How to Ace the Dartmouth Supplement Essay Prompts 2018-19

Posted 3 months ago

Dartmouth College just released their supplementary essay prompts!

If you're feeling overwhelmed, never fear: here's a guide to how to think about and write your very best essays to get you in.

Dartmouth essay prompts

Dartmouth supplement essay prompt 1:

While arguing a Dartmouth-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1818, Daniel Webster, Class of 1801, uttered 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 2023, what aspects of the College's program, community, or campus environment attract your interest? (100 words or fewer)

Dartmouth supplement essay prompt 2:

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

  1. "I have no special talent," Albert Einstein once observed. "I am only passionately curious." Celebrate your curiosity.
  2. 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.
  3. "You can't use up creativity," Maya Angelou mused. "The more you use, the more you have." Share a creative moment or impulse—in any form—that inspired creativity in your life.
  4. 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?
  5. In The Bingo Palace, author Louise Erdrich, Class of 1976, writes, "…no one gets wise enough to really understand the heart of another, though it is the task of our life to try." Discuss.
  6. Emmy and Grammy winner Donald Glover is a 21st century Renaissance man—an actor, comedian, writer, director, producer, singer, songwriter, rapper, and DJ. And yet the versatile storyteller and performer recently told an interviewer, "The thing I imagine myself being in the future doesn't exist yet." Can you relate?

Dartmouth supplement essay tips

Prompt 1: ‘why Dartmouth?’ essay

As you might expect, Dartmouth's first prompt asks you, plain and simple, why you want to attend. What's unusual, however, is how few words you have to do it—only 100! Right off the bat, this tells you that you should stay away from the Intro-Body-Conclusion paragraph format you might be used to. There's just no room. You'd also benefit from a few rounds of editing to weed out superfluous words. Every word, every sentiment counts. So read your essay drafts out loud, and see if you can distill the essence of it into a few memorable sentences.

Now let's look at the prompt itself. Because it's so short, it will be tempting to immediately list all the parts of Dartmouth that appeal to you—maybe it's the liberal arts philosophy they proudly promote (the subject of that Webster quote) or the unique Dartmouth Plan for undergraduate study. Whatever it is, stay specific. This is the time to do your research and truly think about what course you imagine your undergraduate years taking—what have you prepared for in high school, and what is truly your passion? Admissions officers have read thousands of essays. Don't write one where you could mistake Dartmouth for any other university! If you're not invested, it will show in your vocabulary, the tone of your prose, and the flow of your sentences.

Don't go straight for the purple prose, though. Honesty is critical, so if Dartmouth's rural-ish location or beautiful forest setting is a genuine trait you love, then absolutely include it! Essay readers want to see the person behind the numbers. Will you be that student skateboarding down the sidewalk on your way to the Hopkins Center? Or might you be someone laughing at dinner with new friends from your Stats class? Do that imagining work for them, in your own words.

There's little else to say about this prompt—and to be honest, you have so little room that it can't encompass all you know, or love, about Dartmouth. Admissions Officers know this. It is far more about how well you express yourself—through humor, or sincerity, or persuasion—than showing off your knowledge.

Prompt 2: choose your own adventure essay

This is quite a variety of prompts! Let's begin with some general advice that you should keep in mind, then work through each of the prompts briefly.

Pay attention, once again, to the length. 250-300 is barely more to work with, so it's still a good idea to avoid traditional paragraphs. Thematically, though, all these prompts are asking for the same: they want you to step away from "college talk" and move into your own imagination.

The pull of emotion is evident in what Dartmouth is looking for, asking you to talk about inspiring personal experiences, self-introspection, or world events. So this probably isn't the place to bring up the more delicate points of that World History lecture (Prompts 2, 4, or perhaps 6) but consider, instead, what you've explored in your life contributes to the person you are today. These prompts are designed to be incredibly flexible. You won't be able to write the next Great American Novel here, so worry less about not being able to say everything and more on your prose. And of course, proofread.

Now, let's move on to these fun new prompts!

Einstein essay prompt:

What a great quote! If you've had a personal passion in life, like a hobby or course of study, this might be perfect. A quirkier option might be to consider the surprises that have occurred in your life, and how your curiosity guided you through. If you've explored parts of your life that seemed daunting or new to you, you'll do well on this prompt.

Mo'olelo essay prompt:

This feels like a solemn but hopeful sentiment, and you should reflect that feeling in your own personal story. What is important to know about you, and where you come from? Family bonds feel like a natural fit here, but be creative in exploring what traditions bind you together. This is a great prompt to pick if you have a penchant for introspective writing. This prompt is likely not the best if you'd like to be funny.

Maya Angelou essay prompt:

Another great quote—and one that invites you to dig deep! Like the first prompt on curiosity, creativity comes in all shapes and sizes that you need to discover for yourself. Pay attention to the word "moment or impulse" here. While you might tell the story of a long, creative path you've taken, make sure to highlight a spark in that path.

John Dickey essay prompt:

This "current events" prompt should definitely appeal to those interested in social justice, history, and politics. A word of caution—while you should not censor yourself to blandness, know that expressing controversial opinions might have an effect depending on who reads it. Above all, remain cordial and respectful in your writing. Offensive language or insults will undoubtedly hurt your chances of admission.

Louise Erdrich essay prompt:

This lovely quote might make you want to examine an important relationship in greater detail. Family, friend, loved one, stranger—none of these are off the table. Conflict between people is a tried-and-true source of great insight into all parties involved. "Heart" and "try" are also intriguing words for interpretation that you could play with here.

Donald Glover essay prompt:

Some of you might pick this prompt simply because it's so cool! Of all of these prompts, this one would appeal most to someone with a healthy imagination. Maybe you want to talk about new advancements in the future that you'll contribute to. Perhaps you relate to the simple feeling of uncertainty in your own path. Whatever you choose, you can't really go wrong.

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