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A Students Perspective of Dartmouth’s Sophomore Summer Term

Jul 12, 2016 08:43PM ● By Victoria Pipas
Summer on Dartmouth’s campus might not sound unappealing to many—dining-hall cooked meals, dorm life, and access to New Hampshire’s beauty. But what if summer came with a full course load, and what if school wasn’t optional? That’s the case for sophomores at Dartmouth.

Sophomore Summer is part of the “D-plan,” each student’s individual enrollment plan for his or her time as an undergrad. Summer term on campus is designed to help students begin their preparations for career planning, increase their familiarity with their department and the school’s resources, and allow them to take at least one other term off during their time at Dartmouth in order to participate in experiential learning or study abroad.

There are clear benefits to the program, as well as a more efficient way to manage housing needs for Dartmouth’s constant influx and outflow of students every term. But there are also some hard feelings about a required summer at school.

Nathalie Ferneau, ’18, is currently enjoying her Sophomore Summer on campus. “I really like the summer so far, and I like having another term off to do work somewhere.” A classical archaeology major, she spent this past winter term working at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she was awarded a competitive internship. But she admits that the summer term has some unfortunate social consequences.

“It’s nice bonding with your class, but the other random term off combined with study abroad means that you can go several terms without seeing your friends who are in other years at Dartmouth, which is hard.”

Despite missing friends who are in other years, Sophomore Summer does offer a great opportunity for bonding with people in your own class, especially in the Upper Valley setting and all it has to offer in this mildest of the seasons. Catherine Pipas, professor in Community and Family Medicine at Geisel who has also taught Public Health at the undergraduate level, notes the camaraderie among class members during their summer on campus.

“The sophomores seem to like that it’s a small group because it’s just their class, so it’s more intimate,” she observes. The parent of a high school senior, Catherine notes the practicality of the summer term from an admissions perspective. “It’s also nice from the applicant’s perspective because then there are students on campus when they are touring in the summer.” Seeing students walking to and from class and experiencing student-filled spaces on campus gives potential applicants a much more realistic impression than do buildings devoid of student life.

Yet spending a summer studying does have a few downsides, some less obvious than spending much of a beautiful day in a classroom or in front of a computer screen. Alexis Wyatt, class of ’18, is more skeptical about the benefits of a required summer on campus. Although Dartmouth sells this time on campus as an opportunity to bond with classmates, Alexis notes, “Because nothing is really going on or open on campus [during the summer], Greek life is a very large component of socializing and bonding.”

This may not seem so bad (except to anyone who views Greek life on any campus with a warily), but Alexis doesn’t think this really provides the opportunities for new friendships that the college intends. At Greek life events, she says, “You’re not truly meeting new people and especially not those outside of mainstream Greek life because most of mainstream Greek life has already been socializing within itself all year,” so no new bonding really occurs.

Alexis also believes that another intended purpose of Sophomore Summer—to allow students to take a different term off and thus avoid competition for internships during the regular terms—is not as useful as it might seem. She thinks Dartmouth students already have the resources to get the most competitive internships any time of year, so they don’t need this extra term off to do so.

“Because of things like corporate recruiting and job fairs, Dartmouth brings top employers to campus just to meet its students for potential internships. We are afforded such a leg up over most college students just because we get to meet directly with CEOs, CFOs, [and more]. It easily allows us to beat out competition . . . or even snag [an internship] that we never thought about.” So winning any competitive internship is already significantly more accessible to Dartmouth students, although many would testify that some of the internships they’ve had during “off” terms weren’t even offered during summer.

Despite its disadvantages, spending the summer on campus is a unique experience. Combined with off terms abroad or job experiences, Sophomore Summer is another aspect of Dartmouth life that will make one’s time there memorable.

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