Tips for Answering Dartmouth College Supplemental Essay Prompts

Click here for more School-Specific Common Application Supplemental Essay Tips!

“Challenge yourself. Be yourself.”

This post about the Dartmouth supplement to the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you complete the 2015 Common Application supplement for Ivy League and other top schools. 

Dartmouth College, like the other Ivy League schools, accepts the Common Application essay. It also requires a supplemental essay response. The extra essay helps the admission committee round out the overall picture of the applicant. Don’t approach this as just another essay you have to write. Look at this as a wonderful opportunity for you to make a convincing statement about why Dartmouth is the ideal school for you to achieve your aspirations!

As you prepare to address one of the essay prompts, think about Dartmouth’s comprehensive character. Consider its location in Hanover, New Hampshire; if possible visit the campus and imagine yourself there as an undergraduate. Research the different ways that Dartmouth’s curriculum and approach to education are a good fit for your goals. Think about the specific activities, programs, or organizations that attract you to Dartmouth.

Beyond the information contained in the Common Application, the admission committee strives to gain a deeper understanding about the applicant through the supplemental essay response and its peer review requirement. You must include a letter of recommendation from a friend, classmate, family member, or someone else you regard as your peer. This requirement provides insight into how you might fit in at Dartmouth.

Dartmouth prides itself on learning with no boundaries. The year round quarter system offers flexibility for you to design your own calendar. You can enter any major without a need for institutional approval (this includes Engineering). It encourages students to: “Challenge yourself. Be yourself.” Don’t worry about choosing a common topic. Instead, focus on discussing that topic from your point of view. Your essay responses should express your individual story.

Your response should be between one paragraph and a page in length. Select from one of the prompts below.

Every name tells a story: Tell us about your name–any name: first, middle, last, nickname–and its origin.

This is your chance to tell your unique story. Your discussion can relate to a specific family history or set of assumptions. How is the origin of your name significant to you? Does your name hold strong family ties to other countries/movements/beliefs? Are you named after a relative or famous person? Spend a good portion of your essay discussing how this story relates to your sense of identity. What does the story of your name reflect about you? How do you feel about what your name represents?

Tell us about an intellectual experience, either directly related to your schoolwork or not, that you found particularly meaningful.

Your response to this prompt helps shed light on your thinking process and what is important to you. Your discussion should illustrate how you approach learning new things. You can select to share any intellectual experience. Why is this experience significant? Did this experience cause you to move out of your comfort zone? What did you learn about yourself?

When you meet someone for the first time, what do you want them to know about you, but generally don’t tell them?

This is an interesting question that asks you to share something fundamental about yourself. Something, that is central to your being that you want others to honor. This is an opportunity to talk about your identity and perspectives about the world. Do you feel pressure based on a set of outward characteristics? Do you feel judged or liberated in some way? What is important to you? What is your reaction to these feelings and why is it significant for others to know this secret about you?

Describe the influence your hero has had on your life.

As you select your hero, think about what this person reflects about you. What are his ideals? Why do you see her as a hero? The bulk of your discussion should focus on what impact your hero has had on you. How has he motivated you? How do you try to emulate her approach, commitment, passion, or way of being? Your response to this prompt, provides insight for the admissions committee about your values and aspirations.

We believe it is critical that your candidacy reflect the interests, experiences and pursuits that are most important to you. To this end, is there anything else you would like us to know?

This prompt is an open-ended question. The admissions committee doesn’t want to overlook something you hold dear. You can choose to discuss just about anything! Remember, they already have your letters of recommendations (counselor, teachers and peer), grades, SAT/ACT/AP/IB scores, curriculum, and list of extracurricular involvement. Tell them something important that is not included elsewhere in your application or highlight something significant to your identity/goals/life. Remember to relate this discussion to how Dartmouth is a good match for you and vise versa.

Note, if you have unusual curricular patterns, your counselor can mention this in the Secondary Education Report or you can discuss your circumstances in the “Additional Information” section of the Common Application.

