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

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?