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  • How to Research and Write a “Why This College?” Essay

How to Research and Write a "Why This College?" Essay

Published on September 24, 2021 by Meredith Testa . Revised on June 1, 2023.

As part of the college application process , many colleges ask applicants to include a supplemental essay explaining why they are interested in their school specifically. There’s one absolute must for writing a great answer to this question: do your research .

Admissions officers are looking for applicants to prove that they are knowledgeable and interested in their school in particular. General answers like “I like the location” or “It’s the right size and offers my major” won’t earn you much praise. Admissions officers are far more impressed by students who can take very specific information—the names of certain classes, for example—and connect it to their personal academic interests.

The process of writing a “Why this college?” essay should look something like this:

  • Thoroughly research the college
  • Connect what you’ve learned through your research to yourself
  • Outline and write the essay

Table of contents

How to research a college, plan and write the essay, mistakes to avoid in a “why this college” essay, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.

The first step in the process is by far the most important. Research should be concrete and very specific—the College Board’s “At a Glance” pages or the “About” section of the college website won’t have the information you need. Instead, look deeply into the college website to find information that isn’t so obvious.

The information you come up with should only be applicable to one college—if you could replace the name of one school with another and have the essay still make sense, you’re not being specific enough.

Visit the campus

Most students visit colleges they’re considering before they apply, and those visits can be a great source of information. Not only will you learn information on the tour, but you’ll also connect with a current student—the tour guide. Current students can answer questions about campus life, and mentioning your interactions with students in your essay can help strengthen it.

On your tour, keep an eye out for any information, big or small, about what makes the school unique. Ask your tour guide about what on-campus social events they enjoy or what unusual traditions they’ve taken part in.

If you’re an international student or otherwise unable to travel to the campus, check if there are other opportunities to find out more about the campus, such as virtual tours.

Look for courses and professors that interest you

If you have a major in mind, there will almost certainly be a list of requirements for that major somewhere on the website. Many schools also make their course catalog available on their website, which can be an excellent resource for prospective students.

You should also check the names of professors teaching in the department. Professors’ email addresses will usually be listed on these pages, and you can email them with any specific questions about the program that the admissions office can’t answer.

This process can work even if you aren’t sure what you’d like to major in. Look for classes in any fields that pique your interest. Find programs you might be interested in—such as study abroad or internship programs—and dig for detailed information about them.

To answer the “Why Duke?” supplemental essay question, Ariana looks at Duke’s registrar website, which offers a version of the course catalog online, and searches for courses in linguistics. There are plenty of courses that seem perfect for Ariana: “Spanish in the US,” “Neuroscience and Human Language,” and “Bilingualism” are all great fits with her interests.

Researching other activities

In addition to finding information on the academics of your chosen school, you should also research other aspects of the college. Non-academic motivations probably won’t make up the bulk of your essay, but they can be a great addition.

Student organizations are good to mention, and it’s great to connect with students who participate in organizations you’re interested in prior to writing your essay.

If you’re a student athlete, you will likely meet with the coach for your sport before you apply. Feel free to mention that—and what you discussed with them—in your essay.

You can also mention other unique traditions or quirks of the school that appeal to you. For example, Muhlenberg College prides itself on painting all of the doors on campus red as a sign of welcome; mentioning that in your essay could show that you’re invested in the friendly, communal culture of that school.

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Once you’ve completed your research, you’re ready to start the writing process. All the general rules of essay writing still apply—you’ll want, for example, to organize your thoughts with an outline before getting started—but keep in mind that many schools want this essay to be short compared to the personal essay.

In your early notes, be sure to include all the possible reasons the school appeals to you. Write down any information you gathered from your research, campus visit, or conversations with faculty or current students, along with anything else that strikes you as relevant. For example, here’s what Ariana’s list of her reasons for applying to Duke might look like.

  • Combining linguistics and medicine/healthcare
  • Interesting courses: “Neuroscience and Human Language”; “Language, Music, and Dementia”; “Spanish in the US”
  • Campus atmosphere: I overheard students discussing their academic interests throughout the day, even at the dining hall. The student body seems passionate and focused on academics.
  • Conversation with a student during the tour: Discussed my interest in Spanish/bilingualism with a student who happened to be majoring in Spanish.
  • Clubs/activities: Latin American Students Organization and Mi Gente
  • VLearn Program: Duke offers students $70 per semester for lunch with a faculty member

Once your list of campus positives is finished, you can move on to writing an outline in which you organize your thoughts. In the outline, be sure to connect your research to yourself. You can do that by detailing a relevant experience, explaining an academic interest, or connecting the research to your personal life.

I have always been interested in language and how it intersects with neuroscience and medicine. Duke’s “Language, Music, and Dementia” class seems tailor-made for me: it’s the exact type of course I’d like to take and would prepare me for a future career in research or medicine, my two academic passions.

Once you’ve outlined your essay, you can write a draft. The word count for these essays is usually lower. Admissions officers don’t spend much time on each application, so be sure not to exceed the word count.

It’s okay for your answer to be short; successful answers to this question at Tufts, for example, range from just 100 words to 250 words .

For a strong essay, avoid being too general or too emotional, and try not to repeat the same points you’ve already made in other parts of your application.

Speaking in generalities

The most common cause of a bad “ Why this college?” essay is the use of generalities. You may have initially been interested in a school because of its size, ranking, reputation, or location, or the availability of your desired majors, but those aren’t specific enough reasons to include in your essay.

Overusing emotive language

It’s great if you “felt at home” on your college visit, but what does that really mean? You can call a college your “dream school,” but that doesn’t really explain what about it appeals to you.

While it’s fine to discuss the emotional reasons you like a specific college, your essay must include specific, concrete reasons why you want to attend.

Rewriting your personal essay or resume

Admissions officers already have your personal essay and resume right in front of them; you don’t need to reiterate what’s in those, especially if it isn’t relevant to the reasons you’ve given.

Rewriting your accomplishments over and over throughout the application can be annoyingly redundant or, worse, come off as boastful.

However, rewriting your personal essay to make it more readable is highly recommended. You can do this quickly with a paraphrasing tool .

If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Academic writing

  • Writing process
  • Transition words
  • Passive voice
  • Paraphrasing

 Communication

  • How to end an email
  • Ms, mrs, miss
  • How to start an email
  • I hope this email finds you well
  • Hope you are doing well

 Parts of speech

  • Personal pronouns
  • Conjunctions

Colleges set a “Why this college?” essay because they want to see that you’ve done your research. You must prove that you know what makes the school unique and can connect that to your own personal goals and academic interests.

Campus visits are always helpful, but if you can’t make it in person, the college website will have plenty of information for you to explore. You should look through the course catalog and even reach out to current faculty with any questions about the school.

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How to Write the “Why This College” Essay (With an Example!)

why this college sample essays

Applying to college is a big decision that brings a lot of excitement and stress. This is especially true when it comes to answering the “why this college” prompt asked by so many colleges. However daunting these prompts might seem, you got this. Keep reading to learn tips and tricks to write your “why this college” essay, and take a look at an example essay!

“Why this college?” essay prompts 

The “Why this college?” essay is probably one of the most common essays you’ll come across during your application process. This is partially because admissions committees want students that’re as interested and passionate about their institution. Some popular colleges that offer “why this college?” prompts include:

  • Columbia University : “Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia. (150 words or fewer)
  • Duke University : “What is your sense of Duke as a university and a community, and why do you consider it a good match for you? If there is something in particular about our offerings that attracts you, feel free to share that as well. (max. 250 words)”
  • University of Michigan : “Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?” (Minimum: 100 words/Maximum: 550 words)

As you can see, all three of the prompts are a variation of the basic “why this college” question. Let’s take a look at a sample response essay written for Columbia University. 

“Why this college?” sample essay

Dear Columbia University, 

This is probably the hundredth essay you’ve read in the sea of applicants, and as you’re likely expecting, I could tell you that I’m different from them all. Though in some ways, I’m the same. Like them, I want to stand on the corner of Broadway and 116th St. and know I chose the perfect school to study literary arts with a focus on fiction writing. 

Even more so, I strive to be one of the Columbia Greats that inspired me to pick up a pen. Though, you shouldn’t want me because I might be the next Allen Ginsberg, but because I plan on being a writer that captures the virtue found in the rye of J.D. Salinger, the watchful gaze of Zora Neale Hurston, and the freshness of my own style. Amongst your walls and tutelage, these literary greats blossomed, as I hope to.

Applicant Name

Why this essay works:

  • Starts with a compelling statement to interest the audience
  • Answers the “why this college?” question by discussing notable alumni and the arts program
  • Uses a unique approach to the prompt question that reflects interest in the major of choice
  • Explains why the admissions committee should choose this applicant
  • Stays within the word count limit

Also see: How to respond to this year’s Common App essay prompts

Mistakes to avoid when writing a “why this college” essay

Generalizing.

When writing any essay, generalizing usually isn’t the way to go. Readers want to get invested in the story or argument you’re presenting, and the admissions office is no different. Details are a key component of making your essay stand out. 

The admissions committee wants to get to know you and assess how you’ll fit into their institution. No two applicants are the same, and you should strive to prove that through your unique essay. 

Placating the admissions office

It can be easy to fall back on simply telling your college’s admissions committee what they want to hear. However, you shouldn’t just pull facts and figures from the website or quote the college’s brochure. Individualize your essay not only to capture the attention of your reader, but to display interest in your college of choice.

Anyone can put general information in their application, but it takes effort to explain why you want to attend a particular school, how admission would affect your life, and what the school has to gain from your attendance. Think of it as a persuasive essay where you have to back up your argument with details. 

Also see: An insider’s perspective into what goes on in college admissions offices

Tips for writing your essay

Find a connection.

Even before you start writing your essay, figure out the connection between you and your college of choice. 

Is there a particular professor you want to study under? Are you a legacy applicant? Is it the campus of your dreams? Are you excited for a particular program? 

Asking yourself questions like this can help pinpoint what’s motivating you to apply to a university and why they should admit you. Explaining your connection to your school of choice can show the admissions committee that you belong on their campus. 

It will strengthen your application and help you individualize your application. Create an interesting or anecdotal story out of your connection in order to set yourself apart.

Also see: How to write an essay about yourself

Outline and edit

College essays usually range from around 200 – 500 words, which can go by much quicker than you might think. This is why it’s ideal to outline your essay once you’ve decided what to write about. It can be easy to get distracted by the little details, but emphasize the main points that are essential to the story you’re trying to tell the admissions office. 

It’s also a good idea to thoroughly read and edit your essay multiple times. You’ll want to submit the complete and final version of your essay, not something that reads like a rough draft. 

Remember, your parents, advisors, teachers, and peers can be helpful resources during revision. Feedback is an important aspect of the editing process.

Additional resources

Congratulations on starting your applications to college and working so diligently on them! Fortunately, Scholarships360 has even more resources to offer that can help propel your college journey in the right direction. 

  • Start choosing your major
  • Find the supplemental essay guide for your college
  • Learn what “demonstrated interest” means for your application

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Transizion

The Admissions Strategist

How to write the “ why this college ” essay: the ultimate guide.

If you apply to Yale University , you’ll be asked, “What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?”

Similarly, Caltech wants to know, “How do you believe Caltech will best fuel your intellectual curiosity and help you meet your goals?”

And if you’re interested in attending Notre Dame , you’ll need to respond to the following: “What excites you about the University of Notre Dame that makes it stand out from other institutions?”

Okay, you get the idea:

These are just a few variations on what we like to call the “Why This College” essay.

  • Most colleges and universities require applicants to answer some form of this question, and it’s one of the most important essays you’ll write.

In this article, we’ll tell you how to rock the “Why This College” essay and increase your chances of acceptance.

Why Do Colleges Ask This Question?

We mentioned above that this is one of the most important essays you’ll write—and that almost every college wants you to write it.

But why? What’s the significance of this question?

In reading your response, colleges are hoping to determine:

  • Whether you truly know and have interest in their school
  • Whether you’ll be a good fit for the school
  • Whether the school is a good fit for you

Are You Interested?

Sure, the fact that you’re filling out the application indicates some level of interest in the school.

  • But many students apply to schools simply because they recognize the name, know the school has a great reputation, or even have been pushed in that direction by friends or family members.

Colleges only accept a limited number of students , and they want to admit students who have a genuine interest in and commitment to their school.

  • Do you know what makes this college stand out from others?
  • Do you know about the opportunities and experiences this school can offer?
  • Are you aware of the school’s values, culture, and traditions?
  • Have you already spent time picturing yourself here? Are you excited about this possibility?

"Why This College" Essay: The Ultimate College Essay Guide

Click above to watch a video on how to write the Why This College Essay.

As you write this essay, aim to demonstrate your knowledge and enthusiasm for the school in question.

Are You a Good Fit for the School?

As they read your essays, college admissions officers try to picture you on their campus.

  • Will you fit in and thrive there?
  • What contributions will you make to their college and community?
  • Do your interests mesh well with the school’s strengths?
  • Is your personality a good fit for the school’s culture and values?

Help the admissions team imagine you as someone who would happily thrive at their school, making positive contributions to campus.

Is the School a Good Fit for You?

Not only do you need to be a good fit for the school, but the school needs to be a good fit for you as well.