The context of your academic success is a significant factor in determining your overall competitiveness as an applicant. The top applicants take the most rigorous curriculum available at their high schools. Furthermore, by achieving high grades, they demonstrate their ability to thrive in Dartmouth’s challenging academic environment. Dartmouth embraces a holistic approach to the admission process and is committed to reviewing all aspects of your application. However, keep in mind, it received 19,296 undergraduate applications for the class of 2018. Only 2,220 or 11.5% were offered admission and 93% were ranked in the top 10% of their high school graduating class with an average SAT score of 2,190 and ACT score of 32. Your essays are your opportunity to pull away from this extremely competitive applicant pool.

Throughout the application process, it is crucial to stay focused on your goals. Allow yourself enough time to reflect on your experiences in a unique way. Meet all deadlines and word limits. Be sure that your overall application clearly reflects your interests and motivations and enthusiastically demonstrates why Dartmouth is the best school to help you achieve your objectives!

Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid to learn how to eliminate the most common flaws in your application essays.

Marie Todd By , Accepted’s college admissions specialist. Marie has worked in college admissions for over twenty years. She has both counseled applicants and evaluated applications. Most recently she evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology. She is available to assist you (or your child) with your applications.

Related Resources:

• Common App Supplemental Essay Tips
• Tips for Answering Common Application Essay Prompts
Admissions Tip: Be Yourself!

Harvard Kennedy School 2015 Application Essay Tips

Download your free copy of 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Grad School Statement of Purpose

“Ask what you can do.”

The HKS application serves applicants to the MPP and the various MPA programs (PhD applicants use the Harvard GSAS application). The essays discussed below are for the MPP and the two-year MPA applications (essay questions are different for the MPA/ID and mid-career MPA applications).

HKS seeks well-rounded master’s students – people with proven academic success, strong leadership and career potential, and “commitment to advancing the public interest” (quoting the dean). The school also wants the student body to be diverse. Your application overall will address these factors; the essays provide a valuable opportunity to underscore through specific detail how you meet these criteria and will be a unique contributor. Perhaps more important, use the essays to weave together these elements into a coherent story/presentation.

My tips are in blue below. 

The Harvard Kennedy School motto, echoing the President for whom the School is named, is “Ask what you can do.” Please share with the Admissions Committee your plans to create positive change through your leadership and service. (500 word limit)

This is in essence a goals question. I suggest a professional focus, though it could also include non-work plans. Three keys to making this essay work: (1) In describing your plans/goals, clarify what “positive change” looks like to you – it’s easy to forget that it looks different to different people.   (2) Discuss practical aspects – how you’ll execute those plans, focusing on your anticipated leadership and sense of service. (3) Root the plans in your experience, to lend credibility to what you say you will do in the future (easy to say, after all, but much more believable if you have a relevant track record).

There are many pathways one can pursue in order to make a difference in the world. Why is the MPP/MPA Program at HKS an appropriate pathway to achieving your goals? (500 word limit)

The adcom is clearly looking for applicants who will use this degree productively to make a difference. In a nutshell, in this essay, explain how you’ll do that. Go with the concept inferred by the word “pathway” – a way to get where you want to go. Resist the common (and understandable) impulse to list everything wonderful about the program. Rather, discuss a few or several elements that are most important to you and will, in practical terms, help you to pursue your goals.  

(Optional) If you have any concerns about your prior academic background, or if you believe the Admissions Committee may have concerns, please give a brief explanation of your performance in college, or your standardized test scores. (750 word limit)

This optional essay question specifically instructs you to write the optional essay only if there are potential concerns about your prior academic or test performance. If you do need to use it for that purpose, write a succinct, straightforward explanation – although they give you 750 words, a paragraph will often suffice. Don’t be defensive or evasive, just tell it straight. If you have evidence that the under-performance does not reflect your true ability, add a sentence or two stating that point with the evidence (e.g., maybe you did poorly overall in college, but in your last semester earned straight A’s in advanced courses).

Deadline: December 2, 2014

Grad 5 Fatal Flaws

Cindy Tokumitsu By , author and co-author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports, including Why MBA and Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with

Related Resources:

Leadership in Admissions
4 Ways to Show How You’ll Contribute in the Future
How to Prove Character Traits in Essays

Analyzing Your Skills Before Applying to Graduate School

Click here to download your copy of Get Your Game On: Prepping for Your Grad School Application!“Analyzing Your Skills” is excerpted from the special report, Get Your Game On: Prepping for Your Grad School Application. To download the entire free special report, click here.

