Skip to content


Now that my time at Dartmouth is nearing its conclusion, I’ve been reflecting on the highs and lows of my Dartmouth experience. From failed friendships to amazing internships to stressful all-nighters - and everything in between, I wanted to take some time to break down what I’ve learned in my two years at the Big Green. 

So first, a little bit about me. At Dartmouth, I was a graduate student in the Master of Art in Liberal Studies Program, and I was in the Creative Writing concentration. While taking classes and subsequently working on my portfolio, I developed an interest in studying the intersections of race relations, gender, and literature. Through Dartmouth, I was able to grow as an academic and I will be entering a new graduate program in September. 

I’ve had so many highs and lows while studying at Dartmouth: academically, emotionally, and even socially. Looking back, there are four key things that I took away from all of my experiences. 


Don’t let Imposter Syndrome Stunt your Progress

No matter where you are on your academic journey, know that you belong where you've been placed. You being in your current academic sphere is not a mistake, and you wouldn’t be where you are if you didn't deserve it. 

As a black woman with immigrant parents, I often struggled with feelings of inadequacy and with wondering if I deserved to be at an institution such as Dartmouth. Thoughts like those will only impede your growth and negatively affect your mental health in the long run.

Comparison is the thief of happiness! Go at your own pace and recognize that your differences and uniqueness are what got you as far as you are today.  


Lean on the People that Actually Care About you

This is a tough one, but I believe that it deserves to be said. There are some people that will root for you openly and lovingly, and there are some that will pretend to while secretly hoping for you to fall. Follow your gut and don’t give all of your energy to everyone that you think could be a friend to you. I ended up becoming really drained and sad by trusting the wrong people. 

It’s better to have one or two close friendships that are nurturing and uplifting than to have five or six friends that talk down to you or gossip behind your back. One thing that I really had to learn was that not everyone is going to like me or want to be my friend, and that’s okay. What matters most is that you cut off people and relationships that dissuade your growth and cause you to doubt yourself! 


Keep your Focus on your Accomplishments and your End Goal

Take the time to celebrate your wins and don't dwell on your perceived failures. If you got a high mark on that research paper, reward yourself with an extra hour of Netflix that night. If you found a professor to write that letter of recommendation for you, celebrate with some ice cream. Safe and healthy rewards are great motivators. 

I got into the habit of always expecting perfection from myself. So when I didn’t reach that expectation, I was crushed. And when I did, I moved passed it like it was nothing. I was constantly going and making no time to breathe and appreciate the smaller moments during my Dartmouth experience. Try not to be too hard on yourself, and appreciate the journey that your on instead of only looking at the destination. 


Manage your Stress - no, for Real!

Prioritize self-care… in whatever ways that means for you. From bubble baths to hiking to going to therapy, I’m of the opinion that self-care is whatever relieves your personal stress and allows you to internally care for you. 

Relaxing is essential for your overall well-being, and many students at Dartmouth seem to forget how important taking care of yourself really is. Mindfulness and meditation are great strategies that a lot of college students find to be very beneficial. I, personally, find working out to be great for my mental health and my academic productivity as a whole. Do what works for you and prioritize it like you prioritize your school work and friendships. 


In the End, It's All About Growth

At the end of the day, I grew more over the last two years then I did in the previous ten. I learned a lot of hard lessons, pushed myself farther than I ever could have thought possible, and grew a new appreciation for who I am as a person. I'm ready to tackle academia and my personal relationships in ways that I never would have considered if I did not attend this institution. To any new students (graduate or undergrad) that are nervous about what Dartmouth may hold for you, my advice for you would be to take each lesson as an adventure and an avenue to grow into yourself. Enjoy the journey!



Graduate school is not in everyone’s future. But for those of you who are considering diving into getting an advanced degree, it would serve you well to really consider what that would consist of. It can be a wonderful opportunity to expand your horizons academically and for your future career. 

However, graduate school is a whole different ball game from undergrad. Expectations, class structures, and social norms all differ drastically. One of the biggest issues that new graduate students run into is that they don’t foresee the many changes that are expected to occur in them academically and professionally between undergrad and grad school.

Preparation is key during that transitional time, and here are some key things that you can keep in mind if you are thinking about entering graduate school sometime in the near (or even distant) future. 


Hand-holding vs. Mentoring

In graduate school, there is an understanding that professors are closer to being colleagues of sorts to their students rather than authoritative figures. This change can feel unnatural to some, but there are many positives you can take from this. You can feel more comfortable to speak your mind in discussions and during office hours.

