How to get into Dartmouth University 2023-2024

Bonus Material: PrepMaven’s 50+ Real Supplemental Essays for Ivy+ Schools

Dartmouth University had an acceptance rate of just 6.3% of applicants according to their 2022-2023 Common Data Set. That’s just over 1800 students who received a coveted welcome letter out of over 28,000 applicants!

So, how do you maximize your chances of getting into this dream school and joining the incoming class of Dartmouth college students ? 

Over the last 20+ years we’ve helped thousands of our students increase their chances of admissions success to top universities, including schools like Dartmouth University and the rest of the Ivy League through our top tier tutoring, test preparation, and college essay support.

In this post, we’ll go over what exactly a Dartmouth University admission’s officer is looking for and offer actionable advice to help you maximize your chances for admissions success. 

We started by asking ourselves, what does a successful Dartmouth University applicant look like? We’ll provide advice directly from the admissions department and provide examples of some of our tutors, who themselves are current Dartmouth University students or graduates, to give insights and tips about how to become a successful applicant. 

You can also read about our tutors who were admitted to Princeton University, and other similarly competitive schools, here.

We’ll then go over each part of the college application process and offer actionable advice on how to maximize your chances for success. 

Keep reading to increase your chances of admission, and download our collection of real supplemental essays that worked to get students into schools like Columbia. 

Jump to section:
The three pillars of a Dartmouth application
What you need to get into Dartmouth: Academics
What you need to get into Dartmouth: Extracurriculars
What you need to get into Dartmouth: Character
The Three Pillars of getting into Dartmouth: Summary
What is Dartmouth’s admission’s process like?
Example of a successful Dartmouth applicant
Next steps 


The three pillars of a Dartmouth application

The best way to think about your application to a school like Dartmouth is as consisting of three pillars: 

  • Academics
  • Extracurriculars
  • Character

In the following sections, we’ll break down exactly what you need in each of these categories for a short at Dartmouth. Here, we’ll explain a bit about each of these three pillars and how they come together to support a viable Dartmouth application. 

Academics refers to everything that’s on your transcript, plus your test scores. In other words, the Academics pillar consists of:

  • GPA
  • Rigor of curriculum
  • Dual enrollment/college credit courses
  • SAT/ACT scores
  • AP/IB scores

Extracurriculars are somewhat self-explanatory: these are just about anything you’ve done that isn’t directly connected to your academics. Common examples: 

  • Sports
  • School clubs
  • Service work
  • Research 
  • Gap years
  • Creative projects
  • Paid employment
  • Internships

But it’s Character that can be one of the most important elements of a Dartmouth application, and one of the hardest to pin down. What’s the Character pillar? In a nutshell, it’s your story: what kind of person and student are you? What drives you? What do you hope to accomplish?

All of these big and probably scary questions are what we mean when we discuss Character as part of your application. While all elements of your application come together to showcase Character, the single biggest place where you can convey it is in your college application essays. 

Below, we’re going to break down Dartmouth University’s admissions process according to each of these three pillars: what do you need to do when it comes to Academics, Extracurriculars, and Character to have a shot?


What you need to get into Dartmouth: Academics

We want to start with a disclaimer: nobody gets accepted to Dartmouth based on Academics alone. But plenty of applicants do get rejected because their Academics pillar is too weak. 

When it comes to schools like Dartmouth, you should think of Academics as a prerequisite: while there are always rare exceptions, if your GPA and test scores do not line up with Dartmouth’s typical median, your chances of acceptance are very, very slim. 

So, what are the Dartmouth University baselines as far as Academics? Let’s take a look at the 2022-2023 Common App Data set for the stats. 

When it comes to SAT/ACT: 

To put it bluntly, you’ll need near-perfect SAT/ACT scores to have a shot at a Dartmouth admission. For the most recently admitted class:

  • The median SAT Verbal score was a 750
  • The median SAT Math score was a 770
  • The average ACT score was a 33

To put that in perspective: these scores are equivalent to a 99th percentile nationally. Meaning that at least half of Dartmouth admits scored in the top 1% nationally on their ACT and SATs.

