally students.

    There is no formula

    I had another one of those Admissions-and-life-collide moments tonight during a conversation with one of my housemates this evening. We discussed how there is no formula for most of the important decisions we make… relationships, friendships, choosing a major, starting – or leaving – a career, etc. The best we can do is use the information we have at the time, and follow our heart.

    It is reassuring to me to realize that the way we make decisions in a holistic individualized admissions process is exactly the same way we make the toughest decisions in our personal lives. There is no magic formula, no checklist, no clear instructions “if x, then y.” Instead, we collect information (transcripts, recommendations, essays, etc.), thoughtfully analyze these components and the whole that they form, and make the best decision we can with the information we have, and our intuition.

    This process may be nebulous, imperfect, frustrating at times, and yet, it is the system we rely on for the decisions that matter most. Often times – in life and in admissions – I wish that decisions could be more clear-cut. But if a simple formula cannot do justice to the complexity of my life decisions, how could I trust it to determine admissions decisions?

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Live @ the Hop

    Since Hanover is a small town, many of the prospective students that I meet are surprised to learn that we have one of the best performing art centers in the country. That's the beauty of Dartmouth - its not about choosing small town life over city life - its about recognizing the opportunity to spend four years in a place where the resources are not a reflection of population density. The result? An incredibly dynamic place where you can have moments like these:

    For more information on the Hopkins Center for the Arts, check out their website here.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    Hanover moment

    I asked Dan (one of our directors) what he did last weekend, and he told me that he did some running. As it turns out, by "some running" he meant that he competed in the Reach the Beach Relay.

    Reach the Beach is the longest relay race in the United States - it spans over 200 miles.


    Does that hundredth of a GPA point matter?

    While traveling in the Southeast last week, I hosted a program for Seconday School Counselors to share information with them about Dartmouth and provide some insights into selective admissions that would hopefully be useful as they counsel anxious students through this vexing college application process. I spend a lot of time talking to students and families about admissions, but students only experience the admissions process once (parents might experience it several times). The program was nice chance to talk at length with colleagues who have been doing this work for a long time and can speak to the trends and questions that emerge over a longer period of time.

    One counselor raised a point about working with very good students whose anxiety about admission to the most selective colleges and universities leads them to obsess over very small factors affecting their class rank and GPA. Perhaps these students chose not to take a particular elective they find interesting, or consider dropping an extracurricular endeavor that requires them to take a class without honors weighting, because they fear these choices would lower their GPA and negatively impact their candidacies for highly selective schools. This is regrettable, but it is also why we have started this blog - to give insight on the admissions process, create more transparency, and hopefully counter these sorts of misconceptions.

    As other posts on this blog have suggested, our process of holistic review is designed so that our admissions decisions do not rely on negligible differences in GPA, rank, or standardized testing to distinguish between highly qualified candidates. Two points jump to mind:

    1) In admissions processes as selective at Dartmouth, there is not some combination of tangible academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments that will assure you of admission. Regardless of whether you have a 97.01 or a 97.02 GPA, you need to prepare an application that illuminates your tangible accomplishments as well as the intangible intellectual and personal qualities that would make you a compelling addition to the Dartmouth community. To not do so is to risk seeming like many others.

    2) A GPA at a certain level - or class rank, if your school reports it - is NOT an intrinsic reason that you will be a compelling candidate. It can be an indicator of qualities that we find appealing - that you have been a serious student, taken rigorous courses, and performed well. Sometimes a GPA and rank do a poor job of showing this - if your school's GPA and ranking system do not reward academic rigor and treats all grades the same, for instance. We're going to be thorough in our evaluation of your academic achievement, and this should be good news for you regardless of whether you are the student with tangible academic accomplishments in the highest range, or a student who has not always been at the very top but whose candidacy is strong in other areas (see point #1).

    I hope this helps start a conversation, either internally or with your parents/counselor/friends, about how you hope to be measured as a candidate to Dartmouth or any other school. I would guess you consider many of your qualities to be more important than that hundredth of a GPA point.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Passion and Practicality - Dartmouth and the Liberating Arts

    This is one of my favorite sections from President Kim's Inaugural Address - see the full link here.

    "Since I joined the College, I’ve learned a lot about what makes this place so special. Certainly the setting is uniquely beautiful. The faculty and academic programs – both undergraduate and graduate – are superb. The history and tradition of the College animate every aspect of life here. But I don’t think any of those alone captures what truly makes Dartmouth what it is.

