How To Write the Dickinson College Supplement

Dickinson College is a liberal arts school of about 2,400 students in Carlisle, PA. The campus itself encourages students to take a seat and observe the world around them—there are literally red Adirondack chairs scattered all around campus for students to take advantage of and do work in, sit with friends, or meditate. Students live on campus all four years and swear by their mascots: a red and a green devil. The green devil is regarded as the red devil’s environmentally conscious cousin. We break down this college’s supplement below:

  1. While the writing supplement is optional for admission consideration, it is required for merit scholarship. Early Decision candidates are strongly encouraged to complete the writing supplement. Please indicate whether you intend to complete a writing supplement. If you will not be completing the writing question, please select No here and submit this form as-is.

    If you elect to submit the writing supplement, please write as much or as little as you feel is necessary to fully answer the question. There is no recommended minimum or maximum word count (the technical limit of 800 words is simply meant to provide more than enough space)

    The writing supplement essay question: Why have you chosen to apply to Dickinson?        

Let’s start with the most important thing about this supplement: there’s no such thing as optional when it comes to supplements. This is not optional. You need to complete it if you have any interest in being admitted to Dickinson. Of course, they admit students every year who don’t answer this question, but why give up this opportunity? You’re given the chance here to tell Dickinson the reason to accept you and why you’d be a great fit at the school. In the case that don’t know why you’re applying and you’re just doing it because you need another school on your list, then don’t apply. Reevaluate instead. Every school on your list should be there for a reason.

Now that we’re past that, onto the actual question. It’s essentially a “Why X School?” question about Dickinson, so it requires some research on your end. Though they give you 800 words of space to explore the topic, we’d recommend sticking to around 500 words and not much more. Any essay that is more than 500 words begins to tire, in our opinion. Less is more. Restraint is a powerful tool, and editing is the issue that many writers struggle with the most. Tulane’s supplement has an 800-word limit, so you can check out what we had to say about that if you’d like.

Diving into the “Why Dickinson?” content—start researching. One part should cover why you want to study what you want to study at Dickinson, and the other part should explain why you want to spend four years at Dickinson. Your academic portion should begin by introducing what you want to study, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to the admissions reader either. Your intended field of study should fall in line with the rest of your application and not come out of left field. Your application is being reviewed holistically, and all of its parts should sing in unison. While we understand that you’re a complex person with many interests, it’s important to keep in mind that Dickinson won’t tie you to this major forever. So choose something.

If you’ve been a huge English and History person throughout all of high school, acing all of the Literature and History APs, writing and performing slam poetry, and running writing workshops for children in your community, then it wouldn’t make that much sense if you wrote about how you wanted to be a Computer Science major. Not that you can’t be a computer science major once you get to Dickinson. Just for the sake of a logical and cohesive application. If you don’t know what you want to major in, that’s completely fine. Considering your academic and extracurricular interests, choose a topic that makes sense and that you don’t hate to write about here. Again, you don’t have to major in the topic that you write about in your application. It’s less about the major, really, and more just a mechanism that Dickinson can use to understand how you think and write about a topic.

Once you’ve chosen a major, do some research on classes and professors in the department and adjacent departments. Note ones that pique your interest and incorporate those into your answer. This should show that you have engaged in a meaningful way with the information that Dickinson has on its academics and that you are genuinely excited to delve in.

Then, do some research on Dickinson’s culture, both on and off campus. Continue making notes on your list about things that interest you and discuss them. While the academic portion is certainly important, this portion is also crucial because it’s your chance to paint a picture for your admissions reader of what Dickinson would look like with you on its campus. If you did debate in college, explore the college’s history of public debates and exhibitions. Have an affinity for travel and a unique story to tell about it? There’s a global street sign on Dickinson’s campus to explore that. Dig deeper here than the first few pages of the Dickinson website and really attempt to understand what it means to go to Dickinson. We’d definitely suggest visiting this school to figure out if it’s a good fit.

As we said, we’d keep it shorter than the 800-word limit because if you write 800 words on this topic, it starts to ramble a bit. The goal is to keep the admissions reader engaged and excited. They should be able to put down your application and truly see you contributing positively to the Dickinson community both in and out of the classroom. Just like your personal statement, this response should read like a story, and not just a list of items that you found cool. Tie it all together in a compelling way.

If you need any help, please feel free to reach out. We’d love to help you ace this application.