With this notion also comes the understanding that you, as the student, are fully in charge of your own research and academic trajectory. Gone are the days of professors hand-holding you through lectures and assignments. There is now the expectation that you are in charge of your academic life, and that professors are there to act as guides and mentors throughout your journey. 


Time Dedicated to Each Class

In undergrad, it’s common to take between four and six courses at one time. With the D-Plan system, the normal course enrollment is three courses per each ten-week term. That is a lot of broad material packed into a very small time frame.

Dr. Melissa Brown, a current postdoc at Pennsylvania State University, states that “each graduate class will require a lot of reading, more than you ever thought possible in college – and more than might actually be possible in a week. You’ll have to learn to prioritize the most important readings and actively skim the rest […] You’ll be expected to be prepared for seminars and to speak up and participate in the intellectual conversation [...] Higher quality is expected from your papers, presentations, and group projects”. 

Don’t let this knowledge intimidate you! In fact, think of it as an opportunity to dedicate more time to what you're truly passionate about research-wise. That is one of the main benefits of a graduate program after all! 


Breadth of Knowledge vs. Depth of Knowledge

In exchange for the past academic trajectory of learning a lot about a wide variety of topics, you will now be expected to take more of a deep dive into the material that you are covering. Your classes and course work are there to prepare you to compose your own individual research and thesis/dissertation.

"Be sure to “develop a clear idea of what you want to study before you start graduate school because you won’t have the same freedom to explore different disciplines as you did in college” (Brown). Flexibility decreases significantly when you enter most graduate programs. But in its place, you have more time to focus your attention on one valuable area of study. 


Departmental Ties vs. College/University Ties

In undergrad, students are more likely to feel a kinship for their university or college as a whole. They may feel a lot of school-centered pride (or possibly resentment depending on multiple factors). During graduate school, things change a bit.

In most graduate schools (Dartmouth graduate schools included), students are accepted to individual departments, not the school itself. Most classes and job opportunities take place in the same one or two buildings, and most interactions among students and faculty are within the department. 

Ways to get more involved with the university as a whole would be to sign up for activities that involve undergraduate interaction (ie. resident fellow programs, tutoring, mentorship programs) and/or signing up for graduate student organizations to keep you engaged with grad students from multiple departments.

Of course, this is optional, as most graduate students are more than content with keeping their social circle confined to their department! It can be easier for some as you are all working towards more similar goals with similar research endeavors. 


Accountability is Key

Perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind during your transition into graduate school is the importance of taking accountability for your education. Graduate school is expensive. And whether you need to pay for your classes through being a teaching assistant, a resident fellow, and/or federal loans, it is important to keep in mind that grad school is what you make of it.

You can only get out of it what you put in. The goal is no longer to just pass and get your degree; you should be actively learning and engaging as much as possible in order to make the process worthwhile. 

Figure out an effective study system, how often you need to take breaks, and what a realistic deadline looks like to you so that you do not get overwhelmed.

Be sure that you’re ready to take on one of the most important components of graduate study, that being to “take the initiative to seek out materials to make new experimental and conceptual connections that take your research in new directions" (Stanford Biosciences).

Ease the adjustment period by being prepared. That way your transition into higher education will be smoother and you’ll be equipped with the readiness to become a true scholar. 


It’s normal to be feeling anxious and stressed during this time. In order for us to keep our loved ones safe, it’s vital that we practice social distancing and that we stay in our homes as much as possible. Of course, in doing so, we are resisting our innate human need to be social and build/maintain relationships with others to our fullest capacity. 

The CDC notes that stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

There are a few things that you can do during this time to increase your happiness and decrease your feelings of isolation and stress. See some of these ways below. 


Having a healthy life-work balance

Now that a majority of us are working from home (both school wise and job/internship wise), it can be easy to begin to conflate work life and home life. Now you can wake up later, do your work from your bed, and work later to finish up work that you wouldn’t normally get to. While these conflations may seem tempting, it is important to distinguish a separation between working and relaxation. 

Some ways to do this could be setting an alarm to wake up earlier than your first class of the day, having a designated work station (if possible), and having a certain amount of hours or black of time dedicated to working each day. Take breaks the same ways and in the same duration that you would if you had in-person classes. 


Stay in Touch

Use this time of physical isolation to verbally and emotionally connect with people that you care about. If you are in quarantine with your family, take the time out to eat a meal with them, watch a movie, and/or play a fun game. Schedule facetime sessions or phone calls with some of your close friends. Check-in on some of those more long-distance friends that you’ve lost contact with. Stay in touch with people however you can avoid feeling isolated. 


