Please respond to this question: ‘Why do you want to go to OUR GREAT SCHOOL U?'”
How do you answer this question?
In this series of posts we’ll tackle this question. I’ll tell you what colleges look for (part 1) and then we’ll dig deeper so you can start writing (part 2). You’ll read essay examples to learn what works and what doesn’t work (part 3). I’ll even take you step-by-step through a “Why this school” essay sample that shows you how to write a successful essay even if you don’t know much about the school.
Ready? Let’s do it!
This is an important essay. Give it some time and thought.
Use specific examples to show that you understand what makes the college special and why it’s a good fit for you.
Schools Want to Know
1. That you “get them.” This means that you understand what makes them different from other schools. Take into consideration their academic philosophy, traditions, student life, etc.
2. Why you’re a good match for them. How will you fit in? How will you contribute? How will you take advantage of what they have to offer? Tell them why their school matters to you.
Schools Don’t Like
1. Vague answers such as “Your school really inspires me”… “I like cold weather”…“The campus is amazing.”
2. Hearing information they already know. Here’s an example: “I’m looking forward to going to OUR GREAT SCHOOL U because it has a Division I Soccer Team.”
Good right? No. They know they have a Division I soccer team. Personalize it instead: “I’ve been following Division I soccer for years and was excited when OUR GREAT SCHOOL U made it to the NCAA Soccer finals last December. I’ll be in the stands cheering when I get to campus next fall.”
Here’s a similar problem I see a lot: “Your Great School U. offers xxx number of majors and over xxx number of clubs.”
Again, they know how many majors and clubs they have. They care about why that matters to you.
Find a way to personalize it. For example: “At Your Great School I’ll be able to explore my diverse interests knowing I’ll be able to find the major that’s right for me. Outside of class my interests range from Cricket to tutoring, and with so many clubs I’ll be able to find the ones that I enjoy.”
Tip: When you state a fact about the school, that’s your cue to follow it with how it relates to you.
Don’t Use the Same Essay for Different Schools
Sometimes it’s possible to use the same first sentences for more than one essay (see part 3 for an example). But this isn’t a “fill in the blank” essay where you can plug in the name of a dorm or professor—the admissions committee will catch that. Remember, the more specific you are the more successful you will be.
READ THE REST OF THE SERIES:
Part 2: 5 Steps to Writing A Great Why This College Essay
Part 3:“Why This College” Essay Samples
Editor’s Note: This series was originally published in July 2012 and has been updated to include additional information and examples.
Find your story.Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. She’s a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee who teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. I work with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype, Facetime and email. Visit my website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.
Categories: "Why This School" Essay, College Essay - Writing, Writing "Why Do You Want to Attend This School?" | Tags: "why do you want to attend this school?", "why this college" essay, how to answer why this school, how to write "why do you want to attend this college" essay question, how to write why this school essay, sharon epstein, tips for answering why this college essay questions | Permalink.
This is the 23rd post of 30 Days to Freedom: How to Write College Admissions Essays That Work. To access earlier posts, click here.
Most students totally miss the opportunity to connect with colleges in their supplement essays. Supplement essays are your best chance to demonstrate what admissions officers call your “fit” for a specific college, so give them your best energy.
How can you authentically answer questions like “Why do you want to attend this college?” for each college on your list?
First of all, for the time that you are answering each college’s supplements, think of that college as the only one you are applying to. Go even further: imagine you are really attending that college, research classes and extracurriculars. Go ahead and phone a friend who already attends that college, or chat with one of the students on the college’s web site. Dive in and ask yourself:
- What classes will you take?
- Which courses and interdisciplinary programs excite you?
- Where will you hang out when you’re not in class?
- In which clubs will you take on a leadership role?
- What is something you’ve always wanted to do that you can only do at that college?
What are the most powerful connections between your past experiences and what you see yourself taking on at that particular college? Depending on the question, tell a story that helps you to answer the particular question the college is asking.
Try this example: The University of Rochester asks you to describe a moment that embodies their motto, Meliora, “ever better.” Take some time to brainstorm what “ever better” means to you. Is it the time you were about to give up but kept going? A time when you surpassed your previous limit? Is it something about the community becoming better through something you made happen? Writing down all your ideas as you brainstorm will help to open up your memories and creativity not just to the definition, but also to moments that reveal what you have done that embodies the motto “ever better.” Those are the connections you are looking for: stories that show your idea of “ever better” in action and in life.
If the question is “What major” or “What program of study” the steps are the same: do a deep dive into that particular major at that particular school, paying close attention to interdisciplinary programs that connect the major with exciting research and other unique opportunities at that school. Then find the genuine connections between what you want to study in college and work you have already done.
Remember: you can’t make up genuine connections! You need to take the time to get to know each college you are applying to–in as much depth as you possibly can–and write your essays about yourself, but with a strong sense of which college you are talking to when you complete that college’s supplements.
Tomorrow: how to respond to supplements that ask about you—your influences, community, your passions and activities.
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Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO of Story To College and author of Write Out Loud, has taught over 10,000 students–from first-generation college students to the children of bankers and CEOs–and teachers from around the world how to tell their stories and write essays that win admission and scholarships at their top choice colleges.