    The writer Jack Beatty, who taught in the English Department last fall, was one of many who shared with me their insights on Dartmouth. In an email to me this summer, he wrote:

    “I taught a senior writing class here last fall. I stress ‘senior’ because all the students had had four years of Dartmouth socialization. The class was built around collective critiques of student short stories. The students all wrote well, a few wonderfully. But what impressed me more than their talent was their decency. I feared hurt feelings, bruised egos, too-critical critiques. Instead, they managed the social miracle of being at once honest and empathic in their comments. They cushioned criticism in respect, even affection. I told them how humanly rare that kind of communication was. I checked my experience against that of a friend who teaches political science here. In over forty years of teaching in a half dozen universities both here and abroad, he told me, he had never had students who treated each other so well. That speaks volumes of good about the Dartmouth experience.”

    Jack Beatty’s fine observation recalls how President Ernest Martin Hopkins, more than a half-century before, expressed his own understanding of what makes Dartmouth unique. At the inauguration of President Dickey, President Hopkins, then stepping down after 29 years at the helm of the College, said “I have become impressed more and more with the sweetness that attached to the relationship between one and another which constituted this great family which we call Dartmouth”...

    The sweetness of Dartmouth.

    The sense of color and proportion as you stand in the center of the Green, taking in Dartmouth Row, Webster Hall, Baker Library. The men and women who for almost two-and-a-half centuries have loved this place...

    By inviting me to serve you as the seventeenth president of Dartmouth College, you’ve given me the highest honor of my life. In return, I offer you this promise, backed by both passion and practicality to the fullest measure of which I am capable: I will do all I can to enable Dartmouth to continue delivering the treasury of its centuries-old dream safely into the hands of those who will shape the future. To send a legion of young people out into the world so inspired by this place that there is no challenge from which they will shrink—all the while remaining true to the abiding sweetness of the College on the Hill."

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Dartmouth's 17th President

    Dr. Jim Yong Kim was inaugurated at 11:00 am this morning, and the festivities are still going on outside on the green. For those of you who couldn't be in Hanover for the event, his inaugural address was inspiring. He has a clear mission for the College, but he also articulated what makes this place special in such a perfect way. I'll put up a link to his speech once it becomes available.

    In the meantime, check out the "Arts at Dartmouth" video from the pre-Inauguration events - the opening scene by Pilobolus is definitely worth watching.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Economic Diversity @ Dartmouth

    US News recently released its economic diversity rankings based upon the percentage of Pell Grant recipients at colleges and universities. Among top-ranked national universities, Dartmouth ranks 6th - you can see the full list here.

    In other news, the '13s are on campus (today is their move-in day!), and they are awesome. I ran into a group of them on my way home from work on Friday, and when I pointed out President Kim leaving Parkhurst one of them literally screamed in excitement. It will be fun to see the Mountains Beyond Mountains panel discussion tomorrow evening (they are broadcasting it for non-'13s), and I can't think of a better introduction to Dartmouth. Welcome home, '13s - we like your enthusiasm :)

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Dartmouth obsession of the week....

    Colleen just sent us the link to the Thayer School's new Panoramic Virtual Tour...very cool. I also love the nighttime aerial shot of the campus in slide six of the "Thayer Throughout the Seasons" slideshow.

    Back to travel planning....

    Thursday, September 3, 2009

    “There are many ways to be smart.”

    “What has been your greatest life lesson?” My aunt proposed this question during a recent family dinner. Kind of a tough question for a light-hearted dinner, I thought. While I pondered, my mom piped up without hesitation, “There are many ways to be smart.”

    This has been my mom’s mantra as long as I can remember. Mom, an elementary school librarian, consistently reminds us that everyone has an incredible set of strengths and talents, but they come in varied forms.

    I have been hearing this axiom--“Now remember, Colleen, there are many ways to be smart”--since age 6. This time, however, it carried new meaning. I realized this phrase is not only at the core of my family’s values, but also at the core of the principles we embrace in the holistic admissions.

    When reviewing an application, I am constantly thinking about the myriad of ways that a student shows their “smarts”: through how they interact with others; in the way they balance competing priorities; on the sports field; during a research project; in how they handle difficult family situations; through artistic expression; via intellectual discussions (in & out of the classroom); though writing; by inspirational leadership or building bridges in their communities… there are so many ways to be smart.

