Josh - Dartmouth College - Class of 2017
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I thought I should attend a school with a heavy emphasis on computer science and engineering, but I fell in love with the idea of "learning how to learn."

Programming is my passion. I can't find a time in the day when I'm not running code through my head or thinking of an algorithm that has been troubling me. I planned to attend a school with a heavy emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). I wasn't interested in the liberal arts schools my parents wanted. The study of computer science was the foundation of my future career.

Hometown: Leawood, KS

High School: Public

GPA: 3.60 / 4.20 (weighted)

SAT: 2190

ACT: 35

Major: Computer engineering

Goal: To apply what I learn to real-world projects

College

Status

Dartmouth CollegeAttending
California Institute of TechnologyDenied
Cal Poly, San Luis ObispoAccepted
Harvey Mudd CollegeWaitlisted
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyDenied
Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteAccepted
Rose-Hulman Institute of TechnologyAccepted
Stanford UniversityDenied
University of ChicagoAccepted
Freshman Year Update

It's humbling to be among so much talent, energy, and experience, but Dartmouth feels like exactly the right school for me. I have already made some deep friendships, especially working at the on-campus technology lab. There is a wealth of options for every possible activity, club, cause, course, or interest group. It's great, but it requires discipline.

I jumped into my first year with wild abandon because it's important to try different things, but I need to be better with time management. I also made the mistake of taking upper-level calculus, computer science, and neuroscience all in my first quarter. Because I had done well in these courses previously, and had AP credit, I assumed I would do well at the college level. Not so much! Now I'm taking courses in religion, history, and writing and doing much better. Next quarter I will mix computer science with liberal arts courses and hopefully achieve balance.

Sophomore Year Update

I continued to challenge myself by taking difficult upper-level computer courses (even when the results didn't look so terrific on my transcript). But I continue to love programming, especially applying computer science to everyday life. Yet I might double major in philosophy.

Outside class, I worked at Dartmouth's technology lab and was active in the Native American community, encouraging students to study computer science. I also won a scholarship from Google that included a trip to its California campus to meet other "Google scholars" from around the world.

This summer, I will attend classes full-time during Dartmouth's required "sophomore summer" term. I'm looking forward to taking some electives, exploring the nearby mountains, and bonding with my classmates.

Junior Year Update

I'm still very happy at Dartmouth, but I'm really ready for college to be over. I want to graduate and get out into the "real world." Junior year is challenging. We are on ten-week quarters, which means there isn't a lot of time to ease into a class. But my studies are going well. I have been able to maintain above a 3.0 and take some interesting philosophy courses in addition to my computer science focus.

I continue to work at Dartmouth's Digital Arts Leadership Institute (DALI). Now that I am an upperclassman, it is likely my projects will be chosen for implementation. If so, I will have an opportunity to develop my leadership skills as a project/team leader.

Programming and pizza, please

I was most interested in MIT and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I attended a summer game development academy at RPI, where I got an up-close view of what I hoped college would be like: late night sessions, easy friendships, common interests, pizza. I couldn't wait to be with like-minded students using computer science to solve real-world problems. I also wanted to get out of Kansas, so I planned to apply to schools on both coasts.

My parents kept reminding me that any programming skills I learned in college would quickly become obsolete, and no one could take a liberal arts education away. The most important thing to learn, they said, was how to think. After some resistance, I broadened my search. I considered Dartmouth because I had attended its native communities outreach program and liked the New England location and beautiful campus—with its own ski resort! I especially liked how the students were prepared and engaged, and how the classes had lots of student participation and free, wide-ranging discussions.

Plus a side of medieval history

But when I visited the University of Chicago, my attitude really changed. I don't know if it was the impressive libraries and museums or the intensely intellectual students, but I fell in love with the idea of "learning how to learn." I saw that I didn't have to limit myself to the knowledge I needed to get a job or get into graduate school. I could use my undergraduate years to study other things, like art history, medieval history, and linguistics. Now I wanted to study computer science in a liberal arts context, and so I put Dartmouth, Stanford, and University of Chicago at the top of my list.

After spring break, I got the good news: I was accepted to University of Chicago and Dartmouth! I wanted to make the right decision, so I gave myself the month of April to think about it. I took a second trip to Dartmouth to see if I could actually see myself there. And I could! While University of Chicago is a great school in a great city, I just felt more comfortable on the Dartmouth campus. I liked that the students studied hard but were friendly, outdoorsy, casual, and fun. The environment felt supportive, the computer science students shared the legendary camaraderie that I'd always heard about, and everyone seemed geared for success. I knew I would thrive there.

My ups and downs

Being rejected by Stanford was probably my worst moment, but I knew that I had a lot of company on the rejection list. The rejections from MIT and Cal Tech were also hard, but they stung less because by then I wanted a liberal arts context. My best moment was getting into University of Chicago. I hadn't heard yet from Dartmouth, but I knew then that I would have a fantastic college experience, no matter what.

What I learned

I realized that I want to get the most out of my education and not squander my opportunity. I wish I had applied to fewer schools—it was hard to manage all of those applications. I also wish I hadn't paid so much attention to where my friends were applying. I probably would not have applied to a couple of the schools on my list if I hadn't been cajoled by some of my friends and relatives.

The money factor

I am paying for college with private scholarships, loans, and with earnings from my part-time job at a tech start-up. My parents will cover the rest.

My advice

Where you think you want to go to college at the beginning of your senior year may be very different by the time you graduate. Your interests will change as you mature and learn more. I didn't start to appreciate literature or the arts until my senior year. So keep an open mind when considering colleges. You will learn a lot if you trust the process.