A note on test-optional policies

Many people see that Dartmouth is test-optional and breathe a sigh of relief: if the policy says “optional,” then surely you don’t have to take the test, right? 

Sadly, that’s not the case. The vast majority of Dartmouth applicants submitted test scores for last-year’s application cycle. The reality of it is that test-optional policies are not meant to apply to everyone.

 If you come from a background where the Dartmouth admission committee could see testing as a real burden—you come from a low-income family or community, you worked a full-time job to support your family, you were dealing with serious health issues in high school, etc.—then test-optional can work for you (though you would still be better off submitting exceptional test scores). 

But if you don’t have anything like that to point to, Dartmouth will expect you to submit test scores. They might not say so, but failing to do so when you don’t have a good reason will signal to admissions committees that you simply didn’t do well enough on the test. 

Regardless of application requirements, at PrepMaven we encourage students to still take the SAT (or the ACT, depending on which test suits their skills). 

Doing so will allow them to keep their options open as they navigate future college admissions cycles, and our philosophy as educators is to give our students as many tools as possible to maximize their future opportunities.

Higher test scores will always give applicants an advantage.

When it comes to GPA: 

According to the stats, it’s just as important to have a sky-high GPA:

94.5 % of Dartmouth admits who submitted class rank information were in the top tenth of their graduating class. 

The takeaway here is similar to that with test scores: if you’re not in at least the top 10% of your graduating class, you’re most likely out of the running for a Dartmouth admission.

Other considerations for Academics: Rigor

We want to add a quick note here: colleges like Dartmouth expect you to take the most rigorous courses offered by your school. 

Dartmouth admissions says the following regarding academic performance:

“An applicant is expected to have pursued the most demanding curriculum offered by the high school(s) attended.”

The admission’s office recommends a course of study that includes:

  • 4 years of English, with a preference for writing-intensive literature courses
  • 4 years of mathematics, through calculus for those interested in STEM fields and engineering 
  • 3 years of history 
  • 3 years of laboratory science, 4 years with physics for students considering engineering 
  • 3 years of foreign language, 4 preferred 

Need support with academic performance? Check out our top tier academic subject tutoring for your student here.

Academics Summary: What do you need to do?

If there’s a shorthand, it’s this: Academics won’t get you into Dartmouth, but they can definitely keep you out. Think of this pillar as a hurdle you have to clear before admissions committees even consider your application seriously. Here’s close to the minimum of what you need for a shot:

  • Take maximally rigorous courses. 
  • Be at least within the top 10% of your graduating class.
  • Achieve an ACT or SAT score at least in the 99th percentile. 

We can’t stress this enough: doing all of the above does not make you a strong candidate for Dartmouth. It is effectively the minimum that you need to accomplish to be considered a candidate at all. 

If you’re serious about Dartmouth, you should start building up your Academics pillar as early as possible. There’s absolutely no substitute for expert academic and test-prep coaching: when everything has to be perfect for you to have a shot, you don’t want to take chances. Our tutors can help you maintain that GPA and work your way up to a competitive test score. 


What you need to get into Dartmouth: Extracurriculars

If your Academics are competitive, it’s time to look at the second pillar: Extracurriculars. Just like with Academics, the exceptional is the norm for a school like Dartmouth. 

So, what makes a strong Extracurricular profile for Dartmouth? In addition to the suggestions from Dartmouth’s site above, we encourage you to focus on four key elements to evaluate how competitive your extracurriculars are—and, if you have time, to begin developing a competitive Extracurricular pillar.

Key elements of a competitive Dartmouth Extracurricular profile, in order:

  1. Excellence
  2. Dedication
  3. Leadership
  4. Initiative 

Let’s take these one at a time. 

