Considering 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 2023 supplemental essays:

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

1. Required of all applicants. Please respond in 100 words or fewer:

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? 

Dartmouth understands that your aspirations and interests may change over four years, but 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. 

2. Required of all applicants. Please respond to one of the following prompts 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.

There are several ways to answer this question: nuclear family, extended family, community, culture, religion/church, school, and really anything else. The important part is to make sure it has meaning. Get personal! That’s what they’re asking, after all. They’re looking for values, experiences, even failures and things you learned not to do. The environment itself doesn’t have to be unique – but the person you have become is unique. So, less time describing the environment and more time on you.

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

Reflect upon who you are and what you want Dartmouth admissions officers to know about you. Do you have a story to tell? What was your upbringing like? Perhaps you want to talk about your family unit, or relay a story that exemplifies your character or a challenge you’ve faced (and then overcome). Or maybe there is a specific tradition in your family that has shaped who you are, or a specific experience interacting with your peers, or a mentor, or perhaps customers at the shop where you work. 

Everyone is unique. Let Dartmouth know more about you!

3. Required of all applicants. Please respond to one of the following prompts in 250 words or fewer:

A. What excites you?

This is a big question. Here Dartmouth is hoping to 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.

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 already making—an impact? Why? How?

If you have made an impact on others while in high school, describe that impact. What did you do? How did you help others? What did you learn about yourself in the process? What did others gain from your contributions? 

Your “impact” doesn’t need to be grand! It can be small and simple – like babysitting, or teaching a younger sibling math, or cleaning up a town park, for example. For this essay question, it’s important to extrapolate from your past experiences and think bigger: How will you make a difference in the world when you graduate from Dartmouth? Consider the impact you hope to make in your chosen future career. Maybe you will become an entrepreneur or a community leader or you’ll go into politics. Or maybe you will invent something, or become a teacher, documentary filmmaker, physician, judge or journalist. Whatever your potential profession, you’ll certainly have the opportunity to make a positive impact on others’ lives.

Even if you don’t know exactly what you will do someday, that’s okay – provide the admissions committee with some insight into where you possibly see yourself someday.

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?

This question helps reveal a student’s intellectual vitality and affords you an opportunity to go deep into what makes your brain happy. What are you curious about? What makes you think twice? When you dream about your future (or about the world around you), what do you envision? How do you hope to apply this to your time at Dartmouth?

D. Celebrate your nerdy side.

This question helps reveal a student’s intellectual vitality and affords you an opportunity to go 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. “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?

The inclusion of the word “difference” in this prompt makes it tempting to write about how amazing you are in comparison to everyone else and attempt to blow the reader away with how incredible you are. Resist that temptation. You are amazing and incredible, but that isn’t what they are asking. They want to know those times you’ve strayed from the crowd: the experiences, qualities and aspects of life that are different from those of your peers. This can include the environment in which you were raised or family background, for example. But don’t be afraid to write about something that might not sound “impressive.” If you’re the square peg in the round hole at home, school or your environment in general, write about that. The reader wants to know about you as an individual, and, more specifically, the experiences that have brought you to this point. Positive influences, negative examples and challenges overcome are all fair game here.

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?

There are a few ways to answer this one. It is a rare opportunity to brag about your accomplishments and how impressive it is that you’ve become class president, founded a new club, and so on. And it’s understood that you’ll continue that type of leadership and continue to grow at Dartmouth. 

Or, you can use this opportunity to write about your potential. Maybe you’re a late bloomer who has recently figured out how to succeed academically or who has finally broken out of their shell. You might be the student who has always frustrated teachers because you were capable of more but just “coasted.” These aren’t necessary positive things, but it is an opportunity to explain any blemishes on your transcript, what you’ve learned, and how you’re going to live up to your potential when you get to college. 

Finally, your answer can also show some humor and quirkiness. However you decide to answer this essay, you’ll want to share your authentic self with the college.

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.

Join an upcoming webinar
Download a resource guide