Dartmouth College Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?

moonshine

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

Eric

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.

Kelly

I loved my professors my first quarter here. They were SOOO approachable and humble. And they created an environment where you felt comfortable asking questions and knowing that you wouldn't be condemned for being stupid. They would be understanding if I needed time to finish an assignment (probably only for freshmen). Basically the nicest people I've ever met.

Royce

Some professors will make it a point to learn all of their students' names and invite them to their houses for dinner; others will be less friendly but still willing to talk with you if you take the initiative and approach them yourself. You can have any type of classroom experience you want here - it all depends on the classes you choose, how much you participate in class discussions, and how much you invest in getting to know your professors. It's very easy to study anything you want here; people frequently modify their majors, design their own majors, or do double majors with minors and even double minors. The academic requirements can be fulfilled in a number of ways, so ultimately everyone gets something different out of their academic experience. Dartmouth prides itself on providing a true liberal arts education, and that's exactly what I'm getting! I can take arts classes, history classes, classes on finance, statistics, healthcare, philosophy, ethics, public policy, geography, computer science, theater, foreign languages, religion, and anthropology - and that's before I even get started on a major. There's a lot of freedom to explore different academic areas within the curriculum, and even after you decide what you want to concentrate on, there's nothing preventing you from taking random film studies (or psychology, or gov, etc) classes.

Abhishek

The English, Psychology, Economics, Anthropology, and Education departments are very good. The professors are happy to work with students personally rather than distribute authority to graduate students and teaching assistants. The class sizes are small, making this advantageous.

Corey

Professors take teaching seriously; you will almost never be taught by a TA. Standards are rigorous and expectations are high. Every department at Dartmouth has its own unique intellectual culture, and each has at least one leading scholar. The great thing about Dartmouth is that you receive hands-on teaching from professors who are also nationally well-known amongst their peers, which is a huge plus if you want to go to graduate school.

Jerry

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.

Laura

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.

Kate

Dartmouth is obviously known for its academics. Most classes aren't too big, so professors can get to know you; most professors are very open to meeting with students outside of class. There is such a variety of classes, and the college is very flexible as far as majors go, since you can major in something but modify it with something completely different. Classes are the main part of college, and Dartmouth's schedule has students only in class for about 10 hours a week, which is great.

Elena

This winter I took a course with Paleontologist Kevin Peterson called "Dinosaurs!" Literally, there was an exclamation point in the course description. It was a great way to fill my science distributive, and it was actually really enlightening. Some highlights include passing around bones and fossils in class and watching Jurassic Park to talk about its inaccuracies. Professor Peterson even invited us to go on digs in the future.

Matt

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.

Nick

My professors are unfortunately fantastic. I often find my papers overwhelmed with feedback and the profs are begging you to visit them during (or outside of) office hours. Which means that there is no blaming bad profs for anything- if your paper wasn't good enough it's just because you went out a little too hard that weekend!

Erik

The education is thorough and focused, I've had wonderful, incredibly passionate professors and professors who I felt were mediocre. That's just a fact of life.

Derek

We study hard, and Dartmouth is certainly challenging. We are on the quarter system, so you take three classes, three times a year. When not on campus, we can be found doing internships with companies that recruit heavily on campus, from I-banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan to real estate firms to design houses like Prada to anything under the sun really, to doing amazing volunteer activities such as teaching English to children in Ghana or building houses in Juarez.

Anna

Nice balance of types of classes and can work close with professors. There is maybe "too much" work, but that is expected at such a school. The work overrides all else, which is why the Work Hard Play Hard motto works so well

Abby

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.

Molly

They can be as easy or as hard as you make them. For example, if you are a socy major and the only other classes you take are "joc" classes you will soar through here. Or if you are and engines major double majoring in biochemistry with a minor in econ life academically may be a little more tough. Profs in general aren't there to screw you over, nor are they handing out A's.

Adam

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.

Amanda

The academics are as good as you'd expect. The professors are usually good, and they make an effort to know your name. The classes are generally pretty small except in intro sciences, and there are very few lecture halls on campus, so be prepared to participate and be challenged.

Matthew

Academics at Dartmouth are very intense and rigorous almost all the time. However, classes are extremely rewarding, and the effort put into coursework is certainly justified in the satisfaction. Although intense, students are supportive and friendly, not super competitive.

Blake

If you come from nowhere like moi, you will not be ready for anything Dartmouth has to offer. True you will slowly find yourself, but again, it is up to you to make it. Academics are no playpen. You got in to Dartmouth to study. Make your time worthwhile here, and set goals to fuck up the curve for everybody else. :)

Jay

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.

