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How to Respond to the 2023-2024 Dartmouth Supplemental Essay Prompts

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How to Respond to the 2023-2024 Dartmouth Supplemental Essay Prompts

Dartmouth is an Ivy League institution found along the scenic Connecticut River in Hanover, New Hampshire. Just like other Ivy League institutions, Dartmouth is difficult to be admitted to as their acceptance rate is 6% .  So, how do you become a part of the 9%? Writing stellar supplemental essays for your Dartmouth application is one way!

To stand out on your application, you need to have stunning responses to the Dartmouth supplemental prompts. The Dartmouth supplemental essays offer the perfect opportunity to display pieces of your personality. This is your chance to prove that you are a better candidate than others by sharing the unique characteristics and interests you possess. 

So what are you waiting for? Read our guide below on how to make your Dartmouth supplemental essay responses flawless! 

The Dartmouth College supplemental essay prompts

Responding to the Dartmouth supplemental essay prompts allows applicants to share their unique characteristics and interests. After all, Dartmouth wants to admit students who are a good fit for their campus and community. Dartmouth requires three supplemental essays, with the third prompt offering five interesting options to choose from. Read our guide below on how to make your Dartmouth supplemental essay responses flawless! 

Dartmouth celebrates the ways in which its profound sense of place informs its profound sense of purpose. As you seek admission to Dartmouth’s Class of 2028, what aspects of the College’s academic program, community, or campus environment attract your interest? In short, Why Dartmouth? (100 words or fewer) 

Although there are a lot of words included in this question, it is essentially just another “Why us?” question! Therefore, do not overthink this one. 

With the 100 word limit, there is not a lot of room to go on about how amazing Dartmouth is (plus, they already know they are pretty amazing!). Therefore, you should brainstorm around two to three things about Dartmouth that you absolutely love. This can include anything about Dartmouth, such as its beautiful campus and location, any important traditions they have, the academic programs offered, any extracurriculars you are excited for, and much more. 

The key to responding to this prompt is to be specific . Show that you have done your research. Remember, you do not have a lot of words to write your response. Therefore, strive to make it short and sweet but also informative. Mention these two to three specific and detailed pieces and why you are interested in them. 

Be sure to spend time researching Dartmouth and what makes them unique compared to other colleges. Remember, you are applying to an extremely selective college, so you want to make sure you are choosing something that other applicants would not think about. It is all about thinking outside of the box and showing the “true you” through your responses. 

“There is a Quaker saying: Let your life speak. Describe the environment in which you were raised and the impact it has had on the person you are today. (250 words or less)

Who are you, and how did you become who you are? That is the question Dartmouth is asking. As a student applying to Dartmouth, you have your own unique story to tell. While the description of the environment you grew up in is important, the ‘how” it impacted you is the true focus. Dartmouth wants to know how you made the most of whatever situation you grew up in. If you had privilege, what did you do with the opportunities presented? If you struggled, how did you triumph?

Take note of the word “impact” in the prompt, and think of the meaning of the word, which is “strong effect.” After you briefly describe the environment you grew up in (remember you only have 250 words!), ask yourself what your most positive qualities are. Then, ask yourself how your upbringing impacted, or had an effect, on one or two of those qualities. Even if your upbringing was less than ideal, perhaps you are all the more understanding and helpful to others who are less fortunate. 

“Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde advised. “Everyone else is taken.” Introduce yourself . (250 words or less)

Dartmouth receives a lot of applications from students from around the world with impressive applications. Therefore, this is your time to prove how unique you are and how your individuality will flourish while at Dartmouth. Be sure to not restate items from your resume or detail your entire life story. Rather, be as concise as possible while revealing your identity. 

This is a very open ended question, which can be tricky to start. To help brainstorm, think of the following questions: 

  • How would you introduce yourself to a complete stranger? 
  • If you had to make a slideshow about yourself, what would you include? 
  • What are your main interests? 
  • What could you not live without? 
  • How would someone close to you describe you? 

To format this response you can either: 

  • Write as if you were introducing yourself to someone
  • Create a more narrative and story-telling piece of writing
  • Something more creative!

Ultimately, the formatting does not matter as long as you accurately introduce yourself and highlight your uniqueness. Just remember to be authentic and focus on what makes you stand out from everyone else. 

For the third Dartmouth supplemental essay, you’ll choose from a list of five potential prompts. Before making your choice, read through them carefully and determine which prompt most appeals to you. Remember to only select one prompt to answer and keep it under 250 words! 

What excites you? (250 words or less)

Although this question is short and sweet, it is extremely broad! This means that you can answer this question in a lot of different ways. However, just because the question is broad does not mean your answer should be too. Rather, your answer should be extremely specific and detailed. 

Before you start answering this prompt, you should sit down for a few minutes and list what excites you and makes you happy. Once you have a solid list of things that excite you, select whichever thing you are most passionate about. 

Remember, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. In fact, you can write about anything big or small. For example, you can choose to write about how each week a new episode of a TV show makes you excited because you get to watch it with your family. Or you can write about how going for a walk in new trails where you live excites you because you love seeing new nature scenes. You can write about how helping people less fortunate than you makes you excited for your dream job at a nonprofit organization. 

It does not matter what you choose to write about. What matters is how you justify your answer. The “why” is so important. Why does this particular thing excite you? How does it impact your life? Does it connect back to your future goals? 

In addition, do not forget that this essay is for Dartmouth. So, if possible, try to connect what you are excited by back to Dartmouth and its resources. For example, as stated before, maybe going for a walk around your neighborhood makes you happy and excites you because of the new nature scenes you are able to see. You can then connect this back to your excitement to be immersed in the beautiful trees and nature of New Hampshire. You might even want to connect it back to being excited about studying environmental studies at Dartmouth. 

This essay can be a good place to tie in a passion to your intended major to give the Dartmouth admissions officers an idea of how your major connects to your interests. 

Labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta recommended a life of purpose. “We must use our lives to make the world a better place to live, not just to acquire things,” she said. “That is what we are put on the earth for.” In what ways do you hope to make- or are you making – an impact?” (250 words or less)

Essentially, this prompt is asking “What do you hope to achieve for the greater good?” or “What do you think your life’s purpose is?” 

This may seem like a daunting question to tackle, but Dartmouth understands that you are young and still figuring life out. Therefore, do not feel like you need to have a concrete answer to this prompt. 

Dolores Huerta is a prominent civil rights activist who dedicated her life to advocating for immigrant rights. Therefore, Dartmouth is looking for someone who is dedicating their time to make a long term positive change in their world and community. 

Try to think of passions you have and what you have done to act on these passions. Have you ever volunteered anywhere? Have you created a business that donates money to charity? Have you created a club at your high school to help those who are less fortunate than you? 

Once you have identified your passions and purpose in life, detail what you want to continue to do to make an impact on this community. 

Dr. Suess, aka Theodor Geisel of Dartmouth’s Class of 1925, wrote, “Think and wonder. Wonder and think.” What do you wonder and think about? ” (250 words or less)

This prompt is the perfect opportunity for applicants who find themselves constantly asking questions and wanting to learn more about anything and everything. Try to think of the last time you went down an internet rabbit hole researching or bombarding someone with a million questions about a particular subject. What was it and why did this topic interest you? 

The great thing about this particular prompt is that there are no restrictions! You can talk about literally anything that you think and wonder about. Ultimately, you want to discuss something that truly fascinates you and makes you “nerd” out! 

Some examples of topics you could discuss are: 

  • Time travel
  • A bucket list trip
  • Going to space
  • How Bluetooth works

The possibilities are endless! Do not feel like you need to make up a dramatic narrative in order to impress Dartmouth. Rather, just be true to yourself and write from your heart. This will show Dartmouth how you spend time wondering and what truly interests you. 

