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Educational Consultant on Dartmouth College in the Ivy League Context

A photo of a campus building

For those trying to get into the Ivy League, college admissions expert Mark Montgomery has some input on this relatively small, conservative, and outdoorsy Ivy League institution.

Hi, I’m Mark Montgomery here with some Great College Advice, and today we’re going to talk about Dartmouth College.

There are probably at least three things you need to know about Dartmouth College. And maybe that’s prefaced by, first, the fact that I went there. So I know a lot about this school. Both good and bad, and while I’m a loyal alumnus, I’m not beyond seeing the warts on the actual institution. So it’s a great place; it’s not for everyone.

But what are some things that you need to think about as you’re examining Dartmouth College in the context of the other seven Ivy League institutions?

The Size of Dartmouth

Well, the first is it’s the smallest of all the other Ivy League schools. That means that Dartmouth College, and it is the only college among the Ivy Leagues. So classes generally are going to be smaller. They are generally going to be taught by professors. While there are some professional schools at Dartmouth, they are very much disconnected from the undergraduate experience.

There is a growing number of graduate students in the arts and sciences. Shall we say, and there’s actually a change now that they’re creating a school for all of those programs. But the numbers of graduate students that are actually in the classroom with the undergraduate students? Really insignificant. Whereas at some of the other larger Ivies like Penn or Cornell, you’re going to see graduate students a lot. Not so at Dartmouth.

Dartmouth’s Location

The second thing that you might think about is Dartmouth is geographically the most remote. It’s two hours, almost exactly, by car, from Logan Airport in Boston, and it is in the woods. We talk about it, you know, the granite of New Hampshire and the woods and all that stuff. But the area of the Upper Valley of the Connecticut River is actually relatively cosmopolitan. There are lots of start-ups in the area, housing prices are kind of crazy because lots of people want to live there. There’s the Dartmouth-Hitchcock hospital as well as the veterans hospital. Which makes it a medical center for all of upper New England.

It has a great arts center, the Hopkins Center, which is a magnet for artistic creativity in the region. It doesn’t feel remote. There are only a couple of stoplights. Maybe three, four stoplights in the whole town, but it doesn’t feel like it is in the boonies. Actually, it’s a relatively cosmopolitan atmosphere.

It is Conservative

The third thing is that Dartmouth has often been considered the most conservative of the Ivies. In some ways that’s true. It’s certainly the Ivy that has the greatest participation in the Greek system. So an overwhelming percentage of students, and last I heard at a reunion was that about 70% of students belong to either a fraternity or a sorority. Now, it’s definitely true that that culture, you know, it may or may not be your thing. However, there are openly gay members of fraternities, there’s actually, recently, was an openly gay president of a fraternity. It is not a completely intolerant environment.

The Demographics

And of course, you also have to look at the fact that like all of the Ivies, the demographic is changing. Whereas all of the Ivies used to be dominated by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants that kind of looked like me. Actually now, according to statistics reported to the government, only 47% of students at Dartmouth are white. There are 14% who are Asians, 7% are Black or African-American, 8% are Latino or Hispanic. And an interesting 2% are actually Native Americans because Dartmouth was established way back in 1769 to educate Native Americans.

It’s a promise that they actually didn’t make good on until the 1970s when president Kemeny at the time said, “We must do what we said we’re going to do.” So they’ve made a very concerted effort to recruit Native Americans with some success. Also, we have to remember that 5% of students are of more than one race. Which is kind of the way America rolls right now. And there are 9% of students who did not declare their race on the form. Either that’s because they were confused and didn’t know how to answer the question, or actually more likely I like to think these are guilt-ridden white Anglo-Saxon Protestant types who decide that they just are feeling too guilty about their white privilege and decide not to mark their race on the form.

So anyway, however you slice it, Dartmouth is a much more diverse place, certainly, than when I went there and certainly the generation before. So while it’s conservative, maybe because of the fraternity system, that doesn’t mean that it’s an intolerant place.

Get Outside and Explore

I would also highlight the fact that because of its remote location, it is a paradise if you’re interested in outdoor activities of any kind. They have their own skiway, they own a mountain with this really cool lodge at the bottom of it, so if you want to go hiking at any time, there’s this network of cabins and stuff. It’s really a cool place if you’re interested in the outdoors.

So Dartmouth, the smallest of the Ivy League, yes; most remote, but not in the boonies; conservative, perhaps by some measures but certainly reflective of the American population and certainly reflective of all the other Ivy League schools; and if you like the woods, it’s the place to be.

So check out Dartmouth, and if you’re interested in figuring out how to get in, let me know, give me a call.



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