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How to Write the Dartmouth College Essays 2022-2023

Dartmouth College has two prompts for all applicants and a third prompt that applicants select from five different options. Many of them are short-response questions that will challenge you to be creative, with a wide range of topics.

 

With so many essay prompts, this application gives students ample opportunity to showcase your unique personality and narrative voice. This means that these supplemental prompts, more than many others, will give you the chance to make your application stand out.

 

See this animated Dartmouth College essay example to inspire your writing.

 

Dartmouth College Supplemental Essay Prompts 2021-2022

 

Prompt 1: 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? (100 words or fewer)

 

Prompt 2: “Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde advised. “Everyone else is taken.” Introduce yourself in 200-250 words.

 

Prompt 3: Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 200-250 words:

 

Option 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?

 

Option B: What excites you?

 

Option 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?

 

Option 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?

 

Option 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?

 

Prompt 1

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? (100 words or fewer)

With only 100 words or fewer to answer this prompt, you must convey your reason for choosing Dartmouth concisely. This is a classic “Why This College” Essay prompt, but with an added twist of testing of how eloquently and effectively you can illustrate your rationale. 

 

As an Ivy League college, Dartmouth has an obvious appeal to many applicants for its elite status. However, in order to differentiate your response you will have to be very specific on why you seek to attend this prestigious institution.  

 

Before writing, reflect on your academic and career goals. Pick the one or two that are most important to you, and research the specific resources available at Dartmouth that would help you achieve your goals.

 

It’s extremely important to keep the scope of this essay small, as you only have 100 words. That’s only 5-7 sentences!

 

Here’s an example:

 

A student wants to go into environmental policy and conservation. She hopes to major in Environmental Studies at Dartmouth. As a person of color, she appreciates Dartmouth’s emphasis on including diverse voices in environmentalism. She wants to get involved with Professor Chaudhary’s research on DEI in STEM and take courses like Indigenous Environmental Studies.

 

By using specific examples of programs offered at Dartmouth in your response, you’ll be able to show the admissions committee that you’ve done extensive research of the school and that it’s a good fit for you.  

 

Also remember that campus culture is a critical part of most universities. If you have space, mention one extracurricular that would support your main academic or career goal. For example, the above student could highlight Dartmouth’s outdoorsy culture and express interest in joining the Outing Club since she grew up near the mountains, and it’s what sparked her interest in environmentalism.

 

Overall, do your research and discover what makes you most excited to attend Dartmouth. Be cautious of generalized statements and try to provide the admissions committee as much detail as possible so that they gain a better sense of your personality.

 

Prompt 2

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

This prompt allows you to cover the key qualities that make you, you. As one of the most prestigious schools in the country, Dartmouth will receive tons of applicants from students around the world with impressive GPAs and extracurriculars – this is an essay all about standing out and illustrating why you would be a valuable addition to Dartmouth’s campus.

 

Dartmouth already has access to your Common App essay and your Activities section, so there’s no need to rehash your resume or entire life story. You only have 250 words, so try to distill your identity down to a few key qualities or experiences. 

 

It can sometimes be difficult or awkward writing about yourself, so maybe start by brainstorming with friends or family to get the ball rolling – What kinds of words would they use to describe you? How does your personality stand out from the rest of your friend group or siblings? 

 

Listening to how others describe you is a great place to start, but remember that your opinion of yourself is the one that matters most. You can write about yourself, your goals, your interests, how past life experiences have shaped you, etc. 

 

Formatting-wise, you can choose to speak to the reader as if you’re actually introducing yourself (which lends itself to more lighthearted content), or you can simply write more of a narrative piece (such as taking the reader through your day). You could also pick 3 words that describe you and provide specific stories that exhibit those traits. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

 

Prompt 3, Option 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? (200-250 words)

Different from the personal reflection prompts, this essay is asking you what kind of impact you hope to have on the world in the future. This prompt can be answered in a variety of different ways and largely depends on what your personal goals and passions are. 

 

When responding to this prompt you should first do a close reading of the quote to provide some further context for your response, “We must use our lives to make the world a better place, not just to acquire things.” Huerta specifies that we use our “lives” to make an impact, not just a single action. This implies that Dartmouth is looking for something long term that you are dedicating your time to that will make a positive impact on others. 

