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How to Write the Dartmouth College Supplemental Essay

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?

The key to answering this question is research: spend time perusing your intended major’s department page on the Dartmouth website. 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 when writing 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.

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

What are your defining qualities? What makes you stand out from your peers? What values are the most important to you and how do you live by them? In drafting your response here, make yourself shine by sharing your eccentricity and writing about the idiosyncrasies that make you unique. The admissions committee wants to see how well you can reflect on both yourself and how you operate in the world around you, so taking the time to reflect on your answers to these guiding questions will help you demonstrate your self-awareness and confidence in who you are and what matters to you.

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

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?

Huerta’s quote calls for individuals to consider the big picture, and accordingly, students responding to this prompt should aim to clarify how they plan to make a difference in the world. As part of their response, students should clarify how a Dartmouth education will provide the foundation needed to make this impact. This explanation need not, and frankly should not, be purely theoretical–you should offer examples of your current pursuits that demonstrate your commitment to this impact area. Make clear to the admissions committee that you are a student who practices what you preach!

B. What excites you?

Given its intentionally broad scope, you should think of this prompt as a backup if none of the others speak to you. That being said, ensure your deep passion for your topic of choice shines through if you choose to answer 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.

C. 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?

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.

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 invites nearly any topic as a response, as long as it celebrates your sense of wonder. 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: time spent within nature or games concocted 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!

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?

The quote within the final prompt option acknowledges the importance of recognizing and showing up to address certain challenges. The key here is to first identify a problem that requires changing in your life and or society more broadly and root your response in your own personal experience engaging that problem. As such, your response should include descriptive narrative detail that shows how you may or may not have attempted to rise to the occasion of improving some type of condition facing yourself, your peers, or your greater community.