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How to Write a Distinctive “Why This College” Essay

School Supplements
Bex Ehrmann
Bex Ehrmann

    After months of research, you’ve selected the schools you want to apply to. These schools are on your list for a reason. But can you clearly articulate that reason in your application? And will your reasoning be compelling enough to win over an admissions reader?

    Many schools require some variant of the “Why This College” essay, because the essay helps admissions readers to identify students who are serious about attending their school. If you’re applying to a highly selective school, this essay gives you the opportunity to showcase how you can contribute to your college community. But even if the schools you’re applying to are less selective, you’ll still want to demonstrate a sincere interest and differentiate yourself from a pool of applicants who share similar GPAs and test scores.

    Here are some samples of the kinds of prompts you’ll see:
    • “What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?” (Yale University, 125 words)
    • “How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago.” (University of Chicago, 250 words recommended)
    • “If you are applying to the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences as a first-year applicant, please discuss why you consider Duke a good match for you. Is there something particular about Duke that attracts you?” (Duke University, 150 words)
    • “State why you feel Illinois State University is a good fit for your educational goals.” (Illinois State University, 500 words)

    Though the prompts for “Why This College” essays vary, they all require you to articulate why you’re interested in the college. But here’s the secret: your essay will truly stand out to readers if you go one step further and showcase why you are a great fit for the school.

    Before you begin writing, reflect on what makes learning rewarding for you. What previous educational experiences have shaped your passions and goals? How do you see yourself furthering these goals in college and beyond? What kind of educational community are you looking for? Answering these questions will make it easier to articulate your interest in a particular school and show the reader how your values align with the school’s culture.

    To craft a stand-out essay, you’ll need to explain your educational goals and make a case for why this school is the next logical step in your journey. So make sure to comb through the school’s website to find unique resources that can help you fulfill your goals. When you demonstrate genuine interest in a university’s professors, class offerings, and extracurricular opportunities, you show the admissions reader that you will be an active member of the school’s community.

    And, a final word of advice: make sure your answer is specific to the school you’re applying to, and avoid telling the reader what they already know. Plenty of schools are nestled within big cities. Nearly every school under the sun offers an English major. And you’d better believe the admissions readers know about their school’s gleaming facilities and their ranking. Your essay will be much stronger if you focus on your personal interests and goals!

    Don’t feel daunted by the “Why This College” essay: the team at Prompt is here to help. We offer a “Why Us” content module that is available to any student, regardless of whether you choose to use our editing services or not. The module provides several brainstorming questions focused on your educational aspirations, your extracurricular interests, your values, your passions, and more. After brainstorming, you’ll be able to view the specific application questions for each school on your list and outline your essays. What are you waiting for?

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