Are you one of those students who have trouble composing a “Why this college?” essay. This comprehensive guide will assist you in crafting an impressive essay tailored to your dream school. We will present a step-by-step strategy and abundant examples of these essays (also known as “Why us?”) to assist you in distinguishing yourself and determining the type of institution that suits you best. We will also explore what you should avoid and the essential details you should incorporate in your essay to succeed in your academic life.
What is the goal of “Why us” college essays?
The writing piece will showcase why you are an excellent fit for a particular educational institution by providing examples and additional details. Sometimes, this essay serves as a crucial means to express your interest in a specific school.
Along with similar variations, this essay is the most commonly asked question in a college application. Numerous schools, including Brown University, Bowdoin College, Colorado College, Cornell University, Columbia University, Duke University, Northwestern University, New York University (NYU), Swarthmore College, University of Michigan, Oberlin College, Tufts University, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Southern California, have either required or recently featured this prompt. The list is wider than these colleges, as many other institutions also pose this question to applicants.
What are colleges seeking in a “Why this college?” essay?
This task is typical for a college application and is required to assess an applicant’s level of preparation. It's essential to demonstrate that you have thoroughly researched the institution and understand its distinctive features while showcasing how these align with your aspirations and academic interests.
How to write a “Why this college” essay: essential steps
Step 1. Research.
- Explore the school’s website thoroughly, focusing on majors, courses, programs, activities, and unique opportunities to understand what makes this school different from the others you can apply to.
- Read expert reviews from sources like Colleges That Change Lives by Loren Pope, The Fiske Guide to Colleges by Edward B. Fiske, and The Best 376 Colleges (review provided by Princeton University).
- Check out student reviews on specialized websites like Unigo.com and Niche.com to understand the campus vibe. Ask concrete questions you’re interested in to get a sense of student life at this particular college.
- Take virtual tours using websites like campustours.com, campusreel.org, youniversitytv.com, individual school websites, and YouTube. Take as many tours as possible to feel the difference between schools (at least five).
- Contact the admissions office and your regional representative for valuable information and potential essay inspiration. That way, you can find out the details not clarified on the college website. The more curious you are, the more information you have for the essay.
Example: Are there any theater classes? What differentiates their Engineering course from similar programs at other colleges?
- Connect with current students through social media and ask specific, open-ended questions about their experience. Don’t pose general questions like “Do you like studying here?” Instead, you should be interested in details about the study process that official sources don’t disclose.
Sample: What course was the most exciting for you and why? What are the most surprising things most people don’t know about this college?
- Find a syllabus from a relevant class to understand the professor’s goals and language, helping you articulate your interest in the college. You can perfectly demonstrate your research skills if you mention you found a syllabus in your college paper.
Example: I found Professor [X]’s syllabus for the [Y] class fascinating, especially the opportunity to delve into [Z]...
Step 2. Arrange your research properly.
Divide a sheet of paper into three columns and answer the following questions:
- What do I seek at this university?
- What does the university give me?
- How can I bring to its community?
To create a “Why us” sentence, you should only join your answers by stating college-related details and explaining how they refer to your personality. Let’s see how this formula can be applied in our “Why this college” essay example.
Upon exploring the diverse range of courses available at XYZ University, I stumbled upon their exceptional Environmental Studies program (A), which resonated deeply with my unwavering dedication to environmental sustainability and conservation (B). Having grown up in an area burdened by pollution and witnessing its detrimental impact on our ecosystem, I have wholeheartedly devoted myself to comprehending and combatting these pressing challenges. The interdisciplinary approach and hands-on research opportunities presented by XYZ University's Environmental Studies program promise to give me a comprehensive understanding of environmental issues and empower me to actively contribute to pursuing sustainable solutions. Joining this thriving academic community, I eagerly anticipate collaborating with like-minded peers and esteemed faculty who share my fervor in forging a greener, more sustainable future (C).
Step 3. Choose your essay approach.
There is no unique, effective strategy, and each approach can bring the desired results. You may select one of the following options.
- Basic strategy
Provide various reasons (up to 10-15) why you want to apply to a particular college and present them in your essay in an organized manner. For this, research various opportunities at the school and connect each opportunity to yourself. Include a clear thesis and main reasons with specific details, and make a short conclusion discussing what you’ll give back.
Thesis: Pursuing my academic goals and contributing to [College Name]'s vibrant community is why it’s the perfect fit for me.
