Adrian Russian 6 min read 12th Grade, College Application Tips

How I Got Into Dartmouth

The first time I visited Dartmouth after being accepted was for admitted students weekend. Getting to Dartmouth from my house is a bit of an odyssey: I live an hour from the Seattle airport, the flight to Boston is five hours, and the Boston to Hanover bus ride is two hours. 

 

Fortunately, I was staying with a close high school friend of mine who was a freshman at the time, so when I finally stepped off the bus twelve hours after leaving my house, I had a friendly face to welcome me. When we got back to her room, I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit my sleeping bag, but I do remember what she said to me in lieu of goodnight: welcome to the best place on earth.

 

Context of My Application

 

I went to a well-regarded private school in Seattle, which provided abundant support during the college admissions process. I had a college counselor at school, and could also turn to my family for help, as my parents both went to college and my brother was a college sophomore at the time. I am also a US Citizen, and half Puerto Rican. Nobody in my family went to Dartmouth, however. 

 

I applied regular decision to Dartmouth, and submitted my application in December. I did not apply for financial aid, but Dartmouth is need-blind for US citizens, permanent residents, some non-citizens, and undocumented applicants. Dartmouth commits to meeting 100% of demonstrated need, and is no-loan for families making under $100,000 a year.

 

My Academic Background

 

My high school did not provide class ranks nor average GPAs, but my GPA was a 3.87/4.0. AP courses were also not offered, as teachers preferred to create their own curriculum. I did take the Calculus BC AP test, however. 

 

Honors classes were also offered in math and science, and I took the following honors classes:

 

Freshman year: Honors Geometry

Sophomore year: Honors Precalculus, Honors Physics

Junior year: Honors Calculus, Honors Chemistry

Senior year: Honors Multivariable Calculus

 

While it may sound unconventional, my high school was incredibly academic, and roughly a third of each class went to a top college, which was definitely a big factor in my application.

 

Standardized Testing

 

I took the ACT, and earned a composite score of 35. I received a 36 on the reading and English sections, a 35 on the math section, and a 34 on the science. For the Dartmouth Class of 2023, the middle 50% of ACT scores fell between 32-35.

 

Dartmouth does not require or recommend SAT IIs, but I still submitted two. I received an 800 on the Math II test, and a 760 on the Chemistry test. I studied for the ACT and the subject tests using the Princeton Review study books, and the practice tests included in these books. I did not have a tutor, and I took the ACT twice. My first score was also a 35, but I wanted to improve my writing score.

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

Extracurriculars and Awards

 

Here are some of my main activities during high school, to give you a better sense of my extracurricular profile.

 

Lacrosse (F, So, Jr, Sr)

  • Earned three varsity letters
  • Voted one of three team captains as a senior
  • Selected as defensive MVP by the coaches as a senior
  • Played four years for a club team as well

 

Basketball Manager (Jr, Sr)

  • Earned two varsity letters
  • Helped the coaches run practice, film games, and take stats
  • Participated as a practice player as a senior

 

Medical Group Office Assistant (Jr, Sr)

  • Managed the insurance credentialing process for 69 providers
  • Collaborated with office managers to review and organize medical records

 

National Merit Semifinalist

  • Awarded to the top 1% of scorers on the PSAT by state

 

Essays

 

I applied to Dartmouth via the Common App, and I responded to both supplemental prompts. The first was required for all applicants, while the second allowed you to choose between six options. The prompts are different now, but these are the two I responded to:

 

  • Oh, The Places You’ll Go is one of the most popular books by “Dr. Seuss,” Dartmouth Class of 1925.  Where do you hope to go?  What aspects of Dartmouth’s curriculum or community might help you get there?
  • “Three things in human life are important,” said the novelist Henry James. “The first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Share a moment when kindness guided your actions.

 

For the first prompt, I wrote about my desire to travel, and how Dartmouth’s study abroad and leave term programs encourage students to go out into the world and then bring what they learn back to campus, which creates a vibrant, immersive learning community.