“Celebrate your nerdy side.” (250 words or less)

Ultimately, this prompt is asking you to explain what brings out your inner nerd! “Nerd” is being used as a very positive description, so be honest!  

First, you should ask yourself the following:

  • What does being a nerd mean to you? 
  • Who do you do things that you consider “nerdier” with?

Next, describe in detail what you do when feeling your utmost nerd urge! Choose one specific thing, and make it sound like it is not to miss! Do you enjoy putting jigsaw puzzles together, playing role-playing games, or vintage board games? Share how your nerdy side helped shape you into who you are today and how celebrating your nerdy side continues to help you grow (hopefully at Dartmouth!).

“It’s not easy being green…” was the frequent refrain of Kermit the Frog. How has difference been a part of your life, and how have you embraced it as part of your identity and outlook?” (250 words or less)

Do not worry if you feel that you don’t have so much to write about with this prompt. If you do not think that that sounds like you – do not choose this prompt! 

This question has two parts that you should address in your response. The first piece asks you to share what it is about you or your life that is “different.”  Essentially, what is the difference, and why is it seen as different by the world around you?

The second part of this question straightforwardly asks how embracing your “differentness” helped shape you and your view of life. Perhaps you are more empathetic to others and go out of your way to make all people feel more comfortable about being outside the mainstream. 

Once you have written about what your difference is, be sure to connect it back to who you are. For example, let’s say you were an only child raised by elderly grandparents. You should then connect this back to how you are totally comfortable with older people and know how to entertain yourself in the best of ways. Take this prompt as an opportunity to reflect on what may seem “different” helped shape the person (you!) who is applying to Dartmouth! 

“ As noted in the College’s mission statement, “Dartmouth educates the most promising students and prepares them for a lifetime of learning and of responsible leadership…” Promise and potential are important aspects of the assessment of any college application, but they can be elusive qualities to capture. Highlight your potential and promise for us; what would you like us to know about you? “(250 words or less)

This prompt is a good one for students who feel that they are more than their application conveys. Say you are a stellar student (as most Dartmouth applicants are!), but more recently found your groove or a passion that has motivated you like nothing else. Perhaps you know, down to your bones, that your goals will be reached no matter what life throws at you. Tell Dartmouth how they are the place to help you reach those goals! This is the time to be as honest and sincere as you can. Doing so will shine through, and maybe the person reading your essay will realize that you are right!

Final thoughts on responding to the Dartmouth supplemental essays

After reading our guide for responding to the Dartmouth supplemental essays, it is time to write your responses! 

Be sure you are outlining and brainstorming prior to writing your responses. Remember, this is Dartmouth you are applying to! You want to ensure that every piece of your essay responses are well-thought out. Do not repeat yourself, and be sure to evenly distribute bits of personality and interests throughout your responses. 

You are more than equipped to answer the Dartmouth supplemental essay questions! Good luck during the writing process! 

Next steps after applying to Dartmouth

When you are finished writing your Dartmouth supplemental essays – it is time to submit your application!

Now, you should have celebrated your accomplishment of submitting your Dartmouth application! Well done!  Be sure to check: 

  • Dartmouth portal
  • Any Dartmouth social media accounts

For any updates to your application status! Once again best of luck to you! 

Additional resources

Now that you are done with the Dartmouth supplemental essays, double check that your Coalition Application and Common Application essays are perfect! Also, make sure you check out our guide on how many schools to apply to . 

Have you completed the ACT or SAT ? If you are wondering about whether or not to send your SAT/ACT scores to test optional schools, check out our guide!

Most importantly, check out our free scholarship search tool to help you finance your education. Best of luck in the college admissions process, and remember that Scholarships360 is here to help you! 

Additional supplemental essay guides

  • Cornell University (Ithaca,NY)
  • Amherst College (Amherst, MA)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 4 tips for writing stellar dartmouth essays.

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College Admissions


Dartmouth College , located in Hanover, New Hampshire, is one of the best universities in the world. A member of the Ivy League, Dartmouth has notable graduates, top-of-the-line programs, and a minuscule admissions rate.

If you want to be one of the 7.9% of students accepted to Dartmouth every year, you'll need to write some amazing essays as part of your application's Dartmouth supplement.

In this post, I'll talk about what the Dartmouth essay prompts are, which essays you can choose to write, and how to craft standout responses that'll help ensure your admission.

What Are the Dartmouth Essay Prompts?

You can apply to Dartmouth using the Common Application or QuestBridge Application. No matter which application you choose, you'll also have to submit the Dartmouth Supplement.

Part of the Dartmouth Supplement involves answering three required writing prompts. The first two writing prompts are the same for all students. Students have five prompt options for the third essay and must answer one. 

According to Dartmouth's website, "the writing supplement includes questions specific to Dartmouth that help the Admissions Committee gain a better sense of how you and Dartmouth might be a good 'fit' for each other."

Basically, that means that the Dartmouth Admissions Committee wants to know who you are… and how you'll fit in on Dartmouth's campus. Your Dartmouth supplemental essays give the admissions committee a chance to get to know you beyond your test scores and other credentials. The essays will give Dartmouth a better idea of how you think and act, so they can see if you would be a great addition to the student body.

Similarly, the essays also give the admissions committee a chance to assess your passion for Dartmouth - how badly do you really want to go there? The more you can show your passion for Dartmouth, the better.

Let's take a look at the Dartmouth essay prompts.


Dartmouth Essay Prompts

Here are the 2022-2023 Dartmouth Essay Prompts. Like we mentioned earlier, the first two prompts are the same for all students. For the third essay, students are given five prompt options and must answer one. 

Please respond in 100 words or fewer:

  • Dartmouth celebrates the ways in which its profound sense of place informs its profound sense of purpose. As you seek admission to Dartmouth's Class of 2027, what aspects of the College's academic program, community, or campus environment attract your interest? In short, Why Dartmouth? Please respond in 100 words or fewer.

Essay #2 

Please response in 200-250 words: 

"Be yourself," Oscar Wilde advised. "Everyone else is taken." Introduce yourself in 200-250 words.

Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 200-250 words:

  • Labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta recommended a life of purpose. "We must use our lives to make the world a better place to live, not just to acquire things," she said. "That is what we are put on the earth for." In what ways do you hope to make—or are you making—an impact?
  • What excites you?
  • In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba '14 reflects on constructing a windmill from recycled materials to power electrical appliances in his family's Malawian house: "If you want to make it, all you have to do is try." What drives you to create and what do you hope to make or have you made?
  • Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel of Dartmouth's Class of 1925, wrote, "Think and wonder. Wonder and think." What do you wonder and think about?
  • "Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced," wrote James Baldwin. How does this quote apply to your life experiences?

Dartmouth Essays Analyzed

Let's take a look at the Dartmouth essay prompts for 2021-2022.

Dartmouth Essay Prompt 1

All Dartmouth students are required to answer this prompt and for good reason — it's the "Why Dartmouth" essay! This essay shows the admissions committee why Dartmouth is the right school for you.

At only 100 words, this prompt doesn't give you a lot of room to expand upon your favorite parts of the College, so you should pick one or two aspects of Dartmouth that you really love and focus on those.

The prompt encourages you to talk about the program, community, or campus, so don't feel like you have to limit yourself to academics. You can talk about other things about Dartmouth that interest you, such as the student life or extracurricular activities.

Whichever features you choose to highlight, make sure your connection to them is real and personal. In other words, don't just say you're a fan of Dartmouth's sterling academic reputation. Instead, focus on a specific part of that reputation - a professor whose work you admire or a class that you really want to take.

Dartmouth Essay Prompt 2

First impressions can be daunting! How do you want to be perceived? What would you say to pique Dartmouth’s admissions counselors’ interest? This is your chance to be bold, and to stand out from the crowd. But remember the prompt: they’re not quoting Wilde for fun. You’ll need to introduce your most authentic self. In other words, introduce who you are, not who you think Dartmouth wants you to be.

