Dartmouth College Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

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Not sure how to approach the Dartmouth essay prompts? CollegeAdvisor.com’s guide to the Dartmouth application essays will show you exactly how to write engaging Dartmouth supplemental essays and maximize your chances of admission. 

If you need help crafting your Dartmouth supplemental essays, create your free account or schedule a no-cost advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.


Dartmouth Essay Guide Quick Facts:

  • Dartmouth has an acceptance rate of 9.0%—U.S. News ranks Dartmouth as a highly selective school.
  • You must answer both Dartmouth supplemental essays. The first Dartmouth essay essentially asks, “Why Dartmouth?” The second gives you a choice of six Dartmouth essay prompts!

Does Dartmouth have supplemental essays?

Yes. The Dartmouth essay prompts are available on the Common App, which all Dartmouth candidates must use to apply. After responding to the Common App’s main essay prompt, you’ll also need to write two additional Dartmouth application essays. The Dartmouth supplemental essays are also on the college’s website.

Need some help writing your Common App essay? Get great tips from our Common App essay guide.

How many supplemental essays does Dartmouth require?

There are two school-specific Dartmouth application essays on the 2021-2022 Common App. Both Dartmouth essay prompts are required, meaning you must complete both essays in order to apply. You should consider how your Dartmouth application essays will complement and enhance the other elements of your application.

How to write the Dartmouth essays:

The Dartmouth supplemental essays allow you to create a narrative around your identity as a student beyond your academic credentials. Take the time to understand the individual Dartmouth essay prompts. As you begin each Dartmouth essay, consider the following questions:

  • What does the prompt specifically ask me to include?
  • Do I include new information or building upon a point I’ve made elsewhere, or do I repeat information already included in another section of my application?
  • Does my response highlight my unique qualities?
  • Does my essay authentically reflect my experiences?

What does Dartmouth look for in essays?

Personality! Your Dartmouth application essays should not only reflect what you’ve done but should also capture who you are. In reading your Dartmouth essays, the admissions team wants to get a sense of you as a person: your qualities, your passions, and the way you move through and see the world. Your Dartmouth supplemental essays should help admissions officers understand what makes you you and imagine what you will bring to campus.

How do you respond to the Dartmouth supplements?

We have provided the prompts for the 2021-2022 Dartmouth supplemental essays below. You’ll find a breakdown of how to approach each of the Dartmouth essay prompts. We'll also discuss tips for writing Dartmouth essays that will help you stand out in admissions.

Dartmouth Supplemental Essays – Question 1 (Required)

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 2026, what aspects of the College’s program, community, or campus environment attract your interest? (100 words or less).

Although this question begins with an anecdote, the first of the Dartmouth essay prompts can be distilled into two words: “Why Dartmouth?”

This Dartmouth essay is your chance to highlight what specifically about Dartmouth stands out to you. As you prepare to answer this question, consider the three categories the prompt provides and do some research into each. A great place to begin is Dartmouth’s website. If you want to discuss academic programs, look into different areas of study. Or if you want to address community, look into different student groups & activities. If you want to write about the campus environment, look into various student resources. Successful Dartmouth application essays will include details specific to the school.

As you do your research, imagine you are a freshman on Dartmouth’s campus. How would you be excited to use your time, both in and out of the classroom? Are there specific faculty or opportunities you would seek out? What student groups or organizations would you explore?

This Dartmouth essay is limited to 100 words or less, so you’ll have to be concise. Even if everything about Dartmouth appeals to you, limit your response to 2-3 specific attributes you want to spotlight. Additionally, you will want to avoid writing general statements, like “I am excited to join a student group” or “I am interested in Economics.” Instead, get as specific as you can. Which student groups are you interested in joining? Are there specific courses or methods of thinking that interest you?

Finally, you’ll want to explain why you are excited to have these experiences. Don’t leave it up to Admissions to guess why you’ve chosen to include a specific group or organization. It is important you only highlight the things you are passionate about, whether it is connected to your academic interests, hobbies, or sense of self. For example, if you are passionate about the Dartmouth Outing Club, include a brief reason as to why having clubs dedicated to hiking, kayaking, skiing, or organic farming is important to you. Dartmouth application essays that address both the school's offerings and the applicant's relationship to these offerings will stand out to Admissions Officers.