As I’ve been discussing, part of the pre-application thought process involves honest analysis of your achievements and abilities, along with your future interests. Grad school will give you the opportunity for deep, advanced study in your field—including theoretical/methodological approaches undergrads are rarely exposed to. As you prepare to apply, consider how to present your skills/accomplishments effectively, and determine whether you need to shore up any gaps in your record.

First, think about the skills you’ve gained so far, and think about the programs you’re considering.

Do you meet the prerequisites for admission?

Challenges may arise if you don’t have an undergraduate degree in the field you want to pursue. You may have to demonstrate that you have sufficient background if you don’t have the degree to prove it. Does the department require any specific knowledge on entrance (such as statistics or foreign language fluency)? Can gaps be made up during your first semester, or do you need to remedy them before you apply?

Do you have research experience?

If yes, what type of project(s) did you complete? Did you participate in faculty research or conduct your own project? Did your work result in any presentations/publications? What did you learn about your field? What did you learn about the process of doing research/conducting a long-term project? How did this project make you interested in pursuing future research?

Have you done anything special to gain pertinent skills?

Did you take accelerated or grad level courses as an undergrad? Did you participate in an honors program? Are you planning to take any extra coursework before applying? If you’re working, have you gained skills through your job that relate to your proposed program?

In the final post I’ll cover other preparatory topics such as lining up letters of recommendation and searching for fellowships.

Download our free report: GET YOUR GAME ON: Preparing for Your Grad School Application

Rebecca Blustein By , editor and former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your grad school applications.

Related Resources:

What is an Accomplishment?
• Timing & Funding for Grad School Applicants
• Which Graduate Schools Should You Apply To?

Medical School Applicant: Make an Impact at Your Interview!

You just got invited to interview at your top choice med school…now what??

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Medical School Interview Webinar

Interviewing with Impact: How to Make an Impression in Your Medical School Interviews will teach you key strategies for before, during, and after your interview, including what to wear, what to ask, and how NOT to blow your chances of interview success!

Reserve your spot for Interviewing with Impact: How to Make an Impression in Your Medical School Interviews now!

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P.S. It’s free! Helping You Write Your Best

4 Tips for Better B-School Visits

Looking for more MBA admissions advice? Check out our MBA Admissions 101 Pages!

Prepare good questions.

First, let me begin by saying that if you have the time and money to visit the schools that you’re thinking about applying to, then you absolutely should. And the reason isn’t because of the imaginary “brownie points”; it is because visiting a school will transform you into a much more informed applicant. There’s so much about a school’s culture, teaching style, and student body that can only be understood fully through experience.

The following 4 tips will help you make the most of your b-school visit.

1) Timing is everything. Visit the school when classes are in session so that you can see the learning in action. Don’t go during finals as students will likely be stressed out and not as eager to leisurely sit and talk with you.

2) Research before you go. You should read up on the school before you pay your visit. Your familiarity will enable you to ask better questions, make deeper connections with student, faculty, and adcom members, and feel more comfortable overall.

3) Prepare good questions. You’ll likely to speaking to lots of students, adcom members, and professors. Come prepared with good questions so you’re not left tongue tied when a good opportunity for a question presents itself. (See below for sample questions.)

4) Participate in visitor activities. Take advantage of all options presented to you, including attending class, a tour, info sessions, one-on-one meetings with students, etc.

Sample questions:

• What is a typical day like for you here?

• What would you like to see improved here?

• What kinds of extracurricular activities are you involved in?

• Is it easy for someone to start their own club or group?

• How do professors balance teaching and research?

• Is there a bidding process for internship and full-time job interviews?

You should also ask questions that are specific to your target program and needs, like about individual professors or classes. Another good, program-specific question for students may be, “Why did you decide to attend this program?” You can also ask about their post-MBA goals and how this program will help them achieve them.

Finally the best questions are those about specific programs at the school that you are interested in because they will help you achieve your post-MBA goals.

Attending an MBA Fair? Helping You Write Your Best

Related Resources:

• What You Must Know Before Meeting Admissions Directors
Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One
• What to Do at an MBA Fair [Podcast Interview]