Misinformation Sessions

On the several tours that I shadowed this summer, the Collis Center was presented as the epicenter of social activities on campus, and the College’s unique strongpoint Greek life went unmentioned unless tour guides were prompted by a question from the crowd.

On the several tours that I shadowed this summer, the Collis Center was presented as the epicenter of social activities on campus, and the College’s unique strongpoint Greek life went unmentioned unless tour guides were prompted by a question from the crowd.

I had no intention of ever going to school in the North. The way I saw it, the weather was far too cold and I knew far too few northerners to ever have fun going to school there. It was only by my mother’s insistence that I even took a week long college visit tour during my junior year of high school that went through D.C., Boston, New York, and eventually Hanover. By the time the trip of visits arrived at its last stop, things weren’t looking great. The number of hipsters I’d encountered in Cambridge scared the hell out of me; everyone in Ithaca thought they were far smarter than they were and Providence was simply bizarre and slightly traumatic. While I’m sure my mother had hoped that these visits would sway my opinion in favor of more “academically prestigious” institutions, by the time we arrived at McNutt Hall for an information session and student-guided tour, I was ready to go home.

Before the tour, my opinion on Dartmouth was pretty neutral. I didn’t know any Dartmouth alumni, and had only briefly scanned over the description of the school published by U.S. News and World Report. I knew it was an Ivy, which meant that I probably would not be able to get in, and I had read the infamous Rolling Stone article. So, other than kiddie pools of vomit and really smart people, I had no idea what to expect from my tour. The information session and first half of the admission tour failed to differentiate the College from any other schools that I had visited. From what the admissions officers and students touched on during the information session, I could tell that this school covered the basics like any other. The student body was very diverse; the students majored in a lot of different things and were very competitive job applicants; and the school had very good professors. I could also tell that the campus was very small, isolated, and probably unbearably cold in the winter. Not wanting to bear the risk of getting locked out of my dorm and dying of exposure, and thoroughly convinced that my grades weren’t high enough to be offered admission, I’d made up my mind not to even bother applying.

However, towards the end of my campus tour, my tour-guide, an affiliated male, decided to lead us on a quick trip on Webster Ave. and point out his fraternity house. Responding to questions from the crowd, he noted that more than half of the student body participated in Greek life on campus, and spoke quite favorably of the inclusivity of Dartmouth fraternities and the lasting relationships that he’d formed through the Greek system. He even outlined some of the Dartmouth traditions that take place on big weekends, and went over some of the fun social events that took place throughout the year.

While I didn’t eventually choose to attend Dartmouth because of how particularly “fratty” the tour guide had made it out to be, I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t believe the Greek system could provide a means for me to form lasting friendships. At the time I knew no one else coming to Dartmouth in my class and was well aware that the campus demographic didn’t boast a lot of people from the same part of the country as me. However, the Greek system, and in particular its emphasis on inclusive social events, convinced me that I might be able to make at least a few friends in Hanover and was ultimately the deciding factor in why I chose to attend.

That’s why I’m quite disappointed at the changes that seem to have been made to admissions tours since I went on mine. On the several tours that I shadowed this summer, the Collis Center was presented as the epicenter of social activities on campus, and the College’s unique strongpoint Greek life went unmentioned unless tour guides were prompted by a question from the crowd. One anonymous ’17 tour guide informed me as to the informational hierarchy they’ve been instructed to divulge on admissions tours. “When talking about social life on campus we’re first instructed to emphasize non-Greek related social spaces as the center of campus social life, then, if prompted to talk about Greek life by someone in the crowd, we discuss non-alcohol related Greek initiatives like service projects. Finally, if prompted to talk about frat parties, we briefly mention them and talk about campus safety initiatives concerning alcohol-related events.” Another ’17 tour guide shared that this policy makes answering questions from the crowd about Greek life, “touch-and-go, I’m never really sure what I’m supposed to be telling people.”

Apart from making it increasingly difficult for tour guides to present their patrons with an accurate depiction of campus life, I’m certain that the lack of healthy and honest discussion about Greek life by the Office of Admissions has contributed to some highly qualified students opting to prefer other colleges and universities. Without acknowledging the positive influence that the Greek system undoubtedly has on campus culture, I don’t believe the College can differentiate itself from its competitors. Most of Dartmouth’s pull with respect to other institutions of similarly high academic standing is its campus culture- a campus culture dominated by a uniquely inclusive and historical Greek system. After all, it takes a special type of person to want to go to school in the middle of the woods, and only a special College could make these people feel welcome. The Greek system creates unity and a unique campus culture filled with quirky traditions and cultural references that only a Dartmouth student would understand. Without informing applicants as to the uniqueness of Dartmouth, in large part due to the uniqueness of the Greek system, it would be incredibly difficult to incentivize them to come.