  • What are your academic and career goals? Can this school help you achieve them?
  • Will you be successful at this school? Is the rigor and approach to learning a good fit for you?
  • What academic programs, research or internship opportunities, classes, extracurricular activities, and so on will you take advantage of and participate in?

Show that the school you’re applying to has the resources to help you achieve academic and career success.

How to Recognize the “Why This College” Question

Of course, this essay won’t be labeled “Why This College” on applications. You’ll have to be able to recognize it in a variety of forms.

There are two different angles colleges might use to approach this question: “Why us?” and “Why you?”

  • Why us? Here, you’ll express enthusiasm for the school and its opportunities and culture. What will you get out of attending this school?
  • Why you? In this case, the focus is on the contributions you’ll make to campus and the skills, background, and talents that make you a good fit.

Although these approaches are slightly different, you can include similar information in your answers to both prompt types.

For instance, let’s say you’re really excited about a particular program offered by the university.

  • If the university’s asking, “Why us?” you might focus on what an amazing opportunity participating in this program would be, and why you’re so excited about it. You could explain how the program would help you achieve your future goals.
  • For a “Why you?” essay, you might describe how your background, experiences, and abilities make you a perfect fit for the program. You could also discuss how your future goals make you someone who would benefit from and take advantage of this program.

Let’s take a look at what these two different approaches look like.

Examples of “Why This College?” Prompts

In some cases, the college will literally ask you, “Why [college name here]?” making this prompt very easy to identify.

Alternatively, they might ask you:

  • What do you like best about our university?
  • Why are you interested in our school?
  • Why do you want to go to our college?
  • What aspects of our college most excite you?

Some examples:

  • “Why Brown?” – Brown University
  • “Please tell us what you value most about Columbia and why.” – Columbia University
  • “What are the top five reasons you want to be a Hokie?” – Virginia Tech
  • “Please submit a one page, single-spaced essay that explains why you have chosen Carnegie Mellon and your particular major(s), department(s) or program(s).” – Carnegie Mellon

Examples of “Why You?” Prompts

These prompts focus more on you, asking questions like:

  • What are your interests or goals and how will you pursue them here?
  • What will you contribute to our school?
  • Why are you a good match/good fit for us?
  • What do you want to study and how does this fit well with our programs?
  • “Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why?” – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • “How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania?” – University of Pennsylvania
  • “Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests at USC.” – University of Southern California
  • “Please relate your interest in studying at Georgetown University to your goals. How do these thoughts relate to your chosen course of study?” – Georgetown University

No matter how they word it, these schools are asking the classic “Why This College” question.

How to Write an Impressive “Why This College” Essay

The key to a stellar “Why This College” essay is to give specific, precise details about what you and the university can offer to one another.

You also need to convey your enthusiasm and excitement about the college and the unique opportunities available there.

Here’s how:

Do Your Research

First, you need to gather information about your college(s) of choice.

And we’re not talking about the generic info yielded by a two-minute Google search.

This type of research will take some time, but earning an acceptance letter from your dream school will make it worth the effort.

You’re looking for precise details about:

  • Courses and programs
  • Extracurricular and internship opportunities
  • Events and activities
  • Campus culture
  • The latest news about your college and its achievements

How can you find this information?

Use a variety of resources, including:

  • The school’s website and other materials
  • College fairs
  • Campus tours
  • Conversations with current students

Let’s take a closer look at how to take advantage of these sources.

The School’s Website and Other Materials

You can find great information on the university’s website, but try not to pull info from the overview you’ll find on the front page.

Many students might use this technique, so you could end up sounding just like other applicants (which you want to avoid).

Instead, take a deeper dive.

  • Look through the course catalog, go to specific professor’s websites, review the particular programs you’re interested in, and so on.
  • As you do so, be sure to take notes!
  • Also, record your reactions to the information you’re finding—are you especially excited about a certain course? Why?

You can find similar info in the school’s newspaper, alumni magazines, brochures, social media, and more.

Gather as much material published by the school as you can, and take your time combing through it for opportunities that you find particularly exciting.

College Fairs

Visiting college fairs is another effective way to gather information about schools.

In addition to getting brochures and other materials, you can talk to the college reps.

Ask them questions about their university and what makes it unique, then jot down notes so you can include these details in your essay later!

Campus Tours

Mentioning a campus tour you’ve taken demonstrates your genuine interest in the school.

You and your family have made the effort to travel to campus and take a tour—that’s a good sign!

You can also find tons of unique details about the college by visiting campus and taking a tour. As always, be sure to take notes.

  • Are there any buildings that stand out to you? Sculptures?
  • Do you see students doing anything that makes you want to be part of this campus community?
  • Try to sit in on some classes if possible. Write down the course name, the professor’s name, and anything intriguing that you hear or see during the lecture.
  • Talk to students if you can, asking them what they like best about the school or what makes their school different from others.
  • If you go on a tour, write down the name of your tour guide, along with anything surprising or funny that your tour guide says about the school.

Note your overall impressions and anything you see that you especially like, no matter how small. These seemingly insignificant details are what make your essay!

And if you can’t go on a physical tour, try to take a virtual one. Many schools offer virtual tours on their website, or you can search sites like Youtube.

Current Students

As mentioned above, talking to students can give you a perspective you won’t necessarily find online.

  • Is there anyone from your high school that now attends this college?
  • Try contacting them through social media, or see if anyone knows their phone number.
  • College students are often happy to discuss their university with prospective students.

Visiting campus is another way to find students to talk to, and some admissions websites list contact information for students you can email with questions about life at the university.

Get personalized advice!

How to brainstorm the essay.

Once you’ve gathered enough information about your college or university, it’s time to brainstorm !

Sift through all of your research and notes to find 3-5 aspects of the school that appeal to you the most. Make sure these are specific details!

  • Don’t choose broad statements like, “The historic brick buildings on campus are beautiful,” or regurgitate info from the school’s front page, like, “This school is known for its strong engineering curriculum.”
  • Try to focus on what interests you and fits well with your goals and background, as well as on what makes the school stand out from others.
  • Are you excited that your school is near a beach, or that it’s located in Chicago? Lots of schools are located near beaches, and there’s more than one university in Chicago. Dig deeper. What makes this school unlike any other?

Here’s the bottom line:

You need to choose 3-5 details that:

  • Are specific to you (Don’t just praise this school, but explain why this quality is great for you , or how it connects to your background and future goals.)
  • Are specific to the school
  • Make you eager to attend this university (Your interest and enthusiasm should shine through in this essay.)

Here are a few ideas:

  • Talk about how a specific program or opportunity can help you realize your career goals.
  • Does the school have facilities or equipment that you can’t find at many other schools, and that you’re excited to work with? This could include a specialized laboratory, an observatory, a library with rare manuscripts or first editions, etc.
  • Mention a class you find fascinating and can’t wait to take. This is especially effective if you were able to sit in on the class or have spoken to a current student who loves it.
  • Is there a professor you can’t wait to learn from? Maybe his research is related to a science fair project you did in high school, or you’ve already learned a lot just from reading one of his books.
  • Describe an experience you had on the campus tour, or an impactful interaction you had with students or staff.
  • Do you have a unique story about how you became interested in the school? Maybe your family had time to spare on a vacation in the area, and you stopped by and fell in love. Or perhaps your high school attended a competition hosted there.
  • Are you planning to continue work, research, or involvement with an organization from high school? How will you be able to do so at this university?
  • What programs or activities do you plan to get involved with, and what qualities or experiences will you bring them?
  • Are you the perfect match for a research or internship opportunity? Why? Maybe you’ve done relevant academic work, have already worked in this field, have been exposed to it via your parents or another relative, etc.

However, you should avoid focusing on:

  • Sports . Unless you have a unique story about your passion for the sports teams, or you’re planning to be an athlete yourself, try to avoid discussing that you’re a fan of the school’s teams. There’s nothing wrong with this—it’s just an overused topic!
  • Generic praise . Although praise is nice, it’s not what admissions officers want to hear. They want to know how you personally connect with the school.
  • College rankings . Sure, this college might be ranked #3 for happiest students. But it’s probably pretty similar to other schools ranked in the top 10. What makes it different?
  • The beautiful campus . If there’s something specific about the campus that spoke to you, feel free to talk about it. But many, many students write about the gorgeous campus or say, “The moment I stepped on your campus, I knew I was home.” You want to avoid clichés, and the truth is that most college campuses are pretty.
  • Your major . Talk about your major, by all means. But don’t merely focus on why you want to study this major. Focus on why you want to study it at this college .

Try to choose 3-5 details that are unique to this college, specific to you, and super exciting!

Writing the “Why This College” Essay: Do’s and Don’ts

Now that you’ve honed in on 3-5 details, it’s time to write. Be sure to follow the do’s and don’ts below.

  • Be authentic . Mean what you’re saying, and write in your own voice. Believe it or not, insincerity will come through in your essay. When the admissions team reads your essay, they should feel real passion and enthusiasm for their school.
  • Be specific . You’ve probably seen the word “specific,” a lot in this article, and that’s because it’s super important! Specificity shows that you’ve taken the time to do your research and envision yourself at this school, and it’ll ensure that your essay is not like any other. Mention professors, courses, clubs, and other opportunities by name.
  • Mention it if you plan on attending here if admitted . If this is your first choice school and you absolutely plan on attending if admitted, say so. Colleges want to accept students who will accept them in return. But if the school isn’t your first choice, don’t lie.
  • Revise and edit . Check over your spelling, grammar, and word usage. Ask a trusted friend, family member, or teacher to look over your work as well. But keep in mind that no matter how many times you revise your essay or how much advice you get, it still needs to sound like you !
  • Waste space on an introduction and conclusion . You’ll likely have a limited number of words, so don’t bother with an introduction or conclusion. Just jump right into your reasons. Your first paragraph should focus on your main 1-2 reasons, while the next paragraph should go into slightly less detail about the remaining reasons you’ve selected.
  • Recycle the same essay . This essay requires a specific response that is tailored to the college you’ve selected. If you use the same essay for multiple colleges, it will sound generic, boring, and forgettable. Even worse, you might forget to change the school name!
  • Misspell the college’s name . This seems obvious, but many admissions officers have mentioned students misspelling the college’s name in their applications. Double and triple check to ensure all mentions of the school are spelled correctly. The same goes for names of programs, professors, and courses.

Excellent “Why This College?” Examples

Let’s look at a few examples of stellar “Why This College” essays that worked.

These examples come from students who were accepted to Tufts University.

Depending on the word limit for the colleges you’re applying to, yours may be a bit longer.

I spent my Tufts campus visit in a “Sociology of War and Peace” class. The discussion was rich as ideas were tossed back and forth, comparing and contrasting modern warfare in different regions and cultures. The dialogue instantly excited me, but when the students I was sitting with invited me to come to lunch with them, to continue talking about the Middle Eastern conflict, I knew that Tufts was the kind of environment I was looking for: an open community that values dialogue, and a campus with a strong intellectual pulse, even outside of the classroom.

-Jesse Ryan ‘21

Here, Jesse mentions a specific course that he was able to visit during a tour of Tufts. He details the discussion he observed in the class, as well as an interaction that followed with Tufts students.

He then explains why this experience was significant to him personally .

As an artist, I believe that one’s work should reflect the world beyond it. Thus, I’m most attracted to Tufts SMFA’s combination of rigorous artistic study with a challenging liberal arts curriculum at the School of Arts and Sciences. I want to inform my art-making with in-depth exploration of sociology, justice, and international relations, creating works that comment on global issues–a prospect uniquely possible at Tufts SMFA. With numerous opportunities for combining art and community work on campus and in Boston, the SMFA program shows art isn’t only meant for the classroom; it’s meant for the world.

-Isaac Joon-hyuk Choi ‘21

Isaac’s essay starts by explaining his own personal philosophy as an artist.

Next, he reflects on how a specific program at Tufts perfectly complements this philosophy.

His response shows a deep knowledge of the program he’s interested in, and he even discusses how he will use the skills he acquires in this program in his future art-making.

I vividly remember stepping onto the roof of Tisch Library and seeing a group of kids sitting in hammocks, overlooking the Boston skyline. I briefly tuned out my tour guide’s presentation and began to eavesdrop. The students covered everything from physics to what they had for lunch that day. When they spoke about physics, they did not speak with pretension; instead they spoke with passion. Likewise, when they spoke about something as simple as lunch, they did so with witty intrigue. Tufts students are as interesting as they are interested. This description not only resonates with me, it defines me.

-Christopher Sprunt ‘21

Notice that Christopher mentions a school facility by name in his first sentence, also providing a vivid description of a Tufts memory that resonated with him.

In his final sentence, he explains why this experience was personally significant.

Christopher is not only pleased by what he’s seen and heard from Tufts students, but he also feels that his personality is a great fit.

More “Why This College” Essay Examples!

Written by Stanford student:

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 word limit) Hikes to the Dish. I imagine I’ll need an occasional break from the rigor of CS221, and I can see this tranquil exercise evolving into a haven for startup nomenclature, debates about Lebron James’s legacy, and convoluted stories involving the giant radio telescope and its potential otherworldly applications.

From an MIT applicant:

Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why? (100 words or fewer) From the first “Hello World!” to recent work with artificial intelligence, I have developed an insatiable appetite for turning lines of code into computer programs with real-world applications. When developing, I often ponder: can machine learning solve all of the world’s problems — technical and humanitarian? Are cryptocurrencies just a fad that will be gone in five years? As the field offers up as many questions as it does answers, I am drawn to  MIT’s Computer Science, Economics and Data Science program, which would enable me to decipher both computer science’s inner workings and its ramifications on the world at large.