  1. Excellence

Dartmouth isn’t looking for someone who dabbles: they want applicants who have proven that they can excel at what they pursue. Whatever your main extracurriculars, there should be some kind of objective proof that you excelled above and beyond the norm in them. What might that look like?

  • If you code: placing high a national or international competition/challenge. 
  • If you play sports: being a high-level competitor on a national competitive team. 
  • If you write: winning state, national, or international prizes. 

The idea here is fairly clear: it’s not enough just to do: you’ve really got to prove you can perform at an incredible level. 

Note the scale as well: winning a school or local competition simply isn’t good enough to matter in most cases. 

  1. Dedication

Whatever you pursue, Dartmouth wants you to prove you’re dedicated to it. Having 1-3 core activities that you have spent years pursuing is the mark of dedication. While it’s totally fine to have a few lighter extracurriculars that you don’t dedicate as much time to, you need to have at least 1 thing that you’ve pursued for a long time with (as mentioned above) proven excellence.

Here, the key is really length of time and commitment: the best ECs are ones you’ve pursued for years, with significant time investment each week. 

  1. Leadership

In addition to excellence and dedication, Dartmouth will expect you to demonstrate some form of leadership in the ECs you pursue. The most obvious example of this is, of course, holding a position like team captain or class/club president. 

While those can serve to demonstrate leadership, it’s clear that you’re able to show what came of that leadership. Many students aiming for Ivies try to join the Executive Boards of as many clubs and organizations as possible in high school, but this is the wrong move

Instead of looking like a dedicated, passionate leader, you’ll look like someone who doesn’t care what they do so long as they have a fancy title. What you want is for your leadership to align with excellence and dedication: if you’ve been a member of a nationally recognized robotics team, it’ll be meaningful to show you also captained it. 

If, on the other hand, you joined four clubs senior year and were president of all four, it’ll seem more like you were trying to build a resume. 

  1. Initiative

This is one people often forget, or misunderstand. When it comes to the Extracurricular pillar, one of the most crucial elements is to show that you sought something out and pursued it because of a real passion. 

In a nutshell, this means that the more work you had to do to pursue your ECs of choice, the better. Joining an existent club at school might show dedication, excellence, and leadership, but it won’t, in itself, show much initiative. Starting a club that grows and becomes self-sufficient, however, does show initiative. Here are some examples of initiative:

  • Starting an organization that will continue to thrive after you leave high school.
  • Seeking out an unusual service, research, or work opportunity. 
  • Making a personal sacrifice to pursue your extracurricular of choice. 

A note of caution: Dartmouth is looking for the exceptional and the unusual. Standard accolades like Merit Scholar, NHS, AP Scholar, or club e-board member are a dime a dozen—in other words, they won’t make you more competitive. Below, we’ve put together a list of ECs that make for a competitive Extracurricular profile for Dartmouth, and another list of ones that don’t. 

Examples of competitive ECs for Dartmouth:

  • You’ve pursued music since childhood, practicing 20 or more hours a week and performing at concerts across the country. 
  • You fell in love with cooking your sophomore year of high school: first you got a job as a busser at a local diner; by the summer of junior year, you were a prep cook at a local restaurant, working 30 hours a week. You also have a growing Youtube channel where you show off recipes.
  • Interested in international relations, you sought out a local professor and helped them as a research assistant for a year. Eventually, you published an original research paper with their help.
  • You love visual art, and have dedicated countless hours each week over the last few years to painting and multimedia art projects. While not a member of any club or organization, you have a website gallery of your work and have even sold a few paintings to local businesses. 

Examples of NON-competitive ECs for Dartmouth:

  • You started an Ultimate Frisbee club with 10 members your junior year of high school that you were President of. 
  • You volunteered sporadically for a local soup kitchen to meet your NHS service hours minimum. You didn’t dedicate a significant amount of time to this activity, nor did you participate for very long.
  • You were a rank-and-file member of several school interest clubs (chess club, coding club, book club, etc.), but don’t have any notable accomplishments or results to point to. 