Sonia

There are some large introduction classes, but even then, the professors know my name, especially if I make an effort to go to office hours. My favorite class thus far has been a microeconomics class because the professor was so well organized and cared about the students' wellbeing and understanding. I worry a lot about academics, so I study a lot, but I think many people study a lot too. Many students know how to balance their social lives while still keeping up their academics. Personally, I think education here is more about learning new was to think. My adviser told me to take anything that interested me, even if it wasn't in my major's department, because each class is tailored towards a specific learning skill.

Greta

It all depends on the size of the class and where it is held. yes, i think students are definitely competitive but it all comes out in different ways. I dont know what i am majoring in. I think the Dartmouth education is in between teaching to get a job and teaching for knowledge depending on the class.

Frances

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.

Jordan

I like discussion-based classes, and so find Dartmouth's size pretty ideal. I also enjoy that the quarter system means that we only have 3 classes a term, and switch them up every 3 months. This means we have a LOT less class time, on average, than other schools, which is awesome. The downside to this, however, is that every 3 months you have finals, which, especially given the fact that we only get 2 days of reading period, is pretty intense. Academics are great in general though, so long as you take classes based on the prof.

broghan

professors reach out to you if you reach out to them. they are very personable and responsive if you need them, but they are not burdensome if you want to learn things on your own. students at dartmouth do everything full out...they play hard and study hard. the library is always packed on monday, tuesday, and thursday nights because on the other nights people like to go out and have fun.

Blake

The professors at Dartmouth are here because they want to teach, and they want to teach YOU! They are extremely accessible and most know all of their students' names by the end of the first week of class (even true for large lecture classes of 100+). I'm a Women's and Gender Studies major. In my department, the classes are taught by professors from all departments who truly want to be teaching courses that look at the intersection of race, class, and gender across all disciplines. The discussions in these classes are mindblowing and have enabled me to broaden my learning beyond the classroom to my everyday experiences. These courses are often much smaller, seminar-style classes so professors are even more accessible and truly invested in their students! Many classes have set up times to meet for coffee, pot lucks, or student "pong" (NOT beiruit!!) tournaments.

kelly

all of my professors this far have known my name. my favorite class by far was stephanie boone's writing 2-3 class. there is no comparison to that class. i feel as though there could be more student participation. yes, almost to many intellectual conversations. students don't seem to be competitive. I do not think there should be a math requirement.

Paige

Yes my professors know my name. Students study ALL the time. It's very demanding and rigorous. Yes Dartmouth students definitely have intellectual converstaions outside of class. Yes I spend time outside of class with professors sometimes. By saying the students are competitive I would say yes they are very motivated and want to do well but it is not like competing against each other. Students are very helpful and friendly.

Evan

There will be classes where the amount of students exceeds 50, but these are very rare. And even in these classes, the professors are still very accessible. I loved my film class in Freshman Fall because my prof actually cared about us and she helped me come up with an awesome idea for my final project. There hasn't been a class I despised yet, so I'm holding my breath. Students tend to study a lot, but are not that competitive. As I said before, I tend to ignore the few competitive students because they are extremely annoying and spend most of their time in library alcoves anyway. Dartmouth is very much a center for intellectualism. Students will often times have intellectual conversations outside of class, especially if they are taking a course that genuinely interests them (and this is common, even when we have to take distributive requirements.)

Royce

I have good relationships with many of my professors. I may not be the norm, but I have 9 or 10 professors (and yes I am only a sophomore) that I will stop and talk to if I see them. They are very amenable to consultation and try to help you through there classes in any way they can (for the most part) Education here is geared both towards getting a job and learning for its own sake, it depends on the department.

Jesse

Dartmouth is unique among the Ivies in that it is only an undergraduate institution; it is a college, not a university. While it has excellent Business, Medical, and Engineering schools affiliated with it, Dartmouth is entirely focused on its undergraduates. Because of this, even freshmen get into small classes with excellent professors. The Economics and Government departments are famously large, but even the intro classes in those deparments are usually capped at around fifty students. Aside from those and from large pre-med classes, Dartmouth does a fantastic job at facilitating small class sizes and student-professor mentoring. If you come here, the best advice I can give you is that you should go to office hours with your professor. If you're confused about something, they will work with you until you get it; if you just want to chat about the class, other classes in the department, majors, or life in general, they will be thrilled to hear from you. Because of the quarter system, Dartmouth students usually only take three courses per term (you can have a limited number of terms with either two or four courses). I personally love this system: your classes end before you ever hit that end of term slump that semesters seem to encourage. However, ten week terms mean that classes move very quickly, and "midterms" last pretty much from the second week to the second to last week of classes. Dartmouth students have to work hard, but the workload is definitely manageable. But the upside to the quarter system is the D-plan, which allows students to choose what terms they want off, what terms they want to be on campus, and what terms they want to participate in study abroad programs. Dartmouth's study abroad programs fantastic, and the system practically begs you to spend at least one term, if not more, abroad.

Sean

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.

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