How to Write the Dartmouth College Supplement 2019-2020

Dartmouth College is a private liberal arts school and is a member of the prestigious Ivy League. It is in Hanover, New Hampshire, and there is a focus on providing an education that is in sync with the mountainous landscape. All of the programs at Dartmouth have this self-awareness. It grounds their offerings in the daily realities of being based in an area that, for many, is quite unruly and wild. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the school motto is Vox clamantis in deserto, or “a voice crying out in the wilderness.”

Dartmouth is a medium-sized school with 4,400 undergraduate students. The acceptance rate is 8.7%.  

The first supplement is very short and has a limit of 100 words.

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 2024, what aspects of the College’s program, community or campus environment attract your interest?

This is a weird way of asking, “why do you want to go here?” With only 100 words, you must be specific. While brainstorming, remember that you are applying to a college. You’re going there for an education. With that in mind, it’s best to state what you intend on majoring in and a professor you’d like to work with. After that, you should mention an academic or academic-adjacent program — one that uses academic skills but is outside of a department. If you have space, end with a mention of the community. It’s a unique school in a unique place, but better to talk about the community than the number of trees. (For the purpose of illustration, this paragraph, excluding the parenthetical, is 100 words)  

The second prompt allows you a bit more room to breathe.

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

Six options can be overwhelming, so the first step is to narrow them down. Read through all six and immediately cut three. Now that you only have three to pick from brainstorm what your answer to each one would be. While doing this, you may notice that the question that is right for you isn’t the one you found most alluring off the bat. Remember to keep your options open.  

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. 

We love this question. Talking about tradition is a fantastic excuse to take the reader into your kitchen. Once in your kitchen, you can share a story with them that is imbued with flavor. We’ve had students write about traditions that their great grandparents carried to the United States dozens of years ago, but that have been kept alive over generations. These stories can be very evocative because of the purposefulness and commitment that it takes to keep traditions alive.

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 can be a tricky question because your impulse may be to act big and to look globally. We believe in thinking globally but acting locally. Take an issue that you are passionate about and focus it in on your local community. How is climate change impacting your hometown? For example, shifts in climate have allowed invasive species to proliferate, as well as other ‘pest’ species. In New England, ticks have spread further and taken greater hold as winters have become milder. That has caused an increase in Lyme disease, which can cause neurological damage in people of all ages, putting more significant stress on medical infrastructure. If you live in an area that is struggling with ticks and are interested in environmental studies, medicine, or anthropology, you can write about these links. Draw clear lines between whatever you focus on and what you intend to major in by specifying a professor you’d like to work with and a class or two that you’d like to take. Close up by circling back to the issue.

In The Painted Drum, author Louise Erdrich ‘76 wrote, “… what is beautiful that I make? What is elegant? What feeds the world?” Tell us about something beautiful you have made or hope to make.

This is a fantastic question because there are so many opportunities to take it somewhere unexpected. If you are an artist, we do not recommend answering this prompt. Why? Because it’s expected. If you are a computer programmer, a math fanatic, a debater, or aspiring engineer and you’ve ever built something, or are working on building something, this is the prompt for you. This prompt is a unique opportunity to talk about things that are often seen as sterile and separated from emotion in a way that is poetic and emotive.

 “Yes, books are dangerous,” young people’s novelist Pete Hautman proclaimed. “They should be dangerous—they contain ideas.” What book or story captured your imagination through the ideas it revealed to you? Share how those ideas influenced you.

If you do not read outside of school, skip this prompt. You may also want to consider that Dartmouth may not be the school for you. The reason you have to read outside of school is that you absolutely cannot answer this with something you were assigned in school. This isn’t because we don’t think assigned books can capture your imagination, they can. The problem is that high school students across America read practically the same list of books. This list is about 30 books long. Imagine reading thousands of essays about the same 30 books. It sounds very boring. Don’t be boring. If you love reading outside of school and as soon as you saw this prompt, a book popped into your head that none of your friends have read — this could be the right prompt for you. If so, you may want to try writing your response in the same style as the book or story you are writing about.  

“I have no special talent,” Albert Einstein once observed. “I am only passionately curious.” Celebrate your curiosity.

We absolutely adore this prompt. Everyone is curious about something and the weirder and more niche it is the better. Don’t write about something you do in school. Don’t write about something that is ‘conventional.’ Don’t write about an activity you only do because your parents signed you up. If you choose this prompt, you need to go all-in on it. You cannot apologize for who you are or what you are passionate about. You need to embrace the strangeness and the niche-ness. You need to let yourself be 100% authentic. You need to be yourself.  

Labor leader Dolores Huerta is a civil rights activist who co-founded the organization now known as United Farm Workers. She said, “We criticize and separate ourselves from the process. We've got to jump right in there with both feet.” Speak your truth: Talk about a time when your passion became action.

This is a great prompt if you have taken real action. It doesn’t need to be big action. The number of people your action impacted does not need to be gigantic. However, it does need to be something, and it needs to matter to you. We don’t love writing about volunteering, but this is somewhere where writing about volunteering can work if you have been involved with the same organization for over a year, and it is local. This is not a place to write about service trips. In our experience, there is no good place to write about service trips. Instead, look small, look local, and look inside of yourself to reveal that inspiration behind the passion behind the action.


Are you interested in writing applications that pop? Send us an email. We specialize in helping students craft applications that are creative, unique, and acceptance-winning.