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 suggests you include a letter of recommendation from a friend, classmate, family member, or someone else you regard as your peer. This endorsement provides insight into how you are perceived by others. It also gives some indication about how you might fit in 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
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 2022, 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.
2. Choose one of the following prompts and respond in 250-300 words:
A. In Love Medicine, author Louise Erdrich ’76 writes, ”Society is like this card game here, cousin. We got dealt our hand before we were even born, and as we grow we have to play as best as we can.” Describe your ”hand” and reflect on how you have played it.
This question allows you to discuss your reactions to conditions, situations, and/or circumstances in your background. Share something fundamental about yourself your family or your intimate community. Consider utilizing the conversational tone employed in the novel to guide your response. Describing your “hand” is an opportunity to talk about 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? What motivated you to make certain decisions? Focus on your reaction to these feelings and 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 influence your ability to continue the card game?
B. From songs and film to formulae and computer code, human expression and discovery take many forms. How do you express your creativity? What ideas or values do you explore and celebrate when your imagination wanders?
This prompt creates a space to discuss your passions. In this modern technological world, how do you think outside of the proverbial box? It 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 and the ways in which you express your imagination. How do you cope with the uncertainties? 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 wisdom going forward? How might you express your creativity and embrace your imagination at Dartmouth?
C. During the 2016 Olympic Games, American runner Abbey D’Agostino ’14 collided with another athlete in the first round of the 5,000-meter event. Both fell to the track. Although injured, Abbey’s first instinct was to help the other fallen athlete so they could continue the race together. Their selflessness was widely praised as the embodiment of the Olympic ideal of sportsmanship. Share a moment when kindness guided your actions.
This doesn’t have to be a situation where being kind worked out for you but it should be an instance when you put someone else’s needs above your own. It could be an incident where even though you acted with kindness, the outcome was poor. This is really about why you think kindness is important. Explain the situation. Consider compassion, empathy, and understanding in terms of interpersonal and global impact. Did you stand up for someone? If so why and how did you support them? What motivated you to choose kindness? What was the outcome? What was the cost to you? What did you learn through the experience? How does what you learned impact the way you view and engage the world? Why is kindness essential to humanity? In retrospect, would you behave in the same way again?
D. Twenty years ago, the world met Harry Potter and his companions. One of the more memorable lines from the J.K. Rowling series was spoken by Albus Dumbledore: ”Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” What ideas or experiences bring you joy?
Consider a time when you struggled to overcome a challenge, what brought you hope? Reflect on ideas and experiences. What makes you happy? No one lives in isolation. This question speaks to your interpersonal relationships and potential to embrace the undergraduate community at Dartmouth. Your response illustrates your self-awareness. You could take a somewhat playful approach but only if that tone comes naturally (don’t force humor). This is an opportunity to convey your personality. It also allows you to explore what you value in experiences and in those around you while prompting you to touch on what you might bring to the Dartmouth community. Think about your family, friends, and others in your day-to-day life. Consider in simple terms what motivates and inspires you. How do you connect with others and the world around you?
E.”I have no special talent,” Albert Einstein once observed. ”I am only passionately curious.” Celebrate your intellectual curiosity.
Here is an opportunity to discuss your passion for a particular academic area and how you learn best. Provide an example of something that attracted your interest and then discuss the path you took to embrace your intellectual curiosity. What sparked your interest? What made the topic/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!
F. ”Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams,” television producer Shonda Rhimes ’91 told graduating seniors during her 2014 Commencement address. ”It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.” What inspires your hard work? What matters to you and how do you “make things happen” to create change?
This question targets active engagement not passive thoughts. Be specific here by presenting an example of something you actually did to achieve a positive impact, which moved you closer to your dream. What inspired you? You can address any problem, large or small. Think about the global community, humanitarian efforts, or any issue you have tried to address. You can tie this response to community service activities, thoughts about empathy, discussions about agency, and individual responsibility. Consider your values and how you view yourself in relationship to those around you. Why were you inspired to solve this problem? Why is it significant? This response should be grounded in your values. It also reveals your approach to problem solving, ability to conceive solutions, illustrates how you process the world around you, and demonstrates your ability to make an impact. This is an opportunity to convey your values, critical thinking skills and creativity. What are your ambitions for additional change? Think about how an education at Dartmouth might help you create change in the future.
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. Keep in mind; it received 20,034 undergraduate applications for the class of 2021. Only 2,092 or 10.4% were offered admission and 96% were ranked in the top 10% of their high school graduating class with an average SAT score of 750 in critical reading, 750 in math, 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, 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.***By Marie Todd, 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. Want Marie to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
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