Seeing as Dartmouth’s writing supplement is required, we want you to be best equipped with all of the tips and tricks that you can gather to make your answers great. Read below for our advice on answering Dartmouth’s 2021 supplemental essays:

Dartmouth’s writing supplement requires that applicants write brief responses to two supplemental essay prompts as follows:

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 2026, what aspects of the College’s program, community, or campus environment attract your interest?

While Dartmouth understands that your aspirations and interests may change over four years, they still want to hear how the college will ultimately benefit you (and what you can bring to the college). Don’t shy away from lofty goals and outcomes, but also be specific in describing how you plan to get there and – most importantly – how Dartmouth will help. In short, why Dartmouth?

2. 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.

While thinking about this question, reflect upon yourself and decide which of these words has influenced your upbringing the most. Do you feel like you have a story to tell? Are you passionate about history? Do you get lost in legends of the past? Do you feel that your genealogy defines who you are? Is there a specific tradition in your family that has shaped who you are?

B. What excites you?

While this might seem simple, this is actually a big question. Here Dartmouth is hoping learn more about your passion and curiosity. The admissions officers will be able to tell if you’re pandering, so be as truthful as possible here. If you’re genuinely excited about something academic or school-related, great, but don’t force it if you find your true passions lie outside of the classroom.

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?

For more creative minds, this question might be for you. It’s very much open-ended, so be careful not to let your answer wander off in many different directions. Answers here could refer to an aspect of your own personal identity or upbringing.

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.  

This questions helps reveal a student’s intellectual vitality and affords you an opportunity to get deep into what makes your brain happy. Think about what you’re curious about, what makes you think twice. How do you hope to apply this to your time at Dartmouth?

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

Dartmouth wants to hear your philosophy on life here. Using a personal anecdote could be a good basis for this response, reflecting the change you see in your personal world, and how you handled that change. Is change something that you can adapt to? Does it make you stronger? Reflect on these questions as you respond.

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?

This is a big question, so let’s take it step-by-step. First, try and focus on a “trouble” or issue that connects with personal and/or academic interests that you’ve described throughout your application. Showing a clear connection between the two is important. Remember, with only 300 words at your disposal, Dartmouth does not expect a full-fledged breakdown and solution regarding issue at hand. Focus on the Dartmouth experience and what courses, organizations and/or opportunities might help bridge the gap between your interest in the problem and a solution. This will help reveal a high level of critical thinking.

About the author
Amanda San Román

Amanda earned a BA in rhetoric from Bates College, where she was a Senior Admissions Fellow, responsible for interviewing applicants and leading information sessions. She continues to conduct alumni interviews both in-person and virtually. Amanda manages communication and partnership efforts for AcceptU by facilitating webinars, events, email marketing and technology management.

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