 

It may also be helpful to look into the author of this quote to discover what motivated them to say the quote in the first place – Dolores Huerta is a prominent civil rights activist who dedicated her life to advocating for the rights of immigrant and migrant labor workers. How might Huerta’s dedication to a life of activism align with Dartmouth’s core values? There are many ways to leave a powerful impact on the world, not all of which are through activism.  

 

The topic you choose does not necessarily have to be tied to your academic interests. For instance, you could be a Neuroscience major who also has a passion for education and volunteers as an English tutor at a ESL (English as a Second Language) school – aspiring to positively impact immigrant communities by providing them with the powerful tool of language. As long as your passion is long-term, you should be able to create a powerful narrative that will resonate with the admissions committee. 

 

However, if your topic does align with your academic or career goals, make sure that you explain in detail how it will improve the world around you. Perhaps you want to be a MD-PhD who does cancer research specializing in treating low-income patients? Or maybe you want to be a speechwriter for politicians and world leaders whose words will help to change the world. 

 

Whatever you choose to write about, be sure to narrate to the admissions committee how your topic contributes to the betterment of the campus community at Dartmouth and beyond.

 

Prompt 2, Option B

What excites you? (200-250 words) 

This prompt gives you the opportunity to showcase your personality and talk about a passion, hobby, or experience that does not really “fit” into the themes explored by other prompts. Think about this essay as a personal inquiry, it gives the admissions officer the ability to humanize your application and understand what type of person they are admitting to Dartmouth. 

 

There is no shortage of topics you can explore with this prompt. 

 

  • Are you excited whenever Sunday Night Football is able to bring together your family for a night? 

 

  • Or, are you excited when it rains outside and you can dance around with your friends? 

 

  • Or, are you excited when you get the opportunity to talk about gender equality at an organization that you intern at? 

 

Whether it’s a monumental achievement or a simple pleasure, at the core of this essay the admissions office is asking you to speak with passion. 

 

It’s important to connect whatever topic you are discussing to the resources and opportunities available to you at Dartmouth. 

 

For instance, if you are a student who gets super excited when you can collect rocks down at the beach with your friends, this would be a great chance to connect your passion back to research opportunities at Dartmouth in the Earth History department or how the outdoorsy-feel of Dartmouth would feel like home. 

 

Don’t be afraid to take a risk with this prompt. If watching Avatar excites you, feel free to explore this route, especially if you are an applicant that can connect this back to East-Asian studies or film/production studies at Dartmouth. However, be cautious about going on a tangent or exploring too many things within this essay. Stick to talking about one thing that excites you and connecting it back to Dartmouth. 

 

Prompt 2, Option C

In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba, Class of 2014, reflects on constructing a windmill from recycled materials to power the 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 already made? (200-250 words) 

This prompt highlights an applicant’s entrepreneurial skills, perseverance, and imagination. From this essay the reader wants to gauge how you approach problems and whether you have taken the initiative to solve problems in your own life. Whether this means you created a marketing strategy for a non-profit or makeshift solar panels to charge your phone, make sure that your creation connects to your goals at Dartmouth. 

 

Now, let’s shift our focus to the first part of the prompt. The admissions office wants to see what drives you to create, which means that they want to see passion for a certain topic or cause. 

 

If you are super interested in sustainable business and hope to start a non-profit one day that supports marginalized artists in rural communities, then take this essay as an opportunity to flesh out your plan and the vision behind your idea. 

 

Remember these admissions officers are looking for applicants who will take full advantage of the degree that Dartmouth will give them, so an applicant with an idea stands out from the bunch. 

 

Let’s take a look at the second part of the prompt.

 

If you have created something that you are proud of then we highly recommend that you use this prompt. Dartmouth would love to see an applicant that is taking action before even starting college. If you are a prospective digital media major and you created a video game in high school that 10 people played, don’t be afraid to share this! 

 

Do not compare your creation to those of other people. Take this opportunity to reflect on the motivations and thought process behind your creation, instead of spending the entire essay just describing the characteristics of the creation. 

 

Regardless of which part of the prompt you choose to focus on, you need to reflect on how Dartmouth can make your idea a reality or help you advance the creation you already made. 

 

Talk about specific departments or courses that will help you build on your knowledge or study-abroad opportunities that are perfect to help advance your design. Personalize the essay to Dartmouth by talking about how the community or educational environment will directly advance your ideas/creations. 

 

Prompt 3, Option 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? (200-250 words)

Although the quote cited in this prompt is from a familiar and likely elicits nostalgic source for many applicants, the question itself is deceptively vague. A prompt is trying to both gauge your personal interests while also evaluating your creativity.  