Dartmouth Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Does your response answer the question “Why Dartmouth?”
  • Do you name the specific attributes that excite you?
  • Does your response reflect something you are passionate about?

Dartmouth Supplemental Essays – Question 2 (Required)

Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 250-300 words:
A. 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.
B. What excites you?
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?
D. Curiosity is a guiding element of Toni Morrison's talent as a writer. "I feel totally curious and alive and in control. And almost...magnificent, when I write," she says. Celebrate your curiosity.
E. "Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away," observed Frida Kahlo. Apply Kahlo's perspective to your own life.
F. 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?

Unlike the first prompt, the second of the Dartmouth application essays revolves around you. Not only do you get to choose which of the Dartmouth essay prompts to answer, but many of the Dartmouth supplemental essays are open-ended. This leaves you free to use the Dartmouth essay prompts to discuss anything in your life and experiences that resonate with you. As with the first essay prompt, your response is another opportunity to add to the story of who you are. What is important to you that haven’t you included in other parts of your application?

To help you get started, let’s break down each prompt and unpack what they ask.

A. 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.

This prompt is actually multiple prompts rolled into one. As you think about this Dartmouth essay, consider the different translations as lenses through which you might examine who you are. What is the story of your life through the traditions you or your family practices? Through tracing your family tree? Through the stories of your great-great relatives, or the cultural or religious figures you believe in?

Since you only have 250-300 words for these Dartmouth essay prompts, you'll want to be concise. You may choose to open your Dartmouth essay with an anecdote about your history, traditions, or culture. Then, get right into describing how the trait you choose reflects your identity.

Remember—the Dartmouth application essays are intended to help Admissions Officers get to know you. Don't get hung up on the semantics of a particular tradition or story. Instead, use your topic to help Dartmouth Admissions Officers understand more about who you are. In this case, the Dartmouth application essays that focus on the applicant's own identity will be the most successful.

B. What excites you?

This Dartmouth essay prompt is all about your passions. Is there a specific anecdote that embodies your passion? Or is there an origin or starting point you can trace your passion back to? Is there a personal reason you are passionate about a specific area of study?

Since this prompt is so open-ended, you can use it to give Dartmouth an honest glance into who you are and how you view the world. Above all, be honest! Authenticity is key when approaching the Dartmouth essay prompts.

Quickly explain what excites you, then delve into why it excites you. For instance, if you're interested in geology, don't spend your Dartmouth essay just talking about rocks; instead, quickly explain your interest, then move into a discussion about how your interest relates to your overall identity. Admissions officers should come away from this Dartmouth essay with a clearer image of who you are.

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?

This Dartmouth essay prompt is about creativity. What are you passionate about making? Why are you passionate about it? Where does your passion come from? What effect do you hope your creation has on others? On yourself? On the world?

As you approach this Dartmouth essay, begin by brainstorming different things you have either already created or want to create. Keep in mind that "creation" can mean a wide variety of things! Maybe you invented a device in your engineering club; maybe you put in place a new set of community guidelines to promote kindness and equity at your school. Any form of creation will be suitable for this Dartmouth essay!

You can answer this Dartmouth essay prompt in a variety of ways, choosing to discuss either something you've already made or something you hope to create. Either way, your response should foreground the relationship between creativity and your own life. Again, make sure your response talks about YOU and how you view the world!

This Dartmouth essay prompt can also be a great chance to supplement your candidate profile by showing particular ways you've engaged with your interests. For example, if you won a state-wide robotics competition but didn't discuss robotics in your other essays, the Dartmouth supplemental essays give you the chance to talk about the things you've made in more detail.

D. Curiosity is a guiding element of Toni Morrison's talent as a writer. "I feel totally curious and alive and in control. And almost...magnificent, when I write," she says. Celebrate your curiosity.

Like the other Dartmouth supplemental essays, this prompt allows for a lot of flexibility. In fact, it doesn't even pose a question—instead, it asks you to "celebrate your curiosity."

As you approach this Dartmouth essay prompt, think about what curiosity means to you. What are you curious about? Is there a specific story or anecdote that embodies your curiosity? What does your curiosity look like? Is it research? Reflection? How do you like to learn and feed your curiosity?

