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4 Tips for Writing Stellar Dartmouth Essays

Posted by Hayley Milliman | Dec 6, 2018 12:00:00 PM

College Admissions

 

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Dartmouth College, located in Hanover, New Hampshire, is one of the best universities in the world. A member of the Ivy League, Dartmouth has notable graduates, top-of-the-line programs, and a miniscule admissions rate.

If you want to be one of the 11% of students accepted to Dartmouth every year, you’ll need to write some amazing essays as part of your application’s Dartmouth supplement.

In this post, I’ll talk about what the Dartmouth essay prompts are, which essays you can choose to write, and how to craft standout responses that’ll help ensure your admission.

 

What Are the Dartmouth Essay Prompts?

You can apply to Dartmouth using the Common or Coalition Application. No matter which application you choose, you’ll also have to submit the Dartmouth Supplement.

Part of the Dartmouth Supplement involves answering two writing prompts. The first writing prompt is short (100 words or less) and required of all students. For the second essay, you’ll get to choose one of six prompts to write a 250-300 word response.

According to Dartmouth’s website, “the writing supplement includes questions specific to Dartmouth that help the Admissions Committee gain a better sense of how you and Dartmouth might be a good “fit” for each other.”

Basically, that means that the Dartmouth Admissions Committee wants to know who you are… and how you’ll fit in on Dartmouth’s campus. Your Dartmouth supplemental essays give the admissions committee a chance to get to know you beyond your test scores and other credentials. The essays will give Dartmouth a better idea of how you think and act, so they can see if you would be a great addition to the student body.

Similarly, the essays also give the admissions committee a chance to assess your passion for Dartmouth - how badly do you really want to go there? The more you can show your passion for Dartmouth, the better.

Let’s take a look at the Dartmouth essay prompts.

 

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Dartmouth Essay Prompts

Here are the 2018-19 Dartmouth Essay Prompts. All students must answer the first prompt of the Dartmouth essays (100 words or less) and must choose one of the second set of Dartmouth essays as well (250-300 words).

Please respond in 100 words or less:

  • 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 2023, what aspects of the College’s program, community or campus environment attract your interest?

Please 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.
  • 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.
  • “You can’t use up creativity,” Maya Angelou mused. “The more you use, the more you have.” Share a creative moment or impulse—in any form—that inspired creativity in your life.
  • 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 The Bingo Palace, author Louise Erdrich, Class of 1976, writes, “…no one gets wise enough to really understand the heart of another, though it is the task of our life to try.” Discuss.
  • Emmy and Grammy winner Donald Glover is a 21st century Renaissance man—an actor, comedian, writer, director, producer, singer, songwriter, rapper, and DJ. And yet the versatile storyteller and performer recently told an interviewer, “The thing I imagine myself being in the future doesn’t exist yet.” Can you relate?

 

Dartmouth Essays Analyzed

Let’s take a look at the Dartmouth essay prompts for 2018-19.

 

Dartmouth Essay Prompt 1

Please respond in 100 words or less:

 

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 2023, what aspects of the College’s program, community or campus environment attract your interest?

All Dartmouth students are required to answer this prompt and for good reason - it’s the “Why Dartmouth” essay! This essay shows the admissions committee why Dartmouth is the right school for you.

At only 100 words, this prompt doesn’t give you a lot of room to expand upon your favorite parts of the College, so you should pick one or two aspects of Dartmouth that you really love and focus on those.

The prompt encourages you to talk about the program, community, or campus, so don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to academics. You can talk about other things about Dartmouth that interest you, such as the student life or extracurricular activities.

Whichever features you choose to highlight, make sure your connection to them is real and personal. In other words, don’t just say you’re a fan of Dartmouth’s sterling academic reputation. Instead, focus on a specific part of that reputation - a professor whose work you admire or a class that you really want to take.

 

Dartmouth Essay Prompt 2

Dartmouth’s longer essay prompts give you plenty of room to think creatively and show off your individuality. All students are required to pick and answer one of the prompts in 250-300 words. Let’s take a look at the prompts and examine how to answer them.

 

“I have no special talent,” Albert Einstein once observed. “I am only passionately curious.” Celebrate your curiosity.

This prompt is a great opportunity to show off something that may not be your greatest academic strength but still captures your interest. If, for instance, you’re pursuing a degree in engineering, but have an unending passion for Russian literature, this prompt is a great opportunity to highlight that dichotomy.

Feel free to discuss the most arcane and seemingly inconsequential of your interests here. If you’ve spent hours researching the genealogy of the Tudor family or can recite the names of all the major constellations in each hemisphere, celebrate that!

Don’t worry that your curiosity is uninteresting or unimpressive - whatever it is, enjoy it.

 

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.

How did you become you? Was it the influence of your family? An important moment in your life? A defining experience with a piece of art or literature?

Whatever made you, you, this essay is the chance to share it.

Don’t feel confined to traditional, linear methods of storytelling in this prompt. You can play around with form and structure, as long as you do it well. Get an advisor or mentor to read your work and offer feedback, especially if you deviate from your typical style.

Something to remember - a story that is legendary to you and your history doesn’t have to be monumental to everyone else. What’s important is that the moment you choose is important to you.

 

“You can’t use up creativity,” Maya Angelou mused. “The more you use, the more you have.” Share a creative moment or impulse—in any form—that inspired creativity in your life.

This prompt is another fun opportunity to explore your interests outside of academia. What have you created?

Maybe you learned how to create pop up cards and gift them to your family and friends every holiday. Maybe you learned how to cook a delicious meal while on study abroad. Whatever has sparked your interest, celebrate it!