Don't feel confined to traditional, linear methods of storytelling in this prompt. You can play around with form and structure, as long as you do it well. Get an advisor or mentor to read your work and offer feedback, especially if you deviate from your typical style.

Dartmouth Essay Prompt 3

Dartmouth's longer essay prompts give you plenty of room to think creatively and show off your individuality. All students are required to pick and answer one of the prompts in 250-300 words. Let's take a look at the prompts and examine how to answer them.

Prompt A: The Introduction Prompt

A. Labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta recommended a life of purpose. "We must use our lives to make the world a better place to live, not just to acquire things," she said. "That is what we are put on the earth for." In what ways do you hope to make—or are you making—an impact?

This prompt is more tangible and concrete than the others available for selection. If you feel intimidated by discussing your creativity or personal history, this prompt is a good one to choose.

This prompt asks you to pick a real-world issue and discuss how you wish to address it (or are already addressing it). Don't feel like you have to pick something grand and far-reaching, like starvation or world peace. You can also pick an issue that affects people locally, in your community, for instance. The key is to pick a topic that you have a personal connection to and reason for wanting to fix. Your passion will come across in your description of the issue.

Prompt B: The Passion Prompt

B. What excites you?

This essay prompt is asking you to think toward your future and write about something—anything!—that gets you pumped. Dartmouth Admissions is looking to see if you have purpose and passion.

To answer this prompt, take some time to think about your future: your goals for your time in college, things you hope to achieve, opportunities that you find invigorating. You'll want your response to be focused and organized, so choose one idea, goal, or possibility that most excites you and go into detail about that in your response.

For example, maybe you're excited about the opportunity to improve your creative writing craft in the company of other student writers at Dartmouth, so you make becoming a better writer the central idea of your response to this prompt. You might go into detail about how you're excited to take writing workshop courses, learn from other students' writing styles, and eventually work on a creative writing publication with other students.

Whatever topic you choose to write about, you need to have a central idea—something that excites you—and you need to be able to explain how your excitement will shape your life choices as a student at Dartmouth.

There are no right or wrong answers in terms of what excites you, but it is important to try to think toward your future and explain

Prompt C: The Creativity Prompt

C. In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind , William Kamkwamba, Class of 2014, reflects on constructing a windmill from recycled materials to power the electrical appliances in his family's Malawian house: "If you want to make it, all you have to do is try." What drives you to create and what do you hope to make or have you already made

Creativity is crucial to every field of study, and this essay prompt is asking you to show that your interests, academic or recreational, inspire you to make things. To respond to this prompt, you'll need to be able to explain an idea, issue, or interest that motivates you to make stuff, then describe what you've made in the past or hope to make in the future!

The first thing to do is establish what drives you to create . To do this, think about who you are, where you come from, what experiences you've had, and who you want to become. Like in the example given in the prompt, maybe there's a need right in your own home that inspires you to create. You could think locally, like The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, or you could think outside of your personal experience too. Is there a global issue that drives you to create something that will help others in the future, during, or after college? If so, describe that vision and the global issue that motivates it.

Keep in mind that "creating" and "making something" can be interpreted many different ways. Your vision for "making" doesn't have to be artistic or some scientific invention. It could be creating a virtual reading service for overworked parents who need help educating their children during a global pandemic! On the other hand, maybe you're creating a science curriculum through your school's independent study program so you can learn more about climate change, which is your passion.

Whatever the case may be, it's a good idea to relate that creativity to your time at Dartmouth. For instance, maybe your virtual reading service has inspired you to major in business, so you can turn that service into your future career. It would be a great idea to research and talk about joining the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship at Dartmouth to help show admissions counselors that Dartmouth is the only school that can help your dreams become a reality.

Prompt D: The Curiosity Prompt

D. Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel of Dartmouth's Class of 1925, wrote, "Think and wonder. Wonder and think." What do you wonder and think about?

This prompt is actually just an invitation for you to dive deep into something that you're insatiably curious about. Dartmouth admissions wants to see that you have that intrinsic motivation to learn, grow, and expand your horizons, and they want to get to know you better by hearing you go off about that thing that you're endlessly curious about.

So, how do you celebrate your curiosity in this response? Start by pinpointing that one thing that you're the most curious about. You can probably look to your activities, relationships, and even your Google search history to identify what that one thing is. Maybe you're endlessly curious about food: different cultures of eating around the world, America's relationship to food, how to select, prepare, and eat it...and if you're really curious about food, you could probably go on and on about everything you know and want to know about it in your response.

This is a good thing! To organize your response, describe the thing you're curious about in a way that helps admissions counselors get to know you better . Going back to the food example, you could talk about where your curiosity about food comes from, or your background with food, how your curiosity with food plays into your day-to-day living, and some specific things you hope to learn about or do with food as you continue engaging with it.

And finally, connect your past experience, present questions, and future goals at Dartmouth in your response. This will show Dartmouth that you're a dedicated, independent learner who will be an endlessly curious student too.


Prompt E: The Baldwin Prompt

E. "Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced," wrote James Baldwin. How does this quote apply to your life experiences?

Some challenges in life appear insurmountable at first—and not all of them can be overcome. This prompt asks you to reflect on your own life, and on your own experiences with growth and change, whether or not you succeeded.

In your response, you'll get the chance to show that you see the value of being adaptable and accepting change. You can demonstrate this quality by writing about how you've seen something happening cyclically, something changing, or a season coming to an end in your life. It's important that you write about a situation that was meaningful to you—one where you saw yourself growing and learning.

Alternatively, you could write about an ongoing situation in your life that you are still facing. For example, maybe your school enacted a policy that you and your peers consider unfair, and you’ve been working for a while to make your voices heard.

It's okay if the thing you choose to write about is something you've had conflicted feelings about. What's important in your response here is showing how facing the challenges you describe strengthened your determination and adaptability —qualities that will be valuable when you become a Dartmouth student.


How to Write Great Dartmouth Essays

In order to write great Dartmouth essays, you need to show the committee two things. First, you need to give them a clear idea of who you are. Second, you need to show them, "Why Dartmouth." In other words, why Dartmouth is important to you. Here are some tips to help you accomplish both of those goals.

#1: Use Your Own Voice

The point of a college essay is for the admissions committee to have the chance to get to know you beyond your test scores, grades, and honors. Your admissions essays are your opportunity to make yourself come alive for the essay readers and to present yourself as a fully fleshed out person.

You should, then, make sure that the person you're presenting in your college essays is yourself. Don't try to emulate what you think the committee wants to hear or try to act like someone you're not.

If you lie or exaggerate, your essay will come across as insincere, which will diminish its effectiveness. Stick to telling real stories about the person you really are, not who you think Dartmouth wants you to be.

#2: Avoid Clichés and Overused Phrases

When writing your Dartmouth essays, try to avoid using common quotes or phrases. These include quotations that have been quoted to death and phrases or idioms that are overused in daily life. The college admissions committee has probably seen numerous essays that state, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Strive for originality.

Similarly, avoid using clichés, which take away from the strength and sincerity of your work. Don't speak in platitudes about how the struggle for gay and lesbian rights has affected you… unless it actually has! And even then, you don't want to speak in platitudes. It's better to be direct and specific about your experience.

#3: Check Your Work

It should almost go without saying, but you want to make sure your Dartmouth essays are the strongest example of your work possible. Before you turn in your Dartmouth application, make sure to edit and proofread your essays.

Your work should be free of spelling and grammar errors. Make sure to run your essays through a spelling and grammar check before you submit.

It's a good idea to have someone else read your Dartmouth essays, too. You can seek a second opinion on your work from a parent, teacher, or friend. Ask them whether your work represents you as a student and person. Have them check and make sure you haven't missed any small writing errors. Having a second opinion will help your work be the best it possibly can be.