Ask for Help

Feelings of stress and anxiety are very natural during this time period. Don’t feel afraid to tap into resources that are readily available to you to help you cope! Now more than ever, it’s important to pay attention to our moods and our coping mechanisms: 

  • Wellness Check-Ins 
    • The Student Wellness Center is offering virtual wellness check-ins via Zoom to help students navigate the transition to online learning, refer them to additional resources if needed, and "just be there to support students," Barthelmes says. To request a check-in, email
  • Counseling
    • Students
      • Dartmouth College Health Service offers counseling, including 24-hour crisis counseling for students or those who are concerned about a student. Currently, counseling is being provided by phone, and will soon also be available via Zoom. The health service can also help students who live outside of the state connect with mental health professionals nearer to them, when necessary.
      • To access these services, email or call 603-646-9442 weekdays, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. After hours, call safety and security at 603-646-4000.

    • Staff and Faculty 
      • Can call the Faculty/Employee Assistance Program (FEAP) at 844-216-8308. The services are also available for family members. 
      • Can also contact FEAP counselor Sharon Morisi directly at Morisi is available via Zoom and telephone.
  • Pastoral Counseling
    • Daveen Litwin, the College chaplain, and the United Campus Ministry, representing Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, and many other faith traditions offer confidential virtual counseling to students, faculty, and staff. 
    • To make an appointment, email


Physical Fitness

Physical Fitness is of the utmost importance during stressful times.  Exercise releases endorphins that aid in stress relief while also aiding in overall mind and body health. In fact, “Researchers believe that during vigorous aerobic exercise, the ‘anxiety-sensitive’ person is forced to tolerate many of the same symptoms (that is, rapid heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing) that frighten him or her during periods of anxiety. Over time, the ‘anxiety-sensitive’ individual who continues to exercise vigorously can learn that these symptoms of arousal are typically not dangerous, and the fear that these symptoms trigger gradually decreases in intensity” (Salmon & Charney).

Take advantage of virtual workouts and the great outdoors while gyms are closed. A few suggestions:

  • Go for a brisk walk or run.
  • Hop on your bicycle for a tour of your neighborhood.
  • Try a new activity like yoga, Tai Chi or Zumba.
  • Create an obstacle course at your home. Include activities like jumping jacks, pushups and squats. Then challenge your loved ones to virtual competitions.
  • Check out other free virtual workshops on youtube. My favorite is Blogilates.


Eat Well

It's important to minimize our excursions to the grocery store as much as possible to limit the spread of COVID-19. Consider online grocery shopping or home delivery options. Of course, fruits, vegetables, and other perishable foods are very important for overall nutritional health.

So if and when you need to go to the grocery store, maintain a safe distance between yourself and others (at least 6 feet), wipe down surfaces with disinfectant wipes, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands before and after shopping. If possible, also wear a mask or some sort of face-covering to protect other people in case you are asymptomatic. 

With grocery stores limiting the purchase of specific items and advising people shop less often, eating well can be difficult. Make it more manageable with these strategies:

  • Purchase shelf-stable and frozen foods. Staples such as frozen and canned produce, beans, and lentils will keep longer and are easy to incorporate into recipes.
  • Take inventory of the items in your kitchen and get creative with cooking. Choose a recipe site where you can plug in ingredients you have on hand and see what pops up. (You can also browse our collection of tasty, healthy recipes.)
  • Pay attention to portion sizes. When we're cooped up inside, it's easy to overindulge and/or stress eat. Try to maintain your regular eating habits as much as possible and minimize your reliance on takeout and drive-thru options. In addition, try to productively channel stress and boredom elsewhere, whether by venting to a good friend, writing down your feelings or diving into a good book.


Stress Well

Speaking of stress, reduced access to food and daily essentials is stressful. With gyms closed, sporting activities shut down, and bars and restaurants off-limits, we're also being cut off from our friends and loved ones. But you have more control over your stressors than you think. A few ideas:

  • Limit the news. Watching the news all day can increase anxiety levels. Tune in to the morning or evening news and turn to reliable sources of information only once or twice a day.
  • Take advantage of stress management techniques. Think meditation, deep breathing and journaling
  • Stay in touch with friends and family. Touch base through phone calls, online games, video chats and virtual happy hours. 


Now that we’ve covered the basics, read on for some additional wellness resources from our Ivy-plus peer institutions: 






Life is pretty crazy right now. That should go without saying, but it’s important to acknowledge that fact. It’ll make it easier to move forward into what this spring term will hold. I’m sure many of you have a lot of questions and even some concerns about what exactly the next few months will look like for you both socially and academically.

