Founded by Congregational Minister Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, Dartmouth College was originally created with the vision of educating Native Americans. Through its founding, Dartmouth College became one of merely nine colleges founded before the American Revolution. The year of establishment? 1769.

 

Now, nearly 250 years later, Dartmouth College has become widely known as one of the top colleges in the world, including the honor of being one of the eight Ivy League schools. Unsurprisingly, a wide range of famous alumni call this school their alma mater, including Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), Meryl Streep, and Robert Frost.

 

Dartmouth College is home to 6,000 students of countless backgrounds — including, of course, the Native American population that Dartmouth originally targeted. The school’s acceptance rate remains at a low 10.5%, which means more than enough competition for even the most highly motivated and accomplished applicants.

 

That being said, it is essential to highlight your unique talents, skills, and interests in your application so that you can show your ability to do wonders with a Dartmouth education. The essay portion of Dartmouth’s application is one of your best opportunities to set yourself apart from other applicants. But how do you go about doing this?

 

We’re here to help you with that! We here at CollegeVine will walk you through Dartmouth’s 2016-2017 essay prompts.

 

Dartmouth College Application Essay Prompts

 

1. Please respond in 100 words or less:

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?

2. Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 250-300 words:

A. Shonda Rhimes, Dartmouth ’91, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, recently documented her Year of Yes; for one year she vowed to say YES to everything that scared her. Share a moment when you stepped out of your comfort zone, and describe how it helped you grow into who you are today.

B. Celebrate an example of excellent teaching and how it illuminated the subject you were studying. Why did it resonate with you and excite your intellectual curiosity?

C. In the wake of World War II, Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey proclaimed, ‘The world’s troubles are your troubles… and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.’ If you could tackle any of the world’s ‘troubles,’ which one captures your imagination and inspires you to act?  What would you invent or devise to mitigate it, and how might your coursework at Dartmouth inform your ambitions?

D. ‘It’s not easy being green’ was a frequent lament of Kermit the Frog. Discuss.

E. ‘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.

F. ‘Won’t you be my neighbor?’ was the signature catchphrase of Fred Rogers, the creator and host of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. What kind of neighbor will you be in our undergraduate community at Dartmouth? What impact have you had on the neighbors in your life?

 

We realize that the above looks like a lot to read and process. The good news is that you only have to respond to two essays in total, and we’ll outline all of the essays below with their corresponding numbers and letters. This way, you can better decide which essays to write and receive guidance on the ones you do choose. After reading through each of the prompt descriptions and doing some brainstorming, finalize which topics you’ll choose to write about.

 

SECTION 1/QUESTION 1

 

1. Please respond in 100 words or less:

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?

 

OVERVIEW: Notice that this prompt is absolutely required. For the second question, you’ll be choosing one of the six; here, you have no choice but to answer this question. Also notice that you only have 100 words to respond to this prompt. That’s not very much, and this means you have to properly select your ideas and concisely get to your point.

 

STEP 1: First, handle the first question that is listed in the prompt: “Where do you hope to go?” This question is basically asking what you hope to do in the future, what questions you hope to answer later on, how you want to impact the world, etc. Brainstorm your personal answers to this question, making sure that you are complete and thorough in your brainstorming.

 

STEP 2: Now, it’s time to tackle the second question in the prompt: “What aspects of Dartmouth’s curriculum or community might help you get there [to where you hope to go]?” Now is your chance to mention specific features of Dartmouth that will bring you to where you want to be, since this is essentially just a “Why X School” essay. Do some brainstorming now on how Dartmouth will help you achieve your specific goals.

 

Be specific, and be sure to conduct some research on Dartmouth. Remember, thousands of applicants are answering this same question! If you don’t choose reasons that are highly specific to yourself and Dartmouth, you may end up sharing the same response as thousands of other applicants, and you don’t want to be another lost answer in the crowd. Also keep in mind that while you want to be specific, you don’t want to sound like a robot reciting facts you found from a website. Be genuine, be reasonable, and be practical with the supporting facts you choose.

 

STEP 3: It’s time to narrow down the two brainstorming lists you compiled. For the list from Step 1, eliminate ideas that are too general (“be successful or happy”), overly idealized or likely unattainable (“end world hunger”), too narrow in scope (“be good at math”), etc. For the list from Step 2, eliminate ideas that are too detailed (to the point of sounding like a research robot), ideas that you know too little about, ideas that aren’t as personally important to you, etc.