Written by a Purdue student:

How will opportunities at Purdue support your interests, both in and out of the classroom? (100 words) I can easily picture myself as a Boilermaker: after spending office hours talking to Dr. Bareinboim about the future of machine learning and causal Bayesian networks, the hoops aficionado in me hurriedly makes his way across Stadium Avenue over to Mackey Complex to partake in the tradition that is Indiana vs. Purdue basketball (where I remind others that we have historically had the better record). All the time, I cannot stop thinking about the BlueSky Pitch Competition, which makes me wonder if I should take a quick Uber over to Discovery Park just to practice one last time…

From a Purdue Honors student:

Explain your vision, ideas, or goals for how you hope to shape your honors experience while at Purdue. Please put this in the context of the four pillars which are the foundation of the Honors College. (300 word maximum) If I had to describe the effect of high school on my personal outlook in one word, it would be open-mindedness. In fact, this transformation can be attributed to the four pillars of the Honors College extending into my high school tenure. At McVay High, I made sure to step out of my comfort zone and take an assortment of humanities classes which piqued my interest in economics. Furthermore, my time at the National Cancer Institute has shown me that computer science and the sciences are not mutually exclusive; in fact, intersections of computer science with other disciplines are the foundation of the next medical breakthrough. Simply being in my diverse community and taking part in various service activities through honor societies has opened my eyes to the disparities that exist within my community, prompting me to become a leader not only to direct projects but also to envision and build new ideas never before implemented. Due to my experiences in high school, I became more open-minded, which meant welcoming new ideas, subjects, and individual perspectives. Thus, as much as I intend to explore the realms of computer science and work primarily for private corporations, I believe that Purdue will once again be another step in my journey that will open my eyes to new avenues. Whether I decide to pursue undergraduate research rather than an internship at a big tech company; start an interdisciplinary academic class that combines computer science and economics; study abroad to build my community and global experiences; or even develop my leadership skills by becoming an executive member of the Association of Multicultural Computer Scientists, I know that because of the four pillars at Purdue — pillars that have guided me my entire life — I will lead a life that is more fulfilling.

A Why Tufts essay by a now-Tufts student:

Which aspects of the Tufts undergraduate experience prompted your application? In short, ‘Why Tufts?’ (100-150 words) The undergraduate experience at Tufts is my ideal ice-cream sundae.  With an emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, I can mesh scoops of political science, community health, and biology, combining disparate perspectives to explore complex healthcare issues. Over this, I will pour indulgent caramel in the form of an internship in Washington, D.C., allowing me to immerse myself in a health policy research project. Next, comes the countless brownie bits of activities, like Tufts’ prestigious Mock Trial Team, the Sarabande Repertory Dance Ensemble, and Hillel.  No sundae is complete without a cherry on top. When I toured Tufts, I was amazed by my guide’s friendly interactions with every individual he encountered. Surrounded by passionate, supportive, and motivated individuals, I know Tufts is the manifestation of my perfect collaborative environment. This positive atmosphere embodies the maraschino cherry on the already overflowing ice-cream heap, ensuring my undergraduate experience satisfies the sweetest of cravings. 

A Why Michigan essay from a now-Wolverine:

Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests? (Required for all applicants – 550 words) During my 3rd-grade class’s wax museum, I dressed up like Mark Zuckerberg, wearing just his typical gray shirt and blue jeans. On long car rides, I listened attentively to my father describe moments from Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs , retelling captivating tales of Jobs’ innovation and self-reflection. Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to start my own tech company. Today, you can catch me watching either the hysterical antics of Silicon Valley or soaking in the insightful remarks made by guests on Guy Raz’s How I Built This podcast. At the University of Michigan, I’ll be the kid you see scarfing down a slice of South U’s BBQ Chicken Pizza (or what I like to call the future fuel of my entrepreneurial spirit), loudly chanting “Go Blue!” when we play the Spartans, and taking part in the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. However, behind the scenes, I’ll be feeding my obsession with building the next unicorn through the College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship. You’ll find me propelling technological innovation by starting a venture at the TechArb Student Venture Accelerator or helping build companies through the Entrepreneurs Leadership Program. The University of Michigan’s intimate environment of innovation and Italian food is the perfect next step for me. In fact, the University of Michigan’s strong focus on entrepreneurship would enable me to make my technology startup, Big Time Tech, bigger and better. Wolverines place a large emphasis on social entrepreneurship through the Business+Impact program. Given the program’s diverse group of mentors, including the non-profit Board Fellow Program, I would be able to get sound advice crucial to extending the reach of my social venture. In addition, through the Detroit Engagement initiative, I would be able to deploy my product in an area thirsty for the types of opportunities on my platform. Having the ability to minor in entrepreneurship would mean that I could apply the knowledge I learned in classes about venture capital and digital product design to raise money and develop beautiful landing pages for my company, not just finish homework. Finally, on the nights when I will inevitably stay up late, you’ll find me growing my venture in the Innovate Blue Innovation Space. Becoming a Wolverine would allow me the opportunity to better understand the intersections of technology with other academic disciplines. Whether I’m drawing upon my work at the National Cancer Institute to aid in Dr. Honglak Lee’s research on high fidelity video prediction with large neural networks, funding student startups as a partner at Wolverine Venture Fund, or listening to a tech talk at Shapiro Library, the diversity of opportunities will provide a road map of the avenues I can take with technology. Only at the University of Michigan can someone sell a platform as a digital student loan advisor (LoanSense) or turn dorm room ideas and simple news headlines into applications that help researchers find employment (Perch) and detect counterfeit antimalarial medications (Neo Health). I cannot wait to become a Wolverine and join a community that cultivates my entrepreneurial and technological ardor.

An example of Why Columbia?

Please tell us what you value most about Columbia and why. After an hour and a half commute and a quick glance at Tom’s from Seinfeld, we finally made it onto campus. Following our tradition of taking panoramas and making a quick stop at the bookstore, we walked up the steps to Low Library and checked in for our campus tour. A booklet in a newspaper rack caught my eye   The title read “Connecting the Dots – Using Data to Engineer Smarter Urban Spaces.” Throughout high school, I committed myself to find ways to use technology to lessen the disparity that exists among my community’s members, especially as it relates to finding opportunities best suited for their futures. Whether it be through helping others find jobs, internships, or volunteer positions through my app, Rainy Day, or providing a platform to find reliable, free, tutoring help, high school taught me that creating technology could be utilized to help others find and connect with opportunities. As I perused this dense booklet, I began to discover Columbia’s strongest intangible — how the intersection of technology and social good was at the heart of all of its engineering. I had been on numerous college visits before, but while other institutions lined the pages of their advertising materials with “machine learning” and “entrepreneurship,” Columbia’s pamphlet focused on sustainability, secureness, and connectedness. From the  cover story — which discussed how Columbia engineers used data science to map dangerous intersections and other obstacles to traffic flow — to the section on Dion Khodagholy’s work — which outlined how a new class of noninvasive, biocompatible devices could interface with the brain to heal neurological disorders — it was evident that Columbia is a place where technology is used to change the world for good.

Advice From an Outside Expert

Sweet Briar College is a great liberal arts school known for its personalized academics and diverse study opportunities.

The college asks applicants to pen an essay (or similar deliverable) about why they want to attend SBC.

Amy Ostroth, director of communications at Sweet Briar College, gave this advice to students who want to attend the school. You can use her advice for any “Why This College” essay you write:

The best answer is one that is specific to Sweet Briar College. Don’t craft an answer that could be sent to any school on your list, but tell us why Sweet Briar is special. For example, you might describe an interaction you had with a faculty member that stuck with you. Maybe you had a meaningful conversation with a student or attended an interesting class during a campus visit. Perhaps you met an alumna at a college fair who stood out to you. Maybe a member of your family has told you stories about their time at Sweet Briar. In short, describe what was happening when you first thought, “This is the place for me.” Tell us a story that emphasizes what is special about Sweet Briar and what will be most important to you about your college experience.

Conclusion: Writing the “Why This College” Essay

The “Why This College” essay is important because schools want to ensure that you understand what makes their school unique and that you and the school are a great fit for each other.

Although the prompt may be phrased as either “Why you?” or “Why us?” these questions are essentially the same.

  • Either way, you’ll talk about both what the college can offer you and what you can offer the college in your essay.

To really nail this essay, you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time researching the school.

  • Once you’ve compiled notes and research, choose 3-5 details that you personally connect with and that are unique to the university or college.

Finally, you’re ready to write the essay! Jump right in, with no introduction or conclusion, and be authentic and enthusiastic. Revise and edit , and absolutely don’t misspell the name of the college!

Follow these tips, and your “Why This College” essay can help you stand out from the crowd—and earn that acceptance letter you’ve been dreaming of!

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How to Write a "Why This College" Essay + Examples that Worked for the Ivy League

How to write a “why this college” essay + examples that worked for the ivy league.

Bonus Material: Download 30 Real College Essays that Got Students Into Princeton

College admissions have never been more competitive. With acceptance percentages for top colleges in the low teens (or lower for Ivies!), you need to take every opportunity to stand out from other applicants. 

We all know the importance of grades, test scores, and the personal statement. But there’s one part of the process that students all too often underestimate: the supplemental essays.

 In this post, we’ll take you through how to approach one of the most common supplemental prompts: the “Why this college?” essay. 

Jump to section:

Why do colleges ask this question? Types of “Why this college?” prompts Step 1: Research unique offerings! Step 2: Link to your story! Step 3: Create a frame for your essay A list of Don’ts Rules to remember Next steps

Download 30 Successful College Essays

Why do colleges ask this question?

This is one of the most common supplemental questions asked by colleges, especially by some of the most competitive ones! For example, six of the eight Ivies have an essay that basically asks you to answer that simple-sounding question: “Why us?”

Princeton University

You might be tempted to think these questions are silly or unimportant. But the truth is that they matter a whole lot. What colleges are looking for in these essays is, at heart, two things: proof that you’re a good fit, and proof that you’re actually committed to attending. 

Think about these essays as conveying to the college two fundamental things: that you’re interest ing , and that you’re interest ed . 

Why does that matter? Well, think about it from the college’s perspective. Elite colleges are committed to admitting only a tiny percentage of the tens of thousands of applications they receive yearly. 

Because of that, it’s massively important that those lucky and exceptional few they do accept will actually contribute to the community. They want the best!

At the same time, these colleges don’t want to “waste” an acceptance on a student who then goes on to enroll somewhere else. They want to be reasonably confident that, if they accept you, you’ll take them up on their offer.

It’s a little like dating: they want to be sure you’re good relationship material, but they also don’t want to ask you out if it doesn’t seem like you’re interested. 

Types of “Why this college?” prompts

Sometimes, the prompt will really be as simple as “Why Dartmouth?” Other times, though, these prompts will highlight some particular aspect they want you to focus on. Take a look at the below prompts, and see if you can spot the difference:

Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? (150-200 words)

How will you explore community at Penn? Consider how Penn will help shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape Penn. (150-200 words)*

In 300 words or less, help us understand how you might engage specific resources, opportunities, and/or communities here. We are curious about what these specifics are, as well as how they may enrich your time at Northwestern and beyond.

These are all “Why us?” essays. But UPenn splits this question into two separate prompts: the first is specifically about “intellectual and academic interests,” while the second is specifically about “community.” The third prompt, from Northwestern, is more general: it’s really about any aspects of the university that draw you in. 

why this college sample essays

Colleges will generally ask the “Why us?” question in one of three ways:

  • An overall question asking you to focus on anything that appeals to you about the school.
  • A specific question asking how you’ll use the school’s resources to pursue your academic interests. 
  • A specific question asking how you’ll engage with non-academic elements of the school, often framed around community.

Though these questions are all being asked for the same purpose, they’ll require you to discuss different aspects of the school and of yourself. 

Now that you know what these prompts look like and what they’re for, let’s take a look at how you should start answering them. 

Download 30 College Essays That Got Students Into Princeton

Step 1: Research unique offerings!

It might sound obvious, but you cannot write one of these essays without first doing serious research into the school’s offerings. Get on the computer, go through the school’s website, and note down specific offerings that interest you. For academics, some things to look into might be:

  • Whether the school has a unique approach to the core curriculum (e.g., Brown or Barnard).
  • Research opportunities for undergraduates. 
  • Unique service learning or study abroad opportunities. 
  • Unique work opportunities (e.g., Northeastern’s CoOp program)
  • Opportunities within your planned major (unique tracks, specializations, etc.)

You might notice I used the word “unique” a lot there. It may sound repetitive, but it does stress the point: you need to focus on aspects that are unique to the school you’re applying to!

Brown University

Anyone who’s worked with college essays has seen a fair share that say something like:

Part of what I’m excited about at School X is the robust Economics department, where I’ll be able to take classes like Introduction to Microeconomics and International Economics .

What’s the problem there? Well, every school with an economics department is going to offer those classes! It’s not unique, and it suggests that the author of that sentence didn’t do their research or, even worse, doesn’t really have any specific reason for choosing School X. 

If you’re looking to discuss community aspects, you should do the same kind of research, perhaps focusing on:

  • Unique college-wide initiatives (e.g., Dartmouth’s Sophomore Summer)
  • Student clubs/organizations
  • Anything specific the college stresses as a point of pride in terms of values, diversity, etc.

