How to Answer the “Why This College?” Essay Prompt
In addition to the personal statement, many colleges also require students to answer supplemental prompts. These school-specific essays not only allow colleges to gain insight into students’ character and personal qualities – a trait that is commonly deemed important amongst admissions officers – but also helps them to gain perspective of a student’s level of interest in their institution.
The questions typically address certain aspects about the school or the applicant’s intended major, and while they’ve tended to grow a little quirky over the years, one question that typically pops up is some form of the “why [this college]?” prompt.
This essay, while seemingly simple, can help take an application from the “maybe” pile to the “accepted” stack. It is also a great opportunity for students to demonstrate their interest, knowledge of the school, and make a lasting impression on the admissions office. So, how do you write a killer “why this college” essay?
Research, Research, Research
This is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your interest in a college and highlight that you’ve done your research in the schools to which you apply. If tens of thousands of other applicants all chose to apply to Brown University, for example, what makes you so special? This is where admissions officers will turn to the supplement prompts. After all, if you were in their shoes, would you be more likely to admit the student that answers the “Why Brown?” question with deep consideration about their academic future, or the one that is simply interested in obtaining the Ivy League status?
When doing your research, learn everything you can about the school, its history, traditions, student organizations, courses that interest you, and instructors with whom you’d want to study. Not only does research help with developing the details of your essay, it also helps you really reflect on what draws you to the institution and how you see yourself contributing to the campus community over the next four years.
If a school supplement asks “why do you want to attend this university?” don’t just say “because it’s a great school,” or “because my parents went there.” Be as detailed as possible to demonstrate your knowledge of the institution and the aspects of the college and campus life that draw you to it. Show the admissions officers that you have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about how you fit into the institution and how you plan to contribute to campus life.
Remember, colleges want to build a well-rounded class full of students that are excited to attend and expand their horizons. If you’re a clarinetist applying to a university with a fantastic music program and a top-notch orchestra, talk about it! If your dream is to study the rainforest at a college that boasts a stellar botany professor who leads annual study abroad programs in the Amazon, talk about it! These details will help you demonstrate your interest to the admissions officers reading your application and solidify why they are not only a good fit for you, but why you are also a good fit for them.
Picture Yourself on Campus
If you’re still struggling to put your passion for a school into words, try another approach. Take all the research that you did to the next level by imagining you’re there. Write about what a day in your college life at that school would look like. Talk about your routine, who and what you see on your way to class, where you’d grab a coffee or lunch, the classes you’d take and the professors you’d talk to and what those conversations would entail. Not only will this give you a great foundation, but it will flesh out the activities and courses from your research that you find most appealing.
In addition to – or sometimes instead of – the “why this college?” question, many schools ask other thought-provoking supplements, like University of Virginia’s 2022 prompt: “If you could create a college course that all UVA students would take, what would it be about and why?” Picturing yourself on campus can help you brainstorm answers to these other questions as well.
Check for Grammar and Spelling Errors
Don’t let a spelling or grammar error ruin an otherwise stellar essay. While spell check is handy, sometimes the names of professors, buildings, and activity centers can be spelled differently than what spell check recognizes. Double check the spelling of all names and have a parent, teacher, or counselor proof your essay for any grammar errors you might have missed!
While answering additional essay questions might seem challenging, the supplements give students the chance to show a different side of themselves to the admissions office, as well as emphasizing their demonstrated interest. Since supplements are an important component of the college admissions process, we always recommend students begin working on these essays early to save themselves the stress of working down to the wire. If you’re getting ready to apply to college and looking for guidance on writing supplements, our team of admissions experts is here to help.