That being said, make sure you don't rely on them for ideas or rewrites. Your essays need to be your work.

#4: Play With Form

Dartmouth's essay prompts leave a lot of room open for creative expression - use that! You don't need to stick to a five paragraph essay structure here. You can play with the length and style of your sentences - you could even dabble in poetry if that makes sense!

Whichever form you pick, make sure it fits with the story you're trying to tell and how you want to express yourself.

What's Next?

Learn more about the most selective colleges in the US . If you're applying to multiple Ivy Leagues, it's a good idea to know your chances at each!

If you're hoping to attend a highly selective school like Dartmouth, you'll need to have a very strong academic record in high school. Learn more about high school honors classes and societies.

Not sure what your GPA means for your chances of college admission? Find out what a good or bad GPA might look like based on your goals.

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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.

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Dartmouth Supplemental Essay Examples

Dartmouth Supplemental Essay Examples

Dartmouth supplemental essay examples will help you in your quest to deliver the very finest essay that you can. Seeking guidance on how to write a college essay can be useful, but equally useful can be reading over existing essays to see what the pros do, and how all the bits fit together.

Your essays are one of the most important aspects of your college application, and they should be as polished as possible. This might mean seeking out an essay workshop for students or reading expert college essay tips , but checking out examples can be helpful as well.

This article will take you through the necessary essays for Dartmouth’s supplemental section and provide you with some general essay writing tips.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 10 min read

Dartmouth supplemental essays.

Dartmouth requires students to write three essays. For the first two essays, students get one prompt that they will all follow. Pay close attention to all three prompts but note that if a school is requiring absolutely everybody to respond to the same prompt, that prompt is universally important, and something Dartmouth cares a lot about.

There are several prompts for the third essay, so you can choose the one you think will show off your unique abilities, talents, and experiences. Remember: essays in applications are about showing why you are the best possible candidate for that particular school.

All Applicants

Essay no. 1.

“Dartmouth celebrates the ways in which its profound sense of place informs its profound sense of purpose. As you seek admission to Dartmouth ... what aspects of the College’s academic program, community, or campus environment attract your interest? In short, Why Dartmouth?”

Word limit: 100 words, max.

With the beauty of New England, the academic discipline, and exciting research opportunities, there is nothing about Dartmouth that doesn’t appeal to me. 

My primary reason for wanting to attend Dartmouth is the research potential in energy engineering; I want to make an impact on environmental conservation, starting with energy. Dartmouth’s research on biomass processing technologies is very exciting.

Besides academics, I also have family in Hanover, so my support network would be strong at Dartmouth. Furthermore, the beauty and heritage of the campus is inspiring.

Dartmouth imbues me with a sense of place and purpose that inspires.

“‘Be yourself,’ Oscar Wilde advised. ‘Everyone else is taken.’ Introduce yourself...”

Word limit: 200–250 words

Given the prompt, it seems appropriate to start by saying that I am a big fan of Oscar Wilde. I am normally a shy person, and I may be uncomfortable being talked about, but I know there are worse things…

My sense of humor is my favorite aspect of myself, and I have always had a love of comedy – hence my interest in Oscar. My parents have said I laughed uproariously as a baby and they have taken as much delight in introducing me to Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, and Mr. Show as I have in laughing with all of them.

I believe that a sense of humor and irony will aid everybody, and we could all use a good laugh at our own expense now and again. So much of politics and business and social anxiety could be better managed with a few well-placed guffaws.

In fact, learning to laugh at myself has been instrumental in conquering my shyness and allowing me to meet people and gain opportunities. Without that, I couldn’t have run for student government at my school – becoming vice president – or attempted stand-up comedy for the first time this summer. For the record, I mostly bombed my set, but I’m re-writing my material and learning how to bounce back from a setback – they won’t stop me!

So, that’s my “me.” Let everybody else be taken, Wilde, I’m perfectly content as I am.

Essay No. 3

Students choose one of the following essays to complete.

A. “Labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta recommended a life of purpose. ‘We must use our lives to make the world a better place to live, not just to acquire things,’ she said. ‘That is what we are put on the earth for.’ In what ways do you hope to make – or are you making – an impact?”

Six hours in the sun pulling a wagon, knocking on doors, and asking people for used aluminum isn’t a fun way to spend a day, but I knew the importance of helping out with our local recycling programs. In this case, we were looking for aluminum tabs from pop cans to be remade into wheelchairs and provided for low-to-no cost to those in need.

My brother Jack uses a wheelchair, and so this cause appealed to me on two levels: I am also an environmentalist – like my parents, who are environmental scientists. Aiding a recycling program and getting wheelchairs to patients was therefore a win-win.

Let’s start with your format, while looking at how to write a college essay . You will follow the standard essay format as often as possible. This is composed of three major sections: the opener, the body, and the conclusion. You can think of them as “beginning, middle, end,” if that is helpful.

The opening paragraph should start with an attention grabber, or “hook,” that will live up to its name and command the focus of the reader. This is the best approach to how to start a college essay . Make it such a good opening line that even someone who isn’t on the admissions committee would want to keep reading.

Your opener also sets up the rest of the essay, providing the central themes and ideas that you’ll explore – these are all contained within the prompts provided by Dartmouth, but your opener will connect those prompts to you, personally. Specifically, reading college essay introduction examples will show you how to accomplish this.

In the body of the essay, you will explore the prompt, how it relates to you, and, ideally, show how you have grown as a person or student, some accomplishments you have made, or skillsets and abilities that you have – all of which must be desirable for a potential Dartmouth student.

If you can connect specifically to Dartmouth, all the better. Mentioning programs or research that are unique to the school or highlighting that you have the qualities they are seeking in their mission and vision statements will connect you to the school and show off how you would be the ideal candidate.

Your overall goal is to make the committee want to bring you in for an alumni-conducted interview, so if your conclusion would make anybody want to meet you, ask questions, and learn more about you and your experiences, you will have succeeded.

Most of Dartmouth’s essays have a short limit of 250 words. The exception is a 100-word essay: even shorter. What this means for you is that you don’t have a lot of space to develop a variety of complex ideas per essay. Be surgical; get in, tell the necessary details for the prompt, and get out.

Be prepared to truncate and mess with the essay format a bit for the 100-word essay, as that prompt really requires a precision answer, and you might not be able to shape the essay in a standard way.

To build a successful application, give yourself every edge and benefit. A strong supplemental essay will achieve that. You are already taking the right steps by reading up on essay writing and seeking out examples to improve your work. Take your time refining the essays for your dream school.

No, you must answer those two essay questions, as per the requirements. Most schools want answers to the questions “Why this school?” and “Tell us about yourself.” They are two of the most common questions asked of students for a reason: they produce information that the admissions committee needs to know.

The amount of time will vary, but generally speaking, we think you should take 2–3 weeks to work on your essays. You don’t need to put in 40+ hours per week, but give yourself time to brainstorm, write, re-write, edit, and proofread; you’ll likely need and want time to get professional feedback as well.

If you’re stuck on an optional prompt, you could switch to a different prompt proposed by the school and see if it resonates more with you. If your required essay is giving you difficulty, you’ll want to break your writer’s block with a little brainstorming. Take two minutes to free-associate on your topic, writing down anything you think of, and you’ll likely open up your thought processes and start to figure out what you want to say.

If you are successful, you will be invited for an interview, which means that you might want to start thinking about how to prepare for your interview.

The Common Application allows for changes to essays after submission, but with Dartmouth, you will specifically need to upload additional materials via your portal.

Look for a credible college essay review service . Teachers and other mentors might be able to help as well, but keep in mind that they are already busy people, so sticking with a professional service might be the better option.

You might think that all you need to do is hit your academics and emphasize how smart you are, but that strategy might not be all that clever. Your transcripts and high school resume will show off your numbers. Instead, use your essay to introduce the “real you” to the admissions committee. They want to know you, and your uniqueness is your best shot at getting into your school of choice. Put the essential you on display for the best results.