Researching unique offerings from these schools can be difficult: how do you know what’s unique enough to mention? Or what a particular school really prides itself on?

If you’re struggling with this first key step, reach out to one of experienced college essay coaches , who can help you through the process so you know what to write about before you start.

Step 2: Link to your story!

But that research is only half the battle. Schools don’t just want a list of what they do well. Remember our two guiding principles for these essays: prove you’ll be a good fit, and prove you’re interested. 

To do that, you’ll have to connect any specific opportunities you mention with your own narrative. What about you —your experiences, passions, values, successes, failures—has led you to be interested in these specific opportunities presented by the school? 

Remember that all college essays are stories. When these “Why us?” essays are perfect, it should make the admissions committee feel that your journey up to this point has naturally led you to apply to their school. 

So, don’t think of this as an essay about the school itself. It is, like all these college essays, an essay about you as a person . The only difference is you have to show how your story intersects with what this particular college can do for you . 

why this college sample essays

As an initial brainstorming exercise, make two columns. In the first, list all of those specifics you researched in step one. In the second column, put what connects you to each of those specific offerings. Activities you’ve been involved with, important moments in your life, values you hold dear. Wherever you have the strongest connections, that’s what you’ll write about. 

Thinking strategically, you can especially focus on strong connections that also tie in to your most impressive achievements, whether academic or extracurricular, because you’ll get another chance to reference them in your supplemental essays.

For inspiration, check out 30 examples of real college essays by some of the most successful applicants in the world, who told their stories in interesting and unique ways.

Step 3: Create a frame for your essay

Each of these essays should be personalized to the school you’re applying to. But , because this is at heart an essay about yourself, you can create an introduction and conclusion (a “frame”) that you tweak only slightly for multiple schools. 

The first paragraph, whenever possible, should be eye-catching and specific to you. Often, the best way to do this is with some small anecdote or mini-story from your life that contextualizes the rest of the essay. 

Are you going to apply to these schools as a Math major? Well, then you might want to start the essays with a short description of the moment you fell in love with math, or with what burning questions drive you to pursue it in college. 

Your last paragraph (which should be very short) can return to this story or to some other key element of yourself that explains your goals within the context of the essay. With the first and last paragraph, you should have a deeply personal frame that gives context for what you say in the body of your essay.

student success

This frame doesn’t have to change much: if it fits for the prompt, reuse it! But do change the body paragraphs. Since those paragraphs are all about the specifics for the school you’re applying to, each of those needs to be written from scratch. 

A list of Don’ts:

Writing these essays can get pretty complicated. There’s a lot of nuance, a lot of potential pitfalls, and a lot on the line (which is why you should look into working with one of our experts). But one good place to start is with what you shouldn’t do:

  • Avoid all generalizations about the strength of the program, the prestige of the faculty, or the rigor of the academics. 
  • Avoid talking too much about the location of the school, especially for schools in major cities like NYC. 
  • Exception: if your application can show a demonstrated interest in a particular field (e.g., if you’ve already done research with a professor, or published something in a relevant journal), then it will seem much more believable when you reference a professor or coursework. 
  • Similarly, avoid name-dropping specific buildings or locations at the school as if you’ve already been there. Generally, don’t say things like “I can already see myself walking through the doors of Firestone Library.”
  • Do your best to avoid stock/cliche sentences like, “I am passionate about […]” or “[…] really stands out to me as an incredible opportunity.” It’s more than likely some of these will sneak into your writing, but cut as much of them as you can.
  • Don’t spend too much time describing the college’s program/club/etc. without tying it specifically to you . The admissions officers already know that their school is great, and they don’t need you to explain their special community-building outdoor adventure program! What they want to know is what is specifically attractive about that adventure program to you and how it ties into your past accomplishments and future plans.  

student writing college essay

Rules to remember

By far the best way to excel on these essays is to work with a qualified college essay coach . There’s nothing like a second set of eyes to give you perspective and guidance on your work! But regardless of whether you get assistance or set out on your own, keep the below rules in mind:

  • There are no “optional” essays ! If a school offers you a prompt, always write a response.
  • Balance school specifics with your own narrative. Always show how what you like about the college connects back to your experiences . 
  • Every sentence should be specific to you and/or the school : if you read a sentence and it could have been written by someone else or about some other school, you need a better sentence. 
  • Avoid generalizations; focus on specifics . 

So, now that you’ve read this post and gotten a better idea of what colleges want, how do you start writing?

Download 30 College Essays That Worked

Our college essay coaches can help you through every step of the process, from that initial research to final proofreading for clarity and polish. Not only have our coaches helped students gain admission into some of the top colleges in the country, but they’ve successfully navigated that process themselves. 

Princeton University

In the meantime, take a look at the examples we collected from 30 students admitted to Princeton so you can get a sense of what’s been successful in the past. 

Related articles

11 College Essays That Worked 7 Qualities of a Successful College Essay 5 Ways to Structure Your College Essay The 6 Princeton Supplemental Essays: How to Respond How to Answer the Harvard Supplemental Essay Prompts How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process What College Admissions Officers Look For: Your Data-Backed Guide 14 Best College Essay Services for 2022 (40 Services Reviewed)

why this college sample essays

Emily graduated  summa cum laude  from Princeton University and holds an MA from the University of Notre Dame. She was a National Merit Scholar and has won numerous academic prizes and fellowships. A veteran of the publishing industry, she has helped professors at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton revise their books and articles. Over the last decade, Emily has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay. 

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How To Write The “Why This College” Essay

A student sitting outside on a ledge taking notes on a notepad.

College admissions officers aren’t just looking for straight As, glowing recommendations , and a slew of extracurricular activities. They are seeking students who want to be on their campus and will start clubs, eat in the quad, and engage with professors.

Before applying to any school, you should be confident that the school has the academic options, co-curricular opportunities, and social climate to make your next four years magical. If you can give a few examples of these things for each of the schools on your list, you are ready to start your “why this college” essay.  

“Why this college” essays are designed for students to demonstrate their interest and passion for the school community they are applying to. It allows admission officers to picture the student on campus.

Colleges have many different ways of asking why you believe their institution is a fit for you. This can range from asking how the college can help you succeed, why you are interested in studying your academic interests at the college, or what most excites you about the school.

Provide specific examples of why you belong there

The best way to answer any form of these questions is through specific, unique examples that clarify your interests in the school. You want to stay away from things that could be found on a school’s brochure or fun facts told on a college tour. Give examples that indicate you have done research on the school and have confidence that it is a fit for you. 

One way to tackle this is by taking detailed looks at a school’s academic options. If you have a niche academic interest that is only offered at a few schools, make sure you let the school know you can’t find this option in other places.

If you are a science student who enjoys a liberal arts approach to education, point out your interest in earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in a subject such as biology or chemistry. You should strive to find unique parts of the school’s academic offering that are for you.

If you have taken previous coursework at the school or attended open lectures, this is a great time to talk about your love of the things you have already seen from the school. These can be things such as discussion-based science classes or opportunities for students to teach as a substitute for traditional elective credits.

For one of my essays, I talked about the offering of an interdisciplinary minor in medicine, literature, and culture taught by graduate school professors to undergraduate students. I discussed my interest in strengthening my writing skills as a pre-med student through assignments outside of lab reports and the benefits of understanding illness from a cultural perspective. I discussed an online class I had taken previously that was similar to the courses offered under the minor to further demonstrate my interest in pursuing it. 

Discuss extracurricular activities you would be involved in

Examining a school’s co-curricular offerings is the next stop for “why this college” essays. Although academics are the main priority for any college student, your co-curricular experiences are what can build your resume and prepare you for a job or graduate school application.

This can be a space to talk about clubs, volunteering opportunities , or on-campus jobs at the school that interest you. This is also a subtle way to show that you are ready to be involved on campus.

My best example of this was discussing the presence of pre-health clubs for minority students run by alumni. Not only was this club a great place for mentoring and networking, but it also could help students find like-minded people on campus with similar backgrounds.

This was important to me since clubs like that were not available at my high school and was something I wanted as a part of my support team throughout college.

Paint the picture 

Lastly, discussing the social climate of a school can be an untraditional approach to explaining why the school is great for you. These can be observations you’ve made such as how the collaborative floors of the library are always filled indicating the presence of teamwork on campus or how you’ve noticed professors eating pizza with students outside the dining hall.

An essay that reflects on these parts of the school’s atmosphere can be just as meaningful as talking about any major or club offered at the school. When visiting a friend of mine who had already started college, one of her professors saw us walking in the quad and asked if I would want to sit in on a class since it fit my academic interest.

After the class, I got to talk to the professor about my passions and hear more about his research. I was amazed by his friendliness and excitement for incoming students. Stories like that can stand out from the typical stories about football games and other school traditions. 

Hopefully this offers you some guidance on tackling your “why this college” essay. Remember, make it specific and link it back to you. Best of luck!

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Author: Lauryn Taylor

Hi everyone! I am Lauryn Taylor, a second year student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying economics and public policy with a media and journalism minor. I am on the pre-law track with interest in health, education, and media. At school, I am involved with a couple different things including being Vice President of a mental health club and the Student Director of Institutional Research and Assessment. I also work for our Campus Health marketing and engagement team and am the student representative for the Policy Review Committee. I look forward to sharing my journey and being a guide through the your college admissions journey!

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College Essay Examples: 10 Best Examples of College Essays and Why They Worked

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CollegeAdvisor’s 10 Best Examples of College Essays and Why They Worked

The college essay is one of the most important parts of the college admissions process—and it’s also one of the hardest to complete. If you’re struggling to find the right college essay topics, you’re not alone. In this guide, we’ll break down some of the best college essays to help you write a personal statement for college that will stand out . 

You’ve likely written many essays over the course of your high school career. However, your personal statement for college may be the first time you’ve been asked to write about yourself . That’s where our sample college essays can help. 

The best college essays will reflect who you are, what matters to you, and why you’ll enrich any college community you join. That’s a tall order, but looking at examples of college essays can help you as you begin the writing process. But before we dive into our sample college essays, let’s start with some basics. 

What is a college essay?

A college essay is a piece of writing that responds to a given prompt, either on the Common App lication , Coalition Application , or on a school’s individual application. College essays can range anywhere from 50 to 800 words. There are two main types of college essays: personal statements and supplemental essays. In general, you will write one personal statement and submit it to every school you apply to. By contrast, you’ll submit a different set of supplemental essays to each school. 

Why do college essays matter in the admissions process?

Your college essays reflect parts of your identity that aren’t clear from the rest of your application. While two students might have similar grades and extracurriculars, they won’t have the same college essays. That means that your college essays can make you stand out from the crowd. Our sample college essays can help you do just that. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through sample college essays that address a wide variety of college essay topics. We’ll break down examples of college essays from every category so that you feel prepared to write your own. Each sample college essay we’ve included in our college essay examples shows how you can use strong, intentional writing to approach a variety of college essay topics. By looking at these college essay examples, we hope you learn a lot about how to approach essay-writing. 

Each school approaches college essay prompts differently. Each school may provide both required and optional college essay prompts. Most selective colleges will require you to write some kind of personal statement. Many also have school-specific supplemental college essay prompts and short answer questions. Below, sample college essays that worked show how students like you approached these prompts and impressed top schools. 

For more tips about how to approach college essay topics and the writing process, check out our Essay Guides FAQ .

In this college essay examples guide, we’ll look at some examples of college essays and talk about why they succeeded. Our analysis will explain why these are a few of the best college essays that worked.

This includes a variety of essay types such as:

  • Short essay examples
  • Common App essay examples
  • Examples of personal essays
  • Supplemental essay examples (including why this college essay examples and why this major essay examples), and more.

Soon, we’ll dive into our college essays examples and break down some examples of personal essays. But first, let’s talk about what makes a good college essay and how you can make sure your college essays stand out . As you’ll see from our examples of college essays, there is no one right way to approach college essay prompts or one specific formula for writing the best college essays. However, as  you’ll learn from these sample college essays, there are still plenty of useful tips that can make your essays shine. 

Good college essays and the college admissions process

As you start reviewing college essay prompts and looking at examples of college essays, you might find yourself wondering, “What are the common characteristics of good college essays?” 

Each of our college application essay examples, from our Common App essay examples to our short essay examples, offer key insights into an applicant’s character. These sample college essays did a great job of answering their respective college essay prompts. As such, they each stood out to admissions teams as strong college application essay examples.

Later in this guide to college essay examples, we’ll break down the best college essays in detail. But first, let’s look at a few sample college essays to help you get an idea of what to think about as you learn how to write good college essays. These college essay examples provide valuable insight into how you can craft one of the best college essays admissions teams have ever seen.

Below is an excerpt from one of our successful personal essay examples:

One hundred and fifty bagels, all completely frozen. I couldn’t believe it. My school’s Model UN Conference was to start in thirty minutes, and breakfast for the delegates was nowhere near ready. I looked with dismay at my friends’ concerned faces peering out from behind piles of frozen bagels. As Secretary-General, it was my job to ensure that this conference went smoothly. However, it seemed that was not going to be the case. I took a moment to weigh my options before instructing Rachael, our “logistics coordinator,” to heat up the frozen circles of doom in the home-ec room. I knew Rachael enjoyed baking, so I trusted her to find a way into the locked room and thaw the assortment of bagels.

