Dartmouth Essay Prompts

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Dartmouth asks for three essays, alongside your personal statement. The first is a fairly straightforward “Why Us” essay, and the second is an open ended way to introduce yourself. The third is more open ended, with the prompts changing frequently. They provide several prompts to respond to each time. As we cannot predict what new prompts will be, we will give an example of a past response, and try to discuss what Dartmouth is looking for generally in asking this question.

The second prompt is also new, so we do not yet have an example essay for it yet.

Why Us - Example

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 2022, what aspects of the College’s program, community, or campus environment attract your interest?   (100 words)

I love the idea of engineering in the context of liberal arts. Completing the AB and the BE will allow me to be a qualified engineer ready to make a difference in the world. I love the openness of the D-plan, and how I can personalize my college experience and gain access to internships in Dartmouth faculty’s pharmaceuticals startups year-round. I’m interested in conversing with faculty about their work, such as with Professor Scott Davis about the benefits of fluorescence-guided surgery. I look forward to learning surrounded by wilderness, skiing, and camping on the banks of the river.

Why Us - Analysis

This question, though worded more fancily and in depth than some others of its kind, asks the simple question of what parts of Dartmouth attract you. As you only have 100 words to respond, you will have to be efficient with their use. You can either prioritize going deep into one aspect of the school, or try to touch briefly on multiple different programs which interest you.

The example above takes the second approach, with each new sentence turning to a different aspect of Dartmouth, and why it attracts the author. In this way they are able to cover a lot of ground, while still staying focused on the core topic. The author discusses academics, research, a professor they’d like to work with, Dartmouth’s environs, and the peculiarities of its curriculum. This demonstrates that the author has properly done their research on the school, and is invested in its culture.

What Dartmouth is looking for is to see how interested and invested you are in their campus and its culture. As with every school, they want to make sure they are admitting students who are actually eager to attend. Dartmouth is an Ivy League school, but slightly less popular than its fellows, which means it cares more about admitting students who definitely want to attend.

Intellectual Curiousity Essay - Example

”I have no special talent,” Albert Einstein once observed. ”I am only passionately curious.” Celebrate your intellectual curiosity. (300 words)

How big is a drop? Is it as big as a bead of water? Does it emerge from a pipette easily, or with force? If you’ve never considered these questions, if you regard them as trivial, you’re right where I was a year ago, before I saw the mighty, multifarious machinations of a minute microliter. 

The first week of my internship with the Translational Imaging Group was a disaster. From my concentration graphs to my liposomes, nothing turned out the way it was supposed to. Was the dust contaminating my results? Was the pipette calibrated incorrectly? Was Jupiter in the fifth house? 

I would have jumped at the feeblest of excuses to justify my lousy results. 

I needn’t have looked far; the fault lay not in the stars but in myself. My hands, my pipetting, my mistake. 

The problem wasn’t my ignorance of the mL to drop ratio, or even that I failed to recognize how my ignorance could jeopardize the experiment. My job wasn’t to squeeze splashes of solution. It was to ferret out biochemical secrets with dye and time. 

In my haste to follow the letter of my mentor’s instructions, I ignored their spirit: to discover. I shortchanged us; I was acting like a pair of hands when I should have been a pair of cerebral hemispheres. 

In weeks to come, I personalized my protocol sheets, marking up margins with notes and improvisations. In months to come, I left protocol sheets behind and automated lab tasks which previously took hours. A semester later, I accepted the finalist award at the Texas Science Fair for a motorized near-infrared imaging system that defied the conventional limitations of the technology. These days, defying conventional limitations is what I’m all about.

Intellectual Curiosity Essay - Analysis

This is one of several prompts offered by Dartmouth, though you may only answer one of them. Regardless of which you answer, Dartmouth is looking to see how you think about the world, how you approach an open ended problem, and how you write. While Dartmouth is a university, they still pride themselves on their liberal arts roots, and look for students who will flourish in that environment.

There are various prompts offered, and they have lowered the allotted word count to 250 from 300 (although this may change again going forward). Still, the base of what they want to see is the same. While it is not always easy to get good grades, a large number of students still manage it, and Dartmouth needs to sift through these students to find ones who will thrive in its programs and culture. This essay is there to demonstrate your thought process, and to show off what you want admissions officers to see.

The prompts offered are wide and varied, and you will likely find one which will allow you to reuse an essay you’ve already written. Make sure that the values contained therein, and the story portrayed, are one which show off your best aspects, and which highlight your strengths as a writer. There is no right story to tell or values to impart which will cause Dartmouth to admit you, instead you should try to highlight your best aspects.

The author above shows off a lesson they learned, and the hard way. Lessons learned this way often stick the best, and it is clear why the author chose this story. It is a tale of personal growth and learning, and these create some of the strongest narratives. It is through confronting and overcoming challenges, whether internal or external, that we grow as people. Here, the author overcomes their own mindset, and learns to embrace the joy of discovery. This is something many colleges want to see, and gives Dartmouth a taste of how the author might contribute to their campus.

Your own essay does not need to follow the same narrative format, revolve around the same lessons learned, or even involve overcoming challenges at all. What your essay should have that this one does is provide a clear sense of what you bring to the table, as a student and person.

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