Deadlines change from year to year, so just follow the instructions in the Common App or Coalition App. Start as early as possible to maximize your time between now and the deadline.

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Kennedy Hamblen

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I'm Kennedy, a literature nerd and creative writer from the outskirts of Memphis. I'm also a senior here at Dartmouth. When I'm not working in admissions as a senior fellow, I'm a student employee at the library and a research and teaching assistant in the English department. I love music (I collect vinyl!) and analyzing teen drama TV (think Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars). I'm currently applying to law schools. I've had such a great time at Dartmouth and am excited to share that with you!

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Favorite thing right now .

Trailer Park Boys


Pronouns , you are here.

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Five Tips for Your Supplemental Essays

Kennedy's d-plan, fall hanover, nh.

Professor McCann is my advisor, but that's not the only reason I took this class. Since it was a senior seminar with only 9 students, we got to dive deep into the fascinating material, including with Victorian-era pulp fiction books, advertisements, and psychological treatises, plus some good old fashioned canonical works like The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dracula. [Fun fact: I've read Dracula three times at Dartmouth... it's an English department favorite!]

Winter Hanover, NH

This was an off term for me, but I love Hanover so much I hung around anyways! I worked for admissions and Baker-Berry Library, read a ton of J.G. Ballard, and stared out the window at the snow for an embarrassingly long amount of time. I also visited my parents in Tennessee during Christmas.

Spring Hanover, NH

Professor Nachlis went out of his way to act as an unofficial pre-law advisor for all of us in this class, not only by introducing us to some of the most pressing issues in American government, but also by dedicating the final two weeks of class to a module called "Should you go to law school?" A question I was asking myself!

Summer Hanover, NH

Another off term again, and this time I'm working full-time for admissions as a senior fellow! I'm also doing a lot of preliminary reading for my honors thesis. Anyone heard of Friedrich Kittler's Discourse Networks? Well, I'll have read it twice by the time this term is over.

The Dartmouth Admissions Office sign

I love writing. I love toiling over a sentence. I love sitting down to an empty Word document. However, people who love writing are like people who love running marathons—they look crazy to everyone else.

So, if you're a high schooler and you're struggling to write your Common App essay, your supplemental essays, or anything else for your college applications, you're not alone. Far from it. And writing is even harder under pressure—for many of you, college application season will have more pressure than my InstantPot cooking rice! (Ok, technically I own a Ninja Foodie, but it's a pressure cooker , that's the joke).

Your essays have to present you to the admissions committee. They have to explain what drives you. They have to show your writing skills. And they have to be interesting. That's a lot of demand for essays with word counts of under one thousand. If you're applying to Dartmouth (and I really hope you are!), you're tasked with writing some extremely short supplemental essays. Like, really short.

I struggled a lot with the Dartmouth supplemental essays because of their word limit. Brevity is not a strength of mine, if you can't tell. But you would be shocked what some good editing and a bit of preparation does for you. It is , in fact, possible to say everything you want to in 250 words, or even 100. I'm going to give you some tips for your college essays that will help you make the best of your limited words.

1) Start early, and start by writing everything down.

When you write your first draft—that is, the first version of your essay—don't think about word limit. Don't even go back and delete sentences yet. Just write. Get out everything you want to say in that essay. If it's the Why Dartmouth essay, go ahead and pontificate for hundreds (or thousands?!) of words. Then save the document somewhere you can easily find it later, and close it. Seriously. CLOSE IT. And go do something else. Ideally, this step will happen at least a month before your application is due, but even if you've just begun and it's a week until the deadline, this strategy can still work.

2) Remove the obvious stuff.

Reread your work after a good night's sleep—ideally, you'll reread it after a week or even more of not looking at it. Having fresh eyes helps you spot what you know you don't want in there. Maybe you're starting all your sentences with "I love" and that needs to change. Maybe you've got some cringey or unhelpful nonsense in there. Maybe you misspelled Hanover. Now's the time to change that stuff. Make sure, however, that no important content gets removed. If you have a poorly written sentence, but it contains an important idea (for example: about what draws you to Dartmouth), move it to another document and try to rewrite it. You don't want to lose any of those ideas; they can always be reformulated into better sentences.

3) Trim out repetition, "nothing words," and fluff.

Trimming repetition is essential for essays with a hard word limit. Repetition is anything that gets said twice—any idea, any phrase. If you've said it once, the admissions committee will notice it and take it seriously, so don't worry about saying it again.

"Nothing words" can mean words that don't pack a punch, or words that aren't strictly necessary. We all write (and talk) with them, including myself in this very post! But I don't have a word limit, and you do, so you should remove them. Good examples are adverbs and adjectives that don't change the meaning of what they modify (above I used "very," for example, which can usually be removed... so can "usually"); long phrases that don't mean much ("so on and so forth" is something I say a lot, but I would edit it out of any essay); and phrases that can be replaced with something shorter (turning prepositional phrases like "suburbs of Memphis" into adjective-modified nouns, like "Memphis suburbs"). This is a good way to eke out one or two words at a time, which can free up more space than you realize.

And finally, remove any detail that does not contribute to the purpose of the essay. Say "my cousin" instead of specifying that he's your mother's sister's son. Or delete that sentence about your dad having trouble with the rental car when you came to visit. This bit is the hardest. You're often understandably emotionally attached to these details; they're part of your life, after all. If you can convey the emotion succinctly with one or two words without telling the whole story, that is a great way to strike a compromise between the emotional impact you're adding with details and the word limit you're honoring by removing them. Instead of mentioning that your dad had issues with the rental car, for instance, you could say "We had an exhausting journey," or that your dad was "travel-worn." You get the idea.

4) If you want, get weird with it!

Not too weird, of course—you're presenting yourself as a young adult ready to face the challenges of living alone and rigorous studies. However, I get a lot of questions about the form of these supplemental essays that can be answered with one sentence: "If we don't say no, you're allowed to." The word limit and prompts are intentionally the only restrictions we place on applicants (and you'll notice our prompts are often quite open-ended—that's intentional). You can write a poem, or just five words, or a stream-of-consciousness essay. But beware: in some ways, the more abstract or artsy you get, the harder it can be to pull off. If you try to do something like the above, make sure you know why you're doing it.

But there's an easier way to get weird with it, and this method also helps you cram in as many ideas as possible despite the word limit. You don't have to be strictly grammatical. Your essay can even be list-like. My Why Dartmouth essay wasn't made of full proper sentences. Instead, it was a list of things I loved about Dartmouth, separated by semi-colons. I love a good semi-colon. This way, I avoided wasted words on "I love" and "Dartmouth has" and got right to the meat of things.

5) Focus on the differentiators.

Many schools are on the quarter system, but no one else has the D-Plan. Many schools have quads or green areas, but no one else has the Dartmouth Outing Club or the Dartmouth community that makes sitting on the Green with someone you've just met so special. Many schools have low student-to-faculty ratios, but few pair high-level research and small classes like we do. Don't mention good things that all the other universities have too; that would be a bit like saying "I want to go to Dartmouth because they give out Bachelor's degrees." Yeah, that's a great motivation—but not for Dartmouth specifically .

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Dartmouth Supplemental Essays 2023-24 Prompts and Advice

August 11, 2023

dartmouth supplemental essays

Dartmouth receives the fewest number of applications of the eight Ivy League schools. There were 28,841 hopefuls for the Class of 2027, less than half the number at Columbia or Harvard. Yet, that still represented an increase in the number of Dartmouth applications from the two years prior, resulting in the school’s lowest-ever acceptance rate of 6% (down from 6.2% the previous year, and a whopping 8.8% in 2024). When applying to a school that rejects 94% of applicants, you need to find ways to grab an admissions officer’s attention and give them a reason to say, “Yes!” The Dartmouth supplemental essays are one such chance.