Below is an excerpt from one of our successful why NYU essay examples:

The Bachelor of Science in Business Program excites me, as it entails a well rounded yet intensive study in core business disciplines. However, what draws me to Stern is the emphasis on gaining a global perspective, which is crucial in today’s rapidly changing world economy. Through the International Business Exchange Program, I will be able to gain a first-hand cultural experience that will mold me into a global citizen and business leader. Not only will I be taking courses in the most prestigious business schools across the globe, but I will also have new doors opened for me to network with alumni.

As you can see, examples of college essays can look very different . What matters is that they are detailed, specific, and show the admissions team at any school why the writer would enrich campus life—all while answering the college essay prompts. When we look at more examples of college essays, we’ll discuss why these essays—and other college essay examples—worked so well.

We’ll break down:

  • How they addressed their college essay prompts
  • What kind of structure they followed
  • What their unique strengths are
  • Tips and tricks to use while writing your own college essays

As you start looking at examples of college essays, you may wonder how important they are to your application. The answer is: extremely.

Many top colleges and universities use a holistic process when reviewing applications. That means they evaluate your essays alongside your academic history, extracurriculars, and test scores to learn who you are, what has made you the person you are today, and what you might bring to a college campus. 

As you will see from our Harvard essay examples and Stanford essay examples, the best college essays give applicants a chance to teach a school about the writer. Good college essays give schools a more complete idea of the person they will be inviting to join their student body—and they are the only chance a school has to learn who you are in your own words. 

Providing details and telling your story

As you’ll see from our college essay examples, good college essays discuss important details that might not be clear from the rest of your application. Each of our Common App essay examples tells a specific story. Other college essay prompts, like the Stanford roommate essay, for instance, ask applicants to reflect on parts of their identity beyond their grades and test scores. 

Many colleges have also tried to demystify the college application process and provide helpful resources. Some schools, like Johns Hopkins and Hamilton , even provide their own examples of college essays that worked, including Common App essay examples. This can give you a sense of what their admissions team looks for.

You’ll encounter many different college essay topics. Each of these will ask you to write about your experiences in a slightly different way. So, looking at different college essay samples (like a why this college essay example or a why this major essay example) can help you approach different college essay topics. Also, since the Common App essay is a crucial part of your application, you’ll benefit from reading our Common App essay examples. 

Later in this guide, we’ll provide full sample college essays for you. This will include both Common App essay examples and short essay examples. 

Keep reading to learn more about the different types of college essay topics. Then, we’ll talk about the examples of college essays you’ll find later in our college essay examples guide.

college essay examples

Types of college essay prompts you’ll encounter

All college essay prompts will require your best writing and ideas. Understanding the differences between the types of college essay samples can help you learn how to approach your college essay prompts. 

Our examples of college essays fall into two main categories:

  • Personal Essay Examples (Common App essay examples/Coalition App essay examples/Personal essay examples)
  • Supplemental Essay Examples (short essay examples)

Our different types of college essay examples will show how you might approach different topics and what your final essays may look like. For example, when comparing Common App essay examples and supplemental short essay examples, one significant difference between the two is the word count. When looking at short essay examples, you’ll notice that the details you find in Common App essay examples don’t fit within the short 150 word or 250 word limit. As you’ll see in our short essay examples, short-form supplemental essays require you to make the most out of a limited number of words. 

Exploring a variety of college essay samples will help prepare you to write your own. If you haven’t narrowed down your school selection yet, you might not know what kinds of supplemental essays you will write or what examples of college essays you should read. In this case, start with our personal essay examples—that is, our Common App essay examples.

The Personal Statement

The most common type of essay you’ll encounter is a personal statement for college. For most applications, you’ll choose from a selection of prompts and write a longer essay (500 – 800 words) that speaks to your experiences, identity, and goals. Your personal statement for college tends to be the longest essay in your application. This means it may require more work to edit into a focused and compelling story. For inspiration, take a look at our Common App essay examples. Each of our Common App essay examples tells a story that the admissions team otherwise wouldn’t know. 

You will apply to colleges using the Common Application, the Coalition Application, or a school-specific portal. Each of these application portals will have their own unique prompts and specific word counts. However, all of our examples of personal essays serve a similar purpose and require a similar writing process. 

Beyond your personal statement for college, many schools ask you to write school-specific supplemental essays. Our college application essay examples will cover a range of supplemental essay prompts, including why you are interested in a particular school or a particular major. 

Some schools also offer a section where you can provide additional information that may have affected your grades or overall profile. This might include details about your home life or any special circumstances that created challenges for you.

In this college essay examples guide, we’ll look at Common App essay examples to help you craft your personal statement.

The school-specific college essays that worked, we will review below include:

  • Harvard essay examples
  • Stanford essay examples
  • UPenn supplemental essays
  • Dartmouth essay examples
  • Why NYU essay examples
  • Why UChicago essay examples

This collection of college essays that worked will include short essay examples, including a why this college essay example and a why this major essay example. Before we break down these sample college essays, let’s look at what exactly makes the best college essays the best.

What makes the best college essays?

When looking at college essays that worked, whether personal essay examples or short essay examples, it may be challenging to discern exactly what makes a great sample college essay great.  In our college essay examples guide, our examples of college essays (in addition to being correctly formatted ) have succeeded across a few criteria.

The criteria to keep in mind while you are considering how to write a successful essay are:

  • Personality

You can apply these criteria to all of our college application essay examples, including our Common App essay examples, examples of personal essays, and short essay examples. A strong sample college essay, no matter the length, will use these three elements to create a compelling story that will show a school how you would enrich their campus. 

In our examples of college essays, you’ll see that good college essays follow a thoughtfully composed structure. Since college essay prompts often have strict word limits, it is important to follow these examples of college essays and make sure your college essay flows. Strong personal essay examples usually tell a story that leaves the reader with a lasting impression.

Like our example college essays, your college essay should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. As you’ll see in our college essay examples, particularly our examples of personal essays, there isn’t one right way to structure your essay. Your structure could be chronological, funnel down from broad to specific, or start with a particular memory or experience and then expand out towards a greater perspective. No matter how you structure your essay, make sure your narrative remains clear.

Not all essays have to look the same

As you will see from our examples of college essays, your college essay can look any number of ways. The best college essays can take many forms — what’s important is that your college essay shows the admissions team who you are . Even as you look at college application essay examples inspired by a singular prompt, you’ll find the topics they cover to be very different. However, one thing our college essay examples have in common is that they all showcase who the writer is while still answering the essay prompt.

As you read our examples of college essays and start writing your own, try to emphasize your own identity. Think about what is important to you, experiences that made you grow or changed you, times where you were challenged, or an a-ha moment that solidified a piece of who you are. Then, once you’ve found a topic to write about, make sure it connects back to the original prompt. Even if you tell a fantastic story, if it doesn’t answer the question in the prompt, you’ll have missed the goal of the essay. If you’re still having trouble coming up with an essay topic, try this reflection exercise to help you brainstorm.

Standing out

We’ve chosen these college essay samples because they stood out in the admissions process. Besides being well-crafted, what makes a sample college essay stand out is personality. In this college essay examples guide, we’ve included a range of Common App essay examples and short essay examples that embody different voices, tones, and styles.

As you read through our examples of college essays, you may get stuck on trying to pick a topic that is 100% unique or obviously impressive. Instead of worrying about what makes you unique from other applicants, focus on being honest and being true to yourself. Remember, no one is exactly like you. So, follow the blueprint our sample college essays provide, but stay true to who you are. 

For example, if humor is a key part of your personality, let that side of you shine through in your essays! However, if you read a hilarious college essay example but don’t naturally use humor yourself, don’t try to replicate someone else’s voice. The best college essay examples reflect students who knew who they were, what they wanted to say, and how they wanted to say it.

Our sample college essays show why it’s important to take care as you craft your personal statement and supplemental essays. But what exactly made these examples of college essays work, and how can you replicate these sample college essays in your own admissions process? 

How to use these college essay examples

Wondering how to use these essays to write your own college admission essay examples about yourself? 

We’ve given some background on why we’ve included certain college application essay examples. We’ve also discussed what you can learn from the different types of college essay samples. Now, you might ask yourself, “How should I use these college application essay examples to start writing my own?”

Each college essay example addresses a unique prompt within a specific word count. So, our Common App essay examples may be more helpful to reference when writing your personal statement. Our short essay examples, by contrast, may be more helpful as you tackle your supplemental essays.

Think of these college essay examples, including Harvard essay examples and Stanford essay examples, as a resource. We know the college admissions process can be overwhelming . That’s why we are committed to providing you with resources and essay tips to help you navigate your college applications.

These college essays that worked should inspire you. As you read over these college essay samples, use these examples of college essays as a guide, not a blueprint. Your college essay should be original and entirely your own work. However, by looking at these sample college essays, you’ll get an idea of what to highlight as you tell your authentic story .

Coming up: college admission essay examples about yourself

So far, we’ve taken a peek at some examples of college essays. We hope these college essay samples will help you jumpstart your writing process. Now, you know a little bit about what goes into selecting a college essay example and why these college essay samples work. It’s time to take a deep dive into writing college admission essay examples about yourself.

Next, we’ll dig into some examples of college essays and think about how to write college admission essay examples about yourself. First, we’ll look at some Common App essay examples to help you write your personal statement. As you read through our examples of personal essays, we will break down why these Common App essay examples work and how you can craft your own effective personal statement.

Common App Essay Examples–How to approach your personal statement for college

Are you furiously googling “college admission essay examples about yourself”? You’re not alone. Writing good responses to college essay topics is one of the most difficult parts of the application process. With so many college essay prompts and college essay samples out there, it’s hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve provided the following examples of personal essays based on a variety of college essay topics. 

This section will focus on Common App essay examples—that is, college admission essay examples about yourself. We’ll unpack two examples of college essays that worked and analyze what made them effective. The Common App essay will be a crucial part of your application to nearly every school on your list. Reviewing other college application essay examples is a great way to improve your own writing. 

Each of these examples of college essays comes from our advisor network. Moreover, every sample college essay helped its writer get into a top school. So, they are all good examples of personal essays to use as you start your writing process. 

Getting started with examples of college essays

Writing a personal statement for college isn’t easy. It’s natural to look for college admission essay examples about yourself to help. However, if you want to be competitive at top schools, you need to make sure that your Common App essay—like these Common App essay examples—is the best it can be. Many examples of college essays struggle to leave a lasting impression on readers. Also, many students struggle to choose the right college essay topics. These Common App essay examples will teach you how to do just that. 

Let’s dig into some personal essay examples—or college admission essay examples about yourself. Each of these college essay samples relates to one of the Common App essay prompts. These examples of personal essays each tell stories about the writers that aren’t clear from the rest of their application; that’s why our college essay examples were successful at top schools. 

Our guide will walk you through these examples of college essays and show you how to write one of the best college essays you can. Later on, we break down why these sample college essays were successful and show you how you can replicate that success in your own personal statement for college. 

Common App Essay–Example 1: Elinor

The first of our Common App essay examples comes from a student named Elinor. In the first of our personal essay examples, she highlights her involvement in a club in an innovative and exciting way. Her tone, structure, and style each help her essay stand out from other examples of college essays. 

Below is the full text for the first of our examples of college essays. Later, we’ll discuss what makes this sample college essay one of the best college essay samples to look at.

Elinor’s Common App Essay:

One hundred and fifty bagels, all completely frozen. I couldn’t believe it. My school’s Model UN Conference was to start in thirty minutes, and breakfast for the delegates was nowhere near ready. I looked with dismay at my friends’ concerned faces peering out from behind piles of frozen bagels. As Secretary-General, it was my job to ensure that this conference went smoothly. However, it seemed that was not going to be the case. I took a moment to weigh my options before instructing Rachael, our “logistics coordinator,” to heat up the frozen circles of doom in the home-ec room. I knew Rachael enjoyed baking, so I trusted her to find a way into the locked room and thaw the assortment of bagels.  Cold bagels were not the only thing weighing heavily on my mind that morning. As I walked from classroom to classroom helping set up committees, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. Our conference wasn’t going to be like those of the private schools- there were no engraved pens or stylish water bottles. Instead, people got post-it notes and whatever pens we could steal from the supply closet. Forcing myself to stop worrying, I chose instead to think of why we made that choice. Since most of the food was donated, and all of the supplies had been “borrowed” from the supply closet, we could afford to charge only a nominal fee to everyone attending. Making Model UN accessible was one of my top priorities as Secretary-General; the same desire motivated me to begin including middle school students in the club. I hurried back down to the cafeteria, and was relieved to see that all the bagels looked warm and ready to eat.  The bagels would not be the sole crisis that day. As debates were about to start, one of the Chairs sent me a panic stricken text: “We only have 5 people in our committee! We can’t reenact the creation of the Treaty of Versailles!” I hurried to where his debate was taking place, and sure enough, only five people were there. I quickly considered my options- cancel the committee?  Convince some delegates to switch into this debate through bagel bribery? Or maybe, come up with a completely new topic?  I settled on idea number three. But what topic could a committee of only five people spend a day discussing? I mulled it over until an idea began to form. I explained to the room, “Each one of you will represent one of the five major Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. The chair will guide you as you tweet, make campaign videos, and debate the most important political issues.” I spent a few minutes figuring out how to go about moderating such an unconventional committee, before heading off to check in on the other debates.  As I walked from committee to committee, fixing problems and helping move debates along, I felt a sense of pride. I had spent months working on this conference, along with the other members of my team. At times, I worried I could never pull it off. A part of me had wished our faculty advisor would just organize the whole thing for us. After all, I’m just a high schooler, how could I put together such a big event? But as the day went by, I realized that with the help of my peers, I had done it. All the little crises that cropped up weren’t because I was doing a bad job; they were inevitable. The fact that I could find solutions to such a wide variety of problems was a testament to my leadership skills, and my level-headedness. I didn’t just feel like a leader—I felt like an adult. As I look towards my future in college and later the workforce, I know that I can succeed, even if my obstacles seem as insurmountable as a mountain of frozen bagels.

