A Time of Exploration
The first year is generally a time of exploration for students. The Dartmouth curriculum offers over 1600 courses of a variety and scope completely unimaginable at the high-school level.
Although some majors do require an earlier start (for example, Engineering and other sciences), most majors can in fact be begun only in the second year, and a student is encouraged to explore options.
An entering student is assigned an academic advisor from the faculty who will help the student in electing courses for the first year and serve as a resource for answering questions about how Dartmouth works (such as: how do I ask a faculty for a letter of recommendation? what is an NRO?).
Students do not need a signature or permission from their academic advisor to register for or drop classes, and should remember that their academic decisions are ultimately their own.
As students begin to explore academic offerings and focus their own interests, students generally gravitate to faculty with whom they share intellectual interests or have other things in common. This is a natural evolution and should be encouraged. A student may find that s/he outgrows the usefulness of the assigned first-year advisor as the year moves on.
Students have other resources at this stage as well: the Deans of Undergraduate Students, the Academic Skills office, the staff in the Office of the Registrar, the counselors in Center for Professional Development, the Graduate Assistants who live in their residence halls. The web also provides a wealth of information.
Students will often rely on advice from friends and older peers, including their assigned UGAs (Undergraduate Advisors) and the SAMs (Senior Academic Mentors). These sources of information and advice are useful and valued, though students should seek multiple perspectives and are encouraged to beware of relying solely on information from peers.