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Crafting a Winning Why Dartmouth Essay: Tips and Tricks

Monday, June 26, 2023

One of the most stressful parts of the admissions process for many students is writing the college essay. After all, the essay carries so much weight because it provides more insight into who you are, how you think, and whether you’re a good fit for the school. Because the essay is so stressful, many students put it off until the last minute. However, the trick to writing a winning essay is to prepare in advance.  

Knowing what to expect can help you feel more confident about how to respond to the essay prompts. If you’re interested in attending Dartmouth, you will be expected to write the “Why Dartmouth?” essay. Read on for some tips and tricks to write a winning essay that will get the attention of the admissions committee.   

What Is So Unique About Dartmouth College? 

Unlike other Ivy League institutions, Dartmouth focuses on undergraduate studies. Rather than semesters, Dartmouth operates on a quarterly system known as the “D-Plan.” This allows students the flexibility to schedule when to attend classes and when to take breaks to pursue research and professional interests. This really personalizes the college experience for many students, since they can take a term off to pursue an internship or study abroad.  

Additionally, more than half of the student body is involved in Greek life, which includes 10 sororities, 14 fraternities, and three gender-inclusive chapters. Dartmouth’s rural location in Hanover, New Hampshire, encourages students to be outdoorsy, which is reflected in the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) and other extracurricular programs that offer outdoor adventure classes and excursions. Students also have access to Dartmouth’s own ski area, Skiway, just a short distance from campus.    

What Are the Best Reasons to Attend Dartmouth College? 

Many students at Dartmouth like the small class sizes that allow them to easily connect with their peers and professors, combined with the resources found at large research universities. Additionally, Dartmouth meets 100% of every admitted student’s demonstrated need including international students  without student loans.  

Learn how to get into Dartmouth and prepare for the Dartmouth interview. 

Does Dartmouth Have Supplemental Essays? 

Dartmouth requires applicants to respond to three supplemental essay prompts, the first of which is the Why Dartmouth?” essay. The prompts may change annually, but these prompts from the Class of 2027 admissions cycle can give you some idea of what to expect: 

Essay Prompt #1 

Dartmouth celebrates the ways in which its profound sense of place informs its profound sense of purpose. As you seek admission to Dartmouth’s Class of 2027, what aspects of the College’s academic program, community, or campus environment attract your interest? In short, Why Dartmouth? Please respond in 100 words or fewer.

Essay Prompt #2 

“Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde advised. “Everyone else is taken.” Introduce yourself in 200-250 words.

Essay Prompt #3 

Please choose one of the following prompts and respond in 200-250 words: 

  1. Labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta recommended a life of purpose. “We must use our lives to make the world a better place to live, not just to acquire things,” she said. “That is what we are put on the earth for.” In what ways do you hope to make—or are you making—an impact? 
  2. What excites you? 
  3. In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba ’14 reflects on constructing a windmill from recycled materials to power 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 made? 
  4. Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel of Dartmouth’s Class of 1925, wrote, “Think and wonder. Wonder and think.” What do you wonder and think about? 
  5. “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced,” wrote James Baldwin. How does this quote apply to your life experiences? 

How Many Essays Does Dartmouth Require? 

Students applying to Dartmouth should be prepared to write four essays. First, you will complete a personal essay in the Common Application. You will have several topics to choose from, so select the one that resonates with you the most. Dartmouth requires you to complete the three supplemental essays mentioned above.  

Dartmouth Essay Requirements 

These essays help the admissions committee understand the aspects of you that aren’t reflected elsewhere in your application. They want you to be yourself. Use the essay prompts to demonstrate your intellectual curiosity, sense of humor, and passion how you think and feel. This is not an easy task for responses no longer than 250 words, but the goal is to allow the admissions officers to envision how you’ll fit in at Dartmouth.  

“Why Dartmouth?” Essay Examples 

To help you brainstorm how to answer the Why Dartmouth?” essay, we are sharing two examples from IvyWise students who applied to Dartmouth’s Class of 2027. We also explain why these essays worked.     

