Dartmouth College, like the other Ivy League schools, accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application. Regardless of the application you select to use, you will be asked to respond to the same essay prompts. In addition, Dartmouth also requires supplemental essay responses. The additional essays help the admission committee round out the overall picture of you as a prospective student by providing insight into your personality. Don’t approach this as just another essay you have to write. Look at this as an opportunity for you to make a convincing statement about why Dartmouth is the ideal school for you to achieve your goals and how you can enrich the campus community.
Everyone must answer the first essay prompt but you have a choice to make about which question to address with your second response. As you decide which of the latter essay prompts to answer, allow yourself some time to 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 Dartmouth’s curriculum and approaches to education are a good fit for you. Think about the specific activities, programs, or organizations that attract you to Dartmouth. In short, ask yourself why is Dartmouth the best place for me to achieve my goals?
Dartmouth reflects its commitment to assess your potential as a student on the Dartmouth campus in its request for a peer recommendation. Dartmouth encourages you to include a letter of recommendation from a friend, classmate, family member, or someone else you regard as your peer. Although the peer recommendation is a “suggestion,” it is not an opportunity to overlook. This endorsement provides insight into how you are perceived by others. It also gives some indication about your potential fit with the Dartmouth community.
Dartmouth prides itself on learning without boundaries. The overall academic structure and approach at the school is intended to allow you freedom. 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). How might this sort of structure contribute to your educational success? Students are encouraged to: “Challenge yourself. Be yourself.” Don’t worry about choosing an uncommon topic. Instead, focus on discussing whichever topic you select from your point of view. Your essay responses should express your individual story and reflect your personality.
The Dartmouth Writing Supplement
Dartmouth’s writing supplement requires that applicants write brief responses to two supplemental essay prompts as follows.
Dartmouth College supplemental essay #1
Please respond in 100 words or less (all applicants must answer this one):
While arguing a Dartmouth-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1818, Daniel Webster, Class of 1801, uttered 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 2024, what aspects of the College’s program, community, or campus environment attract your interest?
In short, “why Dartmouth?” How is Dartmouth special to you? You have a limited number of words to work with, so be succinct. Remember, they already have your letters of recommendations (counselor, teachers and peer), grades, SAT/ACT/AP/IB scores, curriculum, and list of extracurricular involvement. This question asks you to focus on your personal and/or academic goals and how Dartmouth is a good match for you and vise versa. How will a Dartmouth education prepare you for your future? Consider the factors that make the Dartmouth program, community and campus environment unique and how those factors will support your aspirations.
Dartmouth College supplemental essay #2
Choose one of the following prompts and respond in 250-300 words:
- ”I have no special talent,” Albert Einstein once observed. ”I am only passionately curious.” Celebrate your curiosity.
What fascinates you? How do you explore and engage your passions? In the past the word “intellectual” was included to define your curiosity. Removing this term is an effort to broaden the scope of the question. This is an opportunity to discuss your passion for a particular area (academic or otherwise) and how you learn best. Provide an example of something that attracted your interest and then discuss the path you took to embrace your curiosity. What sparked your interest? What made the topic/activity/information/concept/question so meaningful to you? How did you explore the subject more deeply? What did you discover? What did you learn about yourself? Consider your learning style and how you approach new concepts. Also think about the connection you established to the subject—what might that reveal about your personality? How did this process inspire you? Make sure to convey your passion for the subject and your enthusiasm for learning!
- 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.
What is your personal story? This is a perfect prompt to allow you to showcase specific conditions, situations, and/or circumstances in your background that are significant to your identity. Share something fundamental about yourself your family or your intimate community. You can discuss the intricacies of your cultural, familial and/or social background—tell your story. Sometimes it might be something obvious, other times it might be disguised or hidden in some way. Do you feel pressure based on a set of arbitrary characteristics? Do you feel judged or liberated in some way? What is important to you? How does this relate to your values and sense of cultural identity? As you discuss your story, you must provide some context—remember to address why it is significant for others to know this about you. Spend a good portion of your essay discussing how this story relates to your sense of identity. What does this reflect about you? How does your past influence who you are and your goals for the future? How do you reconcile finding a sense of belonging on your own terms? How might attending Dartmouth impact your story?
- In The Painted Drum, author Louise Erdrich ‘76 wrote, “… what is beautiful that I make? What is elegant? What feeds the world?” Tell us about something beautiful you have made or hope to make.
