Saturday, September 1, 2012

Welcome to the 16's

Greetings and welcome to Dartmouth's new class of first year students, the class of 2016.

Having been at Dartmouth since 1983, having been a first year adviser for every year since 1983, and having attended college (albeit many years ago), I have a good understanding of the emotions and expectations new students have as they begin their college careers. Everyone will begin it during orientation week, but a number of students are already on campus for first year DOC trips, pre-season athletics, FYSEP, NLI, and international orientation.

It's a busy time on campus already. And it's been quite busy for me and my office (the Academic Skills Center) for some time, finishing up summer term and getting ready for fall term, one of our busiest terms.

For me, orientation includes presentations on how to do well at Dartmouth. They are well attended every year. Students are anxious to learn what it takes to do well at this college. Much of what I say, in an hour's time, can be found on the Academic Skills Center website: downloadable handouts and the Academic Success streaming videos.

This blog entry, though, will touch on what I consider the most important piece of  advice I give during orientation: choose your first three courses thoughtfullly. They are important because they initiate your Dartmouth College academic career, but they can serve to help you start well and gain academic confidence.

In a word, choose three courses that you are interested in. Courses that you would like to know more about. Ones that either continue some area of study that you were introduced to in high school or courses that will introduce you to information you know little or nothing about. Avoid, on the other hand, courese that you think you will major in (unless you are quite confident that you will major in that area) and courses that merely fufill a distributive requirement.

You have plenty of time to choose a major (by the end of your sophomore year) and many students choose to major in areas that are different that what they thought they might major in when they started college.

Choosing three courses will require to think carefully, and you should be asking lots of questions about possible courses, departments, requirements, and professors. There are lots of resources for you to use to ask those questions: your first year faculty adviser, academic open houses, your UGA, your undergraduate dean, Deans Office Student Consultants (DOSC), upperclass students, and so on.