Want to learn more about How to Get Into Dartmouth College? Visit our blog entitled:  How to Get Into Dartmouth: Admissions Data and Strategies  for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.

One of the best opportunities to move the admissions needle is through the three supplemental essays that Dartmouth requires. Dartmouth College’s essay prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle are listed below along with accompanying advice about how to tackle each one:

1) Dartmouth Supplemental Essays – Required Essay #1

Dartmouth celebrates the ways in which its profound sense of place informs its profound sense of purpose. As you seek admission to Dartmouth’s Class of 2028, what aspects of the College’s academic program, community, and/or campus environment attract your interest? In short, why Dartmouth? (100 words)

This is, in essence, a straightforward “Why this College?” essay. Great things to highlight here include:

  • Firstly, specific  student organizations at Dartmouth  that you would like to become involved with.
  • Particular courses  offered in your discipline of interest at Dartmouth.
  • Dartmouth professors whose work/research/writings you are intrigued by.
  • Undergraduate research opportunities  unique to Dartmouth.
  • Aspects of Dartmouth’s mission statement that resonate with you.
  • Lastly,  study abroad opportunities .

Make sure to really do your research on the school. As a side benefit (and not an unimportant one), you may discover further reasons why Dartmouth truly is the perfect fit for you.

2) Dartmouth Supplemental Essays – Required Essay #2

Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 250 words or fewer:

A) There is a Quaker saying: Let your life speak. Describe the environment in which you were raised and the impact it has had on the person you are today.

This is an opportunity to share something about your background that may not shine through anywhere else on the application. To do so, consider discussing how your role in your family, important aspects of your upbringing, or a particular cultural, religious, or community influence either impacted your core values and beliefs or helped develop a particularly important attribute.

B) “Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde advised. “Everyone else is taken.” Introduce yourself.

This is a fun opportunity to share something genuinely unique about yourself. As such, pick one (or several) key aspects of your personality/background that reveal something deep and meaningful about you. As you brainstorm, consider the following avenues:

  • What moves your spirit? Discuss any art, movies, music, and books that you find deeply moving and personally important.
  • Your role in your family.
  • Your role in your social group.
  • The funniest things you’ve ever done.
  • The strangest things you’ve ever done.
  • Commitment, passion, and enthusiasm.
  • Core values and beliefs.
  • Important aspects of your upbringing.
  • Most intriguing and unique attributes.
  • Cultural, religious, community influence.

3) Dartmouth Supplemental Essays – Required Essay #3

Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 200-250 words:

A) What excites you?

Out of everything on this Earth, what makes you tick? What keeps you up at night? What subject makes you read books and online content until your eyes bleed? If you could address one problem in the world, large or small, what would it be? What do you love to do? If you are answering at least one of these questions, you are on the right track with this essay.

B) Labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta recommended a life of purpose. “We must use our lives to make the world a better place to live, not just to acquire things,” she said. “That is what we are put on the earth for.” In what ways do you hope to make—or are you making—an impact? Why? How?

This is your chance to show that you are a global citizen, aware and sensitive to issues faced by this planet and all life that occupies it. If you are passionate about climate change, the fate of democratic institutions, food scarcity, human rights, the impact of disinformation campaigns, privacy issues related to big tech, or any of the millions of other challenges faced by humanity, this is a great choice for you. Note that this year’s prompt includes the guiding questions why and how , so be sure to let them both guide your response.

Dartmouth Supplemental Essays (Continued)

C) Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel of Dartmouth’s Class of 1925, wrote, “Think and wonder. Wonder and think.” As you wonder and think, what’s on your mind?

Last year’s prompt: what do you wonder and think about? This year’s prompt: as you wonder and think, what’s on your mind? It’s clear that Dartmouth is not only interested in what you’re thinking about but also your overall thought process. What questions are you asking? Why are you asking them? What conclusions have your questions led you to, and how do you feel about those conclusions? Is there anything that you  like to know that you don’t have the answer to right now? What motivates, scares, or surprises you about your most pressing questions? The key here will be to take the reader on a little trip inside your brain (Magic School Bus not required).

D) Celebrate your nerdy side.

In just about every nineties movie, the nerds function as insanely smart social rejects with questionable outfit choices and pocket protectors, often banished to the worst lunch table. Luckily, times have changed, and being a nerd—especially at a school like Dartmouth—is downright aspirational. Moreover, the definition of a “nerd” is someone who is incredibly enthusiastic about a certain topic—especially if unique. Accordingly, if you’re interested in answering this question, make a list of any “specialties” that you are particularly dedicated to. Do you love the soundtracks of eighties movies? Science fiction short stories? Strategy games? Rubik’s cubes? Your backyard barometer? Comic book collections? Whatever topic you choose, make sure to truly lean in and celebrate it—what do you love about it, and why? How does it influence you?

E) “It’s not easy being green…” was the frequent refrain of Kermit the Frog. How has difference been a part of your life, and how have you embraced it as part of your identity and outlook?

Do you feel that your lived experience is different from others in your peer group, family, or community, perhaps in regard to relationships, household income level, mental or physical challenges, neurodiversity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or cultural background, to name a few? If so, answering this prompt could be a good option. While crafting your response, the important thing to keep in mind is that the difference/challenge itself is  less important  than what it reveals about your character and perspective. What steps have you taken to cope with your chosen difference? How has it positively impacted you? How has it influenced your perspective and the way you engage with the world? Is there anything about your difference that you feel especially appreciative of?  Make sure you share what you were feeling and experiencing; this piece should demonstrate openness and vulnerability.

F) As noted in the College’s mission statement, “Dartmouth educates the most promising students and prepares them for a lifetime of learning and of responsible leadership…” Promise and potential are important aspects of the assessment of any college application, but they can be elusive qualities to capture. Highlight your potential and promise for us; what would you like us to know about you?

One of the best ways to communicate promise and potential is to demonstrate a passion for learning and growing. This prompt is not about presenting a laundry list of accomplishments; instead, it’s about showing the admissions committee that you possess qualities that can be cultivated for a lifetime, regardless of major or career, such as dedication, curiosity, innovation, or creativity, to name a few. You can accomplish this goal by describing how you’ve grown in a particular area and/or how you wish to grow, while remembering that flaws and mistakes made along the way often demonstrate tremendous self-awareness.

How important are the Dartmouth Supplemental Essays?

The essays (both the Common App essay and the supplemental ones) are “very important” to the evaluation process. Seven other factors are “very important.” These factors are: rigor of coursework, class rank, GPA, recommendations, test scores, character/personal qualities, and extracurricular activities. Clearly, Dartmouth College places enormous value on the quality of your supplemental essay.

Dartmouth Supplemental Essays – Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

To conclude, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your Dartmouth supplemental essays, we encourage you to  get a quote  today.

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Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).

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How to Write the Dartmouth College Supplemental Essays 2018-2019

dartmouth supplemental essays reddit

Tucked away in the idyllic greenery of Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College has long been a sought-after institution of higher education since its founding in 1769. At the center of this community is its small, tight-knit group of 4,400 undergraduates, who enjoy the resources of over 40 departments and 60 majors.

Due to the bucolic nature of its location, approximately 70 percent of undergraduates participate in Greek life, as it serves as the hub of social interaction. Athletics and outdoor activities are also extremely popular – 75 percent of students are involved in a varsity, club, or intramural sport. Besides playing in NCAA Division I in 34 sports, such as basketball, football, and lacrosse, Dartmouth is also home to the largest collegiate excursion club in the U.S.; with roughly 3000 student and non-student members, it serves as the coordinating organization for many outdoor winter activities, notably skiing, mountaineering, ice climbing, canoeing, and kayaking.