Notice that the prompt asks you to share a creative moment or impulse - you don’t need to think of something huge or earth-shattering here. Focus on something small. It doesn’t even need to have created large reverberations in your life, but it should say something about you and your interests.

 

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 prompt is more tangible and concrete than the others available for selection. If you feel intimidated by discussing your creativity or personal history, this prompt is a good one to choose.

This prompt asks you to pick a real-world issue (aka, trouble) and discuss how it inspires you to act. The second part of the prompt asks you to talk about how your coursework at Dartmouth will help you solve this problem.

It’s important to answer both parts of the prompt - you need to explain why Dartmouth is the correct place to learn how to solve the trouble of your choosing.

Speaking of the trouble, don’t feel like you have to pick something grand and far-reaching, like starvation or world peace. You can also pick an issue that affects people locally, in your community, for instance. The key is to pick a topic that you have a personal connection to and reason for wanting to fix. Your passion will come across in your description of the issue.

 

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In The Bingo Palace, author Louise Erdrich, Class of 1976, writes, “…no one gets wise enough to really understand the heart of another, though it is the task of our life to try.” Discuss.

This prompt offers a lot of room for creativity and interpretation. The basic gist of the prompt is that none of us can really understand each other, no matter how much we try to. There are always barriers that remain.

Now, you don’t need to agree with the statement put forth by Erdrich to respond to this prompt. The word “discuss” indicates that Erdrich’s thesis is open for interpretation - you can agree or disagree with her.

The key to this prompt is to bring real-world experience to the table. Perhaps you spent some time living in a different culture and felt that you were really able to understand the people you resided amongst, despite your differences. You can push back against Erdrich and elaborate on that.

Or, on the other hand, maybe you spent time living abroad and still felt separate from the people you encountered. In that case, you can agree with Erdrich.

You don’t need to land on one side or the other of the argument here - what you need to do is state your opinion and defend it with your experience.

 

Emmy and Grammy winner Donald Glover is a 21st century Renaissance man—an actor, comedian, writer, director, producer, singer, songwriter, rapper, and DJ. And yet the versatile storyteller and performer recently told an interviewer, “The thing I imagine myself being in the future doesn’t exist yet.” Can you relate?

Here we have our final prompt and, surprise, surprise, it leaves a lot of room open for interpretation!

You can go in almost any direction for this prompt - as it says, you’re coming up with an idea that doesn’t exist yet.

In this prompt, you want to look to the future: where will you be in five years? Ten?

To make your answer really stand out, you should include evidence of how Dartmouth will help you achieve your goals. Whatever you imagine, whatever you conceptualize, how will your education at Dartmouth College help bring that into being?

 

How to Write Great Dartmouth Essays

In order to write great Dartmouth essays, you need to show the committee two things. First, you need to give them a clear idea of who you are. Second, you need to show them, “Why Dartmouth”. In other words, why Dartmouth is important to you. Here are some tips to help you accomplish both of those goals.

 

#1: Use Your Own Voice

The point of a college essay is for the admissions committee to have the chance to get to know you beyond your test scores, grades, and honors. Your admissions essays are your opportunity to make yourself come alive for the essay readers and to present yourself as a fully fleshed out person.

You should, then, make sure that the person you’re presenting in your college essays is yourself. Don’t try to emulate what you think the committee wants to hear or try to act like someone you’re not.

If you lie or exaggerate, your essay will come across as insincere, which will diminish its effectiveness. Stick to telling real stories about the person you really are, not who you think Dartmouth wants you to be.

 

#2: Avoid Cliches and Overused Phrases

When writing your Dartmouth essays, try to avoid using common quotes or phrases. These include quotations that have been quoted to death and phrases or idioms that are overused in daily life. The college admissions committee has probably seen numerous essays that state, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Strive for originality.

Similarly, avoid using cliches, which take away from the strength and sincerity of your work. Don’t speak in platitudes about how the struggle for gay and lesbian rights has affected you… unless it actually has! And even then, you don’t want to speak in platitudes. It’s better to be direct and specific about your experience.

 

#3: Check Your Work

It should almost go without saying, but you want to make sure your Dartmouth essays are the strongest example of your work possible. Before you turn in your Dartmouth application, make sure to edit and proofread your essays.

Your work should be free of spelling and grammar errors. Make sure to run your essays through a spelling and grammar check before you submit.

It’s a good idea to have someone else read your Dartmouth essays, too. You can seek a second opinion on your work from a parent, teacher, or friend. Ask them whether your work represents you as a student and person. Have them check and make sure you haven’t missed any small writing errors. Having a second opinion will help your work be the best it possibly can be.

That being said, make sure you don’t rely on them for ideas or rewrites. Your essays need to be your work.

 

#4: Play With Form

Dartmouth’s essay prompts leave a lot of room open for creative expression - use that! You don’t need to stick to a five paragraph essay structure here. You can play with the length and style of your sentences - you could even dabble in poetry if that makes sense!

Whichever form you pick, make sure it fits with the story you’re trying to tell and how you want to express yourself.

 

What's Next?

Learn more about the most selective colleges in the US. If you're applying to multiple Ivy Leagues, it's a good idea to know your chances at each!

If you're hoping to attend a highly selective school like Cornell, you'll need to have a very strong academic record in high school. Learn more about high school honors classes and societies.

Not sure what your GPA means for your chances of college admission? Find out what a good or bad GPA might look like based on your goals.

 


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Hayley Milliman
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