Dartmouth College, like the other Ivy League schools, accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application. Regardless of the application you use, you will be asked to respond to the same essay prompts. In addition, Dartmouth also requires supplemental essay responses. The additional essays help to round out your overall picture 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 specifically is the ideal school for you to achieve your goals and how you will 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 (or do a virtual visit) 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 is committed to building a supportive environment in which students see themselves not only as strong individuals but as giving members within a broader community. To that end, 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? Dartmouth’s encouragement to its students is simple but strong: “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 College supplemental essay #1
Please respond in 100 words or fewer:
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 2026, 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, the school already has your letters of recommendations (from you counselor, teachers, and a 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:
A. 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. And note that your story does NOT have to be “extreme”— it could be a story about how you are a descendant of Abraham Lincoln, how you’ve patented ten inventions, and how you’ve traveled to every continent and run for public office. But it can also be about how you decided to become the first in your family to attend college; how a small volunteer project blossomed into a multi-year commitment that has impacted you and those around you; or how you understand yourself as a descendant of immigrants, of slaves, of the rich and famous, or of anything in between.
Whatever you write about, consider the ways in which it relates 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?
B. What excites you?
This question is deceptively simple. Here, the simple part is to identify something that excites you. We recommend making a list. It might include anything from cooking to visiting a family member to reading a good book; the goal here is not to pick the most “objectively” exciting thing, but to show your thoughtfulness and articulation by explaining how and why that thing excites you. Some questions to consider when brainstorming are:
- Why does this thing excite me?
- What is excitement to me- how do I feel when I get excited? What do I do?
- What does this say about me as a person (my values, my personality or character, my ambitions)?
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 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.
We recommend you begin by considering what you want to make. This could be a physical object (a new type of chair, a pair of eyeglasses, etc); a program (for computers); a book or piece of art; or an institution (eg starting a school, creating a neighborhood program, etc). What drives you towards these goals? Talk as though you are on a mission to invent this very thing– this is less of a hypothetical question and more of a “what are your concrete plans and ideas” question. Consider the ideas or values that inspire you to make some sort of impact and the ways in which you express your imagination. Then discuss how that vision influences your sense of identity and perspective about the world. What does 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 express your aspirations at Dartmouth?
D. Curiosity is a guiding element of Toni Morrison’s talent as a writer. “I feel totally curious and alive and in control. And almost…magnificent, when I write,” she says. 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!
E. “Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away,” observed Frida Kahlo. Apply Kahlo’s perspective to your own life.
Here, you might focus on changes you’ve personally undergone, whether it was moving to a new place or losing/gaining friends or adjusting to quarantine and lock-downs. You might focus on larger changes and your place within them, such as the political events and leaders and movements that shape the present. Note that, should you choose to go more “big picture” in your answer, you’ll want to bring it back to YOU: how does your experience of change, of any magnitude, affect you– your beliefs, your values, your optimism/pessimism?
F. 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?
In your answer, you can address any problem, large or small. Think about the global community, the pandemic, 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, both to your ability to identify problems and conceive of solutions. 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
Final thoughts on applying to Dartmouth
The context of your high school 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 that it received approximately 21,392 undergraduate applications for the entering class of 2020. Only 1,972 or 9% were offered admission. Your essays are your opportunity to distinguish yourself among 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 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.