Dartmouth College currently sits at #11 in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities Ranking , its selectivity maintained by its low acceptance rate of 11%. Admitted students typically score 750, and 760 on SAT Reading, and Math, respectively. For those taking the ACT, accepted candidates scored, on average, in the 30-34 range. 1,217 undergraduates enrolled out of 20,035 applicants for the Class of 2021.

It is the alma mater of a host of notable alumni, including Robert Frost, Daniel Webster, and Mindy Kaling. Additionally, Dartmouth is also the 22nd richest college in the U.S., with an endowment of $4.95 billion as of 2017.

To apply to Dartmouth College, candidates may submit either the Common Application, or the Coalition Application. The college does not prefer one or the other. Candidates may apply through the Early Decision process (due November 1st), or the Regular Decision process (due January 2nd). In addition to the required essay in the Common Application or Coalition Application, Dartmouth requires two supplemental essays: applicants are all required to complete the first prompt, but may choose from 6 different options for the second prompt. Read on to find out how to tackle them!

Want to learn what Dartmouth College will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take?  Here’s what every student considering Dartmouth College needs to know.

How to Write the Dartmouth College Admissions Essays

Every essay you write in this college application process, including the Common App, is a component of your candidate profile. To help maximize the admissions committee’s understanding of you, for each school’s essay portfolio, be sure to choose topics that complement each other.

For example, if you wrote about a personal geology project in your Common App, don’t also write about your aspiration to solve a geological crisis in the second prompt, or only concentrate on the geology program in the first prompt.

Dartmouth asks for two supplemental essays – one in 100 words, and the other in 300 words. Since these essays are so short, you need to jam-pack your Common App essay with even more personal information, which will allow room for you to focus more on Dartmouth-specific academic, professional or extracurricular programs in these supplements.

Your response to prompt 1 needs to be tailored to Dartmouth specifically. If in your prompt 1 essay, it is possible to switch out the name “Dartmouth” for another school’s name, with the essay still making sense, then you probably need to dive into greater detail.

Since Dartmouth is a more academically-oriented school than its counterparts, it is critical to explain why you would like to pursue the major you choose in at least one of the supplemental essays.  

Prompt #1:  Please respond in 100 words or less:

While arguing a dartmouth-related case before the u.s. supreme court in 1818, daniel webster, class of 1801, delivered this memorable line: “it is, sir…a small college. and yet, there are those who love it” as you seek admission to the class of 2023, what aspects of the college’s program, community or campus environment attract your interest.

This is essentially the classic “Why X School?” essay . With only a meager 100 words available, the goal of this is not to mention every program or component of Dartmouth that attracts you, or give an elaborate praise of those programs. Rather, you have to demonstrate why the essence of Dartmouth resonates with you . Here are some dos and don’ts to get you thinking in the right direction:

Pick one aspect of Dartmouth that you feel deeply connected to. For example, if your academic love is environmental science, consider writing this essay on Dartmouth’s prioritization of sustainability through emphasis on programs like beekeeping, ethical fish farming, and proper extraction of maple syrup from sugar maple trees.

That said, keep in mind that ultimately, you need to present a holistic candidate profile to the school. That means showcasing as many aspects of yourself as possible – if you focus on an academic interest in this prompt, make sure to hone in on your favorite aspects of campus life and extracurricular offerings in the next prompt.

Do not, however, dive into a detailed dissertation of why the program you choose to write about is so necessary in our world today. Whichever reason attracts you to Dartmouth, chances are, someone else wants to attend the college for the same reason.

The admissions committee is not interested in reading the 1052nd essay on why the school made the right choice to implement these sustainability initiatives — the admissions officers likely know the school well enough to understand why Dartmouth initiated those programs. Instead, what admissions want to know is why these are deciding factors for you to choose Dartmouth.

For example, perhaps you lived in an area that was affected profoundly by a catastrophic natural disaster, and since then, you have been hyper-aware of the interactions between people and their habitats, and want to devote your energy towards decreasing the likelihood of a natural disaster happening to someone else.

Focus your essay on one core theme. For example, if you choose to write about Dartmouth’s unique outdoor-centric student life, structure the entire essay around this topic. 100 words do not provide you with enough leeway to cover multiple topics well. That said, if there is a tangential factor relevant to your core theme that attracts you to Dartmouth, do add it in to spice up your essay.

Do not write a list of everything you love about Dartmouth. Don’t try to expound on your love of the college’s vibrant Greek life while attempting to describe your passion for sustainability and your appreciation for the school’s flexible curriculum. Doing so would only allow you to mention each element in passing without connecting it to you personally.

Prompt #2:  Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 250-300 words:

Option a: “i have no special talent,” albert einstein once observed. “i am only passionately curious.” celebrate your curiosity., option b: the hawaiian word mo’olelo is often translated as “story” but it can also refer to history, legend, genealogy, and tradition. use one of these translations to introduce yourself., option c: you can’t use up creativity,” maya angelou mused. “the more you use, the more you have.” share a creative moment or impulse—in any form—that inspired creativity in your life., option d: in the aftermath of world war ii, dartmouth president john sloane dickey, class of 1929, proclaimed, “the world’s troubles are your troubles…and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.” which of the world’s “troubles” inspires you to act how might your course of study at dartmouth prepare you to address it, option e: in the bingo palace, author louise erdrich, class of 1976, writes, “…no one gets wise enough to really understand the heart of another, though it is the task of our life to try.” discuss., option f: emmy and grammy winner donald glover is a 21st century renaissance man—an actor, comedian, writer, director, producer, singer, songwriter, rapper, and dj. and yet the versatile storyteller and performer recently told an interviewer, “the thing i imagine myself being in the future doesn’t exist yet.” can you relate.

Here, you select one of the 6 options below to answer the question in 250-300 words. Though precision and conciseness are hallmarks of quality essays, you are not recommended to go below the 250 word benchmark. These are all open-ended questions that could elicit a much longer response – if you find yourself dipping below the minimum by more than 50 words, you probably are not optimizing your opportunity to showcase your personality.

Some tips on prompt selection:

Tip #1: Read through each of the 6 prompts.

Tip #2: Immediately categorize them into 3 segments: “likely,” “possible,” and “unlikely”.

(a) Under “likely” are all of the prompts that you have an immediate answer for upon first read

(b)  Under “possible” are all prompts you find interesting and would be open to

(c) Under “unlikely” are prompts that you find are prone to cheesy answers, or those that you simply cannot relate to at all

Tip #3: Jot down an idea or anecdote for each topic under “likely” and “possible”.

Tip #4: Review them and select the topic with the most unique story, or one that best showcases your wit and intellectual prowess.

Though this may appear like an “analyze the quote” prompt, you do not actually have to make any reference to it. The Albert Einstein quote is only a way for the prompt writers to frame this topic. Focus instead on an anecdote in which your curiosity produced a tangible result.

For instance, you may describe the time when after hearing about a friend’s horrifying experience with a violent teacher, your curiosity urged you to investigate the school’s protocol for managing these type of complaints, only to find that a standard procedure does not exist. After realizing that cases like your friend’s are evaluated on an individual basis that downplayed the seriousness of the issue, you started a widespread petition among the student body and parents’ association to pressure the school into establishing a safe channel for students to express their concerns.

If the example you are thinking of using did not necessarily produce a distinct change in a public setting, that is completely fine. It does not preclude you from this prompt.

For example, you can also write about your curious fascination with electronics – how you tirelessly disassemble every device in your house, sometimes leaving a trail of scattered parts around your room. Though you were not able to fix any of the devices you dismantled, this determination to understand the components of every machine piqued your interest in mechanical engineering, and encouraged you to devote your academic career to understanding, improving, and inventing more machines.

Try to keep the timeframe of your anecdotes to your high school career – though the chocolate volcano you engineered in 5th grade may have been cool, the more recent your example is, the easier it is for the admissions committee to get an accurate picture of who you are now.