Do you see the difference? It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the activities on the second list. In fact, it’s totally fine if you have a few activities like that on your Dartmouth application, but only if they are small side-projects in addition to your 1-3 main extracurricular activities, which should look more like the things on the first list. 

This probably seems like a lot, and it absolutely is. But this is the kind of excellence that Dartmouth is looking for. So, what can you do to develop the Extracurricular pillar of your Dartmouth application?

  • Start early. The earlier you start pursuing an activity, the more impressive your commitment to it will be. 
  • Keep a record of your pursuits. Websites, Youtube channels, etc., are a great way to maintain a portfolio of any creative projects. 
  • Enter contests and seek out publication/recognition. 

The last point deserves a special mention: as you can see from the list of competitive ECs, most of them take years of dedication. If you’re already a junior, one of the best things you can do is pursue contests, research, and publication, all of which can be accomplished fairly quickly and will add a solid EC to your list. 

On that front, writing competitions and research are great places to start. Many of our tutors come from creative writing backgrounds, and many more are graduate students who’ve published research themselves—by working with one of these coaches, you can develop your own independent creative or research project


What you need to get into Dartmouth: Character

This third aspect of your Dartmouth application is perhaps the most elusive—but it can be the most important. 

What do we mean by Character? You can read our full breakdown of the Three Pillars of a College Application here, but for now we can summarize Character as those personal qualities that set you aside from other applicants who have similar grades and extracurriculars. It’s really that ”extra” factor, the one that doesn’t really show up on a transcript or resume. 

Take a look at what Dartmouth’s admissions committee has to say: 

“Show us the qualities that make you you. Your sense of humor, your passion, your intellectual curiosity, your self-awareness, or social awareness, or some mix of these. Help us envision what you’ll bring to Dartmouth.”

That, in a nutshell, is Character: who are you? how do you think? what are you like to be around? Never underestimate the importance of showing a university like Dartmouth that you’re interesting and, well, likable. 

So, where does Character appear on your college admissions applications? Mostly, it comes across in the essays! This is where college admissions committees can actually hear your voice, see your thought process, and get an insight into how you view the world. 

Some people tend to write off the college essay, but for an application to Dartmouth or an Ivy League school, it plays a vital part. You can read our post on how important the college essay is here, but for now you can think of it this way: Dartmouth gets so many incredibly talented applicants, so the college essay is one of the main things that can truly help you stand out. 

What is Dartmouth looking for in terms of Character? Key qualities to convey in your essays are things like: 

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Community-mindedness
  • Passion
  • Resilience

We’ve got an entire collection of blog posts on how to structure the perfect college application essay—if you’re applying to Dartmouth, we highly recommend you start here. At the end of the day, Character is also a way of capturing your entire story, of connecting all of the different threads into one compelling narrative that presents you as someone who will contribute something to one of the most selective universities in the world. 

Dartmouth’s supplemental essay prompts for 2023-2024

In addition to the personal essay, Dartmouth requires students to submit Dartmouth specific application questions ranging from 100-250 words. These additional application essays are a great place to demonstrate an excitement for Dartmouth College specifically, as well as highlight other aspects of your application.

Applicants for the class of 2028 are asked to answer three questions. 

  1. Dartmouth celebrates the ways in which its profound sense of place informs its profound sense of purpose. As you seek admission to the class of 2028, what aspects of the College’s academic program, community, and/or campus environment attract your interest. In short, why Dartmouth?

Applicants must select one of the following to respond to:

  1. 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.
  2. “Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde advised. “Everyone else is taken.” Introduce yourself.

Lastly, applicants must select one of the following as their third essay:

  1. What excites you?
  2. Labor leader and civil rights activists 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 Earth for.” In what ways do you hope to make- or are you already making- an impact. Why? How?
  3. Dr. Suess, 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.
  4. Celebrate your nerdy side.
  5. “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?
  6. As noted in the College’s mission statement, “Dartmouth educates the most promising students and prepares them for a lifetime of learning and responsible leadership…” promises 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?