    So how do standardized measures of achievement fit into this picture? I see them as a practicality necessitated by the volume of applications in the college admissions process today. The number of places in each class at Dartmouth is finite, yet the number of applicants and the diverse array of talents they bring seem boundless. As we struggle with the inherent difficulties of this conundrum, conventional methods of assessing achievement (eg. transcripts or testing) can serve as one grounded metric. But one among many.

    I believe the core of our process relies on understanding the multiple ways students display their smarts--in the broadest sense of the word. For me, discovering those diverse expressions of intelligence is the joy in reading each application, and in building each class of Dartmouth students.

    "How can I improve my chance of admission?"

    A reflection on this common question

    In case you have not yet picked up on my style of post, you will likely not find an answer below to the question "How can I improve my chances?" Instead, I hope the perspective I share will help you consider how YOU can answer this question for yourself.

    When people ask me, "How can I improve my chance of admission?" I have to take a deep breath, compose myself, and think about what I can do to practically help the inquiring applicant (typically in a short email or the 30 seconds I have with him or her). For some reason this question reminds me of the joke, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" (A: "Practice, practice, practice.") I have a hunch the questioner wants me to give explicit directions on how to get into Dartmouth College. Instead, I can typically only answer in broad strokes.

    Thankfully, today most applicants and students know there's no "formula" for admission, but yet somehow a notion persists that there are particular things applicants should all do to get in. Unfortunately, the list of particular things applicants should do really doesn't get them in, it only ensures they're at least a realistic applicant. Such things would include getting good grades, being active in and/or out of school, taking rigorous courses, making a difference through your endeavors, and challenging yourself in and out of the classroom. This answer seems akin to saying "Practice, practice, practice."

    So how do we move beyond this trite answer? Well, I like to think of an applicant on three levels.
    1. The authentic person
    2. The person who does things to get into college
    3. The person we meet through the application

    About Level 1: The authentic person

    The first level is the ideal. When I read an application, what I really care about is the real person with all their strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, talents and curiosities, pursuits and frustrations, personal qualities and quirks. We work very hard to recruit and admit the authentic students who will add to Dartmouth in diverse ways and have already demonstrated an ability to make a positive difference in their communities--whether on the field or on the stage; in a class or in an organization.

    About Level 2: The person who does things to get into college

    I hope that the second layer of an applicant becomes a part of the authentic person. The things a person does to get into college should be done out of a natural love of learning and passion for his or her pursuits. Speaking personally, I remember when I was in high school I was motivated in some part by the college admissions process, but the things I chose to do were authentically me. Although I had people in my life who said I should run track because the admissions office wants to see that; or I should take AP Physics because the admissions office wants to see that--I followed my own interests (and I never ran track and I never took AP Physics). I was myself and Dartmouth admitted me for being myself.

    The things you should do to "improve your chances" are the things YOU WANT to do for yourself--and that can be anything! If you want to play football, that's what you should do to "improve your chances"; if you want to act in plays, that's what you should do to "improve your chances"; if you want to join the military, that's what you should do to "improve your chances"; or if you want to design and program a website to help your mom with her job, that's what you should do to "improve your chances." If you find some of your motivation for doing these things in the college admission process, that's fine--but do the things that are authentically you. Never choose to do something because someone says that's what Dartmouth is looking for. When I read an application, I'm looking for the genuine you.

    About Level 3: The person we meet through the application

    You need to complete your application in a way that reveals the primary layer, "The authentic person." In short, make sure your application reflects the breadth and depth of who you are. Understand that everything you fill out means something in this process. For instance, when you complete the background information section about your family, academic programs you have attended, and other info, you may think you're simply filling in blanks--but the words you fill in truly mean something because your family and your schools have influenced who you are. Furthermore, if you think something in your family history or background needs a little more explanation, give us a few sentences about that under additional information. It's these details that make you a unique human being.

    Similarly, take advantage of the extracurricular section and make sure it shows more than names, titles, and awards--it must show commitment, so share with us in a brief sentence exactly what you're doing in your extracurriculars! Show us how you've been committed to your extracurricular pursuits, how you've made a difference, and how you've pushed yourself beyond the classroom. The extracurricular section should show us what you do with your time beyond academics--whatever that may be. Then there's the personal statement. In short--Make it PERSONAL! Tell us what we need to know to understand the authentic person behind the application. Reflect on who you are, the family and community you live in, and the opportunities and challenges you've had. Write well, make it interesting, and most importantly, make it personal.

