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How to Write the Dartmouth Essays (including “Why Dartmouth”) 2018-19

UPDATE! Half of the "Choose one of six" prompt options are new for 2019-20.  Get all the details here!

You, young Dartmouth College applicant, must write two supplemental Dartmouth essays, and we, wise and wizened Essay Specialists, are going to guide you through this process.

For one of your Dartmouth essays, you get to choose from six prompt options. Six?! That’s a lot, right? So how do you pick the right one for you?

Let’s take a look!

Choose 1 of 6

300 words max


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

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.

Pick this prompt if: you love telling stories about your life, especially related to your family history, culture, or religious/spiritual identity. Think about what story best shows how you stand out not only from other applicants, but from other people in your life. Share the story of what makes you you. Even if you talk about, for example, your grandfather and his experiences as a newspaper reporter during the Vietnam War, be sure to relate it to yourself; you might discuss how he inspired you to pursue journalism.


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

Pick this prompt if: you feel intensely drawn to many different intellectual areas, or feel driven to always go deeper into anything you study. To “celebrate” your curiosity, identify specific examples of how going intellectually wide and/or deep has enriched your life, and how it might do so in the future. For example, perhaps your curiosity for both history and computers led you to combine those interests in a novel way, such as by creating a historical role-playing adventure. You’d talk about why this is meaningful to you, and how you might continue combining these disciplines in college and beyond.


“You can’t use up creativity,” Maya Angelou mused. “The more you use, the more you have.” Share a creative moment or impulse—in any form—that inspired creativity in your life.

Pick this prompt if: you’re not only a super creative person, but you can think of a formative experience or realization that explains why or how your creative floodgates burst. Briefly describe what happened, and then explore how it changed you and what role creativity will play in your life going forward.


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?

Pick this prompt if: there’s an issue that’s an overarching passion of yours, especially some problem that personally affects you. Describe why it matters to you, any actions you’ve taken, and specific ways that a Dartmouth education could help you take action or foster change in the future.


In The Bingo Palace, author Louise Erdrich, Class of 1976, writes, “…no one gets wise enough to really understand the heart of another, though it is the task of our life to try.” Discuss.

Pick this prompt if: you feel that one of your greatest strengths is your empathy and your ability to connect to others. Alternately, this prompt might work for you if you have trouble making connections, and have made it a priority to learn and grow in this area. Think of an experience you’ve had that illustrates your attempts to “understand” others (even if you didn’t quite succeed). Write about why this experience was meaningful to you, what you learned, and how you’ll apply these lessons in college and beyond.


Emmy and Grammy winner Donald Glover is a 21st century Renaissance man—an actor, comedian, writer, director, producer, singer, songwriter, rapper, and DJ. And yet the versatile storyteller and performer recently told an interviewer, “The thing I imagine myself being in the future doesn’t exist yet.” Can you relate?

Pick this prompt if: well, if you can relate! Do you see yourself as a future Renaissance person? Do you dream of combining various disciplines, interests, philosophies, ideas, and careers in ways that have never been done before? You don’t have to come up with an exact picture of your future self; you just need to pose some interesting possibilities and show why they fascinate you.


The prompt for the other required Dartmouth essay is basically asking, “Why Dartmouth?”

Why Dartmouth?

100 words max

While arguing a Dartmouth-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1818, Daniel Webster, Class of 1801, uttered 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 2023, what aspects of the College’s program, community, or campus environment attract your interest?


With only 100 words to work with here, you’ll probably want to focus on just one or two specific aspects of the school, and connect them to your main passions and interests. Do plenty of research on resources and opportunities at Dartmouth so you can show readers why Dartmouth, and no other school, is the ideal place for you!

For more guidance on this type of supplement, see our “Why this college” essay guide.


Get started with our free brainstorming tools!


Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

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