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Essays

How do I impress Dartmouth with my essays?

Quick Tips

Make sure your essays illustrate your personality! Everything you say should help us understand those intangibles that can't be easily reflected in a resume. Show qualities like sense of humor, passion, intellectual curiosity, self-awareness, and social-awareness. Your writing lets us get to know you and we read every word. Help us envision what you'll bring to Dartmouth.

The Common Application Essay

The Common Application is a site used by hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States, as well as many in other countries. Candidates choose one topic and respond. (250-word minimum, 650-word maximum.)

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

The Dartmouth Writing Supplement

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

1. Please respond in 100 words or less:

Oh, The Places You’ll Go is one of the most popular books by “Dr. Seuss,” Dartmouth Class of 1925.  Where do you hope to go?  What aspects of Dartmouth’s curriculum or community might help you get there?

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

A. Shonda Rhimes, Dartmouth ’91, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, recently documented her Year of Yes; for one year she vowed to say YES to everything that scared her. Share a moment when you stepped out of your comfort zone, and describe how it helped you grow into who you are today.

B. Celebrate an example of excellent teaching and how it illuminated the subject you were studying. Why did it resonate with you and excite your intellectual curiosity?

C. In the wake of World War II, Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey proclaimed, “The world’s troubles are your troubles…and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.” If you could tackle any of the world’s “troubles,” which one captures your imagination and inspires you to act?  What would you invent or devise to mitigate it and how might your coursework at Dartmouth inform your ambitions?

D. “It’s not easy being green” was a frequent lament of Kermit the Frog. Discuss.

E. “Three things in human life are important,” said the novelist Henry James. “The first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Share a moment when kindness guided your actions.

F. “Won’t you be my neighbor?” was the signature catchphrase of Fred Rogers, the creator and host of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. What kind of neighbor will you be in our undergraduate community at Dartmouth? What impact have you had on the neighbors in your life?

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