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How to Write the Dartmouth College Supplemental Essays 2017-2018
Dartmouth College, an Ivy League school, is found tucked away in rural Hanover, New Hampshire. Established in 1769 by Eleazar Wheelock, Dartmouth is the ninth oldest institute of higher education in the United States.
Engaging with nature is a critical part of the Dartmouth experience: in addition to featuring elm trees littered throughout the campus, the college owns its own ski slope, and the vast majority of entering freshmen participate in a four day outing trip before they start the school year.
With only 4,300 undergraduate students, Dartmouth is the smallest Ivy League school, and fosters a tight knit, liberal arts college type of environment dedicated to undergraduate education. Over 60% of students participate in Greek life, which is partially due to the rural, isolated nature of the campus.
Dartmouth College is ranked 11th in the 2017 US News rankings, and boasts an acceptance rate of 10.4% for its Class of 2021, with 20,034 applicants. Famous alumni include media personalities such as Stephen Colbert and Mindy Kaling, authors such as Dr. Seuss and Robert Frost, and current Senators such as Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and John Hoeven (ND).
Dartmouth College accepts either the Common Application or the Coalition Application. In addition to the universal essay prompt, Dartmouth requires two separate supplemental essays. The prompts may seem daunting at first, but we here at CollegeVine are here to help you tackle these essays to the best of your ability!
Essentially, this first essay question boils down to a “Why Dartmouth?” essay, with a specific focus on college programming, community, and campus environment. Using each word wisely is critical here, as 100 words can easily fly by, and you only have 100 words to prove to admissions counselors you are deeply invested in the school and its values.
To be successful in such a short “Why X School?” essay question, specificity and conciseness is key. Well-thought-out research is critical, as you want admissions counselors to know that there are specific aspects of Dartmouth that you could adeptly fit into and contribute to, standing out from thousands of other applicants who may have a more generic, “Dartmouth is a very good school” type of essay.
Overall, never let your essay verge onto generic territory, where the essay could be used for another “Why X School” essay if the word “Dartmouth” is simply taken out. Be sure to include Dartmouth specific programs, events, buildings, and people, and how they all connect back to who you are, and you will do great on this prompt!
Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 250-300 words:
Now, you will run into six additional prompts, out of which you will have to pick one to work on. Don’t worry or feel overwhelmed, because all the prompts are extremely general and a bit vague! Most prompts are focused on your passions in life, so think mostly about how you can communicate that passion in a unequivocal, genuine way that isn’t redundant to other parts of your Common Application. Chances are, if you write an essay for one prompt it will fit into another nicely, so focus yourself on content before trying to fit into a rigid mold. Additionally, 300 words is a great allotment of word space to get in a few substantive paragraphs, allowing for short introductions and conclusions. Here is each prompt, and how CollegeVine recommends you tackle them!
Everyone grows up facing a difficulty outside of their control, although some more pronounced than others. Whether it’s financial circumstances, familial troubles, or issues with health, some of us have grown up with an immense setback that has hindered the quality of our life.
However, this essay prompt does not ask to dote on these problems, but rather to express how you have attacked them. You may have been wildly successful, or wildly unsuccessful, but the essay prompt here is looking more for your grit and perseverance through this struggle. Ask yourself, is there a personal circumstance I have overcome, or tried to overcome, and then have worked to help others with the same issue? A great example would be one in which you have become impassioned to fix the hand you have been dealt not only for yourself, but for others as well. Here are some examples:
As the prompt suggests, you don’t have to be a transcendental poet eclipsed in the woods to tackle this prompt. You can be steeped in a STEM major and still find creativity riddled throughout.
The second part of the prompt asks about “ideas” and “values.” If your passion is related to molecular biology research, maybe your imagination is driven to find new ways to tackle a certain disease, and search for creative outlets to better the health of others. If you are a poet or writer, maybe your ideas and values tie into searching for beauty in the smallest, intimate moments.
Take some time to reflect on all the work that you do. Chances are, there are creative elements strewn throughout, which can be incorporated throughout the essay. Remember that the prompt specifically suggests stretching the conventional bounds of creativity into fields like math and computer science, so take advantage of that. One way to specifically show how your are creative would be to outline your steps or approach to whatever subject you choose, whether it be poetry, coding, or research. Explain exactly what goes through your mind when making creative decisions, and try to give admissions a sense of why you make the choices you do.
The key word in this prompt is selflessness. When did you truly put yourself before others, and sacrifice so that other people could have better opportunities? The example given in the prompt is a great model to follow. When was a time where you weren’t guided by any selfish motivations, but were in the background working to benefit others? If you can’t answer this prompt on your own, maybe ask a close friend or family member! They may know the extent of your kind (possibly being the recipient of it) better than you do.
With a prompt like this, it is easy to fall into the trap of a cliches, especially in regards to a short term service trip. Make sure that if you do want to talk about a time you went abroad to help others, that the selflessness and kindness comes through in a genuine way, which can be harder than it seems.
The key is to talk about a specific interaction, a specific person you’ve worked with who changed throughout the course of your help, or the tireless hours you’ve spent working on a project that eventually led to others being benefitted. Here is an example:
This prompt is extremely broad and open ended, as the two key words, “ideas” and “experiences,” stretch far and wide. Essentially, the admissions officers want to know you on a deeper level: what gets you up and running in the morning, what ideas for the future excite you, what work could you imagine yourself doing for days, or years, without being bored or tired out?
Is it literature that brings you happiness “even in the darkest of times?” Is it working with kids? Is it playing basketball? Like the other prompts, you have your entire life experience to draw upon. Here is an example:
This prompt is similar to the previous one (prompt D). What is it that captures your attention when scrolling through the news? What specific school assignment did you spend hours doing even though you didn’t have to, just because you were so passionate about the topic?
Hopefully you have done something tangible related to this passion. Most extracurricular activities could tie back into a root passion, so it isn’t difficult to show how much you’re passionate about a subject through a school activity/outside work. However, true enthusiasm, or lack thereof, is easy to sense through writing—an admissions officer will know if you are truly passionate about a subject, or talking about it simply because it sounds impressive. One way to refine your passion into a clear message, instead of rambling, is to focus on a specific moment or aspect of what you’re doing and explaining why it is so thrilling. Here is a quick example:
This last essay prompt has multiple parts: first describe your dreams, and then describe how you are working to achieve those dreams, as well as why you are doing so. You cannot just talk about your extremely far fetched visions in life, unless you have done work to at least somewhat actualize. Don’t be afraid to talk about more minor dreams that you have a genuine heart to work towards.
In terms of the why part of the essay, make sure to mention the core values that drive you to do the work that you do. Whether it is your personal circumstances growing up, your ethnicity, a character trait, a family member, or your religion, don’t be afraid to let the admissions officers know what your grounding is.
Lastly, you want to tie these values into a physical, less abstract manifestation in your daily life. Here is an example:
Dartmouth is a tough school to get into, period. However, by following these broad guidelines, hopefully you will be able to better brainstorm your essay, and eventually craft a finished piece of writing you are proud of. Answering these prompts is difficult, but ultimately very rewarding, and CollegeVine is committed to helping you along that journey.
If you want us to quickly edit your college essay, submit it to our Rapid Review program, and we’ll get it back to you quickly with comments from our expert team.