As spring rolls around, our seniors are revisiting colleges and universities where they have been accepted, juniors are exploring college campuses for the first time, and students newly admitted to Dana Hall will join us on campus for Destination Dana. So many students are out there, trying to assess whether a place is the right fit.
We recently discussed campus visits with juniors in Forum, a small-group class that allows us to tackle a wide range of college counseling topics. Our students will be all too familiar with my favorite advice: look and listen. Sit in the dining hall and eavesdrop: what are students talking about? Are they still caught up in that conversation from class? Talking about their trip with the outdoor club? Raving about that coffee house open mic night? Maybe they’re playing music and throwing a frisbee instead. Sit on the quad and look around: do students look happy? Are they in groups or walking separately? Check out the bulletin boards, columns, and telephone poles: every surface of a college campus will be plastered with flyers and posters. For a cultural event? A big game? A major performance? A political rally? What you see, hear, and even taste (yes, you should eat the food) provide clues to what might lie beneath the surface. You can ask yourself: would I want to be in these conversations, live with these people, learn in these classes, and attend these events?
Looking inward, the sites and sounds that tell us about the heart of Dana Hall are intellectual, funny, and poignant at turns. You’ll see costumes: ridiculous, elaborate, silly costumes, welcoming sophomores into the fold. You’ll see dance concert posters, beautifully-designed markers representing hours and weeks and months of student and faculty collaboration. During lunch, you’ll find students behind the snack bar, raising money for Party with a Purpose. If you listen, you’ll hear the sound of rings banging on metal bleachers, marking the months until graduation. You certainly can’t miss Mr. Fadden’s famous cannon fire from throwing sodium metal into the Pond, a live demonstration of chemistry in action. It’s the sound of “En garde!” as Varsity Fencing practices for States. For me, though, it’s the echoes of the Revels audience yelling for Timmy to be let in, even when we know he’ll make it, eventually.
What you see and hear at Dana, or on any college campus, can allow you to peer beneath the surface of a place and begin to understand it at its heart. So get out there, open your eyes and ears, and see what you find!