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Dartmouth Interview: What It’s Like + My Experience

When Dartmouth says their interviews are optional, they actually mean it. Don’t freak out if you aren’t offered one, because many of my friends at Dartmouth didn’t interview and were still accepted. 


But if you do get the opportunity to interview, the experience can be genuinely enjoyable. I’m not just saying that because I go to Dartmouth, but also because Dartmouth alums are consistently ranked as some of the most loyal and enthusiastic in the country, so they’re typically incredibly eager to talk to prospective students. Take this opportunity to learn more about Dartmouth, and have a meaningful conversation with an alumnus.


In this post, I’ll be going over what you can expect during the Dartmouth interview, plus my tips for making the best impression.


How is Covid-19 Impacting Dartmouth Interviews?


During normal times, Dartmouth’s alumni interviews are conducted in person. At least for this applications cycle, however, all Dartmouth interviews will be conducted over the phone or a video calling platform. For advice on how to adapt to this change, check out our post on virtual interviews.


Setting Up Your Dartmouth Interview


I applied regular decision, and was contacted via email mid-January—I actually just checked my phone calendar, and my Dartmouth interview was on January 23rd, 2017 at 5 pm PST, in case you were wondering.


In the initial email, my interviewer introduced himself, and over the next few emails we found a mutually convenient date, time, and place for the interview. We ended up meeting at an outdoor mall near my high school, and the interview took place outside a Starbucks.


My interviewer didn’t give me any specific instructions about what to bring or how to dress, but he did mention several times in his email that he hoped the interview would have an informal vibe and might even be fun for me. Even though many people had told me not to stress out about my college interviews, I still appreciated him saying that, because it made me feel like he was aware I might be nervous and would try to make me feel more comfortable.


Generally speaking, on Dartmouth’s interview tips page they suggest dressing “appropriately,” and that you can bring an activities list or resume, but that is not required. You can also read CollegeVine’s tips on interview attire (which still apply to virtual interviews). And while you probably shouldn’t email a resume to your interviewer unprompted, as this may come across as presumptuous, you should have a resume ready to share during the interview (whether virtual or in person), if asked.


What the Dartmouth Interview is Like


I honestly enjoyed my Dartmouth interview, which isn’t something I would say about most of my other college interviews. A big part of what made the experience so pleasant was that my interviewer was young (he had graduated from Dartmouth in 2014, and I graduated from high school in 2017), which helped create a more relaxed, casual atmosphere.


While you can’t control who your interviewer is, the questions were also fairly low-stress and not designed to trip me up. I don’t remember everything that was asked, but I do remember talking about my experience playing lacrosse, and about some of my favorite projects from high school. 


I also appreciated that my interviewer seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. I ran into him again in the spring at an accepted students event, and he remembered my name and that I played lacrosse, which retroactively confirmed for me that the interview had gone well.


Interviews are primarily for the applicant, but I also found the experience of talking to an alum to be a valuable one, which I looked back on later in the college process as I made my final decisions. My interviewer was a transfer student who had attended UCLA for his freshman year, so I asked him what drew him to Dartmouth, and about the difference between Greek life at UCLA and at Dartmouth. 


I was lucky to also have a friend who was a freshman at Dartmouth at the time, so I had already had many opportunities to ask her questions about Dartmouth, but I still appreciated getting to talk to an alum, as he could offer a perspective that my friend didn’t have.


The interview lasted about an hour, which is pretty standard for college interviews. While longer is generally better, your interviewer may have a time constraint (picking up their kids, another interview, etc.), so don’t take it personally if they cut off a conversation that you feel is going well.

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Tips for the Dartmouth Interview


Because such a high percentage of Dartmouth students are affiliated with frats or sororities, many applicants have questions about what Dartmouth Greek life is like. While you can absolutely ask about this (again, I did), make sure your question is general, and not about whether there is a drinking culture, or anything else to do with drugs or alcohol. 


It’s totally normal to have questions about these things, but inappropriate to ask them during an interview. These kinds of questions should be saved for an upperclassman friend once you arrive on campus.


Also on the subject of what questions to ask your interviewer, not everything has to be about academics, or even extracurricular opportunities. If you’re from California, you can ask about what piece of winter clothing you should be sure to bring, or about which dining hall was your interviewer’s favorite. 


While these questions may seem too casual, they actually show your interviewer that you have thought about what being a Dartmouth student would be like on a daily basis, not just about the material that gets posted on websites and in brochures. And while you should of course ask any questions you have about academic programs or extracurriculars, asking more lighthearted questions can also inject some energy into the interview, which your interviewer will likely appreciate.


On a similar note, particularly if you feel the interview is going well, you can make some jokes or reference things like your taste in music or TV shows. For example, I love football, and as soon as I met my interviewer I thought he looked like the NFL player Rob Gronkowski. 


While I wasn’t initially sure if that would be an appropriate comment to make, by the end of the interview I felt like it would be okay, and when I told him he laughed and said he was flattered. Seemingly small things like this can show your interviewer a lot about what you’d be like as a friend, a roommate, or a group project member, which is really what the school is trying to learn in an interview.


Finally, remember that how you perform in your interview is just one, relatively small, piece of information that Dartmouth admissions officers consider. In Dartmouth’s 2019-2020 Common Data Set, which contains information about Dartmouth admissions and enrollment, the interview is listed as a “considered” factor in admissions. 


For context, the four levels of importance are “very important” (which includes your GPA, essay, and extracurriculars among other things), “important” (which includes your non-academic talent and ability), “considered” (other things in this category are the geographical area you are from, and your work experience), and “not considered” (your religious affiliation, for example).


So, while you should still prepare for your interview and present yourself as well as possible, don’t worry too much if it doesn’t go as well as you would like. If you are a qualified applicant, a suboptimal interview won’t hurt you too much (unless you make a major mistake, like insulting your interviewer).


Interviewing is a hard skill that, for better or worse, you’ll have plenty of time to practice in college admissions, while applying for opportunities in college, and when looking for a job after graduation. So try not to be too hard on yourself if you aren’t amazing at it right away—honestly, almost four years to the day after my Dartmouth interview, I still wouldn’t say I’m amazing at it. 


Listen to some fun music in the car (or before you log onto the Zoom), wear your lucky socks, and who knows? You might even have some fun, like I did.


If you have more questions about the college admissions process, check out our free Q&A forum. You can ask any college-related questions, and get answers from peers and verified experts. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account to get started!

Short Bio
Adrian is a current senior at Dartmouth College, originally from Seattle, WA. At Dartmouth, she studies philosophy and neuroscience, and has been involved with research in the philosophy department, sexual assault prevention on campus, and mentorship programs for first year students. She spent her junior fall studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.