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How to Write the Dartmouth College Supplemental Essay

Here’s a guide to answering Dartmouth’s supplemental essay prompts:

Please respond in 100 words or fewer:

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 2026, what aspects of the College’s program, community, or campus environment attract your interest?

This is Dartmouth’s version of the “Why this school?” essay. The key to answering this question is research: spend time perusing your intended major’s department page at Dartmouth. Which resources or extracurricular programs interest you? Are there generous research or study abroad opportunities? An eminent professor whose work you’ve examined in school already? A state of the art facility? Specificity is key for this essay! Feel free to include details specific to campus and community life to show you’ve taken the time to envision yourself on campus. It’s only 100 words, so it’s important to make use of the little space provided.

In addition to the essay above, to which every applicant must respond, you must also choose one of the following prompts using between 250-300 words:

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.

This prompt offers the opportunity to tell the admissions officers about an aspect of your family, culture, upbringing, tradition, or childhood that they wouldn’t otherwise know about. Anything formative about your background would be appropriate material to write about here. Make sure to focus on the significance of the story you are telling. How have these aspects of your life shaped you, taught you lessons, or influenced your values?

What excites you?

Think of this prompt as a backup if none of the others speak to you given its intentionally broad scope. That being said, ensure your deep passion for your topic of choice shines through if you choose this prompt. Feel free to interpret the word “excite” liberally; this could be an idea, a subject, a natural phenomenon, a person, a book, a historical movement…anything really! Get creative and try to convey your unique personality.

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?

While the example specified in the prompt is quite unique and impressive, you can write about any act of creation. Rather than writing about creativity or your motivation to create in a general sense, strive to write about a specific type of creation or experience you had creating something. We recommend you include both past experiences and future ambitions when responding to this prompt, making sure that whatever example you use demonstrates your drive to create and offers unique insights into your personality.

Curiosity is a guiding element of Toni Morrison’s talent as a writer. “I feel totally curious and alive and in control. And almost…magnificent, when I write,” she says. Celebrate your curiosity.

This prompt invites nearly any topic as a response as long as it celebrates your curiosity. A good idea would be to write about your intellectual or academic curiosity to help admissions officers anticipate your potential major and how you would contribute to the campus culture and classroom. If you take this route, the area of study should: a) be one you can see yourself enjoying and excelling at; and b) be one you have experience in that you can draw upon in your essay. Don’t feel the need to limit yourself to non-intellectual curiosities; baking the perfect swiss roll or making up games with your little sister could also highlight aspects of your character that would make your application to Dartmouth compelling. The biggest key: don’t hold back on enthusiasm!

“Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away,” observed Frida Kahlo. Apply Kahlo’s perspective to your own life.

If your Common Application essay didn’t revolve around a major (or minor) change in your life, this essay provides the chance to dive into one. You can write about how you handle change and what changes you’ve specifically had to face in the past. These changes can be internal too, for example: changing your religious views or losing your passion for a certain subject and finding a new one. Whatever you choose to write about, avoid dwelling on the negative; this prompt wants you to embody the spirit of the quote, which is willingly and totally accepting of change as a part of life. Plus, if you view change this way, you will convey a sense of humility and maturity that really appeals to admissions officers!

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 a great opportunity for students who want to address a more research-based topic. “The world’s troubles” is up for interpretation—feel free to choose whatever current issue you feel is worth addressing. This prompt almost serves as an extension of the “why Dartmouth” essay; be careful to avoid regurgitating points made in your first essay when responding to the “How might your course of study at Dartmouth prepare you to address it?” portion of the prompt. Instead, focus on a specific, academic line of inquiry related to the “troubles” you identify that you could examine in a subject or specific course of study that Dartmouth offers.