 

For the second prompt, I wrote about my basketball team’s secret buddy system, which was like secret santa. You were paired with someone anonymously and then gave them candy or something nice on game day, but most people, including me, would usually forget to do anything. I wrote my essay about how after I had a great secret buddy on my lacrosse team, I realized how nice it was to get some extra encouragement. So, I committed to doing a good job for my secret buddy on the basketball team, and I got to experience first hand how rewarding it is to make someone smile even with something small like a candy bar.

 

For more tips on writing the essays, check out CollegeVine’s Dartmouth essay breakdown.

Letters of Recommendation

 

Dartmouth requires two letters from teachers. My history teacher, who taught me as a freshman and a junior, wrote one. She actually asked me specifically if she could write my rec, as she felt she knew me well as a student and wanted to see me succeed in college admissions. I agreed, because I had been challenged in her classes, and thus she had seen me grow as a student.

 

The second student I asked was my Latin teacher, who taught me from sophomore to senior year. My Latin classes were some of the most intellectually stimulating ones I took in high school, and I also had a relatively personal relationship with him, so I thought his rec would provide schools with a comprehensive picture of me as a student.

 

Dartmouth also strongly encourages applicants to submit a third letter, written by a peer. Personally, I like this feature of Dartmouth’s application, as I think a peer can give admissions officers a perspective that is difficult to find elsewhere in the application, but extremely important in imagining what someone will be like as a member of the Dartmouth community.

 

I did submit a peer rec, which was written by one of my oldest friends. By the time I applied to college, I had gone to the same school since fifth grade, and the girl who wrote my rec was my first friend there in fifth grade. I also knew she was a good writer, so she would write eloquently about me.

 

Interviews

 

Dartmouth does not require an alumni interview, but they do offer them to some applicants. If you apply to Dartmouth and don’t get an interview request, don’t worry—I would say roughly half my friends at Dartmouth didn’t interview.

 

I did get offered an interview, and I’m actually being completely honest when I say it was a genuinely enjoyable experience, which I would not say about most of my college interviews. 

 

The alum I interviewed with had graduated in 2014, so he was relatively close to my age, and the conversation felt completely natural. We had a pretty casual, open conversation about my own life and about his experience at Dartmouth, and I asked him some questions that helped me get a better sense of what being a Dartmouth student is like. I actually saw him at a Seattle-area accepted students event in the spring, and it was great to chat to him again.

 

Final Tips

 

Dartmouth has some tips of their own as you work on your application. Dartmouth also offers the Indigenous Fly-In Program, for “students of all backgrounds with a demonstrated interest in Native community and/or Native American Studies to apply to the program.”

 

The best advice I can give as you work on your application is to take advantage of the opportunities Dartmouth gives you to write an application that’s genuinely personal. I remember extremely well how dry and repetitive college essays can start to feel, but Dartmouth’s prompts allow you to write about something new, and I encourage you to do so. 

 

I’ll never know for sure, but personally I think my decision to write about a relatively small moment of kindness—being nice to my secret buddy—helped me stand out from applicants who wrote about more stereotypically impressive topics like community service. My experience was probably something not many other people wrote about, and it showed what I’m like on a daily basis. Sharing your accomplishments is of course important, but Dartmouth also wants to know what you’re like as a roommate and a friend, so try to answer that question for them.

 

On a similar note, you should definitely submit a peer recommendation. As I mentioned above, I think a peer rec can add incredibly valuable information to your application. Just make sure you give the person you ask enough time to write a good one, especially if they’re also in the process of applying to college.

 

When my friend told me Dartmouth is the best place on earth, I thought she was being cheesy. But four years later, I know she was right. Good luck with your application!

 

If you want to know your chances of getting into Dartmouth, you can calculate them for free using CollegeVine’s chancing engine. You can also find more information about majors, cost, and scholarships at Dartmouth.

Want more tips on improving your academic profile?

We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.


Adrian Russian
Blogger at CollegeVine
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.