written by
Zoë Edington

Dartmouth College Essay Guide 2019-2020

Essay Guides 4 min read
Dartmouth College campus

Located in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College is a private Ivy League research university. Dartmouth College is home to 4,200 undergraduate students and approximately 2,000 post-graduates.

Dartmouth, also known as the “Big Green” is highly competitive with an acceptance rate of 7.9% for the Class of 2023. Dartmouth was ranked #12 by the 2019 US News university ranking and consistently scores amongst top schools.

The academic experience at Dartmouth is distinguished by its quarter system and liberal arts curriculum. Dartmouth offers 57 majors in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering, and students are encouraged to design specialized concentrations utilizing diverse academic opportunities. The university is also home to the Rockefeller Institute for Public Policy and often hosts presidential candidates before the New Hampshire primary.

While Dartmouth does not offer merit or athletic scholarships, more than half of the students receive need-based financial assistance and the school disburses $100 million in need-based financial aid each year.

As the smallest of the Ivies, Dartmouth offers a distinct focus on the undergraduate experience. Its rural location places an emphasis on the outdoors and its rich history allows for enduring campus traditions. Dartmouth College requires the Common Application, the Dartmouth Writing Supplement, and a Peer Recommendation strongly recommended by the school. Throughout this essay guide, I give tips on how to respond to the prompts in a thoughtful, genuine manner that both answers the questions and allows for your own creativity to show. For more guidance on personal essays and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

*For the 2020-2021 Dartmouth College Essay Guide, click here.

The Dartmouth College Writing Supplement:

Prompt 1. Please respond in 100 words or fewer: While arguing a Dartmouth-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1818, Daniel Webster, Class of 1801, delivered this memorable line: “It is, Sir...a small college. And yet, there are those who love it!” As you seek admission to the Class of 2024, what aspects of the College’s program, community or campus environment attract your interest?

Prompt 1 is essentially a “Why Dartmouth” question with a very limited word count. There are keys to success in answering this question. First, brevity and tight sentence structure. With so few words, you have to say a lot succinctly. Second, do your research. For example, Dartmouth has several unique traditions. It has one of the highest percentages of students who study abroad and its quarter system allows for unique internships and experiences. Find the aspect of the Dartmouth experience that resonates with you and go into detail. Finally, tie those elements to your story. For example, if you’re interested in working abroad share how Dartmouth’s depth of programs allows for unique experiences or how the quarter system could allow you to stay abroad for an internship following your study.

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

  1. The Hawaiian word mo’olelo is often translated as “story” but it can also refer to history, legend, genealogy, and tradition. Use one of these translations to introduce yourself.
  2. In the aftermath of World War II, Dartmouth President John Sloane Dickey, Class of 1929, proclaimed, “The world’s troubles are your troubles...and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.” Which of the world’s “troubles” inspires you to act? How might your course of study at Dartmouth prepare you to address it?
  3. In The Painted Drum, author Louise Erdrich ‘76 wrote, “... what is beautiful that I make? What is elegant? What feeds the world?” Tell us about something beautiful you have made or hope to make.
  4. “Yes, books are dangerous,” young people’s novelist Pete Hautman proclaimed. “They should be dangerous—they contain ideas.” What book or story captured your imagination through the ideas it revealed to you? Share how those ideas influenced you.
  5. “I have no special talent,” Albert Einstein once observed. “I am only passionately curious.” Celebrate your curiosity.
  6. Labor leader Dolores Huerta is a civil rights activist who co-founded the organization now known as United Farm Workers. She said, “We criticize and separate ourselves from the process. We've got to jump right in there with both feet.” Speak your truth: Talk about a time when your passion became action.

The key to these short answers is to write concisely, amplify parts of your application, and answer the question in a way that avoids sounding cliche. Each of these short answers provides an opportunity to share more about your interests or experiences. Thinking carefully about which one best adds to your application and helps present the best version of yourself will help you write your best response. Before deciding which one you will answer, reflect back on your entire application and consider an activity or experience that is not fully represented. Then ask yourself, do any of the questions provide an opportunity to highlight that interest or passion?

Once you’ve selected your prompt, writing, re-reading and editing are key actions to developing a concise response that is digestible for your reader.


This essay guide was written by Faith Lyons, University of Virginia Class of 2016. If you want to get help writing your application essays from Faith or other CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts, register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.

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