One essay you will likely be asked to write for your college application is: “Why do you want to attend this college?”, especially if you are applying to selective colleges. Sometimes the question is direct: Why Yale? Sometimes it is asked more subtly: How will you pursue your academic interests at Brown?
This essay matters because at selective colleges grades, tests scores, and recommendations are often similar among their applicants. Such schools also base their admission on three other factors: demonstrated interest – how much you want this school, yield – you will attend if admitted, which helps their rankings, and fit – the chances that you will return after one year, another ranking factor. Therefore, just because it is a short essay is not a reason to leave it until last or to write it as an afterthought. This essay may be the most important essay you will write.
Here are some tips for what not to do when writing a worthy Why-this-college Essay.
• Do not generalize. Read your answer. If any of it can be applied to other colleges, even one or two others, you have not shown that important demonstrated interest in this specific college.
• Do not dwell on the location or feel of the college campus/setting. If you write about their mountains, coffee shops, great grounds, or architecture, they already know about those things. What you need to do more importantly is write about how this college fits better for you than other campuses that have similar settings.
• Do not repeat phrases and wording that come from the college’s promotional materials or cite their ranking. They know you’re only copying. Why waste the few words you have with what they have already said. Try to find new words that describe what makes an impression on you about the college.
Here are some to do tips for writing the Why-this-college Essay.
• Always research the college you are applying to, and, better yet, visit the college. Take notes on what you learn and divide them into two parts, academics and atmosphere. These details are what will make your essay stand out.
• When writing, make sure each statement you make tells the reader why this college is a better match for you than the other selective colleges you might apply to. Why is one better than the other for you? Start writing about the academic assets and follow that with the atmosphere traits that impress you.
• Compare the college to your high school experience and explain why the similarities or differences are important to you.
There is a lot of work and thinking that go into the Why-this-college Essay. But, it is worth it because this essay is as important to you as it is to the college admission people. You are choosing a place where you will live, laugh, and sweat, and it’s a decision you need to put time into making, too.