Tips for Writing the Essay “Why This College”

Writing the Essay 

Many colleges ask a variation of the same question in their application, “Why are you considering our institution?” It is not a fluke that they ask this. Nor is it an opportunity to quickly jot down an answer, or worse, re-use an answer from another application! Colleges ask this question because your answer tells them a lot about how serious you are about their institution; this is why this question deserves some serious thought!

Colleges look for ‘likelihood to enroll’ when admitting students. They will not waste a spot on a student who is not likely to commit to attending. These essays can be a strong indicator of how much (or little) research you have done.  If you have strong, specific reasons for considering a college, they will notice.

These questions are also a two-way street. They give you the ability to signal why a college might be a good fit for you as well as why you might be a good fit for their college. Letting them know about your interests, ambitions and what you bring to campus shows them you have a serious connection and an understanding of the college deeper than its surface-level characteristics.

Tips for writing effective “why our institution?” responses.

Dissect the prompt. Take note of what they are actually asking. Are there key words or aspects of campus that they bring up themselves? If they ask what academic programs are prompting your application, or how their college fits your future goals, it is best to address these aspects of the question first rather than as an afterthought or not at all.

Specificity is key. It is not enough to say that you like their athletic facilities or that they have interesting classes. Look up the name of the complex or have an idea of the academic path you could take. This does not mean you need to know every single detail about a part of campus or program, but generic answers get generic evaluations in the admission process. Signal that you know what you are talking about.

If it is obvious to you, it is obvious to them. They already know where their campus is located, the programs they offer and what campus looks like. Tell them how you feel about their campus. Center your answer on how you connect to the campus. Err on the side of giving a personal answer, not something surface-level like the weather. On that note…

Bring it back to you. Think about the things or characteristics you want your future college to have. Again, this is deeper than just your major or their facilities. Do you want a college that emphasizes something in particular like research, leadership, or career development? Do you want personal interactions with faculty and staff or would you rather be in a larger setting? Think about the things that you want and only they can offer.

Connect the dots for them. This question is an opportunity to reinforce the connection you are trying to make with their institution. Provide an answer that shows them you are match for their needs and they are a match for yours. Remember, there is a difference between loving a college for its writing program and loving a college because “students in the program get to craft work in a hands-on environment with some of the top minds in the world of historical fiction.”

So, is your answer strong and specific? Here is a trick that admission counselors often use. They will take the name of a similar peer institution and drop it into your answer in place of their school’s name. If the answer still makes sense with the other school, they will know you did not put much effort into developing your answer.

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