For second year, ED applicants navigate mostly virtual admissions cycle
Members of the Class of 2026 had limited opportunities to visit campus before applying.
On Dec. 10, 530 early applicants, walking differing paths to acceptance from across the world, discovered that they had been admitted to Dartmouth’s Class of 2026.
Many, like Brennan Wells ’26 from Lake Charles, Louisiana, had anticipated a decision almost a week later. According to vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid Lee Coffin, the College released results early this year because the financial aid office needed time to finalize award letters before College staff begin their holiday break on Dec. 18.
This year, 2,633 students applied in the early decision cycle, and 560 were admitted — including 30 matches through QuestBridge, a non-profit that connects low-income students with top colleges — to the Class of 2026. While some applicants had visited Dartmouth and attended in-person campus tours, many learned about the College through virtual resources.
Following last year’s fully virtual admission cycle, Wells said he thinks this year’s cohort was more prepared to navigate the process. Though he was unable to visit campus his junior year of high school, Wells still attended virtual informational sessions to learn more about Dartmouth.
“I think it’s a new world,” Wells said. “We are all getting used to and better at doing things virtually online.”
Similarly, Joanna Jou ’26 from El Paso, Texas was not able to visit Dartmouth before applying through the QuestBridge program. However, she was accepted to the virtual Dartmouth Bound program — a three-day program in July for rising high school seniors — which cemented her interest in the school.
“After the three [virtual] days, that was when I knew for sure that Dartmouth was the one for me, I just really felt [at] home,” Jou said.
Some students did have the opportunity to visit campus before applying, including Matt Catrambone ’26, from Chester, New Jersey, and Maddie Hughes ’26, from Miami.
Catrambone said his experience on a campus tour encouraged him to apply, specifically highlighting the community aspects of Dartmouth he was introduced to through his tour guide.
“My tour guide talked a lot about the connections she’s made, and how the school is a perfect size, where she recognizes people and feels comforted by others,” Catrambone said. “But she’s also able to [gain] a lot of new perspectives and learns something new every day, which is something that I really looked for.”
Similarly, Hughes, a recruited student-athlete, mentioned that through the sailing recruitment process, she was able to go on an official visit. On that trip, she was able to sit in on a class, meet with other people on the sailing team and attend a practice.
Isabelle Ratcliffe ’26, who is from Richmond, Rhode Island, said she found researching Dartmouth on social media to be a negative experience at times, adding that she wasn’t sure if what she read online about Dartmouth was true or not. Similarly, Jou said after reading a recent Reddit post on the r/Dartmouth subreddit about alleged sexual assault on campus, she had some concerns about staying safe at Dartmouth.
Despite these concerns, the newly admitted members of the Class of 2026 voiced their excitement to enter their freshman fall. Some cited familial or regional connections as reasons they decided to apply for early decision. Wells, for example, grew up visiting Dartmouth through family members working at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. During these childhood visits, Wells recalled that his mother would tell him to “go crawl on [the Green], and it will make you really, really smart.” As early as age seven, Wells recalled, he knew that he wanted to attend Dartmouth someday.
Ratcliffe said she would visit relatives living in the Upper Valley with her family as a child, and they would often drive by Dartmouth’s campus. Years later, on the day she finally formally visited campus, she sat in the Hanover Starbucks and pressed submit on her early decision application.
Hughes initially heard of Dartmouth when she attended her older sister’s graduation from the Tuck School of Business. She said she was drawn to Dartmouth because of its student culture.
Nicole Anthonela ’26, who is from Lima, Peru, said she relied on other students from Peru to relate their experiences to her. After hearing from friends in the Classes of 2023 and 2025, Anthonela decided to apply early decision.
Through the QuestBridge application, Jou had the opportunity to rank up to 12 schools, but she said she decided to rank only Dartmouth because she “could not see [herself] anywhere else.”
“I’m just really excited to be on campus — it’s like my second personality trait,” Jou said.