Dartmouth College, like the other Ivy League schools, accepts the Common Application essay. It 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:
Oh, The Places You’ll Go is one of the most popular books by “Dr. Seuss,” Dartmouth Class of 1925. Where do you hope to go? What aspects of Dartmouth’s curriculum or community might help you get there?
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 Dartmouth unique and how those factors will support your aspirations.
2. Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 250-300 words:
A. Shonda Rhimes, Dartmouth ’91, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, recently documented her Year of Yes; for one year she vowed to say YES to everything that scared her. Share a moment when you stepped out of your comfort zone, and describe how it helped you grow into who you are today.
This question allows you to address times when you faced your fears. What motivated you to embrace your fears? Why is this experience significant? Think about how you overcame challenges. How did you cope with the uncertainties? What lessons did you learn? Then discuss how that influenced your sense of identity. How did what you learned in the process impact how you are now? How might this effect how you embrace change? How might you apply this wisdom to your future?
B. Celebrate an example of excellent teaching and how it illuminated the subject you were studying. Why did it resonate with you and excite your intellectual curiosity?
Here is an opportunity to discuss your passion for a particular academic area and how you learn best. What sparked your interest? You cannot just say so and so was an excellent teacher. You have to explain what in particular they did to convey information in a meaningful way. How was exploration of the subject more engaging because of the way it was taught? Why is this experience significant? Did this experience cause you to move out of your comfort zone? 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 experience motivate you? Make sure to convey your passion for the subject and your enthusiasm for learning!
C. In the wake of World War II, Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey proclaimed, “The world’s troubles are your troubles…and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.” If you could tackle any of the world’s “troubles,” which one captures your imagination and inspires you to act? What would you invent or devise to mitigate it and how might your coursework at Dartmouth inform your ambitions?
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 about at Dartmouth that will help you to solve this problem? Discuss how an education at Dartmouth can help you achieve your goals to fix this dilemma.
D. “It’s not easy being green” was a frequent lament of Kermit the Frog. Discuss.
Share something fundamental about yourself. Have you ever felt different from everyone else? Sometimes the difference is obvious and visible but it might also be disguised or hidden in some way. 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? How does this relate to your values? This is an opportunity to discuss your reaction to these feelings and why it is significant for others to know this about you. Talk about why you feel this way. Spend a good portion of your essay discussing how this story relates to your sense of identity. What does this reflect about you? Does who you are influence your goals for the future? How do/did you manage to overcome this challenge and still maintain your sense of identity? How do you reconcile finding a sense of belonging on your own terms?
E. “Three things in human life are important,” said the novelist Henry James. “The first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Share a moment when kindness guided your actions.
This doesn’t have to be a situation where being kind worked out for you. 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. 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?
F. “Won’t you be my neighbor?” was the signature catchphrase of Fred Rogers, the creator and host of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. What kind of neighbor will you be in our undergraduate community at Dartmouth? What impact have you had on the neighbors in your life?
No one lives in isolation. This question speaks to your interpersonal skills and potential to embrace the undergraduate community at Dartmouth. Your response illustrates your social-awareness and self-awareness. You could take a somewhat playful approach but only if that tone comes naturally (don’t force humor). In the end this is an opportunity to convey your personality. It also allows you to explore what you value in those around you while prompting you to touch on what you might bring to the Dartmouth community. Dartmouth is looking for students who will not only engage with others but will also help build and contribute to the community. Think about your family, friends, and others in your day-to-day life. Consider what motivates you to be a good neighbor. How do you connect with others? You need to provide specific examples about your impact on others in your community.
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 20,507 undergraduate applications for the class of 2019. Only 2,250 or 10.9% were offered admission and 91% were ranked in the top 10% of their high school graduating class with an average SAT score of 720 in critical reasoning, 725 in math, and an average ACT score of 32. 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!
***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!