Writing “Why This College?” Essay

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Tips for Putting Together an Outstanding “Why This College?” Essay

Each school on the Common App has the option to ask supplemental essay questions, and many choose to include a variety of essay questions like quirky prompts and questions that address certain aspects about the school or the applicant’s intended major. Many times this school-specific essay is in the form of the “why this college” essay, where the school prompts you to elaborate on why exactly you want to go to that college or university.

This essay, while seemingly simple, can help take an application from the “maybe” pile to the “accepted” stack. It is also a great opportunity for students to demonstrate their interest, knowledge of the school, and make a lasting impression on the admissions office. So how do you write a killer “why this college” essay?

Here are some tips to help you put together a thoughtful and impactful “why this college” essay.

Research, research, research! Doing your homework on the schools you want to apply to is key to writing an outstanding “why this college” essay. Learn everything you can about the school, its history, traditions, student organizations, courses that interest you, and instructors with whom you’d want to study. Not only does research help with developing the details of your essay, it also helps you really reflect on what draws you to the institution and how you see yourself contributing to the campus community for the next four years.

Be specific.  If a school supplement asks “Why do you want to attend X University?” don’t just say “because it’s a great school,” or “because my parents went there.” Be as detailed as possible to demonstrate your knowledge of the institution and the aspects of the college and campus life that draw you to it. Show the readers that you have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about how you fit into the institution and how you plan to contribute to campus life. Being detailed in your “why this college” essay makes your response more compelling and can also help you demonstrate your interest in a more subtle way.

Do an “Imagining I’m there” exercise. Take all the research that you did to the next level by “imagining you’re there” by writing about what a day in your college life at that school would look like. Talk about your routine, who and what you see on your way to class, where you’d grab a coffee or lunch, the classes you’d take and the professors you’d talk to and what those conversations would entail. Not only will this give you a foundation for your “why this college” essay, but it will flesh out the activities and courses from your research that you find most appealing.

Check for grammar and spelling errors. Don’t let a spelling or grammar error ruin an otherwise stellar “why this college” essay. While spell check is handy, sometimes professor, building, and activity center names can be spelled differently than what spell check recognizes. Double check the spelling of all names and have a parent, teacher, or counselor proof your essay for any grammar errors you might have missed!

Have you started on your “why this college” essay yet? Do you think these tips will be helpful? Tell us in the comments below!

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