    As for the academic record, testing, recommendations, and everything else--well, I'll leave all that to another post.

    For now, my advice for "How can I improve my chances?" is to ask yourself, "Who am I?" and consider how to make sure your application answers this question.

    This isn't the whole of my advice--but start here: Who are you?

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    It's not bragging if you can do it...

    Dartmouth ranked #1 in new US News ranking for 'Best Undergraduate Teaching' among national universities.

    Like many of my colleagues at Dartmouth and at other institutions, I often worry about the amount of weight prospective students put on the college and university rankings in publications like the US News & World Report. On the one hand, I see the value in these websites and publications. Most of the high school students that I encounter are considering a list of colleges and universities that reflect pretty strong family, school, and/or regional biases regarding different institutions. Websites and publications that consider and compare a wide variety of schools really help students consider a broader range of college options.

    On the other hand, there is a lot that these ranking systems don't capture. Am I thrilled that we were ranked first in this category among national universities? You bet. Do I think the educational experience we are offering to our students lives up to this claim? Absolutely. But we would be the same college, with the same commitments and quality of teaching, if we were ranked #2, or #11. Just something to keep in mind :)

    Dartmouth in Your City (Part II)

    The fall travel season is almost here, and chances are good that a member of our Admissions staff is coming soon to a city near you. To find out where we are going, monitor our "Dartmouth In Your City" website. We update this site weekly during the fall, and you can use it to find information on when and where we will be hosting information sessions.

    If you live in New England and have the opportunity to visit Hanover, the fall is a great time to visit - the Upper Valley is absolutely beautiful, our office is open on select Saturdays, and if you time it right you can be on campus for neat events like Dartmouth's famous homecoming bonfire (pictured above). But if you can't make it to campus, don't worry - you can always come see us on tour!

    How do we know who might change the world?

    To follow up on my previous post on how Dartmouth students change the world, I want to share with you some thoughts on how we know which of our over 18,000 applicants have that special combination of intellect and passion. We take very seriously our mission to bring to Dartmouth those students whom we believe will truly make a difference in communities small and large, across the country and around the world.

    All of you who are applying will demonstrate to us that you are smart in the classroom. But, how do you take what you have learned and apply to bigger questions and ideas? What do you hope to do with a Dartmouth education? Part of the "art" of completing your application is helping us to see beyond your scores and grades to understand who you really are.

    Having gone through the admissions process as a parent, I know the feelings of inadequacy that creep into the process -- "I haven't saved the world before bedtime" (to paraphrase the PowderPuff Girls). As I read an application, I always look for potential. I find that potential in what you say about yourself and what others say about you. Through your personal statements, counselor, teacher, and peer recommendations, and your interview, I get a better sense of your curiosity, creativity, initiative, energy, and motivation and begin to imagine you as a student at Dartmouth.

    You all have it in you -- don't be afraid to let us see it.

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Greet the World, from the Hills, With a Hail!

    It comes as no great surprise that one of most often discussed features of Dartmouth is its location. Just as the identity of some schools is inextricably linked to their urban location (especially if that location happens to be an iconic city such as Boston, New York, or D.C.), Dartmouth's identity has been forged by its location in a part of the country know for its, well, less urban qualities. This is poetically captured in the lyrics to Dartmouth's Alma Mater, which says of Dartmouth students and graduates:

    They have the still North in their hearts,

    The hill-winds in their veins,

    And the granite of New Hampshire

    In their muscles and their brains.

    We live in an increasingly urban and suburban country and, to be sure, most Dartmouth students come from urban and suburban areas. So where do these students first encounter the still North, the hill-winds, and the granite of New Hampshire? One of the most cherished of all Dartmouth places is Mount Moosilauke, a small mountain (4,802 feet) where the Dartmouth Outing Club owns and operates the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge. Over 90% of entering Dartmouth students participate in the First-Year Trips program, all of which conclude with a night spent at Moosilauke learning Dartmouth traditions and playing in the beautiful setting.