 

STEP 4: Now that you’ve finalized your two brainstorming lists, it’s time to crack down on writing the actual essay! Remember to apply a bit of creativity and ensure that your tone, diction, and content work together to bring out a clear voice.

 

Since this essay is so short, a hook will suffice in place of a full introductory paragraph. Your hook might be one of the following: an unexpected statement that startles readers, an anecdotal statement that then ties in with your essay’s contents, or a rhetorical question that readers can ponder.

 

Next, it’s time to fill in the body of your essay with your brainstormed reasons. Once this is done, wrap up your essay and end in a satisfyingly final and memorable way. You can conclude your essay effectively by reiterating something you discussed in your first paragraph (your hook would be great for this), or maybe try writing a thought-provoking statement that keeps you on adcoms’ minds.

 

As you can see, there are many ways you can approach the beginning and the end or your work! Once you are done, read through the essay multiple times yourself for edits. Have teachers, parents, and mentors aid you later as well.

 

SECTION 2

 

OVERVIEW: Note that now you only have to choose ONE of the following prompts to answer — these are lettered A through F. We recommend that you read through all of the descriptions below for each lettered prompt. That way, you can have a better understanding of each essay prompt and make an educated decision about which one is best for you to submit.

 

Next, notice that the word count for each prompt below is 250-300 words. This means that no matter which prompt you choose to write, your answer will be fairly short — certainly not your typical three-page school essay. Now, we will help walk you through each prompt A through F. Because each prompt’s guide is so long, we have reprinted the prompt questions below:

 


A. Shonda Rhimes, Dartmouth ’91, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, recently documented her Year of Yes; for one year she vowed to say YES to everything that scared her. Share a moment when you stepped out of your comfort zone, and describe how it helped you grow into who you are today.

 

STEP 1: This prompt has two parts, the first asking you to share a time that you stepped out of your comfort zone. For you, this could be many things. Maybe you were a shy kid who stepped out of your comfort zone when you finally stood up to a bully. Maybe you were only ten when you had to begin taking care of your siblings alone due to circumstances at home. Maybe you simply don’t like speaking publicly but forced yourself to do so. Regardless of the instance, write it down in your brainstorming list.

 

STEP 2: Now, it’s time to handle the second part of the prompt — describe how each breakthrough moment shaped you as you are today. Beside each item on your brainstorming list, write out a description of how that particular instance changed aspect(s) of you and led you to the “new you,” or the you who you are now.

 

STEP 3: Once you have completely finished the brainstorming ideas and their descriptions, it’s time to narrow down ideas. You may choose to eliminate ideas if they are too general and not detailed, impersonal or insignificant to you, etc.

 

STEP 4: Upon finalizing your idea, you may begin to craft your essay! For tips on how to craft this essay’s beginning and ending, you may reference the description in Step 4 of Section 1/Question 1.

 


B. Celebrate an example of excellent teaching and how it illuminated the subject you were studying. Why did it resonate with you and excite your intellectual curiosity?

 

OVERVIEW: This question has multiple parts, and it is essential that you understand what each part involves in simplified terms: write about an example of excellent teaching, describe how the example illuminated its respective subject, explain why that example stuck with you, and describe how that example brought out your intellectual curiosity. Combining all of these parts together, you must come up with an example of great teaching that made a subject seem much more interesting or understandable, sparking your interest in learning more. Keep these points in mind as we move to the steps to tackling the prompt.

 

STEP 1: First, conduct some brainstorming to find an example of excellent teaching that meets three criteria: 1) it illuminated — or clarified — a subject 2) it stuck with you throughout school 3) it made you more curious and willing to learn or think differently. Maybe you’re thinking of the time a teacher offered a wise statement that stuck with you when teaching a lesson. Maybe a teacher creatively taught something in a way that you couldn’t have imagined another teacher copying. Regardless of what comes to mind, write it down! You may have to let the list sit a few days to let ideas flow completely into your mind.

 

STEP 2: Now, it’s time to cut out ideas from your brainstormed list. You may choose to eliminate ideas that are too general, ideas that are incomplete in answering all components of the prompt, and so on – there are many criteria.

 

STEP 3: Once you’ve finalized your example, you may begin to write your essay. Present your example in a fond, interesting, and creative way.

 

*Essays like these can be tricky as you’re writing, you might forget that this anecdote is meant to inspire fond emotions in you — it is an example that the author is “celebrating,” per the prompt. It is necessary to avoid dull descriptions and emotionless words. Be sure to communicate the respect and admiration you feel for your teacher through your language. See Step 4 of Section 1/Question 1 for tips on writing your essay from start to finish.

