How to Write a “Why This College” Essay

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  • "Why this college" essays allow applicants to describe why they should gain admission.
  • Writing a successful "why this school" essay involves doing research about the college.
  • Applicants should also be as specific as possible when crafting their essays.

When it comes to college application essays, one common type of prompt deals with "why this college." This essay gives applicants the opportunity to share their knowledge of the school and demonstrate why they belong there.

Read on for practical tips on how to craft this unique type of college essay and see a "why this school" essay example.

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What Is the Purpose of "Why Us" College Essays?

Colleges and universities don't ask students to write a "why did you choose this college" essay just so they can hear compliments about the school. These essays serve a specific purpose: to help you convince admissions committees that you're a good fit.

You can also use "why this college," or "why us," essays as a way to introduce yourself and your passions.

Admissions officers look for several points when evaluating "why this college" essays. They want to know about a student's interests, values, and goals. They also look for students who demonstrate genuine interest in the school.

Examples of "Why This College" Essay Prompts

"Why this college" essays are not always as straightforward as simply answering the question "Why do you want to study with us?" Colleges and universities often ask particular questions, hoping to see how students respond to a prompt and follow instructions.

The list below shows how several of these essay prompts may differ. For example, a University of Central Florida prompt encourages applicants to write about themselves. In contrast, the University of Michigan and New York University provide prompts that ask about what students find interesting about the schools.

  • Columbia University: "Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia."
  • University of Central Florida: "Why did you choose to apply to UCF? What qualities or unique characteristics do you possess that will allow you to contribute to the UCF community?"
  • University of Michigan: "Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate college or school (including preferred admission and dual-degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?"
  • New York University: "We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. What motivated you to apply to NYU? Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please also tell us why you are interested in these additional areas of study or campuses. We want to understand — Why NYU?"
  • University of Pennsylvania: "Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania?"

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5 Tips for Writing a Great "Why This College" Essay

Follow the five tips below to help your "why this school" essay leave a memorable impression on admissions officers.

1. Treat Each "Why Us" Essay Individually

Although it may seem tempting to write one essay about why you want to attend college and send it to every school, this strategy isn't likely to get you far. Essay readers can tell when applicants write a general essay, and this may make it seem like you failed to make an effort. Instead, acknowledge specific characteristics of the school.

2. Spend Time Researching Your Schools

By researching your target schools, you can reference that information in your essays to impress admissions officers. In short, research shows you did your homework.

Instead of writing about general details like school size, try to include more in-depth information you can find by looking at faculty websites, student reviews, and course offerings. You can also reference info you received during any on-campus visits or admissions events.

3. Focus on Your Fit With the School

Highlight elements of the school that appeal to you and discuss why the school is a good fit for you based on these factors. You'll want to consider the institution's strengths and how these align with your own interests and your personality as a whole. Also, take time to explain how this college can help you meet your academic and career goals.

4. Provide Specific Details and Examples

Avoid general cliches, tropes, and superlatives — generalizations won't impress admissions officers. Instead, refer to specific details that explain why you want to attend that particular school. For example, you could make note of unique programs that stand out to you, your interest in research opportunities, or a desire to take classes from a certain professor.

5. Demonstrate a Sense of Enthusiasm

Find ways to communicate your excitement in your essay to liven it up and demonstrate your interest to the admissions committee. For instance, you might talk about a positive interaction you've had with a professor, student, or alum. Alternatively, you could tell a story about your experience visiting the campus.

Once again, avoid generalities — enthusiasm expressed through cliches can come across insincere.

How to Structure a "Why This College" Essay

Here are some essential tips for organizing your "why us" college essay.

  • First Paragraph

    The beginning of your essay is an opportunity to introduce yourself, your academic goals, and your passions. Catch the reader's attention by starting out with a surprising statement or interesting anecdote. Then, give the reader a sense of who you are so they know why you believe you're a good fit for the school.

  • Body Paragraph(s)

    In the body of your essay, address the specifics of the school and why these resonate with you. Describe details that prove you've done your research and that demonstrate your interest in a certain academic area. Remember to stay away from generalities, which can sound unconvincing.

  • Closing Paragraph

    Close the essay by communicating your enthusiasm for the college. Avoid any trite or cliche phrases. Be authentic when expressing your hope to attend this college. You can circle back to the first paragraph or end on a note looking toward your future at the school.

"Why This College" Essay Example

"Why This College" Essay Sample

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When I was four years old, I told my parents with the utmost certainty that I would grow up to be Buzz Lightyear. Although I eventually learned that becoming a fictional character is impossible, my fascination with space continued throughout the years. I've attended space camp for the past four years and enrolled in advanced math and science classes, all with the dream that I can eventually make a real impact in the mission of exploring the stars.

That's why the University of Michigan is my top choice for college. I know exactly what I want to do with my career, and I'm confident that the Aerospace Engineering SUGS Program would be a perfect fit. The ability to earn both my bachelor's and master's degrees in aerospace engineering in five years could help me dive straight into my passion.

I'm also eager to take advantage of the many advantages of the program that help students gain real-world experience. The opportunity to design an entire spacecraft system in the capstone course during my senior year already excites me. I'd love to gain hands-on research experience through the summer research program, especially under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Plus, the ability to study engineering during a semester abroad in Berlin or Hong Kong already has me browsing language classes at U-M for my electives.

I may never grow up to become Buzz Lightyear. But the unique opportunities available at U-M would allow me to make a legitimate career out of my lifelong passion.


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