Dartmouth Supplemental Essays 2023-24 Prompts and Advice
August 11, 2023
Dartmouth receives the fewest number of applications of the eight Ivy League schools. There were 28,841 hopefuls for the Class of 2027, less than half the number at Columbia or Harvard. Yet, that still represented an increase in the number of Dartmouth applications from the two years prior, resulting in the school’s lowest-ever acceptance rate of 6% (down from 6.2% the previous year, and a whopping 8.8% in 2024). When applying to a school that rejects 94% of applicants, you need to find ways to grab an admissions officer’s attention and give them a reason to say, “Yes!” The Dartmouth supplemental essays are one such chance.
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One of the best opportunities to move the admissions needle is through the three supplemental essays that Dartmouth requires. Dartmouth College’s essay prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle are listed below along with accompanying advice about how to tackle each one:
1) Dartmouth Supplemental Essays – Required Essay #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, and/or campus environment attract your interest? In short, why Dartmouth? (100 words)
This is, in essence, a straightforward “Why this College?” essay. Great things to highlight here include:
- Firstly, specific student organizations at Dartmouth that you would like to become involved with.
- Particular courses offered in your discipline of interest at Dartmouth.
- Dartmouth professors whose work/research/writings you are intrigued by.
- Undergraduate research opportunities unique to Dartmouth.
- Aspects of Dartmouth’s mission statement that resonate with you.
- Lastly, study abroad opportunities.
Make sure to really do your research on the school. As a side benefit (and not an unimportant one), you may discover further reasons why Dartmouth truly is the perfect fit for you.
2) Dartmouth Supplemental Essays – Required Essay #2
Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 250 words or fewer:
A) There is a Quaker saying: Let your life speak. Describe the environment in which you were raised and the impact it has had on the person you are today.
This is an opportunity to share something about your background that may not shine through anywhere else on the application. To do so, consider discussing how your role in your family, important aspects of your upbringing, or a particular cultural, religious, or community influence either impacted your core values and beliefs or helped develop a particularly important attribute.
B) “Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde advised. “Everyone else is taken.” Introduce yourself.
This is a fun opportunity to share something genuinely unique about yourself. As such, pick one (or several) key aspects of your personality/background that reveal something deep and meaningful about you. As you brainstorm, consider the following avenues:
- What moves your spirit? Discuss any art, movies, music, and books that you find deeply moving and personally important.
- Your role in your family.
- Your role in your social group.
- The funniest things you’ve ever done.
- The strangest things you’ve ever done.
- Commitment, passion, and enthusiasm.
- Core values and beliefs.
- Important aspects of your upbringing.
- Most intriguing and unique attributes.
- Cultural, religious, community influence.
3) Dartmouth Supplemental Essays – Required Essay #3
Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 200-250 words:
A) What excites you?
Out of everything on this Earth, what makes you tick? What keeps you up at night? What subject makes you read books and online content until your eyes bleed? If you could address one problem in the world, large or small, what would it be? What do you love to do? If you are answering at least one of these questions, you are on the right track with this essay.
B) 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? Why? How?
This is your chance to show that you are a global citizen, aware and sensitive to issues faced by this planet and all life that occupies it. If you are passionate about climate change, the fate of democratic institutions, food scarcity, human rights, the impact of disinformation campaigns, privacy issues related to big tech, or any of the millions of other challenges faced by humanity, this is a great choice for you. Note that this year’s prompt includes the guiding questions why and how, so be sure to let them both guide your response.
Dartmouth Supplemental Essays (Continued)
C) Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel of Dartmouth’s Class of 1925, wrote, “Think and wonder. Wonder and think.” As you wonder and think, what’s on your mind?
Last year’s prompt: what do you wonder and think about? This year’s prompt: as you wonder and think, what’s on your mind? It’s clear that Dartmouth is not only interested in what you’re thinking about but also your overall thought process. What questions are you asking? Why are you asking them? What conclusions have your questions led you to, and how do you feel about those conclusions? Is there anything that you like to know that you don’t have the answer to right now? What motivates, scares, or surprises you about your most pressing questions? The key here will be to take the reader on a little trip inside your brain (Magic School Bus not required).
D) Celebrate your nerdy side.
In just about every nineties movie, the nerds function as insanely smart social rejects with questionable outfit choices and pocket protectors, often banished to the worst lunch table. Luckily, times have changed, and being a nerd—especially at a school like Dartmouth—is downright aspirational. Moreover, the definition of a “nerd” is someone who is incredibly enthusiastic about a certain topic—especially if unique. Accordingly, if you’re interested in answering this question, make a list of any “specialties” that you are particularly dedicated to. Do you love the soundtracks of eighties movies? Science fiction short stories? Strategy games? Rubik’s cubes? Your backyard barometer? Comic book collections? Whatever topic you choose, make sure to truly lean in and celebrate it—what do you love about it, and why? How does it influence you?
Dartmouth Supplemental Essays (Continued)
E) “It’s not easy being green…” was the frequent refrain of Kermit the Frog. How has difference been a part of your life, and how have you embraced it as part of your identity and outlook?
Do you feel that your lived experience is different from others in your peer group, family, or community, perhaps in regard to relationships, household income level, mental or physical challenges, neurodiversity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or cultural background, to name a few? If so, answering this prompt could be a good option. While crafting your response, the important thing to keep in mind is that the difference/challenge itself is less important than what it reveals about your character and perspective. What steps have you taken to cope with your chosen difference? How has it positively impacted you? How has it influenced your perspective and the way you engage with the world? Is there anything about your difference that you feel especially appreciative of? Make sure you share what you were feeling and experiencing; this piece should demonstrate openness and vulnerability.
F) As noted in the College’s mission statement, “Dartmouth educates the most promising students and prepares them for a lifetime of learning and of responsible leadership…” Promise and potential are important aspects of the assessment of any college application, but they can be elusive qualities to capture. Highlight your potential and promise for us; what would you like us to know about you?
One of the best ways to communicate promise and potential is to demonstrate a passion for learning and growing. This prompt is not about presenting a laundry list of accomplishments; instead, it’s about showing the admissions committee that you possess qualities that can be cultivated for a lifetime, regardless of major or career, such as dedication, curiosity, innovation, or creativity, to name a few. You can accomplish this goal by describing how you’ve grown in a particular area and/or how you wish to grow, while remembering that flaws and mistakes made along the way often demonstrate tremendous self-awareness.
How important are the Dartmouth Supplemental Essays?
The essays (both the Common App essay and the supplemental ones) are “very important” to the evaluation process. Seven other factors are “very important.” These factors are: rigor of coursework, class rank, GPA, recommendations, test scores, character/personal qualities, and extracurricular activities. Clearly, Dartmouth College places enormous value on the quality of your supplemental essay.
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