Reflecting on this sample college essay

The first of our college essay examples certainly deserves its spot among the best college essays. This sample college essay works in large part because of its opening. The first sentence of Elinor’s Common App essay makes the reader want to continue—what happened to the bagels? How will Elinor solve this problem? Examples of college essays with strong introductions draw the reader in. In addition, an inspiring first sentence sets the tone for the rest of the essay. The frozen bagels in this college essay example create tension that draws the reader in. 

Often, good examples of college essays also read like short stories in which the writer is the main character. While Elinor does mention other people in her Common App essay, she remains focused on her own actions and emotional state. In the third paragraph, she describes in detail how she responded to a crisis. She first explains her thought process, then she tells us what action she took to address the crisis. 

As you comb through various college admission essay examples about yourself, you should keep your own identity in mind. Strong examples of personal essays should contain personal details about the writer. College essay topics are designed to get to know you on a personal level. Strong examples of college essays use every chance to showcase the writer’s positive qualities.

Tell YOUR story

The best Common App essay examples tell a story about the author. These college essay examples are no exception. Often, strong sample college essays use a story to show who a student is. Elinor uses the story of her model UN conference to show her leadership , maturity, and problem-solving skills. Like any good story, Elinor’s personal statement for college contains obstacles for her to overcome and challenges to face. By presenting these examples and discussing her responses, Elinor’s Common App essay shows that she is ready for the challenges ahead. 

The best college essays show information rather than just telling it. It’s one thing to tell readers you are a proactive leader in college admission essay examples about yourself; it’s another to show it through your actions. In the second paragraph of her personal statement for college, Elinor states that she wanted to make model UN accessible as Secretary General. She then goes into detail about how she accomplished that goal by organizing food donations and only charging a small fee for attending the conference. In these Common App essay examples, the writers use details and evidence to showcase their best qualities.  

Elinor’s sample college essay also contains a strong conclusion. She illustrates what she has learned about herself from this experience and in doing so, helps the admissions team learn more about her. In this college essay example, Elinor clearly shows the kind of student she would be and how she would enrich campus life. The best college application essay examples show readers why students should be admitted through evidence and storytelling. Our Common App essay examples each accomplish that goal.

examples of college essays

Common App Essay–Example 2: Arham

The second of our Common App essay examples uses a different strategy to the first. However, it is still one of the top examples of personal essays. The next author of our college essay examples, Arham, starts with a very specific moment from his fifth grade class. He then explains how that moment has affected his life. 

While some examples of personal essays are about a recent event, other personal essay examples show the author’s development over a longer period of time. To understand why this is among the best college application essay examples, let’s look at the essay itself and how it employs techniques often found in the best college essay examples.

Arham’s Common App Essay:

An hour into President Obama’s inauguration, I stifled a yawn and raised my hand. “Ms. Edgell, who did you vote for?” Instantly, nineteen fifth-graders shattered the silence: “Of course she voted Republican!” “No, she’s a Democrat!” “Obama was born in Kenya!” “Don’t ask people about their politics,” she chided.  “So . . . you’re a Republican!”  “Arham. Outside.” As Ms. Edgell fruitlessly tried to explain that politics didn’t belong in the classroom, I struggled to suppress a smile–I couldn’t help it. For a few moments, fifth grade’s single-variable algebra and spelling tests had been replaced by a more intriguing conversation: one without a definitive answer. Snippets of boisterous debate continued to drift through the closed door, and I was eager to rejoin the conversation–that day, I learned disagreements were fascinating. Eager to understand the “why” of each and every belief, I turned to my living room: a constant cacophony of political commentary, occasionally punctuated by my father’s frustrated jabs at the pause button and exasperated interjections. In my quest to decipher the cryptic nightly news, my parents became my personal dictionary, fielding a nightly barrage of questions. Forget just explaining where babies come from–over the next four years, I asked them to articulate almost every conceivable stance on gun control, abortion, and the death penalty. Through that television screen, I first encountered the full diversity of human opinions, and I was enthralled; I wanted to triumph in every dispute. Dodging my parents’ dinnertime queries of how my day went, I delved into new lines of questioning: the viability of Medicare for All, the feasibility of 100% green energy, the merits of chicken tikka masala mac & cheese fusion. After watching the 2016 Presidential Debate, I spent hours pondering the economic consequences of a more cohesive border–sadly, the living room walls didn’t offer much feedback on my ideas. Soon, I realized that some of my “solutions” were a bit near-sighted; eliminating poverty by printing money wasn’t exactly the modern-day Wealth of Nations, and the solution to global warming was a tad more nuanced than planting trees. I learned that I wouldn’t always be right–instead, the desire to win was slowly replaced by a yearning to understand. With every discussion, I synthesized new information, pinpointed gaps in my knowledge, and reevaluated my views; then, aided by the latest edition of The Economist and a plethora of Google searches, I’d unearth the next set of questions.  Late nights in my living room have defined a lifelong passion: using disagreements as a lens to explore, understand, and influence the world. In Congressman DeSaulnier’s office—where interns were instructed to hang up on adversarial callers—I instead found myself engrossed in half-hour conversations with frustrated constituents. There, I delved beneath the partisan rhetoric to truly understand why people support a wall, desire nationalized healthcare, or champion coal–and, in return, I offered a bit of my own worldview. On elevators, I’ve been known to strike conversation on the whimsical (Should gyms offer a package where you pay for every day you don’t go?); overseas, I invite teams from Germany, Singapore, and Mexico to opine on whether or not Amazon should be considered a monopoly. Whether it’s discussing capitalism or everyday life, the resulting conversations shed light on our culture, upbringing, and aspirations–the willingness to disagree is what builds rapport. In recognition of that, I beckon for dialogue; I constantly invite the world to teach me more. In fifth grade, I learned that we fear disagreement–feigning unity will always be more comfortable. But, through ignoring each other’s most fundamental beliefs, we simultaneously abandon our ability to understand our peers. In my living room, disagreements provided a venue for questioning and navigating a world of conflicting perspectives: though I didn’t know it at the time, they set the stage for a lifetime of questioning. So, be it in the classroom, through a phone call, or on stage, I continue to raise my hand.”

Why is this a college essay that works

As we saw in the first of our college essay examples, one reason this sample college essay is effective is that it engages the reader from the very first sentence. The author uses the technique of in medias res , which is often found in strong personal essay examples. Instead of beginning the essay with exposition, the author begins with a quote that places the reader in the middle of a riveting conversation. This strategy makes the best Common App essay examples interesting to read and helps the best college essays stand out from the rest.

Another feature that characterizes the best college essay examples is varied and interesting word choice. This doesn’t mean you need to use words in your writing that you wouldn’t ordinarily use. In our examples of college essays, the writers don’t just throw around SAT words. Instead, these successful examples of college essays use carefully chosen words to elevate the quality of the writing and heighten emotional tension. The phrase “shattered the silence” from the second paragraph is a perfect example of how a vivid word can instantly improve a sentence. In addition, the phrase “constant cacophony of political commentary” shows how employing poetic devices—in this case, alliteration—can make college essay examples more fun to read. 

So, what makes the second of our college essay examples shine? This personal statement for college works because it presents a compelling story about a young boy slowly learning how to express his opinions and refining his beliefs. Many of the best examples of college essays show a process of growth or transformation. These transformations require struggle, and good college essays embrace that struggle and present it openly to readers. 

The value of authenticity

This brings us to another key feature of our college essay examples: authenticity. Some students have the misconception that the best college essays should only portray your good qualities. However, this is not the case. Instead, the most successful personal essay examples address their authors’ shortcomings and explain how they have worked to overcome them.

Honesty and authenticity permeate these college essay samples. Arham’s example college essay reveals his genuine passion for debate. He provides several examples, both personal and academic, that demonstrate his interest in that topic. Importantly, successful Common App essay examples include details not present in other areas of your application. This gives readers a more personal look into your values. These examples of college essays reveal the quirks and obsessions that round out the author’s personality and set him apart from his peers.

Both of these successful examples of college essays contain strong conclusions that look ahead to the future. These personal essay examples provide insight into how the writers will contribute to a college community. Arham uses the phrase “lifetime of questioning” to show that he will bring his curiosity and thirst for knowledge to whatever college he attends. Good college application essay examples show readers why they should accept you and what you will bring to their campus.

Although these examples of college essays are different from each other, they were both successful for a variety of reasons. Now let’s look at how to replicate these examples of college essays in your own writing!

Personal Essay Examples–How to get started writing your own college essays that work

Do you feel ready to sit down and write your own personal statement for college? Let’s break down some tips to help you use our sample college essays to write your own. Be aware that every writer has their own personal style. So, try to find ways to make these tips work for your own college admission essay examples about yourself! 

So, what can we learn from these college application essay examples? Reflecting on these two Common App essay examples, there are several steps you can take in your own writing process to craft a college essay that works for top schools. 

In addition to reviewing other examples of college essays, we recommend that you do some prewriting exercises to help you write the best college essays you can. First, take a moment to review your candidate profile. Then, decide on what 3-5 adjectives you would use to describe yourself. After you’ve reviewed our college essay examples, click here for a list of strong adjectives you might use. 

Consider the word count

This exercise helps focus your essay on the most important themes. Because college essay topics are so broad, students want to cover as much ground as possible. However, the best Common App essay examples recognize the limits set by the word count. With this in mind, these examples of college essays use specific details to illustrate broad concepts. You may have a lot to share, but the best college essays highlight qualities not found elsewhere in your application. Reflect on our personal essay examples as you write. Instead of rehashing your extracurricular achievements, follow the lead of our Common App essay examples. Tell a story the admissions team hasn’t heard. 

After you have your five adjectives, look over the Common Application’s college essay prompts. Then, choose one that lets you showcase the qualities you selected earlier. When writing college admission essay examples about yourself, it’s better to tell a single story in vivid detail than to write a broad survey of all your accomplishments. The first of our Common App essay examples focused on a single day of Elinor’s high school career. She then uses this anecdote to make a larger claim about her ability to solve problems. The second of the college essay samples starts with the story of a single fifth grade class before broadening out to other topics. As you choose your college essay topics, keep specificity in mind.

Expect to write multiple drafts

The best college essays take multiple drafts. So, make sure you allow yourself enough time to write your personal statement for college. The college application essay examples in this guide weren’t written in a day. Rather, these college essay examples each went through several drafts to become good college essays. So, take a cue from our examples of personal essays. After you write the first draft of your Common App essay, review it after a day or two. This will help you approach it with a fresh perspective. Having others review your writing can also help transform good college essays into the best college essays.  

There is no single formula for writing good college essays. However, you can learn to develop your own voice by reading articles and reviewing sample college essays written by other students. As we’ve stated, examples of personal essays can help you find your own voice and narrative as you start the writing process. This article from U.S. News contains more college essay examples along with short essay examples of supplemental prompts. It also provides advice from admissions counselors about how to write college application essay examples that stand out from other examples of personal essays. Top colleges like Tufts , Johns Hopkins , and Connecticut College often post examples of college essays that worked for their schools. Reading Harvard essay examples along with other college essay samples from top schools gives you a sense of what it takes to get into top schools.

Showing vs. telling

With the above Common App essay examples, we’ve presented two college essays that worked. Both of these college application essay examples show—rather than tell—the reader important details about the applicant’s identity. These college essay examples show what kinds of students these writers would be on campus. Based on these sample college essays, top schools could imagine these students in their communities. That’s why these examples of college essays stand out. 

examples of college essays

Beyond the Common App Essay

These Common App essay examples are not the only personal essay examples we will look at in this guide. Next, we’ll discuss supplemental college essay examples—short essay examples that usually range between one hundred and four hundred words. 

These college essay prompts are unique to the schools that assign them. However, looking at many different short essay examples will help you prepare for the variety of college essay prompts you may encounter. Let’s take a look at these examples of college essays!

Short essay examples: What types of college essay topics will you see?

Now that you have some useful Common App essay examples to use as you write your personal statement for college, let’s look at some other examples of college essays. As we mentioned, there are several types of college essays . 

The short essay examples we’ll discuss effectively and efficiently answer the prompt. Keep in mind that you will often work within the constraints of a word limit. Reading examples of college essays will help you learn this writing style. Still, remember that the best college essays will reflect your own voice. Once again, use our examples of college essays as a guide—don’t try to be someone you’re not. 

In this section, we’ll focus on four main types of supplemental college essay samples. These include why this college essay examples, why this major essay examples, other less typical supplemental essay examples, and “additional information” essay examples. As we look at these examples of college essays, we’ll focus on what made these some of the best college essays out there. We’ll talk about what makes each of these college essay examples unique—and how you can use them as you craft your own college essays.

