Li: Sound Advice
Dartmouth students are accustomed to vigorous study, busyness and general success, but often face seemingly insurmountable challenges. Fortunately, it is easy to find an abundance of sound advice throughout campus. Friends and classmates are always willing to dispense wisdom, whether in giving a comprehensive overview of a summer internship or advice regarding course selection for next term. The College itself also provides a wealth of advising resources, from the Undergraduate Deans Office to first-year faculty advisors. Though these channels are altogether comprehensive, their physical and intuitive disjointedness leaves something to be desired.

Course selection is the foremost example of the resource division. It is no secret that students often choose courses based on the level of difficulty and the professor’s ability. As a result, students defer to the experience of other students when selecting their courses. The Hacker Club’s Dartmouth course picker is an attempt to centralize that information into one website. But its accuracy is contingent upon written reviews, which become more outdated term by term, and are soon to grow scarce — after all, with mandatory course reviews for the Registrar, most students do not want to write another round of course reviews. Thus, the Registrar has exactly what the Course Picker needs. It holds a review from every student for every single course, which amounts to thousands of new evaluations each term. If these reviews were made public, course selection would become much more informed. Students would choose courses with much greater certainty, as opposed to relying upon outdated reviews or word of mouth. By extension, if these reviews were lent to the Hacker Club (after all, they are electronic already), one could imagine the ease with which students could browse courses and reviews. The modernity of such a system would be fitting for today. Advising itself also demonstrates a need for cooperation. The dichotomy here is split between institutional advising and peer advising. Upon matriculation, freshmen are assigned first-year faculty advisors who are intended to guide new students through course selection and other such academic planning. However, unless the faculty advisor belongs to a department of interest, oftentimes the new student is met with a lack of knowledge regarding other departments. Again, they defer to the experience of their peers, most likely those who share the same interests. Quite a number of organizations across campus feature peer advising programs. Peer advisors possess the experiential knowledge of Dartmouth’s intensity, of academics, departments, majors and of Dartmouth beyond academia. To provide the best advising to students, Dartmouth’s administration should seek to provide peer advising, and leave faculty advising to students who seek specific academic advice. It would be easy to expand existing advising programs, such as Student Assembly’s First-Year Peer Mentor Program or the Women in Science Project. It is natural for the less experienced to seek wisdom from those who have passed before. After all, experience speaks more truthfully than expectations. It only makes sense for students to seek advice from their peers’ experience over course summaries or recited policy for this very reason. In holding back course reviews, the College prevents students from making the most informed decisions possible in course selection. In assigning first-year faculty advisors rather than peer advisors, the administration mistakenly provides depth of knowledge as opposed to breadth. In both cases, without comprehensive and accessible information, students are left to seek wisdom for themselves, often turning toward their respective social groups. And perhaps this is what partially lends to the fragmentation of campus. If the College were to provide a main body of information for courses, as well as a mandated system of peer advising, unifying the collective knowledge of the students, the student body would become more informed. And in taking part, perhaps the student body would become more unified.
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