Dartmouth College utilizes the Common Application. It requires the main Common Application essay and additional supplemental Dartmouth-specific 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 two essay prompts, but you have a choice to make about which question to address with your third 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. Take a virtual campus tour. 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 applicants write brief responses to three supplemental essay prompts as follows. The first two are the same for all applicants but the third allows you to select from several prompts.
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 Clas 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.
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 vice versa. How will being a part of the close-knit Dartmouth community and engaging with the Dartmouth curriculum prepare you for your future? Consider the factors that make the Dartmouth program, community, and campus environment unique and how those factors will provide the foundation to support your aspirations. Communicate how these elements align with your sense of place and purpose.
2. “Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde advised. “Everyone else is taken.” Introduce yourself in 200-250 words.
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 individuality? 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 might what you shared influence 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?
3. Choose one of the following prompts and respond in 250-300 words:
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 about what motivates or excites you to action and how you make an impact when driven by passion to make something better for others. 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? Or how did that motivate you to continue working toward that goal? If you acted on something, 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?
B. What excites you?
This prompt has a broad scope but at the core is, what fascinates you? You don’t need to be an expert about the topic—how do you explore and engage your interests? 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!
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?
This prompt discusses how creativity and innovation are often borne of necessity. How did/do you apply your creativity to problem-solving? The focus is on your motivation for creativity while providing a space for you 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 affect 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?
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 is another board prompt that deals with how you expand or enhance ideas, thoughts, and perspectives about the world to reflect on new possibilities. Examine the on-going cycle of coming up with ideas and how you explore those ideas. At the heart of this prompt is how you process the world around you. 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. Also 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!
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?
This question asks you to identify a specific problem or issue and explain how you actively engaged with it. How did recognizing the problem/issue help you to deal with it? You can address any problem, large or small. Think about the global community, humanitarian efforts, or any issue you would like to fix but make it personal by sharing the impact on your life experiences. Keep in mind that sometimes situations are beyond your control. 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 confront 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. Consider if and how an education at Dartmouth might help you to bring about positive change and address this dilemma.
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. This is even more significant given that this application cycle is again test optional. Although Dartmouth is not reporting testing profiles from the last few application cycles, keep in mind; for the class of 2023, over 95% of accepted students 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. For the Class of 2026, it received 28,336 undergraduate applications and had a record low acceptance rate of 6.2%. Your personal narrative 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. Your 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!