This prompt cannot be immediately categorized as one of the “classic” essay questions and requires a bit more creativity for effective execution. It also adds yet another layer of decision-making to essay-writing – choosing the translation to continue with.

A few tips on which interpretation to choose and how to write your essay:

Tip #1: Out of all available translations, the term “story” is the most generic of the five. It is easy to argue that your story encompasses your history, your family’s legends, your genealogy and your culture’s traditions. If you do not have an instinctive response to this prompt, but still prefer this question as a whole, then choose this interpretation. The broad scope of this translation will allow you to take your essay in whichever direction you see fit.

In regards to writing the essay, you can choose to narrate a defining moment of your life that does not easily fit under any of the other four headings: perhaps on a family hike on Chirico Trail during winter break in your sophomore year, you witnessed the majesty and freedom of paragliders and became fascinated by this extreme sport ever since. You can then expand on how the sport has changed your perspective on the feeling of existence, of your resoluteness to live every moment to the fullest, etc.

Tip #2: History here can refer to family history, academic history, employment history, recreational history, etc. Choose this translation if there is a chronology in a certain aspect of your life that you want to highlight, a more or less linear process through which you matured.

Perhaps your illustrious history in competitive chess is especially important to you, and was critical in shaping your attitude towards work. Then use this opportunity to delineate your competitive history, and delve into the intellectual, and emotional impact it has imprinted on you.

Tip #3: Legend is one of the trickier ones, and will likely be a less popular selection. If you are particularly confident in your creativity, and prefer to distinguish yourself from the onset, then this is the one for you.

One way to interpret this is to relate a folktale important to your culture, and use it as a segue to introduce your culture and the role it has played in shaping your values and character. The same thing could be done with a “bedtime story” that you grew up on – you could use the fable as an entry point to describe your upbringing and the continued impact it has on your personality today.

Tip #4: Genealogy is also an interesting one – similar to “legend,” you could leverage the anecdote of your family lineage to depict important family members, or even family heirlooms, and the significance of their role in shaping how you feel about your culture.

Perhaps you share an unique bond with your grandmother, who was your primary caretaker while you were growing up. Her lineage could be traced back to Edinburgh, Scotland, where generations before, her ancestor braved the extreme weather and fed their community as hardy wheat farmers. Though you had previously hated your ginger hair, and purposefully distanced yourself from Scottish culture because you were teased, you feel more grounded and closer to your origins through the family tales passed through generations.

Tip #5: Tradition can be approached in a very similar manner to genealogy, or legend. Choose this translation if the topic you wish to discuss is more a custom than a linearly chronological account of a cultural phenomenon.

Option C: “ You can’t use up creativity,” Maya Angelou mused. “The more you use, the more you have.” Share a creative moment or impulse—in any form—that inspired creativity in your life.

This prompt asks you to impress the admissions committee with a dazzling example of your creativity, but don’t forget the underlying premise – you would really be indulging this prompt’s true purpose if you address how that inspiring moment fostered a greater, more extended flow of ingenuity, and associated examples.

Creativity comes in all forms, shapes, and sizes – you don’t have to have invented the next iPhone to call yourself creative. It could have been an internship project that none of your colleagues could find the solution for, but you viewed the conundrum from a different angle that ultimately allowed you to hone in and resolve the root of the issue instead of trying to address insignificant details.

Sometimes, the ability to shift mindsets and concentrate on the bigger picture is a form of creative thinking too. In time, this experience trained you to metaphorically step away from the present dilemma and approach puzzles with fresh eyes, which translated into your analytical skill in academics as well as your strategic plays in soccer.

This prompt alludes to two routes: one is the classic “why X program of study?” route, the other  invites you to elaborate more on your extracurriculars, especially if they happen to pertain to an advocacy issue of some sort. If you decide on this prompt, the route you proceed with should consider your overall candidate profile – if your first essay on Dartmouth focused more on the college’s alignment of academic offerings with your own interest, choose an anecdote that pertains more to you personally or to your extracurriculars, and vice versa.

Keep in mind, we are trying to depict you in as holistic a manner as possible. Each individual essay needs to dive deep into an aspect of yourself, and should not cover too wide a variety of topics, especially given the brevity of available word count. However, there should be variety between each essay in your profile, to highlight the multiplicity of your passions.

The split between answering the two questions in this prompt should be 30-70, respectively.

Use 30% of the essay to explain why you feel personally connected to the “trouble,” with a brief anecdote if possible. The less generic the problem you choose is, the easier it is to bring out your personality. Try to avoid generic topics like “gender equality,” “global warming,” and “refugee crisis.” There are many people who genuinely care about these issues, but each of these topics are so incredibly broad that it is near impossible to discuss them thoroughly and explain how Dartmouth’s course of study helps you address the problem. Instead, pick a specific sub or sub-sub topic within these sweeping subjects and focus on showing your attachment to it on a personal level.

70% (the majority) of the writing should focus on how specific programs, activities, courses, or even professors at Dartmouth can help you understand the nuances of this problem better. Remember to explain how you would then leverage these resources to galvanize more activists to contribute to a solution.

For example, you may be interested in remedying the antagonizing political climate in which there is a trend of labeling dissenting opinions as untrue and fake. To better understand why this is an increasingly prevalent phenomenon, you are intrigued by Professor Meghan Meyer’s research on the neuroscience behind our self-centered bias, and believe that grasping the scientific explanation behind our selfish tendencies could allow us to consciously combat it, and stop thinking of ourselves as the only righteous ones.

This is another unconventional, open-ended question that lends itself to a very personal piece. Though the prompt dictates, “discuss,” it is not suggested that you treat this as a literary analysis question. Your SAT essay is already an example of the aptitude of your academic writing, so there is no need to do that again here.

One way to respond is to chronicle the progression of your relationship with an important family member, friend, mentor, or even adversary in your life, and how, as you mature and play different roles in other people’s lives, you start to understand more of his/her perspective. Remember to always jump back onto the big picture, and explain how this journey has influenced your continued quest to try and “take a walk” in someone else’s shoes.

As an example, you may choose to detail the turbulent relationship with your mom growing up – you thought the way she was overprotective was absolutely crazy, and you didn’t understand why she would be so easily hurt or upset by your minor actions and words. However, as you grow up and experience hurt through the unintentional words or gestures of your close friends or significant other, you begin to realize how your similar expression could deeply upset your mom.

You could then go on to discuss how through the assumption of different parts in other people’s lives, you emotionally feel and comprehend the mindsets of those you care about much more. Then, bring the focus back to the big picture – how did this particular experience change the way you view human interaction, your relationship with those you initially dislike, and your attitude toward people going forward?

The key to an effective response here is to not get too carried away by the infinite directions you could take this in, and make sure to develop the essay around a key idea. Here are some ideas:

(1) This could be an especially advantageous prompt for you if you are the typical “well-rounded” candidate, without an incredibly clear direction or passion in one specific area. You could use this prompt to laud the virtues of having pursued several different interests – only through exhausting all possible options of what you could love can you be sure that whatever passion you follow is the most optimal option.

(2) Alternatively, you could use this prompt to discuss how you relate to this sentiment because you never want to be limited to a label, a reputation, or other people’s perception of you. As an example, you could write about how liberating it felt when you branched out from your usual STEM focused activities to write poetry instead, and enter in the Scholastic Arts Contest, and how this first breakthrough to a different realm catalyzed your pursuit of the arts.

(3) Or, you could interpret this prompt as meaning that one can pursue multiple passions and play multiple roles and be multiple people at the same time. You could share the multifariousness of your intellectual endeavors, as well as the depth and range of your mental capacity in reconciling different aspects of you and your variety of passions.

All in all, to respond to each of these prompts effectively, you will need to reach deep into your treasure trove of memories and truly reflect on the defining experiences that changed the way you view yourself, your work, and others. Never fear though, these guidelines will get you started thinking in a good direction! Good luck!

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