written by
Iris Fu

Dartmouth College Essay Guide 2020-2021

Essay Guides 7 min read
Photo courtesy of Dartmouth College

In this Dartmouth College Essay Guide, we will cover how to approach the 2020-2021 Dartmouth College supplementary essays. 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.

Dartmouth College, a small but mighty Ivy League, is located in Hanover, New Hampshire. It is known for its influential alumni, such as Dr. Seuss, as well as its D-Plan, where students get to choose which three quarters of the year they plan to attend. This allows for “springternships” or traveling abroad during the fall or wintertime!

Knowing that Dartmouth College has an acceptance rate of just 7.9%, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed or stressed about your application. Don’t fret! This essay guide will provide some helpful insight and ideas for approaching your supplemental essays. Here at Bullseye, we want to help you present the best version of yourself in every aspect of your college application, and it starts right here with the essays.

Dartmouth College’s Class of 2025 essay prompts include two required supplemental essays: One 100 word essay and one 250-300 word essay. Only one prompt option is given for the 100-word essay, but you can choose from six essay prompts for your 250-word essay.

Writing supplement prompts included in Dartmouth College's application for admission to the Class of 2025:

Dartmouth College'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 2025, what aspects of the College's program, community, or campus environment attract your interest?

Ah, this is the classic “why school?” essay, adapted to Dartmouth College’s history and culture. The first few sentences of the prompt is purely for setup, but the real question you’re responding to is “what aspects of the College's program, community, or campus environment attract your interest?”

Therefore, in just a short 100-word essay, you must address aspects of the school’s programs, community, or environment that you feel would be a good fit for you. This means that you’ll need to do some research into Dartmouth College’s offerings!

I personally started with a fresh Google Doc, and sectioned it off by the various interests I had. They included study abroad, Chinese language and culture, economics, and music. Then, I went on dartmouth.edu to look up the various opportunities Dartmouth College offered in these respects. Under each section, I made bullets to include specific examples (e.g. “ Chinese Language House”, “Social Impact Practicums”, and “D-Plan”) of the programs offered that fit my interests.

In essence, step number one is to do research. After you have a solid doc running and feel good about your understanding of Dartmouth College’s offerings, you can move on to writing.

To begin, I picked the 3-5 most attractive programs I wanted to highlight in this quick essay. I knew I only had a few sentences to offer (in fact, I ended up with 100 words exactly, which came down to just four sentences). With each sentence, I highlighted a different idea. You can take an alternative approach by making your entire essay focused on one idea and Dartmouth College’s offerings under that big umbrella, but since my interests were so spread out, I decided to talk about four ideas.

One of those ideas was my international interest and how Dartmouth College could fulfill that need. To express that, I wrote this sentence: “I also hope to join one of Dartmouth’s many Living Learning Communities, particularly Chinese Language House — to advance my Mandarin skills — or Global Village — to debate international issues from daybreak to dusk.” Notice the many concrete examples in this sentence. They show that I’ve done my research.

As you can see, the key is to be brief, do your research, and to connect Dartmouth College’s offerings to your personal interests.

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

Since the scope of the following prompts vary so much, I’d recommend that you start by picking the topic you want to spend 250-300 words on, then fit that under the prompt that it would best fit under.

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 essentially guides you to write about your personal background. Are there any cultural traditions, family values, or personal experiences that have shaped who you are? This could be a great extension of your common app essay, or cover a completely different topic on your personal background. The key is to show a unique aspect of yourself that would bring diversity to Dartmouth College’s campus.

B. What excites you?

This essay could literally be about anything. It could be about an intellectual curiosity, a hobby, or your favorite extracurricular activity. What matters is that you show your excitement, not tell. In fact, try to avoid using the term “excited” at all.

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 prompt is a new addition to the Dartmouth College Class of 2025. Again, there’s a long setup, but the question here is just, “What drives you to create and what do you hope to make or have you already made?”.

This essay could be a perfect fit for any entrepreneurial student who would like to show off their initiatives from the past or planned for the future. When talking about any initiative that you’ve led, make sure you highlight the stuff that can’t be found easily on your resume, such as your motivation behind an activity, the personal growth you’ve experienced through an activity, and how you have personally felt helping others through your initiative.

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 essay is for celebrating your curiosity. I personally chose to write on this topic, because it was a great opportunity to adapt my Stanford intellectual curiosity essay. The best advice I have for writing about anything intellectual is to avoid using big words just because they’re big. This can make your writing come off as academic, dry, and even worse, pretentious. If you can relate your curiosity to an everyday moment, that will not only show how you’re intellectually curious in the in the mundane moments of life, but also display that you’re a fun, down-to-earth individual to be around.

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

This essay prompt is also new to the Class of 2025. I think this is perfectly suitable for the COVID-19 pandemic, where things are ever changing and unpredictable. Perhaps you can elaborate on how you’ve adapted to COVID, and the mindset you’ve had through this time that ultimately pushed you to take advantage of the opportunities that did arise.

You can also talk about any other time that you’ve undergone a change or a loss - again, discuss what happened, how you adapted, and what you learned from this experience.

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 great prompt to elaborate on any social justice or community issues that you’re passionate about. If you’ve led a social justice extracurricular, you can spend the first half of the essay describing what you’ve done and how your involvements impacted both your community and your personal development. Then, you can spend the second half of the essay describing how the opportunities at Dartmouth College — including classes, programs, and communities — would help you continue to act on this issue.


This Dartmouth College essay guide was written by Iris Fu, Stanford ‘24. If you want to get help writing your Dartmouth application essays from Iris or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today. You can also check out Iris’s College Admissions Youtube Channel.

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