Yes, I know professors name and they insist you call them by it. My favorite class was an animation class because the professor (Ehrlich) was inspiring, and each day we would create and eventually showcase our creativity. Least favorite was Math 18 (Multivariable Calculus). I placed out of the lower levels of math and was put in a class with folks who were better prepared for it. I thought I was a math nerd...turns out I was only a math nerd in suburban Florida. Students study often. Certain majors (Math, Chemistry, Economics) more than others (English, Film). Student participation is very common, particularly in non-lecture classes. Dartmouth students have many intellectual conversations outside of class. Sometimes all-night philosophical discussions, sometimes in discussion groups, heck, I even had intellectual discussions at midnight in the basement of a frat while playing drinking games. Students can be very competitive. It's how they got into Dartmouth and some don't stop...ever, even after graduation. I tended to hang out with the less competitive bunch (the comedians, film majors, creative folk). But, yes, the math/pre-med/econ majors are very competitive. Most unique was probably the animation class. It was taught by a world class animator (David Ehrlich) and probably required more work than other class I ever took. But, we were animating cartoons. Film Studies department at Dartmouth is growing. Now they have a bigger budget and much more resources. When I was there, we had "enough" but nothing more. Editing on steenbecks was a very informative but I prefer the current avids I hear students have access to. The professors of film are very well known in their field. Authorities on Hitchcock (the late Al LaValley) as well as famous screenwriters (Maury Rapf) were a couple that stand out. I did not spend much time with professors outside of class but I have stayed in touch with a couple. Also, several folks in whichever class DID have a lot of contact with professors. Dartmouth academic requirements were, across the board, awesome. It's a liberal arts education so you have to take a little of everything and a lot of your major. It was challenging but rewarding. Education at Dartmouth is to prepare you for the world for your own sake. Certain corporate recruiters come to campus to get Dartmouth students but, in general, Dartmouth is educating you to help you.
Overall, I was quite satisfied with Dartmouth academics. As a math major, I found most of the upper level classes small, fairly interesting, and with a fair amount of work. People usually hear "math major" and think it's a difficult major, but I think the amount of work is no different than your average class: about 3 nights of homework (~3 hours each), a midterm and a final. Most of the professors I had ranged from OK to outstanding. There was definitely plenty of opportunity to spend time with them outside of class, from office hours, to informal meetings, to department lunches and get-togethers. I probably didn't take as much advantage of getting to know professors as I could have, but the opportunity was definitely there and most professors were willing to help out as much as they could. The "distrib", or distribution requirements could get annoying to keep track of... did that course count for my non-western culture and my social analysis distrib? But overall they force you to take a nice variety of courses, even if you never did want anything to do with math. With careful planning, I had no problems fitting in all the courses for my major, two minors, distrib requirements, and term abroad, without taking any additional classes or extra terms.
Top notch and you'll graduate with a broad knowledge base. The teachers (at least the ones that I've had) are excellent and show genuine passion for their jobs. Grading is sorta up in the air and really depends on the class and teacher. All of my professors know my name which is much cooler than it sounds. Dartmouth does have distributive requirements (rather than having required classes, you have to take a class in different disciplines and subjects) which can be a bit annoying, it's good in the long run because it does expose you to other things that you never would have given a chance otherwise (for example, an engineering and math nerd who takes an Etruscan art history class or course on 18th century comparative Russian literature). Students study all of the time, especially on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, the non-party nights (a lot of students don't have class on Tuesdays or Thursdays). And it's not for nothing. Most of the things you learn will come in useful in some form or another, whether it's for your profession, hobby or to sound smart in front of people.
Students are NOT competitive at all. It's a great learning atmosphere. Most profs go out of their way to learn names, even in big classes. And if you go to their office hours, they will make an attempt to get to know you as a person, which is really cool. I had a psych prof who begged us to take advantage of a take-a-prof-to-lunch program so he could get to know us better. The profs want you to succeed. They will make every effort to help you if you ask for it. They're not going to baby you, but they really do care and want to help. The psych department (which runs the neuro major) is pretty good. Profs are usually pretty funny and engaging. The chem dept (my minor) is FANTASTIC. The profs are hilarious and so smart and so quirky and wonderful. People here study a lot, especially for major classes. Everyone takes the occasional goof-off class that doesn't require much work just for a break or to fulfill a distributive requirement, but overall people spend a lot of time in the library. Which isn't a bad thing, necessarily.
The quality of undergrad education at Dartmouth, with the exception of a handful, is unparalleled by other research universities. I have never had any classes taught by TAs and the largest class I've had was around 150 people. Many departments, such as economics, cap the class sizes at 35 or so, so that you always have access to professors during office hours. Econ and gov't are the most popular majors, but you can easily double major (my majors are economics and neuroscience), or you can modify your major, or minor. Classes are tough, but you learn a lot both from the professors and other students. Some students are competitive, particularly in certain majors, but definitely to a lesser degree compared to other top schools Distributive requirements make sure that you take plenty of classes outside of your major
My largest class is 150+ while my smallest class is just 6 people. Classes with 50+ students are pretty rare and mostly limited to intro level classes. Students study pretty much every day and class participation is pretty common. Even large lecture classes encourage discussions. Dartmouth's academic requirements are pretty lenient. We have distributive requirements as opposed to a core curriculum so students have a lot of freedom in choosing what to take while still having some sort of guidance. As an Ivy League school, Dartmouth has a healthy dose of competitive edge. Students aren't competitive to the point of ripping out pages of each other's textbooks or cheating on tests in hopes of boosting their GPAs, but they do study and work hard in their classes. A little competition keeps students motivated to excel.
I've found a small department that is attentive and very supportive. I've known Russian and Anthro profs outside of class, and hung out with them in good ways. Big majors like Economics and Government are much more bureaucratic and impersonal. Dartmouth takes advantage of its liberal arts in integrative departments like Geography. One of the strongest traditions here is Native American studies, and Dartmouth supports a dialogue about Native American issues which is unique to the college and its history. Taking three classes is a challenge because it is hard to do all of the diverse work you want to, but good because you concentrate more I think. And the terms are very short, I'm not sure we learn as well because we cram a lot.
Courses at Dartmouth are challenging but very doable if you are willing to put the time into your work. Professors are very accessible so you can always see them during their individual office hours. One thing I dont like personally is how much you have to participate. I was never big on participating in class so it was a little uncomfortable for me at first. Students here don't seem to be ambitious or competitive, but they are. You'll see kids going out and getting drunk many nights and they will be the ones pulling off straight A's somehow. It's actually pretty impressive.
Professors. They are the best in the country. They are there for you not for themselves. This is what really distinguishes Dartmouth. Never will you have a TA teach a class. All professors are required to keep office hours so you will get one on one interaction with some of the top minds in the country. At the same time it is tough. It is hard to get good grades in college when 3 of the 5 guys sitting in the same row as you were number 1 or 2 in their schools. Competition is fierce but the atmosphere is of group work rather than individuals trying to bring each other down.
The classes are overall very small and personal. We used to have professors over for dinner and played on intramural sports teams with them. Academically the school obviously has a reputation for being challenging, which it deserves. Your peers are all extremely bright and you learn from them inside and outside the classroom. Academically, Dartmouth will support you in anything you want to do. Just come up with a plan, get some faculty support, apply for a grant, and you are on your way to achieving great things.