Communicating how you fit in on campus, core values, extracurricular excellence, voice, and  knowledge of Dartmouth is a daunting task to achieve in a few hundred words. That’s why  we recommend working with a college essay coach to perfect your personal statement and optional essays. 

If you want to ensure your answers to these deceptively simple questions actually give Dartmouth admissions officers what they want, make sure to read through our guides, and take a look below for examples of real, successful supplemental essays. 

When it comes to Dartmouth, every piece of your application has to be perfect. Your Academics are what gets you considered, and your Extracurriculars are what prove you’ve accomplished something unusual. But it’s your Character—exemplified mostly in your college admissions essays—that can convince college admissions committees you’re someone they want to have on campus for the next four years. 

Character: Letters of recommendation and interviews

While considerably less important than the essays, rec letters and interviews are supplementary ways for a university to understand your character. 

In Dartmouth’s case, these actually count for more than usual: Dartmouth is unique in asking for a third, “peer” recommendation letter. Why? Having spoken to Dartmouth students, we can tell you that Dartmouth really prioritizes community. 

Letters of recommendation give an admissions officer a clearer view of an applicant’s character. Dartmouth requires two teacher recommendations and one from a counselor; the ideal letter of recommendation will be written by someone who knows you well; ideally personally and academically. 

They will be able to dedicate the time needed to writing you a strong, personalized letter so be sure to request your recommendations well in advance of your application deadline.

Dartmouth University also requests a peer recommendation. This letter is optional, but strongly recommended. It should be from someone who is not in a higher or supervisor role, someone like “ a classmate or teammate; brother, sister, or cousin; a co-worker; a friend met at summer school or summer camp; lab or debate partner.”

In addition to being people who know you well, try to select teachers and peers who will be able to compliment different parts of you. While you can’t read what your recommender writes, it’s a good idea to sit down with them and talk about things you would like them to highlight.

Interviews

Due to the high volume of applications that Dartmouth receives, Dartmouth College is not able to offer an interview to all applicants. Instead, Dartmouth notes on their website that “once you apply, your contact information is sent to volunteer alumni admissions ambassadors. Our alumni then contact you directly to schedule the interview using the email address you provided in your application.” Interviews are offered based on availability.

Your chances of admission are not impacted by whether or not you are offered an interview.  If you are not offered an interview, your application will be considered complete without it and it will continue through the admissions process

A good interview won’t substantially boost your application, but a poor interview will detract from your prospects. 

As long as you are polite, enthusiastic, and well-informed about Dartmouth and why you’re applying, you will likely ace the interview. 

As someone who has completed alumni interviews for Princeton University, another selective school, I’ve been directed that the interview is as much (if not more) of an opportunity for students to learn more about the university rather than for admissions to learn about the student. 

Be sure to come to your interview with questions, ideally ones with answers you can’t search for an answer for on google. Most interviews are given by alumni who are enthusiastic to talk about their experiences and share what they loved about Dartmouth with you. 


The Three Pillars of getting into Dartmouth: Summary

So, what does it take to get into Dartmouth, really? 

  1. A near perfect GPA achieved in a maximally rigorous courseload. 
  2. An SAT or ACT score well within the top 1% of test-takers. 
  3. An extracurricular profile that shows remarkable dedication, excellence, passion, and initiative. 
  4. Essays that tie together your story and convince admissions officers that you’re an interesting, unique applicant they want to have around for four years.

If that sounds tough, well, it is! So, what can you do to maximize your chances? Start preparing for all of the above as early as possible. If you want to do everything you can, we strongly recommend our tutors: they can help you ace your courses, prepare for your SAT/ACT, develop interesting extracurriculars, and write the perfect essay. 

Below, we’ll get into some crucial info that can help you prepare your Dartmouth application, including an analysis of a real Dartmouth application (from one of our star tutors) and a breakdown of the Dartmouth application process. 


