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One of the most common supplemental essay prompts asks some version of “Why do you want to attend this university?” Your essays help colleges evaluate your interest in their school, what they offer that matches what you want from your college education, whether you’re a good fit for their community, and whether you’ll be able to contribute to and enrich the school’s learning environment inside and outside of the classroom.
Imagine you’re an admissions reader reviewing yet another essay from an applicant who wants to go to NYU or Columbia because they love New York City or a student who wants to attend Villanova or Duke because they want to cheer on their favorite basketball team.
What sets you apart? What can you offer the college that no other applicant can?
Every essay is an opportunity to highlight you! Talk about an experience related to what you plan to study. If you plan to major in business, start off describing a work experience or a leadership role you had in this area. Say what your experience taught you about yourself and your undergraduate and career goals.
Research what you plan to study. Mention specific majors, minors, concentrations, or however else they define the degree. If you are applying undecided, it’s still a good idea to mention specific areas of study you might like to explore. Read the school’s website – are there specific classes or professors that interest you? Is there a way you can participate in a specific professor’s research?
Read about the programs/activities/student organizations. Schools want to know that you have intellectual curiosity and that their programs/ activities/ organizations will help expand your knowledge. Read through the school’s websites – are there particular programs that you want to join? Or if there isn’t a particular club or program, can you possibly develop that activity on campus?
Be specific. Do not laundry list all the great things about the school. A few really meaningful reasons that resonate with your background, experiences, and goals will demonstrate in a more concrete way how and why you should become a part of the school community.
Avoid statistics and rankings from the website. The school does not need to know that it offers “50 majors and 35 minors.” They already know that they are “ranked #4 in undergraduate journalism programs.” Repeating information on the website doesn’t explain why you want to attend.
Cite faculty or alumni you’ve encountered. If an admissions officer visited your school, you went on a campus tour, you took a summer class at the school, or you spoke with a faculty member on the phone, reference your experience with this person and how it impacted your feelings about the school. You can also mention alumni and their words of wisdom.
Avoid generic statements. Do not give broad statements about the school’s “beautiful campus,” “supportive career center,” or “amazing study abroad programs.” If you’re going to discuss these statements, provide specifics.
Mention their values. Tulane emphasizes the importance of community service, while the University of Pennsylvania values an interdisciplinary education. If these values tie into your academic or extracurricular interests, use this opportunity to show how you are a great fit for their school.
Reinforce interest. Your essay should always make the school feel like your #1 choice. They want to know that if admitted, you will attend.
Proofread. If you are writing several of these essays, make sure to change the name of the school to which you’re applying. Make sure that the school has the programs and offerings you’re writing about. And don’t misspell the name of the school!
Remember, the “Why this college” essay gives you an opportunity to show that you’ve done your research, that you know about the school’s opportunities, and that you can offer something unique. We know you have a gem of an essay in you!