 

This essay response is the optimal space to let your creative juices flow and really be yourself. Take some time and brainstorm what unanswered questions you have about the world or what random thoughts might pop into your head during the day. Do not feel as though you have to make something up that will sound profound such as “What is our role in the universe?”or “What is the meaning of life?” These kinds of classic philosophical questions might make your response too closely aligned with cliches. 

 

In this response you not only want to be unconventional, but you also want to be honest. Maybe you ponder on the long term, psychological impact the pressures of social media will have on our generation in the future. Or maybe it’s something as simple as wondering if our pets can really understand us. 

 

Here are examples of some other thought-provoking ideas:

 

  • Dreams of visiting the international space station
  • Creating a new vaccine 
  • Working as a private chef 
  • Going on a bucket list trip

 

For example, if you are interested in history and pirates, and wonder about the possible locations of the famous Captain Kidd’s lost treasures. Explain what sparked your initial interest and why it has remained important to you. “I was born and raised on the Jersey shore. I spent most of my summers sailing with my dad and older brothers. We always joked about how amazing it would be to one day find a mysterious clue that would lead us to a forgotten treasure.”

 

Write your essay response about a topic that you are genuinely curious about. Do not feel like you have to make up some dramatic narrative to impress the admissions committee and risk being perceived as authentic. Be true to yourself and show Dartmouth how the intricacies your brain functions.

 

Prompt 3, Option 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? (200-250 words)

This is a classic Overcoming Challenges Essay prompt. It’s asking applicants to describe how they react when faced with adversity. 

 

In short, the quote is asking for you to explain an experience in your life in which you had to overcome a challenge. “Nothing can be changed until it is faced” highlights that nothing will change around you in the world or your personal life unless you do something about it.

 

The challenge you chose to narrate could be a variety of different things, ranging from internal trials you may have faced to tangible obstacles you’ve had to overcome in the real world. Once you’ve chosen a topic to write about, the next step is to tactfully organize your response to most effectively frame your thoughts and feelings to the admissions committee. 

 

For instance, first explain the context of the situation leading up to the conflict. Next, provide extensive detail on what kinds of emotions addressing that challenge brought up for you. Finally, describe how you were able to overcome the challenge and how it has helped shape you into the person you are today, as well as how it will continue to influence your perspective on life moving forward.

 

When illustrating the outcome of the situation, be sure to explain how the experience allowed you to grow as a person.  Be cautious not to focus too much on the challenge itself, but rather focus more on the details on how you adapted to address the issue.  

 

Here are some important questions to think about when writing:

 

  • What context is needed for readers to empathize for why this challenge was especially important to you?
  • How did you formulate your reaction to the conflict?
  • Did anyone else help or hinder your ability to resolve the issue?
  • Was the resolution what you expected it to be?
  • How did you grow and mature as an individual through this experience?

 

Try to avoid challenges that may come across as trivial. While getting a B- on a test may be upsetting to some, that kind of topic may not resonate as well with readers. Additionally, try to avoid challenges that are seen as cliche, such as bouncing back from a romantic breakup. Instead, choose share an experience that allows your personality and key elements of your identity to shine.

 

For example, if you suffered an injury as an athlete, you would want to avoid the basic essay stating that you underwent rehab and eventually were able to play again. Instead you could write:

 

My junior year of high school I tore my ACL during the first lacrosse game of the season. I was devastated. The doctors said I had to sit out a whole year. During this time, I was lost as I had dedicated five years of my life to lacrosse. I wasn’t sure that I was really good at anything else and the thought of losing both my passion and potential career opportunities left me numb. That was, until I discovered the coding club at my school during a career fair. I had no previous experience coding, but I spend so much time on my electronic devices anyway, I figured why not explore the science behind it all. After attending a few coding club meetings, I was hooked! I started researching how to code in my free time and took an online certification program to start creating my own app. Tearing my ACL left me physically limited by the injury I suffered, but mentally I was able to grow stronger than I ever had before with my newfound hobby. I still wish to return to lacrosse at some point, but I did not let the temporary loss of the sport I love stop me from finding other avenues to fill me with joy.”

 

This response is a good fit for this prompt since the student couldn’t change their injury, but they were able to create positive change in their life by facing and making the most of their situation.

 

Where to Get Your Dartmouth College Essay Edited

 

Do you want feedback on your Dartmouth essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!


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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also 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.