    The Moosilauke Ravine Lodge is open May-October, and many hikers, Dartmouth students, tourists, and local folks visit to either stay the night before hiking up the mountain, or just stop in for the famous family-style dinners prepared by Dartmouth students and recent graduates who work at the Lodge for the summer. Last night a group of admissions interns and officers traveled up to Moosilauke (1 hour drive from Hanover) for dinner. After a stressful day of work in the admissions office, the experience reminded me of the restorative powers of nature. After spending a few enjoyable hours in the mountains, I felt refreshed and ready for a new day. I know that for many Dartmouth students a brief trip to Moosilauke is a great escape valve from the stresses of academic life. Plus, the food was wonderful. Here is a picture of the mountain taken just before dinner:

    How do you feel about Dartmouth's rural setting? You should also visit our student blog to get more insight on life at Dartmouth.

    Friday, August 14, 2009

    How to take advantage of college fairs

    Very few officers I know like going to college fairs, and there's a good reason. College fairs are a pretty poor way to distinguish your school among all the schools scattered across the hall. I will say, however, that if students come prepared, the fair can really be helpful to the student and they may make a great connection with a few Admissions Officers at the fair.

    Too often students come up to the table, grab materials, maybe ask a generic question, and walk away. The hall is loud, crowded, and often hot. I find that most students are unprepared for the fair which means they ask basic questions that could have been answered with a quick Google search and I wind up repeating the same answer every time a new student comes up to the table.

    So, what's my advice? It's simple--please do your research before coming to a fair. Here are 10 steps to a productive college fair:

    1. Find out which colleges will be at the fair
    2. Find out the basics on each college and determine if it's worth more investigation before the fair
    3. Do some in depth investigation about a dozen or so schools of real interest to you. Find out about...4. Think about your concerns about the college and what you want to get out of college. With these thoughts, prepare a few open ended questions for the Admissions Officers or Alumni. Samples include:
    • What do you think distinguishes Dartmouth [or wherever] most from the other schools?
    • If I'm interested in Astronomy [or whatever], what opportunities will I have at Dartmouth? (Please do NOT ask, "Do you have this major?")
    • What advice do you have for completing my application? (only ask this to Admissions Officers; alumni may have ideas but they'll probably caution you that they don't read applications)
    • I'm concerned about [whatever] at your school [after hearing it from a friend, reading it online, or whatever]. What's your perspective on this?
    5. Use the college reps at the fair to get a sense of the personality of the college! (Don't use it for the basic stats. If you come across a new college, peruse the brochure and come back with questions)
    6. At the fair, visit the booths for the colleges you've done your in depth research on and start off by saying you're interested in the school and a few reasons why (so we get to know a little about you) and then ask your question.
    7. Engage in a conversation with the Admissions Officer or Alumni but please also try to include other students in the conversation or be open to allowing others to listen in. There are typically lots of students who have no clue what to ask, so if you set an example and allow others to be part of your conversation, it'll be more productive for everyone
    8. If the conversation is going on a little long and others are waiting, say, "Thank you for your time. I want to give others a chance, but would it be okay if I email you with any additional questions?"
    9. As you look for your next college, note any colleges that catch your eye and use what you know of the other schools to ask informed questions about any new school.
    10. Have fun, be patient, and don't be rude to other fair-goers.

    I know that college fairs have traditionally been a time just to collect brochures--but if you do your research beforehand you'll make many college reps happy and quite possibly improve your chances of admission with your new-found knowledge. I imagine some colleagues may disagree with some of my advice or have other advice.

    Do you have stories of how you made the most of a college fair?

    Monday, August 10, 2009

    Dartmouth in Your City

    Fall travel planning is well underway in our office, and many of our staff members will be hitting the road soon. Although we do some of our recruitment travel during the spring and summer, we do the vast majority of our travel during the fall (usually 4 to 6 weeks of travel per admissions officer).

    I'm particularly excited for this year's travel season because my state responsibilities have changed. While our application review process is not strongly influenced by the regions/states to which individuals admissions officers are assigned, these assignments do have a significant impact on the regions of the country to which we travel. In the past three years I have spent a lot of time in Southern California and in the Southeastern United States, and while I have really enjoyed getting to know these areas, I'm excited to see new parts of the country.

    Right now I'm planning trips to Iowa and Nebraska, which are both states that we haven't had the chance to visit in a while. I would like to visit all 50 states at some point, so this is a great opportunity to visit two states that we don't travel to as often. It's a lot of fun to see where our applicants are from, and traveling has also really expanded my own understanding of the tremendous diversity of experiences and perspectives represented in our country.

