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The Ivy Coach Daily

August 2, 2023

2023-2024 Dartmouth College Essay Prompts

This is a view of Dartmouth College's Green at sunset.
Dartmouth has released its 2023-2024 college admissions essays (photo credit: Derrick Smith).

Dartmouth College has released its essay prompts for the 2023-2024 college admissions cycle. In addition to The Common Application‘s Personal Statement, applicants to Dartmouth will be required to answer three supplemental essays: one of 100 words or fewer and two of 250 words or fewer. So what are this year’s Dartmouth essay prompts?

2023-2024 Dartmouth Essay Topics & Questions

1. Required of all applicants. Please respond in 100 words or fewer:

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 2028, what aspects of the College’s academic program, community, and/or campus environment attract your interest? In short, why Dartmouth?

Make no mistake: it’s a Why College essay. While the prompt may be a bit wordier than the equivalent essay for other universities, Dartmouth is asking applicants to detail specifics on why they wish to attend the College on the Hill.

And if you’re a regular reader of Ivy Coach‘s college admissions blog, you know that name-dropping professors or listing classes do not count as genuine specifics. Why College essays should not be approached like a game of Mad Libs where you find and replace a specific for one institution with another’s. Instead, it’s about capturing enduring specifics about a university that only apply to the school in question.

2. Required of all applicants, please respond to one of the following prompts in 250 words or fewer

A. There is a Quaker saying: Let your life speak. Describe the environment in which you were raised and the impact it has had on the person you are today.

This essay should be approached as a chance to share a story about who you are and where you come from. But there’s a trap. When so many students read the word “raised,” they’re inclined to write about themselves as children. Instead, admissions officers would much prefer to read about you as high schoolers. They want to understand who you are, how you think, and how you want to leave a mark on the world now — not as children.  

B. “Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde advised. “Everyone else is taken.” Introduce yourself.

This option is even more of a free-write than the first option for Dartmouth’s second essay. Just as The Common Application allows students to write whatever they’d like, Dartmouth provides another opportunity to write what they wish. Students should always write material that complements their other essays rather than tell the same story twice. Essays, in this way, should be thought of as puzzle pieces. They must fit neatly together, and no two essays can be the same shape.

3. Required of all applicants, please respond to one of the following prompts in 250 words or fewer:

A. What excites you?

This prompt allows a student to showcase how they will change the world. Too often, students write about silly things for such broad questions, and such answers usually don’t showcase intellectual curiosity. Since Dartmouth, and all highly selective universities, seeks to admit singularly talented students — rather than well-rounded students — we at Ivy Coach would always encourage students to creatively shine a spotlight on their hook in such an answer.

B. 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 already making—an impact? Why? How?

This essay prompt allows students to showcase how they’ve contributed — ideally through their singular hook — to their school or larger community. But it should not be misconstrued as an opportunity to brag about one’s achievements since doing so will render an applicant less likable in the very human admissions process.

By simply writing about what a student has done — and leaving out even subtle brags — it’s easy for students to make the leap of what they hope to accomplish. And students should always make sure the goal isn’t too grandiose. For a student’s storytelling and activities in college admissions, saving sea turtles always beats ending climate change.

C. Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel of Dartmouth’s Class of 1925, wrote, “Think and wonder. Wonder and think.” As you wonder and think, what’s on your mind?

Dartmouth’s admissions officers want to know your thoughts and what drives you. They want to understand what you go to sleep thinking about or, in essence, how you hope to change the world in a singular and meaningful way. Like all admissions officers at elite universities, Dartmouth’s readers want to know that you’re introspective and driven to leave your mark on the world.

D. Celebrate your nerdy side.

It’s a broad prompt that allows students to write whatever they wish. But it’s also a booby trap: too many students think that just by spotlighting their nerdiness, they’ll wow Dartmouth admissions officers. If students write about physics, they may write in indecipherable jargon. That’s a mistake. The writing must always be understandable — even to laypeople, as Dartmouth admissions officers aren’t physicists.

E. “It’s not easy being green…” was the frequent refrain of Kermit the Frog. How has difference been a part of your life, and how have you embraced it as part of your identity and outlook?

Like some of Dartmouth’s other essay prompts for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle, this prompt has appeared before in the Dartmouth supplement. And we at Ivy Coach claim credit as one of its authors — along with our Kermit the Frog applicant to Dartmouth from several years ago.

But the prompt has new meaning this year — notably after the outlawing of Affirmative Action. The essay question aims to understand an applicant’s diverse background and appreciation of diversity in all forms. For students, in particular, of diverse backgrounds, we strongly encourage them to write about their culture or race in their answers.

Yet they should approach it as an art form so that it doesn’t come across as though they’re trying to game the system. And even students from non-diverse backgrounds, in their own creative way, can spotlight the diversity they hope to bring and benefit from during their college years.

F. As noted in the College’s mission statement, “Dartmouth educates the most promising students and prepares them for a lifetime of learning and of responsible leadership…” Promise and potential are important aspects of the assessment of any college application, but they can be elusive qualities to capture. Highlight your potential and promise for us; what would you like us to know about you?

It’s another broad option that essentially allows students to write what they wish to Dartmouth’s admissions officers. It’s another opportunity for students to write about how they hope to leave a mark on the world in their own singular and meaningful way. Oftentimes, it’s a small story that will leave the most indelible mark.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Dartmouth College Essays

If you’re interested in submitting powerful essays to Dartmouth to optimize your case for admission, you’ve come to the right place. Ivy Coach is known as The Dartmouth Whisperer because of our track record of helping students earn admission to the Ivy League institution. Over the last 30 years, all of Ivy Coach’s Early Decision applicants to Dartmouth got in 28 times (in all but two Early Decision cycles). Bo knows baseball. Ivy Coach knows Dartmouth.

So if you’d like our help, help offered directly with Ivy Coach’s Ben Schwartz, a former Dartmouth admissions officer, fill out our consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to delineate our college counseling services for seniors.

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