 


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C. In the wake of World War II, Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey proclaimed, ‘The world’s troubles are your troubles… and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.’ If you could tackle any of the world’s ‘troubles,’ which one captures your imagination and inspires you to act?  What would you invent or devise to mitigate it and how might your coursework at Dartmouth inform your ambitions?

 

OVERVIEW: This question is very similar to Section 1/Question 1 in that it asks for how you hope to to impact the world in the future. However, this question differs from Section 1/Question 1 in that it almost begs for you to write about a world problem that may even be unattainable. We advise that you choose a new idea entirely from the one in Section 1/Question 1 in order to convey different sides of yourself. Note that there are multiple questions in this prompt to consider.

 

STEP 1: Having read the overview, it’s now time to decide your topic. Think of the following when brainstorming ideas: what world problem really strikes you or has affected you on a smaller scale personally? Which world problem seems like one to which you’d be able to best contribute your unique skills and talents? What world issue seems to be addressed much less than you’d like it to be? With criteria like these in mind, compile your brainstormed list of ideas. Keep in mind that one of the questions in the prompt asks you to devise something that will mitigate the problem you’ve brainstormed.

 

STEP 2: Now that you have your brainstorming list done, it’s time to tackle the other questions in the prompt. As mentioned at the end of the previous step, you must brainstorm what you will devise to mitigate the problems that you’ve written down on your brainstorming list. Be creative, specific, and visionary here — this is what Dartmouth is looking for.

 

Maybe you want to devise a network that distributes untouched food from American cafeterias to the homeless through a mechanical system. Maybe you have plans to reduce pollution by creating nets that only catch polluting particles. Note that these don’t need to be physical inventions either — perhaps you want to create a social network that connects those in need of an organ transplant to potential donors. Whatever your breakthrough idea is, write it down beside each world problem you brainstormed.

 

STEP 3: Now it’s time to start narrowing down your brainstorming list to settle on your final essay idea. There are many reasons you may eliminate an idea; maybe it is too narrow in scope; it is too hard to explain or describe with genuine passion; it is far too common or general; or any number of other reasons.

 

Keep in mind that even though it may be hard for another applicant to envision the exact same device as you, there are some world problems that may evoke the same kind of imagination from applicants (e.g., many applicants may write about widespread water purifiers if they choose the clean water problem to discuss). If this is the case, you may eliminate the idea or modify it so that it is specific and unique.

 

STEP 4: With your brainstorming idea, there’s one last part of the prompt to handle before you begin writing: How would Dartmouth help you achieve this large-scale problem-solving? Be as specific and genuine as possible; you will most likely have to conduct some research on Dartmouth to get the exact information you need about what tools the school would provide you to solve your specific problem.

 

As mentioned before, remember to sound genuine yet specific — you don’t want to sound like a robot spewing facts about Dartmouth in your essay, especially facts that few people would know and probably wouldn’t be someone’s genuine reason for wanting to attend Dartmouth (e.g., the exact percentage for how many computer science graduates go on to form startups that are successful in eliminating world problems.).

 

STEP 5: Once you have your brainstormed idea, it’s time to start writing your essay! See Step 4 in Section 1/Question 1 for tips on how to craft your essay from beginning to end.

 

D. ‘It’s not easy being green’ was a frequent lament of Kermit the Frog. Discuss.

 

OVERVIEW: This essay is broad, and you could go in many directions with it.

 

STEP 1: Before you even begin brainstorming and planning your essay, it is essential that you understand what the phrase “It’s not easy being green” even means. There are many possible ways to interpret this quote, and you should conduct some research on the internet for different ways to view this quote and its meaning.

 

One common interpretation is that those who differ from the norm in some way are often ostracized for it; this needn’t be the way you interpret the quote for the purposes of this essay, though. Another common interpretation is that whatever your problems are, someone out there has bigger problems than you do, and because of that, it is important to accept life’s different hardships and just move on; again, this need not be how you interpret the quote for the purposes of this essay.

 

Based on Kermit’s original song, the quote could also be interpreted to mean that it is hard to find your identity and express individuality, given that Kermit laments how green is an ordinary color that blends in with too many things. There are so many ways to interpret this quote! However you choose to interpret it, you should make sure that you can support how you reached that meaning through the content of your essay.