Our college essay examples shouldn’t hold you back. Don’t feel limited to the same or similar college essay topics that you read in our college essay examples. Reading some short essay samples or Common App essay samples may help you brainstorm, but the stories you tell should be uniquely yours. When reading college application essay examples, keep in mind that authenticity will impress colleges the most. 

‘Why this college’ essay

First, let’s break down some why this college essay examples. As you’ll see from our examples of successful essays, your why this college essay should discuss in detail what attracts you to that particular school. 

Many colleges will require you to write an essay about why you want to attend that particular school. Good college essays that answer these prompts will reflect a given school’s mission, opportunities, and personality. When you read successful why NYU essay examples, why Stanford essay examples, or why UPenn supplemental essays, you’ll notice that the writer isn’t afraid to be specific. 

Questions to consider

What classes will you take? Is there a professor whose work inspires you? What clubs will you join? The best examples of college essays are detailed and convincing . When reading short essay examples, notice how many details the writers include. Then, think about how you can include details with the same specificity—but ones that are applicable to your life, plans, and interests. 

Most schools will have their own supplemental essays. This is one area where Common App essay examples and supplemental college essay examples will differ. Our Common App essay samples were submitted to all colleges, while these short essay examples were submitted to individual colleges. 

As our example why this college essays show, it’s important to research the schools on your list before you complete any college essay prompts. Why this college essays that work establish three things—a personal anecdote, details about the college’s offerings, and the connection between a writer’s personal story and the college. Essentially, the best college essays help the reader visualize how a student will succeed at that school. 

college essay examples

A ‘Why Dartmouth’ essay that worked

Why this college essay examples are a useful tool as you prepare your application for any top school. When reading this Dartmouth essay, pay attention to the clearly articulated and cohesive details. The best college essay examples will be easy to read and convey lots of information in a limited number of words. 

I always had a keen interest in numbers, probability, and finance. Early on, I could quickly calculate sales tax, analyze probabilities, and visualize complex mathematical models. After taking AP classes in economics and statistics, I became intrigued with mathematical representations for economic markets and statistical models. This sparked my desire to pursue an actuarial career to utilize my talents in quantitative reasoning. The Major in Mathematical Data Science will provide me the skills to apply abstract mathematical and statistical theories to the concrete world. I will also have the opportunity to stimulate my academic intrigue through an intensive research project. 

Good college essays do more than discuss why the applicant wants to study their major. They also go beyond why that school would be a good fit for their interests. College essays that worked also show why the applicant would make that school a better place.  

As this Dartmouth essay shows , the best college essays illustrate a track record of involvement to support the applicant’s proposed path forward. In this Dartmouth essay, the applicant plans to become an actuary. Given this student’s background, this feels like an attainable and sincere goal.

Something else to note about this Dartmouth essay is that the writer doesn’t use big fancy words or elaborate sentence structure. Good college essays are well-planned, written intentionally, and free from errors. However, they still sound like high schoolers wrote them! Like our examples of college essays, your short essays should feel natural and authentic. 

‘Why UChicago’ essay examples

Why UChicago essay examples provide useful insight into what UChicago —and other top schools —look for when evaluating applicants. These Why UChicago essay examples also have qualities that you can think about when looking at Stanford essay examples, why NYU essay examples, or others!

Ex. 1: ‘Why UChicago’ essay example

When I visited UChicago, a friend invited me to step into her Comparative Literature class: Monstrosity and the Monstrous. Desperate for refuge from the cold (as a Bay Area resident, I hadn’t packed for the Chicago winter), I quickly obliged. I expected to silently observe, but when I mentioned that I’d read Antigone, her professor was thrilled–he immediately invited me into the discussion. For an hour and a half, we weighed the pros and cons of civil disobedience: did Antigone’s actions permanently destabilize Thebes, and in the modern day, when does protesting against a government cross the line? Was Antigone justified in interpreting the will of the gods? And, if so, would Sophocles support pardoning well-intentioned criminals? Beyond the enthralling analysis of the play, I was captivated by the spirit of UChicago: a campus that invites everyone (including a loitering high school student) to contribute and develop their ideas.

In this first section of our UChicago short essay examples, notice that the writer shows a knowledge of campus based on their campus visit and research. Though UChicago does not track demonstrated interest , the best college essay examples include references to visits, school-specific events, and specific details about the school’s offer. This establishes a connection between the reader and the writer. Strong college essay samples will show genuine interest. 

When reading examples of college essays, you should also think about the tone. In the first excerpt of these college application essay examples, the tone is passionate and enthusiastic. The tone of this sample college essay conveys excitement, and the reader can almost see the applicant walking around campus. Let’s read more UChicago essay examples: 

Ex. 2: ‘Why UChicago’ essay example

Now, it’s surreal to imagine taking “The Economics of Crime” from someone as renowned as Professor Levitt (I’ve been a fan since reading Freakonomics) and staying after class to clarify the finer points of the latest Freakonomics podcast (I particularly enjoyed “Speak Softly and Carry Big Data,” on using data analysis to perfect foreign policy decisions). I hope to add to UChicago’s legacy of pushing the boundaries of our economic understanding by participating in undergraduate research, and perhaps put my findings to use through crafting social policy for the Harris School’s Public Policy Practicum. Prior to graduating, I’ll sample tastes of future careers through the Fried Public Policy and Service Program or the Trott Business Program. Simultaneously, as someone who enjoys conversing and respectfully challenging ideas, I look forward to immersing myself in the Core Curriculum and obtaining a strong foundation of knowledge. Above all, I appreciate that UChicago teaches students how to think, encourages dialogue, and prompts students to question norms. 

Showcase your various interests

In this sample college essay excerpt, the author reveals a strong passion for learning. In this and many other why this college essay samples, the writer doesn’t focus solely on one academic area. Instead, the best college essays reveal qualities and traits of someone who is eager to explore a variety of interests. 

Another strength of this sample college essay excerpt is that it sticks to the facts. The best college essays limit overly emotional appeals, avoid cliché phrases, and don’t make vague statements about the future. You’ll see many examples of college essays that acknowledge a degree of uncertainty about what the author will study—and that’s okay! As our examples of college essays show, you don’t need to have everything figured out. 

Note too, that both excerpts of UChicago college application essay examples are part of a much longer essay. The UChicago supplement is closer in length to Common App essay examples. Though the college essay topics are different for UChicago, you can learn from reading Common App essay examples, too!

For more examples of college essays from UChicago, check out this article!

‘Why this college’ essays—Additional tips

There are a few more tips to learn from reading these examples of college essays. First, notice that you have a lot of freedom to choose your college essay topics. All that matters is that you discuss why you want to go to that particular college. Perhaps you are attracted to a niche academic program, or maybe you want to combine two of your interests and engage with an institute on campus. 

Also, choose your college essay topics and words carefully. Effective college essay samples avoid “spending” words complimenting colleges, telling them information they already know, or regurgitating marketing materials. Strong examples of college essays don’t focus on rankings, acceptance rates, or prestige. Writing about the beautiful buildings, the weather, or the student body size will seldom effectively answer college essay prompts. 

Dig deep and make connections

The most effective college essay examples mention major-specific electives or particular clubs. Most importantly, they’ll explain why these programs matter to the writer. You will notice that college application essay examples often describe how college will be an extension of existing passions, interests, and activities. 

In these why this college essay examples, the writers each point to specific reasons why they would like to attend their respective schools. These why this college essays are detailed and specific. Both of these sample essays showcase what their writers would bring to a college campus and how they would benefit from attending their respective schools.

As you start writing, think about our college admission essay examples about yourself. Stay true to your identity, be specific, and tell a story—then, you have a great chance of writing the best college essays you can. 

examples of college essays

‘Why this major’ essay examples

Next, let’s discuss some why this major college essay prompts. A why this major essay tells the admissions team what inspires you about your chosen field. By reading our why this major essay examples, you can understand how to discuss your academic interests in an engaging way that tells the admissions team more about your identity and passions. Let’s read some sample college essays. 

Ex.1: UPenn ‘Why this major’ essay

The University of Pennsylvania, with its strong emphasis on pre-professional learning is ideal as a learning environment. That focus is what drives many students with an eye to the future — we hope to apply our learning, impact the real world in ways that inspire change.  I find the Cognitive Science program, specifically its concentration in Language and Mind most appealing. As someone who places great emphasis in words, the idea of analyzing the cognitive aspects behind linguistics, whether philosophically, psychologically, or computationally draws upon various fields that showcase various perspectives on the meanings of language. It’s fascinating that despite the various languages and cultures there can be a biological scientific breakdown explaining the complex processes underlying syntax and semantics. 

Ex. 2: Brown University ‘Why this major’ essay

As someone who places great emphasis in words, the idea of analyzing the cognitive aspects behind linguistics, whether philosophically, psychologically, or computationally fits my ideal of using interdisciplinary methods to study human behavior holistically. I am also concerned with quantitative methods. For example, AP Psychology allowed me to talk about the ethics and methodology. I had read about the Asch conformity tests. But when my teacher set up the experiment with three classmates as subjects and the rest of us as confederates, two subjects did not conform; our ratio of nonconformity was lower than Asch had found. Could it be a trait of the magnet population and experience? Should I remain pre-med, a strong background in neuroscience will support my study of anatomy and help me become a better physician. Directly linking biology and behavior,  Cognitive Neuroscience will contribute to my holistic view of my patients.

Express your passion and curiosity

Each of these why this major essay examples gives the reader a sense of the writer’s intellectual passions. These why this major essay examples are clearly written, specific, and personal. When reading these examples of college essays, notice how detailed they are. For example, “I find the Cognitive Science program, specifically its concentration in Language and Mind most appealing.” Good college essays dig underneath the surface. Winning essays will identify how and why a student connects with their identified major or program.

Note too, that the author of the Brown sample college essay build a clear connection between their past experiences in high school (“For example, AP Psychology allowed me to talk about the ethics and methodology”) and future goals in college (“Should I remain pre-med, a strong background in neuroscience will support my study of anatomy and help me become a better physician. Directly linking biology and behavior, Cognitive Neuroscience will contribute to my holistic view of my patients.”)

Content comes first

As you can see in these examples of college essays, it’s crucial to focus on the content of the essay. So, when you write, complete all college essay prompts with specific details about why you want to attend that college. This will improve your overall application narrative. And, don’t forget to make that narrative cohesive. Strong college application essay examples tie extracurriculars, background , and identity together with future plans. 

Whether you’re writing UPenn supplemental essays or Brown supplemental essays, try to write about interdisciplinary interests if possible. You’re likely interested in more than one area, and many schools offer majors, minors, and certifications with unique combinations. Many short essay examples will go beyond the surface to discuss how the applicant’s seemingly disparate interests mesh. 

These college admission essay examples about yourself might raise some questions. Inevitably, some of you reading college essay samples are asking, “what if I don’t know what major I want to study?” Of course, college essays that worked can come from students who are certain of their future career. However, they can also come from students who change their major multiple times. 

So, don’t panic if you haven’t chosen a major. Instead, look at how you spend your time. What excites you now? College essay prompts give you the flexibility to expand on your reasoning.

examples of college essays

Unconventional college essay topics

Some supplemental essay prompts aren’t as straightforward as the why this major or why this college essay examples. For instance, Stanford has some unconventional college essay prompts that help the admissions team learn more about each student. Stanford asks students to write letters to their future roommate. So, let’s look at some Stanford roommate essay examples.

Stanford roommate essay 

Stanford roommate essay examples—like any college essay examples—can be helpful as you craft your application for Stanford or any other top school. Unlike some examples of college essays, the question these Stanford roommate essay examples answer is a bit more personal. College essay prompts like these give you the chance to show off what makes you unique. The best college essays for these types of prompts will show off your unique character.

When tasked with writing an unconventional essay like the Stanford roommate essay, it’s helpful to look at a few examples of college essays. These will help give you a feel for college essays that worked. Let’s read two sample college essays.

Ex.1: Stanford Roommate Essay

In the spirit of inaugurating the life-long relationship I hope we’ll build this year, let me tell you a little about myself. Hi, I’m Allison. I’m the second child of a comically over-optimistic refugee mother (my Vietnamese name translates, literally, to “celestial being”) and a proud Kentuckian with a deep passion for student-driven advocacy. I have two parents, two stepparents, a nineteen-year-old sister (a junior in Product Design, here, at Stanford), a three-year-old half-sister, two cats, one dog, and a complicated life that spans two households. So, I’m used to sharing space and managing shifting schedules. I’ve also always been the “Mom” friend. To me, the little things—a chocolate chip cookie when I know a friend has a rough day ahead, words of encouragement before a big presentation, or staying up late to explain a tough physics problem—mean the most. I’ll be there when you need me—be it studying for tests or navigating personal challenges. I recycle incessantly and am known to snatch cans out of the trash, wash them, and relocate them to neighboring blue bins. I keep a regular sleep schedule, rarely going to bed past midnight or waking up later than 8:30. I’m averse to gyms, opting instead to go for runs in the morning or follow along to a YouTube workout in the afternoon.  I’m passionate, but also even-keeled. I think life is best taken in stride—worrying has never gotten me anywhere, but flexibility has taken me everywhere. I look forward to an awesome year!