Reason 1: Strong Business Program
[College Name]'s renowned business program offers a comprehensive curriculum taught by industry experts. The extensive network of corporate partners provides valuable internship opportunities, aligning with my ambition for real-world experience and practical skill development.
Reason 2: Research Opportunities in Psychology
[College Name]'s commitment to cutting-edge research in psychology excites me. Collaboration with renowned researchers and access to state-of-the-art facilities allow me to explore my passion for understanding human behavior and making a positive impact.
Reason 3: Community Engagement and Social Impact
[College Name]'s dedication to community service aligns with my commitment to making a difference. Their volunteer programs and service-learning opportunities empower me to address social challenges and create positive change.
Ending: Giving Back
Attending [College Name] means more than personal growth and academic excellence. I eagerly bring my leadership skills, passion for community service, and dedication to promoting inclusivity and collaboration. We can create a vibrant campus environment that fosters learning, growth, and positive social change.
- The strategy of unique reasons:
To implement this approach, you should find 3 to 5 exclusive opportunities specific to the school and explain how each relates to your personality. This method requires understanding the unique advantages the particular college has to stand out from similar institutions (you may ask the admission representatives to get this information).
- The “one value” strategy:
This approach is based on identifying one core value that unites you with the school and showcasing the story. This strategy is the best option in the following two cases:
- It’s suitable for schools requiring shorter essays and seeking a distinctive response.
- It’s appropriate for students who consider the first and second strategies too confusing.
Note that the last approach is risky as it relies on a single story, value, or insight and may only engage the reader if well-executed.
If assistance from professional writers is required while completing an application essay or any other writing piece for your needs, feel free to contact the EduBirdie specialists, who have significant experience in delivering papers on many topics. We are always ready to give you a helping hand, whatever academic challenges you must overcome.
Examples of “Why this college” essay prompts
“Why this college” essays often require more than a simple response to why an applicant wants to study at a particular institution. As a rule, colleges, and universities pose particular prompts to evaluate how students approach the issue and follow their instructions.
Discover some examples that illustrate the varying essay prompts applied in different institutions. For instance, the University of Central Florida stimulates applicants to focus on self-expression. In contrast, New York University and the University of Michigan usually ask about the aspects that interest applicants in their respective programs and courses.
- University of Michigan: “What are the distinctive qualities that make a certain school or college attractive for you to apply to? How does the curriculum submitted correlate with your interests and plans for the future?”
- Columbia University: “What are your reasons for applying to this particular university? Elaborate on the most significant and compelling aspects of Columbia that resonate with you.”
- New York University: “Inquiring about your interest in NYU, we seek to understand what factors have motivated you to apply. Explain why a specific school, college, campus, program, and/or study area attracts you. If you have applied to multiple areas of study or campuses, kindly provide reasons for your interest in each. We are eager to comprehend your connection with NYU and what makes it the right fit for you.”
- University of Central Florida: “What is the main reason for your decision to join UCF? What particular characteristics and qualities would enable you to contribute to our academic community?”
- University of Pennsylvania: “With regard to the undergraduate school you have chosen, we are curious about how you plan to develop your intellectual interests at our university. Please tell us about your approach to exploring these interests within the university’s environment.”
As you can see, each prompt highlights different aspects and requires tailored responses. It’s crucial for applicants to carefully consider the unique requirements of each college or university when completing their essays.
What mistakes should be avoided?
Avoiding certain mistakes is important for a compelling “Why this college” essay. Firstly, steer clear of being overly general or excessively emotional. Also, refrain from repeating points you have already mentioned in other application sections. Let’s consider these recommendations in detail.
- Generalizations. One of the most common pitfalls in an essay is a misapplication of generalities. There needs to be more than just stating your initial interest in a college based on its size, location, reputation, ranking, or availability of desired research areas to include this information in your paper.
- Emotive language. While discussing emotional reasons for liking a particular school is acceptable, it’s crucial to supplement them with concrete and specific details about why you want to attend. Just expressing that you “felt at home” during a college visit or labeling it your “dream school” does not sufficiently explain your attraction to it.
- Repetition. Avoid rehashing information from your personal essay or resume in your essay. Admissions officers already have access to those documents, so repeating irrelevant content can be redundant or give the impression of boasting. Focus on presenting new and relevant reasons for your interest in the college.
Following these guidelines can strengthen your writing and enhance your chances of impressing the admissions committee.