 

STEP 2: Based on the meaning of the quote you decided upon, it’s time to conduct some brainstorming about associations with your interpretation. Since this will vary depending on how you choose to interpret, here are some general tips when brainstorming: 1) write any relevant ideas that come to mind 2) give yourself enough time to fully come up with all ideas that could be used in your essay — this might be days 3) write brief notes by each brainstormed idea to indicate why you wrote it down and how it applies to your essay.

 

STEP 3: Narrow down your brainstormed list based on criteria, like how relevant the idea is to the prompt, how much the idea means to you, and how much you could expand on the idea. Once you’ve finalized your idea, decide on a direction that you want the prompt to take. Do you want to write a creative story? Do you want to tie in a memory or experience you have that illustrates the quote? Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it is revealing of your personality, shows your way of thinking, and is a good showcase of a message or voice within you.

 

STEP 4: Start writing your essay! You may refer to Step 4 in Section 1/Question 1 for help on how to craft your essay effectively.

 


E. ‘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.

 

STEP 1: It’s time to brainstorm! Think about times when kindness inspired your next actions or made you act a certain way. Maybe you want to describe a seemingly insignificant action that ultimately changed your perspectives, or maybe you want to describe a stranger’s kind actions that made you want to “pay it forward.” Whatever comes to your mind, write it down. You may need to let ideas fully develop in your brain over the course of a few days, and that’s fine.

 

STEP 2: Now that you have your brainstorming list prepared, it’s time to start narrowing your ideas down. Some ideas are more compelling or personally relevant than others.

 

STEP 3: Once you’ve narrowed down your ideas list to a single idea, it’s time to start writing! Be sure to present your idea in as interesting a way as possible — you don’t want to bore the adcoms, especially with an essay prompt that is so broad and could take so many interesting directions. If you’d like tips on how to construct an effective essay, check out Step 4 in Section 1/Question 1.

 

F. ‘Won’t you be my neighbor?’ was the signature catchphrase of Fred Rogers, the creator and host of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. What kind of neighbor will you be in our undergraduate community at Dartmouth? What impact have you had on the neighbors in your life?

 

STEP 1: There are two parts to this prompt, one involving your neighbors in life and your possible neighbors at Dartmouth. Let’s begin by handling the former, which specifically wants to know how you’ll add to the community at Dartmouth as a neighbor or peer to the other students. Brainstorm any and all actions you might take that demonstrate ideal personality traits (e.g., kindness, respect, love). Try not to directly list personality traits that you would want to communicate, as it would result in something like the following, which would make for a boring and kindergarten-esque essay: “I would treat everyone very kindly because this is what makes others happy and… ”

 

STEP 2: Next, it’s time to handle the second question: “What impact have you had on the neighbors in your life?” This question is one that will involve brainstorming past memories and experiences. If you don’t interact with your neighbors often, think harder to small moments you’ve shared, such as a ritual waving to each other, etc. You can even turn small events into meaningful ones that display certain personality traits.

 

Also consider that “neighbors in your life” need not refer to neighbors in a literal sense. Think about some figurative types of neighbors you may have; members of a community to which you belong (religion, race, etc.) make equally strong topics for this essay. Be complete in your brainstorming and consider the wide range of “neighbors” you have!

 

STEP 3: Now that you have both brainstorming lists finished, it’s time to cut down the content in each one — you’ll likely be using somewhat similar criteria for both, such as how much you can expand on the actions, how much the actions show of your personality traits, etc.

 

STEP 4: Once you’ve narrowed down your ideas, it’s time to start writing your essay! Be sure to reveal rather than state the traits that show you’d be a good neighbor at Dartmouth. Make sure that the essay you write is creative, confidently written, and interesting to read. See Step 4 in Question 1/Section 1 for tips on how to compose your essay effectively from start to finish.

 

That wasn’t so bad, was it? Now that you have a general idea of how to answer Dartmouth College’s various prompts, it’s time to start researching, brainstorming, and — finally — writing. We highly recommend that you don’t procrastinate! Every word and idea counts, especially when it comes to a competitive school like Dartmouth College. In the meantime, you may consider visiting the campus of Dartmouth College to check out the campus and get some inspiration. From CollegeVine to you, we wish you all the best in your writing endeavors!

 



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CollegeVine College Essay Team

CollegeVine College Essay Team

Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process, evaluated upon their skill in writing and knowledge of college admissions. We then train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.
CollegeVine College Essay Team

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