    This is my hometown (Hilo, HI):

    And this is a photo taken from my porch in Hanover:

    Photos of your hometown (Omaha, NE?) to come soon.

    Wednesday, August 5, 2009

    The Summer College Tour

    Tired of boring college visits that all sound the same? Those of you that have been through the college tour circuit already know the drill – the struggle to find parking, information sessions and tours that repeat the same information, and then the long drive to the next school to repeat the same process with a very similar information session/tour.

    We know this is a problem, and we want to fix it, so send me your ideas. What are the most interesting things you have seen or heard on a college visit? What do you want to hear about?

    And yes, this is a picture of a kitten on my desk. I decided that we didn’t have enough pictures on our blog, so I am posting this one in honor of the fact that Dean Laskaris was cool enough to let a co-worker's kitten spend the day in our office (one colleague was adopting him from another, so we got to keep him for the day).

    Monday, August 3, 2009

    Want to Change the World?

    I'm always impressed by how Dartmouth students combine their academic and personal interests to produce some pretty amazing outcomes.

    A great example of the combination between intellect and passion is the Big Green Bus. As I write this post, 15 Dartmouth students are on a cross-country odyssey in a veggie­-powered bus, raising awareness about energy conservation and the environment. The bus itself is a rolling science fair project, outfitted with exhibits that highlight five areas of green living: reduce, reuse, and recycle; energy efficiency; cleaner and renewable energy and fuel; food choices; and action through voting on the local, state, and national levels.

    I've loved reading about the students who make this summer's bus crew -- it confirms for me that we are definitely admitting the right students! Learn more about them at TheBigGreenBus.com

    Better yet, come out and meet them in person. This month, the Big Green Bus has stops planned in Minneapolis, Madison, Memphis, Chicago, Detroit, Oberlin, Cleveland, Columbus, West Virginia, Philadelphia, Weston, Providence, Boston, and Portland, before they end up back at Dartmouth on August 22nd.

    What are you doing this summer?

    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    Don't choose your college by the majors they offer (at least that's my advice)

    Very often I hear students asking "Do you have...such and such...major?" I almost always say yes because Dartmouth has majors in seemingly ever field and then some. However, I always follow up with a quick explanation of the liberal arts because I want to emphasize to prospective students that at Dartmouth they're doing much more than completing a major (or a double major, or a triple major, or a major and minor, or a double major and minor). Students are learning how to think and solve problems the cut across any particular discipline.

    I caution students from deciding on a college based on the availability (or perceived unavailability) or a major. I make this caution for several reasons, including:
    • New concentrations, majors, and programs may come about while you're on campus and you may decide that's what you want to focus on (like Dartmouth's new courses in International Studies--not to be confused with International Relations--and business, though not a major)
    • You may find yourself loving a topic you never considered previously. High schools don't offer the breadth of classes you'll find at schools like Dartmouth, so how is it you know what you want to major in when you've never tried anything besides math, science, english, history, art, and PE? My opinion--come to college to try something new and then decide what you want to major in (and it may be what you liked all along or might be something completely different).
    • A major does not determine your career! An economics major is not required for business nor is a government major required for law school. One Dartmouth friend of mine now at medical school was a music major; another friend now in law school was an english major; I was a government major and now I work in admissions as well as run an education non-profit that works in Africa. You should major in the subject or subjects you enjoy--that will allow you to be the most successful both in the short term and later on down the road.
    • At Dartmouth our majors fall along disciplinary lines, not professional ones--this is true of most liberal arts colleges. Don't expect to find a very particular major that's overly focused (business, accounting, journalism are examples of majors we don't have; but certainly many Dartmouth graduates go into business, accounting, and journalism). Your major does not make you an expert in that field; that's what graduate school is for. For instance, you're not going to be an Animation Major at Dartmouth, you'd probably be a Film and New Media Major; or you're not going to be an Architecture Major, you'd probably be a Studio Art major modified with Engineering.
    • Names of majors can be deceiving. Don't ask if a college has this or that major, ask "How can I study this particular thing, whatever this thing is that you're passionate about?" For example, if you want to study International Relations, you'll be a Government Major with a focus on international relations; technically speaking you're not an IR major accordingly to your transcript but you'll have learned all about international relations. This goes back to the naming more by discipline than specific topics.
    How are you going to choose your college? By the majors available to you or by the academic, intellectual, social, extracurricular or personal experiences available to you?