Today was Darmouth. Driving north into the hills of New Hampshire, I had high hopes for the views from campus – the area is gorgeous. The hills are still partly covered in snow this time of year, and always with trees. In the autumn it must be astounding. And indeed, the campus is quite nice. You can’t really see the surrounding terrain as well as I would have liked from the main campus, overall it’s not quite as nice as Amherst in that respect, but it’s still quite nice. One of Darmouth’s pulls is that it’s so outdoors-oriented. The freshman are taken on these trips during orientation, to go hiking or rocking climbing or whatever. It’s often where you meet friends you’ll keep for the next four years. The college owns a mountain nearby that you can go skiing on, and acres and acres of land and cabins all over New Hampshire.

Of course, the downside is that it’s in the middle of nowhere. Hanover is a tiny little town hours from anything. But Dartmouth itself is of a large enough size so hopefully that isn’t an issue – 5,500 students should be enough to keep one occupied for a while. And when campus feels too small, you can always take a term abroad somewhere more populated – up to three times. They’re on the quarter system, which allows for flexibility in going various places and getting away if you feel you need to.

I talked to a couple masters students who had stuck around over spring break (there were almost no undergrads there), both of whom had gone to Darmouth for undergraduate work and were now staying to do further study. It seems like it’s a much more relaxed environment than some other schools I’ve looked at (Reed come to mind). Dartmouth was on the list of the schools with the happiest students in the Princeton Review book, and what these students said seemed to confirm this.

I also had a chance to speak to Miles Blencowe, who’s in the physics department. He told me about his research, which was fascinating, and a little bit about what attracted him to Dartmouth. The friendly people and a certain intangible something seemed to do it for him. All the abovementioned things and excellent academics are enough for me. The only thing that I am somewhat wary of is the housing situation, since they don’t actually have enough beds for students and while usually everyone who wants to live on campus gets the chance to, there are no guarantees. I didn’t get to actually see any dorms, but I was told they varied quite a bit. While I’m sure they’re all fine, I find myself increasingly concerned about the quality of housing at places I’m looking at; I suppose one has to discriminate on something, and that seems like as good a thing as any to base your opinion on. After all, this is where you’ll be living…

So the problem once again becomes one of getting in. I haven’t managed to eliminate any of the four colleges we visited on this trip from the list of prospective schools. That’s fine, especially since I probably won’t get into all of them. I suppose the thing to do is apply to them all and see what happens. But if this keeps up with every school we visit in the future, it might not even be feasible to apply to everywhere.

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