Our Common App Guide will help you choose a prompt!
The Requirements: 1 essay of 100 words, 2 essays of 250-300 words.
If you have the unsettling feeling that you’ve read this prompt somewhere before, worry not. This prompt should ring a bell because it’s just a slightly more verbose version of the most common supplemental essay question out there: why here? Phrased this way, Dartmouth’s prompt is specifically probing for information about what piques your interest about its academics, community, and/or campus environment. Focus on how you would spend your time at Dartmouth and how the environment might enrich your own sense of purpose. What are you hoping to major in and why? What cozy corners of campus would you curl up in to review course materials? Are you eager to get involved in the student newspaper or gospel choir? As with all other “why” prompts, research is the key to writing a memorable essay, so spend a little time on the Dartmouth website and literally map your path from where you are now to where you hope to be in the near or distant future.
This is the kind of prompt that tends to stump students the most. It’s so open-ended that many applicants don’t know where or how to start! Don’t worry, you’ll have a finished draft in no time. Start by answering the question stream-of-consciousness style. How would you introduce yourself to someone in a setting you’re comfortable in? Think about introducing yourself to someone after one of your plays or soccer games, gaming competitions or meditation classes. What would you say? You might talk about what interests you, things that are important to you, ideologies about life that offer you hope or feelings of connection. Maybe you’d address your favorite qualities about yourself or the burning passions that motivate your choices and worldview. We believe your best bet at a unique and memorable response is to leave yourself enough time to freewrite, draft, organize, edit, and polish. Responses to prompts like these shouldn’t be written in one sitting—there’s too much to capture!
Community, community, community. Even though it doesn’t say it explicitly, this question is asking, “What do you hope to achieve for the greater good?” Dartmouth wants to know what you consider to be your life’s purpose. (They know you’re young and still figuring things out, so don’t worry about being held to it!) What kind of mark would you like to leave on the world? If you find yourself drawn to this prompt, odds are you already have a few ideas in mind. Whether you’d like to dedicate your life to advocating for the voiceless or tearing down barriers for marginalized groups, tell admissions, in your own voice, why this path is the one you’ve chosen (or maybe it has chosen you!). If you’ve already gotten involved in making an impact in your community, be sure to mention the work you’ve accomplished and how it will influence the work you hope to do in the future.
This prompt is as simple as they come, and yet it can be totally overwhelming to tackle. If nothing comes to mind immediately, read through the other prompts to see if anything makes that magic light bulb appear above your head. If you find yourself coming back to this prompt, try to focus on a subject that stokes your curiosity, a specific concept that has infiltrated your browser history, or an experience that has burned itself into your brain. Which kind of homework assignments are you clamoring to complete first? Which topics want to make you open up a new book, Google the definition of a word you’re not familiar with, or hit play on a podcast? Who challenges you to think of issues in new ways? Whatever excites you, Dartmouth is aiming to bring self-motivated, deep thinkers into their student body. Admissions officers want to know that you’ll be eager to contribute to lively class discussion and maybe conduct research in your latter years on campus. Remember, enthusiasm is infectious, so show them that you’ll be a valuable addition to any classroom setting by getting specific here — and maybe even getting them excited about a new topic!
Do not be overwhelmed by this prompt! You don’t need to have created clean energy or curated an art gallery in Chelsea to impress admissions with your response here. Admissions just wants to learn about your motivations, aspirations, and goals. What kinds of things do you make and what inspires you to make them? What do you hope to create in the future and why? What drives you to create, to dream? This prompt is as much about ingenuity and problem-solving as it is about creativity. Did you build custom compost bins for your school, encouraging students and faculty alike to reduce their carbon footprints? Did you build an app for your nonverbal sister to help her to communicate with others in a new way? Whatever it is, be specific and don’t be afraid to sound a little wet behind the ears — every game-changer was once a dreamer.
Dartmouth wants to accept intellectually curious applicants, so take this opportunity to share one of the concepts that lives rent-free in your mind with admissions! When was the last time you went down an internet rabbit hole researching something that piqued your interest? Maybe you spend time wondering about the mind, body, and spirit—where each begins and ends—or perhaps you find yourself daydreaming about the potential of time travel and its related consequences on Earthlings (cue Tony Stark’s lecture that it’s nothing like Back to the Future). Ultimately, you want to discuss examples of what truly fascinates you while also reflecting on what these examples say about your personality traits, interests, and/or learning style.
Facing difficult times in your life requires courage, and writing about it calls for vulnerability and perspective. Don’t focus too much on the circumstances of the challenge, but instead, on how you rose to the occasion to face it. This is your opportunity to show admissions that you are a developing, maturing young adult who can roll with the punches, so to say. As you zero in on a key moment, ask yourself: What healthy coping mechanisms or communication skills did you develop? Who, if applicable, did you choose to lean on and why? What did you learn about yourself? How will you approach difficult situations moving forward? Be honest and open, and we’re sure admissions will be impressed.