Why Dartmouth Essay Example #1 

After a final night at Skiway Lodge, I sing the alma mater with H-Croo members at The Dartmouth Green. Learning about purity’s association with heaven during the Late Antiquity under Professor MacEvitt leads me to dress as Rekha from Umrao Jaan whilst having my 4 p.m. tea at Sanborn Library. With the Leslie Centre research fellowship, I’ll create a documentary on ‘the Curse of 39’—the belief in Afghanistan that the number is linked to prostitution. I aspire to earn my way into the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program and spend the weekend in Montreal with a community eager to change the world. 

Why This Essay Worked 

Remember, the essay prompt asks you to address an aspect of an academic program, community, or campus environment that interests you. This essay worked because the student provided these details. The student’s essay references specific student organizations and programs at Dartmouth, Sanborn Library, and Dartmouth’s ski area. The answer not only addresses the community and campus environment aspects of the prompt, but the specificity also makes it so that the response is not generic and cannot be applied to just any school. The student addresses Dartmouth’s academic programs by mentioning a particular professor they want to work with, topics of study they are interested in, and the academic goals they hope to achieve.  

Why Dartmouth Essay Example #2 

Sailing a Laser across quiet Mascoma Lake. A stroll through the Green to contemplate a math proof or policy debate. Just as I think and imagine best while sailing on Sunday afternoons or walking my dog through the woods. 

Beyond these stimulating surroundings, the D-Plan will let me take more courses, diving deeply into economics and mathematics. I’m also eager to explore my diverse interests through a public policy minor at the Rockefeller Center and courses like Introduction to Opera. And I’ll have flexibility to pursue research, like studying U.S. trade policy using history and economic theory with Professor Irwin. 

Why This Essay Worked 

This essay was successful for the same reason as the first example: the student tailored their response to address the specific aspects of Dartmouth that interest them. The student’s reference to Mascoma Lake, sailing, and walking in the woods demonstrates how they will fit into the outdoorsy culture of Dartmouth. The student also mentions their diverse interests and how the D-Plan will be beneficial to their studies. And, of course, the student mentions specific courses and a professor at the university.   

IvyWise’s Best Tips on How to Write a Dartmouth Essay 

As we’ve mentioned previously, the point of the personal statement and supplemental essays is for Dartmouth admissions officers to get to know you. This is an opportunity to let your personality shine! An IvyWise College Admissions Counselor, shared this tip for writing your essay:  

One of the signs of a good writer is showing instead of telling. Instead of stating that you are caring or adventurous, show us in your essay by sharing an example or quick story. Also, let your natural voice come through. Colleges expect first-year applicants to sound like someone in their teens, so go ahead.

Here are some other tips for writing a winning essay that will impress the admissions office.  

Answer the Prompt 

This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how often students digress in their essays and forget to answer the prompt. It’s easier than you think to stray off-topic while you’re writing. Double check that your essay response makes a clear connection to the question the prompt is asking, and that it addresses all questions within the prompt.   

Some colleges pose multiple questions within one supplement, so be sure to read the prompt thoroughly and address each question asked. One tip is to highlight each question in a different color, and then highlight the subsequent answers in your response in the corresponding colors. This way, you can check how closely you answered each point.

Show Why You Are a Good Fit 

The Why Dartmouth?” essay is designed for you to demonstrate why you are a good fit. Be specific and give details that help the admissions counselors picture how you will contribute as a student and member of the community.

Learn some college essay dos and don’ts.    

Narrow the Scope of Your Essay 

Remember, your college application essay needs to be brief. Pick a specific focal point to build your essay around instead of jumping between different examples and ideas. Share a short personal story, idea, or relationship that demonstrates the major point you want to make.   

Dartmouth’s acceptance rate is low, and it can be challenging to meet the admissions criteria. At IvyWise, our expert team of college admissions counselors has plenty of experience helping prospective students gain admission into their top-choice programs. Schedule your Initial Consultation today so we can help you plan a strategy for applying to Dartmouth.   

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