In responding to this prompt for the Dartmouth supplemental essays, consider how curiosity manifests in your own life. Maybe you taught yourself ASL to communicate with a Deaf classmate; maybe you took a road trip to the desert to study ecological phenomena. This Dartmouth essay prompt is the chance for you to celebrate who you are and convince Admissions Officers that you would be a great addition to their community.

E. "Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away," observed Frida Kahlo. Apply Kahlo's perspective to your own life.

This Dartmouth essay prompt asks you to consider how change manifests in your own life. There are many ways you could approach this prompt, whether you agree or disagree with Kahlo's perspective. In what ways has your life changed? How has your understanding of change and impermanence developed? When were you forced to change?

If answered appropriately, this Dartmouth essay question can help show Admissions Officers your intellectual maturity. After all, change is a huge part of life, and few changes are more momentous than the transition to college! In this instance, successful Dartmouth supplemental essays will use the theme of change to tell a story about how a student has developed and will continue to develop at Dartmouth.

As you answer this Dartmouth essay prompt, be careful about your choice of topic. Change can be a great thing, but it can also be a challenge. While you can certainly write about difficult topics in your Dartmouth supplemental essays, be careful not to veer into subjects that might negatively impact your application. As a general rule, Admissions Officers tend to struggle with essays about high school drama, mental illness, or severe trauma (though there are exceptions to every rule).

F. 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?

Finally, this prompt has to do with passion for change. What do you believe should be different in our world? What is your medium for change? Activism? Technology? Invention? What specific course(s) at Dartmouth will feed and grow this passion? Are there current members of the faculty or alumni involved in the kind of work you hope to be doing?

This Dartmouth essay prompt also hints at the "Why Dartmouth" question. With this in mind, the most successful Dartmouth supplemental essays will use Dartmouth as a means of expressing how a student hopes to change the world.

Above all, your answer to this Dartmouth essay question should be genuine. Additionally, you'll likely want to choose a "trouble" related to your overall candidate profile. For instance, if you're interested in electrical engineering, you may not want to write about solving world hunger. Be honest, be humble, and express what matters to you.

As you can see, there is a wide variety of Dartmouth supplemental essays. If you’re having trouble choosing one of the Dartmouth essay prompts, try setting a timer for five minutes and write out a bulleted list for each of the prompts that interest you. The longer the list, or the more detailed the bullets, the more likely it is you’ll have plenty to write about. If none of the Dartmouth supplemental essays immediately jump out at you, try one of our writing exercises to jumpstart your brainstorm. Then, see how you could connect it to one of the Dartmouth essay prompts.

Dartmouth Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Does your response reflect a unique experience or perspective?
  • Do you offer new and valuable information not found elsewhere in your application?
  • Does your response address the specific question asked in the selected prompt?

What kind of students does Dartmouth look for?

The Dartmouth essay prompts help Admissions to look for students that believe in building community and will embody their core values. They aim to admit students who are committed to academic excellence, integrity, collaboration, and respect. Dartmouth is dedicated to a diversity of opinions and looks for students from all backgrounds and financial means.

If you think Dartmouth is the right school for you, try to demonstrate their values throughout your application. The Dartmouth supplemental essays give you lots of opportunities to discuss your identity in a clear and authentic way. Take advantage of the Dartmouth essay prompts and show Admissions Officers that they want you at their school!

Dartmouth Supplemental Essays: Final Thoughts

The Dartmouth supplemental essays help the Admissions team learn more about who you are and why you belong at Dartmouth. Your Dartmouth essays give you space to express who you are and what matters to you on your own terms. Rather than viewing these essays as a challenging task to complete, view them as an opportunity to be honest about your experiences and let your personality shine through. This will help your Dartmouth application essays stand out!

Distilling everything important about yourself into the Dartmouth supplemental essays may seem intimidating, but remember that you are your own greatest asset. As you craft your Dartmouth essays, use this guide to help. Be sure to give yourself enough time to draft and revise each of your responses. Remember, you have complete control over how you answer the Dartmouth supplemental essays, including good spelling and punctuation. Good luck!


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This 2021-2022 essay guide on Dartmouth College was written by Stefanie Tedards, Northwestern ‘17. For more CollegeAdvisor.com resources on Dartmouth, click here. Want help crafting your Dartmouth supplemental essays? Create your free account or schedule a no-cost advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.

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