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4 Tips for Writing Stellar Dartmouth Essays

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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 minuscule admissions rate.

If you want to be one of the 7.9% 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 Application or QuestBridge Application. No matter which application you choose, you'll also have to submit the Dartmouth Supplement.

Part of the Dartmouth Supplement involves answering three required writing prompts. The first two writing prompts are the same for all students. Students have five prompt options for the third essay and must answer one. 

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 2022-2023 Dartmouth Essay Prompts. Like we mentioned earlier, the first two prompts are the same for all students. For the third essay, students are given five prompt options and must answer one. 

 

Essay #1

Please respond in 100 words or fewer:

  • Dartmouth celebrates the ways in which its profound sense of place informs its profound sense of purpose. As you seek admission to Dartmouth's Class 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.

 

Essay #2 

Please response in 200-250 words: 

"Be yourself," Oscar Wilde advised. "Everyone else is taken." Introduce yourself in 200-250 words.


Essay #3

Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 200-250 words:

  1. 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?

  2. What excites you?

  3. In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba '14 reflects on constructing a windmill from recycled materials to power 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 made?

  4. 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?

  5. "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?

 

Dartmouth Essays Analyzed

Let's take a look at the Dartmouth essay prompts for 2021-2022.

 

Dartmouth Essay Prompt 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 Class 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.


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

"Be yourself," Oscar Wilde advised. "Everyone else is taken." Introduce yourself in 200-250 words.

 

First impressions can be daunting! How do you want to be perceived? What would you say to pique Dartmouth’s admissions counselors’ interest? This is your chance to be bold, and to stand out from the crowd. But remember the prompt: they’re not quoting Wilde for fun. You’ll need to introduce your most authentic self. In other words, introduce who you are, not who you think Dartmouth wants you to be.

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.

 

Dartmouth Essay Prompt 3

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.

 

Prompt A: The Introduction Prompt

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 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 and discuss how you wish to address it (or are already addressing it). 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.

 

Prompt B: The Passion Prompt

B. What excites you?


This essay prompt is asking you to think toward your future and write about something—anything!—that gets you pumped. Dartmouth Admissions is looking to see if you have purpose and passion.

To answer this prompt, take some time to think about your future: your goals for your time in college, things you hope to achieve, opportunities that you find invigorating. You'll want your response to be focused and organized, so choose one idea, goal, or possibility that most excites you and go into detail about that in your response.

For example, maybe you're excited about the opportunity to improve your creative writing craft in the company of other student writers at Dartmouth, so you make becoming a better writer the central idea of your response to this prompt. You might go into detail about how you're excited to take writing workshop courses, learn from other students' writing styles, and eventually work on a creative writing publication with other students.

Whatever topic you choose to write about, you need to have a central idea—something that excites you—and you need to be able to explain how your excitement will shape your life choices as a student at Dartmouth.

There are no right or wrong answers in terms of what excites you, but it is important to try to think toward your future and explain

 

Prompt C: The Creativity Prompt

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


Creativity is crucial to every field of study, and this essay prompt is asking you to show that your interests, academic or recreational, inspire you to make things. To respond to this prompt, you'll need to be able to explain an idea, issue, or interest that motivates you to make stuff, then describe what you've made in the past or hope to make in the future!

The first thing to do is establish what drives you to create. To do this, think about who you are, where you come from, what experiences you've had, and who you want to become. Like in the example given in the prompt, maybe there's a need right in your own home that inspires you to create. You could think locally, like The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, or you could think outside of your personal experience too. Is there a global issue that drives you to create something that will help others in the future, during, or after college? If so, describe that vision and the global issue that motivates it.

Keep in mind that "creating" and "making something" can be interpreted many different ways. Your vision for "making" doesn't have to be artistic or some scientific invention. It could be creating a virtual reading service for overworked parents who need help educating their children during a global pandemic! On the other hand, maybe you're creating a science curriculum through your school's independent study program so you can learn more about climate change, which is your passion.

Whatever the case may be, it's a good idea to relate that creativity to your time at Dartmouth. For instance, maybe your virtual reading service has inspired you to major in business, so you can turn that service into your future career. It would be a great idea to research and talk about joining the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship at Dartmouth to help show admissions counselors that Dartmouth is the only school that can help your dreams become a reality.

 

Prompt D: The Curiosity Prompt

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 prompt is actually just an invitation for you to dive deep into something that you're insatiably curious about. Dartmouth admissions wants to see that you have that intrinsic motivation to learn, grow, and expand your horizons, and they want to get to know you better by hearing you go off about that thing that you're endlessly curious about.

So, how do you celebrate your curiosity in this response? Start by pinpointing that one thing that you're the most curious about. You can probably look to your activities, relationships, and even your Google search history to identify what that one thing is. Maybe you're endlessly curious about food: different cultures of eating around the world, America's relationship to food, how to select, prepare, and eat it...and if you're really curious about food, you could probably go on and on about everything you know and want to know about it in your response.

This is a good thing! To organize your response, describe the thing you're curious about in a way that helps admissions counselors get to know you better. Going back to the food example, you could talk about where your curiosity about food comes from, or your background with food, how your curiosity with food plays into your day-to-day living, and some specific things you hope to learn about or do with food as you continue engaging with it.

And finally, connect your past experience, present questions, and future goals at Dartmouth in your response. This will show Dartmouth that you're a dedicated, independent learner who will be an endlessly curious student too.

 

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Prompt E: The Baldwin Prompt

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?


Some challenges in life appear insurmountable at first—and not all of them can be overcome. This prompt asks you to reflect on your own life, and on your own experiences with growth and change, whether or not you succeeded.

In your response, you'll get the chance to show that you see the value of being adaptable and accepting change. You can demonstrate this quality by writing about how you've seen something happening cyclically, something changing, or a season coming to an end in your life. It's important that you write about a situation that was meaningful to you—one where you saw yourself growing and learning.

Alternatively, you could write about an ongoing situation in your life that you are still facing. For example, maybe your school enacted a policy that you and your peers consider unfair, and you’ve been working for a while to make your voices heard.

It's okay if the thing you choose to write about is something you've had conflicted feelings about. What's important in your response here is showing how facing the challenges you describe strengthened your determination and adaptability—qualities that will be valuable when you become a Dartmouth student.

 

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Time to put your thinking cap on! Bonus points if it's as fashionable as this one. 

 

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 Clichés 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 clichés, 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 Dartmouth, 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
About the Author

Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.



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