The Academic Skills Center & The Tutor Clearinghouse is working hard to figure out how we are going to support students this spring term. Specifics like the potential for tutoring services, study groups, ASC workshops/meetings, and details about accessing our office/resources are all currently being discussed. In the meantime, we thought it would be beneficial to share some tips on how you can best tackle your upcoming online classes in order to enhance your understanding and overall academic success. 


Tip #1: Try to Create a Study Space

Getting into the mindset of taking online classes can be a challenge. One of the most important things that you should keep in mind is that it is essential to maintain (to the best of your ability) a peaceful study area. Without the physical prompts of moving from class to class, the ability to walk into the library, or the stimulus from seeing friends, time can blur together. 

This can be incredibly difficult depending on where you are. Some of you may not even have the luxury of having your own study space. You may be dealing with the very real realities of having multiple siblings/family members under one roof, a restricted amount of computers/wifi access, and/or your home just may not be a conducive environment to complete work. 

Eliminate distractions when you decide that it’s time to do work.  Do your best to ensure that your area is quiet, organized, and available for use during your class/study sessions. If necessary, speak to your family and friends beforehand about the importance of respecting your “work mode”. Along the same line, respect your own “work mode” by limiting your time on your phone or daydreaming while studying.   


Tip #2: Treat Your Online Class Like a Real Class

Circling back to your mindset, it’s important to apply all of those positive steps that you take when you approach your in-person classes on campus to these new online ones. This includes actively participating, taking study breaks, and building a study plan. First, figure out how you will best learn during this time period and then build upon that. Are you a morning person or would you work better later in the evenings? Do you need a desk or would you prefer to work in a comfortable armchair? Do what makes you the most comfortable but also allows you to be the most focused. 

Do all of the things that made you feel the most productive when you were in those physical classes. Although office hours may look a little different now, continue to ask for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to send a quick email to your professor asking for assistance on a concept or research idea. Now more than ever, your professors want to see you succeed. There will be a learning curve for them as well, so keep that in mind and as the term starts off. 

Another thing to consider: just because your classes will now be online, doesn’t mean that all of your learning has to take place there! Don’t shy away from taking notes with a notebook and pen or using a physical version of your textbook to study. Try to keep your study habits in line with how you have always achieved success.

I personally love to create to-do lists and set calendar reminders for important projects. I also use the Pomodoro method (which I’ve detailed in one of my earlier blog posts, “How Planning Can Lead to a Successful College Experience”).

Take some time before the term begins to figure out a plan. This could include a schedule of how you want to complete your assignments each day, how long you would like to spend on schoolwork, when you want to go to bed and wake up every day, etc. There will be a lot more accountability placed on your shoulders now, and it's up to you how you want to manage it. Discipline yourself to stick to your time limits; for many, awards based systems work really well. 


Tip #3: Note the Differences and Embrace Them

Accept the fact that online classes will feel inherently different than learning on the Dartmouth campus. There will be different aspects that you will need to take into consideration. Do your best to stay as mentally engaged as possible. If your professor gives you a PowerPoint or a youtube video to watch, review it multiple times and take notes. Don’t let the fact that you are not in a physical classroom allows you to drift off and stop paying attention. 

Limit your use of social media and eliminate your use during class discussions. The temptation to check Twitter and Instagram will be all the higher during this next semester. Fight the urge by turning off your phone or deleting the apps for a certain amount of time. The more tech-savvy professors will be able to tell if you are on your phone during class. And even if your professor doesn’t notice, you will only be doing yourself a disservice by not paying attention. 

Finally, make an effort to build connections during this time. It will benefit you to come out of your comfort zone in the long run. “Online classes may sometimes make you feel like you are learning on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most online courses are built around the concept of collaboration, with professors and instructors actively encouraging that students work together to complete assignments and discuss lessons (Northeastern University Graduate Programs)”.

Join a virtual study team. Engage in the online discussion boards. Reach out and discuss assignments. You will feel more connected to your online student community, and hopefully, some of these relationships will last into the next term when you can meet in person. 


Hang Tight and Make the Most of Your Term

This will be a huge adjustment for all of us. But If you're willing to put in the work, adapt, and ask for help when you need it, you'll be on track to having a productive and engaging spring term!

Keep in mind that all 20S undergraduate courses will officially be taken on a credit/no credit basis. So use this opportunity to dive deep into your classes and enjoy the learning process.



The summer before freshman fall is a time of major changes and preparation that can impact students’ first term at Dartmouth. Though everyone’s transition to college is different, upperclassmen have some ideas about how to make that transition smoother. I interviewed two ‘21s, Amy Tsai and Naeem Morgan, who are at the half-way point in their Dartmouth career, and asked them to reflect on their transition to Dartmouth. ...continue reading "Transitioning to Dartmouth: Advice from ’21s"