Voices of Trips: Mary Liza Hartong ’16

This post is part of our Voices of Trips series, in which volunteers share stories from their own experiences with DOC First-Year Trips.

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The first time I visited Dartmouth I had just finished my sophomore year of high school and the idea of applying to college didn’t seem real yet. My attitude towards the week-long car trip was, “I’ll just flit around the northeast and admire some pretty buildings for a few days. None of this really matters, so I don’t have to pay that much attention.”

I left Dartmouth with the overwhelming impression that everyone in attendance was undeniably, fervently, and magnificently outdoorsy. “Wow,” my mom remarked as we watched Chacos-clad girls and hiking-booted boys walk to class. “Very granola!” It seemed like an attainable personality trait. I thought, “I’m pretty outdoorsy. This could probably work.”

Mary Liza Hartong '16 is from Nashville, TN.
Mary Liza Hartong ’16 is from Nashville, TN.

The next time I visited Dartmouth, during the fall of my senior year and having already sent in my early decision application, I left with the overwhelming impression that everyone in attendance was smarter and more impressive than I was. “Dear god,” I thought, “half of these kids have already made scientific breakthroughs or published books! They’re never gonna let me in.” In fact, the girl in front of me on the tour actually asked our guide the following question: “I’m an Olympic skier, so if I have to miss class my sophomore winter to ski in the Olympics would that be okay? It is the Olympics after all!”

I looked at my mother for some form of support. “Well, you’re from Tennessee. Colleges always want regional diversity!”

I felt discouraged that the most interesting thing about me, the thing that would tip the scales in my favor, was the fact that I was born in the same state as Little Debbie Snack Cakes.

I never did figure out if that Olympic skier got into Dartmouth, but I did. Good news: not everyone was smarter or more impressive than I was. Sure, some people got straight A’s and citations right off the bat, but what made most of my peers stand out was their passions. Two of my freshman floormates, one a writer and one a musician, teamed up to create a full-length musical that our whole floor performed at the end of the year. My engineering friends designed a collapsable, eco-friendly water bottle, and I wrote a piece almost every week for the newspaper. Everything was just fine.

What I’ve come to know over my three years here is that there isn’t one kind of person who is meant to be at Dartmouth. During Trips it’s easy to look around and think everyone is smarter, cooler, or more qualified to be here than you, but that’s absolutely not true. If you’re here, there’s a good reason. You’ve got something meaningful to contribute. That goes for sports teams, friendships, extracurriculars, and classes. Don’t shy away from raising your hand because you think the upperclassmen know more. Don’t belittle the things you did passionately in high school because they don’t “measure up” to what your friends did. You are valuable. You are worthy. You are enough.

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