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Dartmouth College 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Dartmouth College 2023-24 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: 1 essay of 100 words, 2 essays of 250 words or fewer.

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why, Oddball, Community

The Dartmouth writing supplement offers you options! Let’s dig in.

1. Required of all applicants. 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.

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.

2. Required of all applicants, please respond to one of the following prompts in 250 words or fewer:

A. There is a Quaker saying: Let your life speak. Describe the environment in which you were raised and the impact it has had on the person you are today. 

Admissions wants to know what or who has made you into the person you are today. Where do you come from? What has shaped you as a person, and how has that made your perspective unique? What you focus on here can be reflective of larger cultural constructs or specific to you and only you. Dartmouth is looking to add diverse perspectives to weave into the fabric of their student body. Is there anything you can teach your classmates about your hometown, traditions, culture, cuisine, orientation, identity, race, or ethnicity that they might not already know? Were you raised in a Muslim family in a small southern town? Have you grown up on a farm tending to the animals and land? Were you adopted as a toddler? Consider what has influenced your identity and how your worldview or background will bring something of value to the community at Dartmouth.

B. “Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde advised. “Everyone else is taken.” Introduce yourself.

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 yoga 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!

3. Required of all applicants, please respond to one of the following prompts in 250 words or fewer:

A. What excites you?

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!

B. 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 already making—an impact? Why? How?

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 why this path is the one you’ve chosen (or maybe it has chosen you!). Be sure to mention any progress you’ve already made toward this goal and how it will influence the work you hope to do in the future.

C. Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel of Dartmouth’s Class of 1925, wrote, “Think and wonder. Wonder and think.” As you wonder and think, what’s on your mind?

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.

D. Celebrate your nerdy side.

Alright, passionate people, this one’s for us! Dartmouth wants to accept intellectually curious applicants, so take this opportunity to demonstrate your passion for pursuing knowledge! When was the last time you lost track of time while researching something that caught your interest? When were you recently motivated to solve a problem or create something new? What was the last fact or skill you learned outside of school? 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. Whether you could read about the cult of celebrity for hours on end or spend all weekend in the garage refurbishing old cars with your mom, admissions wants to hear about it. And don’t forget: this is still an essay about you, so don’t get lost in a detailed explanation of linear algebra; instead, focus on why it brings you joy, satisfaction, etc. 

E. “It’s not easy being green…” was the frequent refrain of Kermit the Frog. How has difference been a part of your life, and how have you embraced it as part of your identity and outlook? 

What a fabulous essay prompt—so simple, so concise, yet so ripe for exploration. Admissions is thinking critically about this common Kermit quote that others may overlook, and they want you to do the same. What is your “green,” so to say? Feeling different from others is quite a universal experience, especially for teenagers, so take some time to think about what makes you feel different and how your relationship with that difference has changed over the years. This prompt could be a great opportunity to discuss your relationship with your racial, ethnic, or gender identity, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe you have celiac disease and pizza parties have been off the table, forcing you to bring food from home! If this prompt calls to you, trust your instincts and leave yourself plenty of time to freewrite and revise. 

F. As noted in the College’s mission statement, “Dartmouth educates the most promising students and prepares them for a lifetime of learning and of responsible leadership…” Promise and potential are important aspects of the assessment of any college application, but they can be elusive qualities to capture. Highlight your potential and promise for us; what would you like us to know about you?

In this prompt, admissions plainly states that promise and potential are elusive qualities to capture, then challenges you to highlight those very aspects of your candidacy in your response. (Cool, cool, cool.) If you feel that your application, as it stands, does not capture your full potential, this is likely the prompt for you. Maybe responsibilities at home have prevented you from exploring more academic and extracurricular interests. Walk admissions through how taking care of your younger siblings or an elderly family member taught you valuable lessons that you’ll be able to apply in higher ed. Perhaps you are incredibly tenacious and firmly believe that when a door shuts, another opens. How have you applied this ideology to your life thus far? Have you taken rejection on the chin and thrown yourself back into the ring time after time? Show admissions that you have what it takes to succeed.

We try our best to make sure our guides are as up to date as possible, but we still recommend confirming each prompt and word count with the school in question.
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