Many colleges ask students to submit an essay that explains why they want to attend that school. If you have to write such an essay for multiple colleges, it can be tempting to write something generic and then send it to every school. However, this is absolutely the WRONG approach. Here are some tips to help you write an effective response to the “Why this college?” essay.
- Be specific. When college admissions officers read these essays, they are looking for evidence that students have done their research and can articulate why the college is a good fit. You can demonstrate this by writing about features and opportunities that are unique to that college and explaining how they match your interests. For example, instead of saying, “I want to major in business, and this college has a really strong business program,” say, “I am excited about the business program’s international emphasis because I hope to work for a marketing firm that serves clients around the world.”
- Focus on academics. Your main reason for going to college is to get an education. Therefore, the bulk of this essay should be about the college’s academics. If you’ve decided on a major, write about why that college’s program appeals to you. Again, be specific and explain what differentiates this program from those at other schools. If you’re undecided, research the college’s general education requirements/distribution requirements/core curriculum and write about how these requirements will enable you to explore different subjects in order to select a major. If you have multiple interests, discuss how the college’s academic flexibility will allow you to pursue them. Keep in mind that academics are not limited to the classroom. Study abroad, service learning, research, and co-ops/internships are all part of a school’s academic offerings, and you can write about those, too.
- Don’t focus too much on location. While a college’s location may have been a significant factor in your decision to apply, many cities and regions are home to multiple colleges. If you’re going to mention the school’s location, be sure to explain how it will add to your experience. Rather than writing, “I like this school because of it’s proximity to Chicago,” write, “As a theater major, this college’s proximity to Chicago will enable me to take advantage of internships in the city’s thriving theater scene.” Even if you’re thrilled that a college is near a beach or mountains, I’d shy away from discussing that unless those geographical features will offer some sort of educational enrichment (i.e., if you’re going to study marine biology).
- Explain what you can offer the college. In addition to highlighting what you like about the school, use this essay to tell the school what’s great about you! Keep in mind that you need to connect your skills/talents/experience with the college’s specific opportunities. Let’s say you’ve done a lot of volunteer work. You could write, “As a participant in community service throughout high school, I look forward to getting involved in service opportunities in college.” However, it would be better if you researched the college’s community service organizations and named a specific one that is tied to your interests. For example, “Having truly enjoyed being a tutor for my school’s peer tutoring program, I am eager to get involved in City Tutor.”
- Be careful. Again, if you have to write several “Why this college?” essays, I strongly advise against writing a generic essay and sending it to every school. That being said, the more of these essays you write, the more you may find that parts of them can be reused. If you’re going to copy and paste, though, be very careful that you don’t send an essay to one college that includes another college’s name. You’d be surprised how often this happens, and it’s almost a guarantee that your application will go into the “deny” pile. The best way to avoid this mistake is to write all or at least most of your essay from scratch and also to proofread it before submitting it.
By following these suggestions, you’ll be able to write strong essays that show college admissions officers that you’ve taken the time to learn about the college and know why it’s is a good fit for you.