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Last updated April 28, 2023

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How to Write the Dartmouth Supplemental Essays

Key Takeaway

You'll be writing three supplemental essays for Dartmouth. One is a Why Us, the second is a more creative introduction, and the third has several options to choose from. Your Dartmouth essays should show alignment with Dartmouth's values and offerings, and they should all work together to form a cohesive application narrative.

You’ll have three supplemental essays to write for your Dartmouth application: two required prompts, and one where you have some choice. In total, you’ll be writing 500 to 600 words.

Let’s take a look at the prompts.

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 2028, what aspects of the College’s academic program, community, or campus environment attract your interest? In short, Why Dartmouth? (100 words)

These “why us” supplemental prompts can be overwhelming because you have so many options. And with a maximum of 100 words, Dartmouth’s is on the short side. You’ll have to communicate a lot in minimal space.

As with any why us essay, you’ll probably want to start with some research. Dive into Dartmouth’s website, attend an information session, or go on an in-person or virtual tour. As you’re researching, take note of specific details you find appealing. Is there a particular professor you want to work with? A class you can’t wait to take? An event or club you’d like to participate in? A value, motto statement, or educational philosophy you agree with? A research or internship opportunity that’s the perfect match for your goals?

In your essay, you’ve got two goals: 1) show that you’ve done your research, and 2) demonstrate genuine excitement for and alignment with Dartmouth’s offerings.

Prompt 2:

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

This prompt is deceptively simple. Introduce yourself in 200-250 words. Easy, right? (Can you sense my sarcasm?) With such little direction, this kind of prompt is one of the most difficult to answer. You can go in a lot of different directions. You can write a more literal introduction, a creative take, or somewhere in between. You might start with an anecdote or declaration, or maybe you’ll jump right in. Before you start writing, take a look at Dartmouth’s motto, mission statement, and core values. No matter how you introduce yourself, incorporating one or two of these values throughout your essay can help show that you’re a natural fit for Dartmouth.

Prompt 3: Choose one of the following prompts and respond in 200-250 words.

  • 1. 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?

  • 2. What excites you?

  • 3. 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?

  • 4. 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?

  • 5. “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?

And finally, we have the “choose your own adventure” essay, where you get to pick from five different prompts. Deciding can sometimes be the hardest part.

As you’re weighing your options, I recommend that you think about your overall application narrative. Across your entire application so far, what all does your Dartmouth admissions officer learn about you? If they were to give you a “tagline,” what would it be?

Have one in mind? Now think about what’s missing from your overall narrative. Is there anything you haven’t covered yet? Anything you want to really emphasize? The prompt you choose for this essay should let you write about it.

That’s it—you’re all set to get started on your Dartmouth supplemental essays. Want even more college essay advice before jumping in? Check out the Essay Academy, our digital course that covers everything you need to know about college essays. Happy writing! 🤓


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