This prompt focuses on your creativity and provides a space to discuss your passion, imagination, motivation, and aspirations. In this modern technological world, how do you think outside of the proverbial box? Capture a specific moment or urge that sparked your vision. This may be an opportunity to incorporate discussion about an extracurricular interest/activity that demonstrates your creativity. Think about the ideas or values that inspire you to make some sort of impact and the ways in which you express your imagination. What have you learned about yourself through your exploration? Then discuss how that influences your sense of identity and perspective about the world. What does what you learned in this creative process reveal about the person you are? How might this effect how you embrace the future? How might you apply this energy going forward? How might you express your creativity and embrace your aspirations at Dartmouth?
- 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?
This question targets active engagement not passive thoughts. You can address any problem, large or small. Think about the global community, humanitarian efforts, or any issue you would like to fix. You can tie this response to community service activities, thoughts about empathy, discussions about agency, and individual responsibility. Consider how you view yourself in relationship to those around you. Why are you inspired to solve this problem? Why is it significant? This response reveals your approach to problem solving, ability to conceive solutions, and illustrates how you process the world around you. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your values, critical thinking skills and creativity. What might you learn at Dartmouth that will help you to solve this problem? Discuss how an education at Dartmouth can help you achieve your goals to bring about positive change and fix this dilemma.
- “Yes, books are dangerous,” young people’s novelist Pete Hautman proclaimed. “They should be dangerous—they contain ideas.” What book or story captured your imagination through the ideas it revealed to you? Share how those ideas influenced you.
This prompt deals with the ability of books (written words) to expand or enhance ideas, thoughts, and perspective about the world by opening up your imagination to new possibilities. Consider how this new knowledge or way of thinking impacted or changed you? The focus of this prompt allows you to discuss the relationship between imagination and intellectual thought. Then consider what you might learn about yourself in the process of trying to understand new ideas. Remember to discuss how these new ideas influenced you—the way you interact with others, how you think about your identity, what you might do differently with this new understanding. Dartmouth prides itself on providing flexibility in learning and an education without boundaries—here’s your chance to tell them why that’s so important to you!
- Labor leader Dolores Huerta is a civil rights activist who co-founded the organization now known as United Farm Workers. She said, “We criticize and separate ourselves from the process. We’ve got to jump right in there with both feet.” Speak your truth: Talk about a time when your passion became action.
This prompt is about what motivates or excites you to action and how you make an impact when driven by passion. Demonstrate your enthusiasm for a cause that is meaningful to you. Discuss a specific incident and what was at stake. How did you make a positive impact? Consider the repercussions of your actions. What was the outcome? What was the cost to you? What did you learn about yourself? How did this experience change you? This is really about why you think striving for change is important. Consider compassion, empathy, and understanding in terms of interpersonal and global impact. How might an education at Dartmouth prepare you for the future? What kinds of skills, ways of thinking, and experiences will help lay the foundation for success? How does a liberal arts education play into your plans?
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.
Final thoughts on applying to Dartmouth
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. Keep in mind; it received 23,650 undergraduate applications for the class of 2023. Only 1,876 or a record low of 7.9% were offered admission and over 95% were ranked in the top 10% of their high school graduating class with an average SAT score of 1500, and an average ACT score of 33. Your essays are your opportunity to pull away from this extremely competitive applicant pool.
Although it is easy to get overwhelmed, remember to stay focused on your goals. Allow yourself enough time to reflect on your experiences in a unique way that expresses your personality. Meet all deadlines and word limits. You overall application should clearly reflect your interests and motivations while enthusiastically demonstrating why Dartmouth is the best school to help you achieve your objectives!
If you’re applying to Dartmouth College, you already know you’re up against tight competition. Don’t be overwhelmed. Get the guidance of an experienced admissions specialist who will help you stand out from the highly competitive applicant pool so you can apply with confidence, and get accepted! Click here to get started!
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***Marie Todd has been involved in college admissions for over twenty years. Marie has both counseled applicants to top colleges and evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology; School of Nursing; and Taubman College of Architecture. Want Marie to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch with Marie Todd.
• 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your College Application Essays, a free guide
• Different Dimensions of Diversity, a podcast episode
• School-Specific Common App Supplemental Essay Tips