What is Dartmouth’s admission’s process like?

From years of experience, we know that Dartmouth college admission’s officers, like many other selective schools, follow the four steps to how admission officers read applications

  1. Screen and sort
  2. First readers take notes and assign rankings
  3. Applications go to larger committees for group review
  4. Final decisions are made 

While Dartmouth college admission officers read applications, they are looking to identify students who will “bring something unique to the community.” They are searching through applications to find different experiences, points of views, and qualities to assemble a diverse, well rounded class. 

Dartmouth college has a holistic admissions process meaning that all parts of the application inform the admission committee’s evaluation of candidates.  

“Holistic admissions is grounded in the concept that the whole is more than merely the sum of its parts. We believe the application is more than just the numbers; each application is reviewed holistically, regardless of GPA, class rank, and test scores.”

Therefore, when you are putting together your application to Dartmouth, know that every part counts! A successful applicant will use the application to demonstrate excellence within their unique set of circumstances, painting a picture for the admission’s officer that describes what future you would look like as a Dartmouth student.


Example of a successful Dartmouth applicant

Every Dartmouth admit looks a bit different, but each has several characteristics: academic excellence, extracurricular distinction, and character. 

To give you one example, we’ll turn to some of our many talented tutors. You can read more in our series, “How I got into Princeton”

Profile: 

  • Class rank #1
  • SAT Scores: 1550 SAT (790 Math, 760 Reading/Writing)
  • AP Exams: 5 Human Geography, 5 Chemistry, 5 Psychology, 5 US History, 4 Language Arts, 4 Art History, 5 AB Calculus, 5 BC Calculus, 7 IB HL Chemistry, 6 IB HL Math, 6 IB HL Physics, 6 IB HL English.
  • SAT Subject Tests: 790 U.S. History, 760 Chemistry

While academic excellence looks fairly similar across candidates, if we turn to our next pillar we see that our Dartmouth tutor demonstrated extracurricular distinction in several ways.

  • Varsity Soccer
  • Varsity Cross Country
  • Ultimate Frisbee – Captain of Utah’s U20 team (9th place at nationals)
  • Competitive Indoor Rock Climber
  • Classical Pianist
  • Jazz Guitarist
  • Eagle Scout

We see strong demonstrations of leadership and clear interest patterns in the types of activities our tutor participated in. Their extracurricular sheets demonstrate to an admission’s committee how this applicant might enhance their college campus. 

There are limitless ways you can demonstrate excellence on your college application, but by focusing on the three pillars of application success you can ensure you highlight the best parts of yourself on your application. You can read more in our series, “How I got into Princeton”.


Next Steps

With an acceptance rate of just 6.3%, getting into an elite school like Dartmouth University is no easy task. Here are some next steps you can take to better navigate the application process and improve your chances of getting in. 

  • Overall academic success is critical to admissions at Dartmouth college. Check out academic subject tutoring for your student here.
  • Having a top performing SAT or ACT score can only make you a more competitive applicant. We can help you reach that score, consult with a test prep expert to see if individual tutoring or prep courses would be right for you. 
  • Your personal essay can demonstrate your character and highlight your skills better than any part of your application. Our top tutors can also help your students perfect their personal essays. Schedule your initial consultation here.

If you’re in the process of applying, there are few better resources than real sample essays that worked to get other students into Ivy+ schools. Fortunately, we’ve got over 50 real essays for you to use as examples: click the link below to download them for free. 


Top College Essay Posts


Mike

Mike

Mike is a PhD candidate studying English literature at Duke University. Mike is an expert test prep tutor (SAT/ACT/LSAT) and college essay consultant. Nearly all of Mike’s SAT/ACT students score in the top 5% of test takers; many even score above 1500 on the SAT. His college essay students routinely earn admission into their top-choice schools, including Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth. And his LSAT students have been accepted In into the top law schools in the country, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Law.