Ex.2: Stanford Roommate Essay

Hey Roomie! Yesterday was insane. I still can’t quite get over the energy in that stadium after that final play. I guess Berkeley couldn’t take back the axe to cut down these Trees! I’m writing you this since I have an 8:30 Syntax and Morphology with Dr. Gribanov. I know, it’s early, but that class is honestly worth waking up for. Last Friday, he spent the entire period rambling about why regardless and irregardless are the same thing, but responsible and irresponsible aren’t. Just a fun little thought to start your day. I’m also writing you this as a quick apology. I won’t be back from Mock Trial until late evening, and then I’ll be practicing for Stanford Symphony auditions. So, if you hear cacophonous noises in your sleep, it’s most likely me. Plus, it’s Mahler Symphony No. 1, so you might not sleep much anyway. Kidding. These next few days are jam-packed, but I’m craving some much-needed bonding time! I have a proposal: how does a jam session this Friday at Terman Fountain sound? I’ll bring the guitar and plenty of oldies sheet music, you just gotta bring a snack and the desire to sing! I’ve sold a few people already. Join us? Well, I’m headed to breakfast now. Text me if you want me to grab you anything.

Casual tone and style

These examples of college essays have a more casual tone and style. This works because it fits the prompt for the Stanford roommate essay. Writing a formal styled response in this case would be inappropriate. Instead, in these college application essay examples, both authors discuss their quirks, interests, habits, and personalities . Try to replicate this in your own Stanford roommate essay. Reading a variety of examples of college essays can help you brainstorm your own, but your ideas should still be original!

You and your freshman roommate will come to know each other well, so respond to this prompt with openness and honesty. While they aren’t as prevalent in Common App essay examples or supplemental college essay examples, jokes and humor are more common in these letters. 

Examples of college essays that are a letter to your freshman roommate are less formal. However, they should still be specific and vivid. Include details and stories to show the reader who you are. The strongest college application essay examples for Stanford will illustrate your identity through vivid stories and specifics details. 

Your letter to your Stanford roommate is a great opportunity to show the admissions committee another aspect of who you are. Take advantage of it!

The “Additional Information” essay

Finally, let’s turn to one last set of examples of college essays. One of the college essay prompts you’ll encounter is the “additional information” section of the Common App. This also appears as an optional supplement for some schools. Not all students should write this college essay. However, if you have something important to share about your background or experiences, the “additional information” section can be helpful. 

Let’s look at some college essay examples for this prompt. Keep in mind when reading college essay examples for this prompt that the content will differ from applicant to applicant. So, use this space in whatever way feels natural to you. 

Ex. 1: Harvard University Additional Information essay

I would like the Harvard Admissions Committee to know that my life circumstances are far from typical. I was born at twenty-four weeks gestation, which eighteen years ago was on the cusp of viability. Even if I was born today, under those same circumstances, my prospects for leading a normal life would be grim. Eighteen years ago, those odds were worse, and I was given a less than 5% chance of survival without suffering major cognitive and physical deficits.  The first six months of my life were spent in a large neonatal ICU in Canada. I spent most of that time in an incubator, kept breathing by a ventilator. When I was finally discharged home, it was with a feeding tube and oxygen, and it would be several more months before I was able to survive without the extra tubes connected to me. At the age of two, I was still unable to walk. I engaged in every conventional and non-conventional therapy available to me, including physical and speech therapy, massage therapy, gymnastics, and several nutritional plans, to try to remedy this. Slowly, I began to make progress in what would be a long and arduous journey towards recovery. 

This short essay example shares critical information about the writer. In doing so, this sample college essay excerpt helps the reader learn more about how medical circumstances have shaped the student’s perspective. It is factual—and so are many “additional information” short essay examples you will read. 

The best examples of college essays covering additional information are concrete. They often detail special circumstances, background information, or ways your life has been impacted. If you don’t have important information to write about, then don’t feel like you have to write something. Many students leave this section blank!

Focus on impact

You’ll notice that examples of college essays for the additional information prompt could also include details about your extracurriculars . You might use this area to detail additional extracurriculars and awards that would not fit in that section. These short essay examples typically take the form of a list rather than an essay. These short essay samples should focus on impact; don’t include unimpressive extracurriculars just to put something in the box. Examples of college essays come in all shapes and sizes.

You don’t need to include any additional information on the Common App if you have nothing more to share. However, as you can see from our college essay examples, this section can be useful in some cases. So, use our sample college essays to help you determine whether you should include any additional information in your own applications.

Final Thoughts—Examples of College Essays & College Essays That Worked

In this guide to college essay examples, we’ve walked you through several different kinds of college essays prompts. We’ve also provided details on why these sample college essays impressed admissions officers at top schools. Reading and analyzing college essay examples can be an excellent part of the brainstorming process. 

Colleges admit you based on your potential. So, when reading college essay samples, note the key qualities that the writer reveals. Each of the college essay samples is original and authentic. This should be one of your primary goals when writing your own college essays. 

As you write your college essays, keep these college essay examples in mind. Think about how these short essay examples show impact and character. Then, use your voice to tell your unique story. Good luck!

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This guide to college essay examples was written by Caroline Marapese, Notre Dame ‘22,  Alex Baggott-Rowe , Davidson ’16, and Stefanie Tedards. At CollegeAdvisor, we have built our  reputation  by providing comprehensive information that offers real assistance to students. If you want to get help with your college applications from Alex or other  CollegeAdvisor.com  Admissions Experts ,  click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to write a stand-out "why columbia" essay.

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College Essays

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One of the essays you'll have to write when applying to Columbia University is the "Why Columbia" essay. In this essay, you'll need to convince the admissions committee that Columbia is your dream school and that you'd be a great fit on the campus.

The "Why Columbia" essay question can be intimidating for students. You might be wondering: what should I mention in it? What does the admissions committee want to hear from me?

In this article, we'll break down the "Why Columbia" essay, explaining what the prompt asks and what the committee wants to hear. We'll also show you a real, successful "Why Columbia" essay example and explain why it works. Finally, we'll suggest potential topics for your essay and offer tips on how to write your own college admissions essays.

The 411 on the "Why Columbia" Essay Prompt

Here's the current "Why Columbia" essay prompt for the 2023-2024 application cycle :

Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia. (150 words or fewer)

As you can see, the "Why Columbia" essay prompt asks a specific question: why do you want to attend Columbia University over any other school?

The admissions committee wants to see that you are genuinely interested in attending Columbia specifically and that you value it more than all other colleges out there.

As an applicant, you might be thinking that everyone applies to Columbia for the same reason: it's an Ivy League school and one of the best universities in the world.

The admissions committee knows all these facts about Columbia and knows that all applicants will know these facts, too.

What the Columbia admissions committee wants to learn is why you specifically want to go to Columbia rather than another amazing university.

From their perspective, students who really want to go to Columbia are more likely to enroll when they're accepted. This increases the university's yield rate and ensures that the freshman class will be full. If you can show in your essay that you’ve carefully considered the unique things about Columbia that make it the perfect school for you, you’ve got a good shot at getting an acceptance letter!

What Is the Purpose of the "Why Columbia" Essay?

Why does Columbia require applicants to answer this essay question? And what is the admissions committee really looking for in your answer? Let's analyze the "Why Columbia" essay prompt.

No matter which schools you're applying to, "Why This College" essays are perhaps the most common essay prompts you'll find on college applications because colleges want to see that you really want to attend their school.

But why exactly do colleges care that you want to go to their school?

Students who are passionate about their college or university are more likely to feel that the school is a good fit for them. They'll be more likely to commit to their studies, participate in on-campus activities, and become an active alum after graduation.

Therefore, if you show in your essay that you really love Columbia, it will make admissions officers feel more confident that you're going to have a significant and positive impact on their school.

If your reasons for attending Columbia are vague or even plain wrong (for instance, say you claim you'd like to take a major that isn't actually offered at Columbia), the admissions committee will think that you don't care about the school and aren't really interested in it.

Basically, the purpose of the essay is to suss out whether your interest in Columbia is genuine and to see whether you're ready to take advantage of Columbia's many opportunities.

why this college sample essays

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What Should You Write About in Your "Why Columbia" Essay?

There are a number of different topics you can pursue for your "Why Columbia" essay. Ideally, you'll want to explore specific topics that you can talk about in-depth.

Here are some suggested topics for your essay:

  • Majors or classes you're interested in (look for class names in the online course catalog)
  • Professors whose research you're interested in
  • Extracurriculars that you'd be interested in joining (you can likely find these online, too)
  • Current and past Columbia students you've met before and whom you admire
  • Volunteer opportunities  you'd like to get involved in 
  • Financial aid opportunities Columbia offers that make it possible for you to attend
  • Professional development opportunities Columbia offers

When it comes down to it, make sure to choose something about Columbia that no other school offers.

For instance, Columbia is in New York City and therefore has relationships with lots of businesses and organizations in the area. You could use your essay to examine how these Columbia-specific opportunities in New York will positively affect your education.

What you don't want to do, however, is wax on about how you love city-living— you need to make sure to describe how Columbia's specific relationship with NYC will help you to further your goals.

Match opportunities at Columbia to specific goals you have. For example, you could talk about how a particular professor's course aligns with your career objectives.

You need to be very specific in your answer: every single thing you say should relate back to a certain feature of Columbia. The entire focus of your essay should be what Columbia offers and how you'll take advantage of the school's academics and activities to get the best college education possible.

columbia-university-1017928_640

4 Tips for a Great Response to the "Why Columbia" Essay

Regardless of how you decide to answer this prompt, there are four tips everyone should keep in mind to ensure that they are fully answering the question, giving the information Columbia wants to see, and standing apart from other applicants.

#1: Do Your Research

Before you begin writing your response to this essay prompt, you should know exactly why you want to attend Columbia University. There are multiple ways you can do this research:

  • Visit the school website or browse the list of departments, programs, and courses
  • Check out the school newspaper, schedule a campus visit (virtual or in-person!), or set up a meeting with an alum, current student, or professor to get a feel for the campus

Every college campus has its own vibe, and visiting is the best way to get a sense of how Columbia might work with your personality as a student.

#2: Be Specific

From your research, you should have come up with specific reasons why Columbia is a great school for you. The more specific you can be when answering this prompt, the better.

Don't say Columbia has great academics, caring professors, and an interesting student body. The vast majority of schools have that!

Instead, try to mention opportunities only Columbia can provide, such as specific professors, courses, extracurricular activities, or research opportunities.

The things you discuss should be things your other top schools don't offer—things that really make Columbia stand out.

#3: Show Your Passion

Columbia wants students who care a lot about their studies and their school, so be sure this comes across in your response.

A bland statement such as "I am impressed by Columbia's strong engineering program" doesn't tell the school anything about you or help you stand apart from other applicants. Show your passion by naming specific professors or features of the program.

You've done your research to mention certain qualities Columbia has that have enticed you, and now it's time to discuss specific qualities about yourself, too. Why does the engineering program make you so excited? What do you want to get out of it? Be detailed, specific, and honest.

#4: Proofread

Your Columbia essay should be the strongest possible example of your writing skills. Before you turn in your application, take time to edit and proofread your essays.

Your work should be free of spelling and grammar errors. Make sure to run your essays through a spelling and grammar check before you submit.

It's a good idea to have someone else read your "Why Columbia" essay, too. You can seek a second opinion on your work from a parent, teacher, or friend.

Ask them whether your work represents you as a student and person. Have them check and make sure that you haven't missed any small writing errors. Having a second opinion will help your work be the best it can be.

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Here's a little taste of what a good "Why Columbia" essay looks like.

"Why Columbia" Essay Example

If you're stuck on what to write for your own essay, looking at "Why Columbia" essays that actually worked can be helpful. Below, we examine one "Why Columbia" essay that got a student accepted to Columbia and talk about what specifically made this piece of writing so strong.

The following essay comes to us from an accepted Columbia 2020 student via AP Study Notes :

At a college visit this year, I met a Columbia alumnus named Ayushi, whose stories helped me develop a thorough understanding of Columbia. Ayushi told me that Columbia funded both her summer trip to Syria to interview refugees and her seed money for a start-up she launched. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I'm impressed by a university that encourages students to pursue their own independent creations instead of simply offering the option to work on faculty projects. Columbia's four entrepreneurship organizations, among them the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs, provide a dynamic start-up community for me to launch my own business.

In addition, when I explored Columbia online, the emphasis put on interdisciplinary studies particularly excited me. The Columbia Engineering website is rich with stories of engineering students who are also involved in Shakespeare troupes, service projects, and multicultural groups. In my opinion, diverse experiences are the foundation of creative thinking. At Columbia, I will continue to diversify my experience by not just joining the Parliamentary Debate Team, but also by making new friends on the intramural soccer field and starting a cultural club for Italian heritage students who wish to learn more about Italian history, language, food, and current events.

Columbia Engineering stands uniquely apart from other programs by incorporating several in-depth humanities and writing classes into the graduation requirements. I believe that looking at critical issues with an open mind and sophisticated grasp of the humanities is extremely important to being an engineer. For example, I could not imagine exploring the future of quantum cryptography without considering the political ripple effects of Edward Snowden, the moral ramifications of the quantum encryption revolution, and the relationship between technology and income inequality. I am confident that I will thrive in the Columbia culture of passionate engagement and vibrant, energetic conversation.

Why does this essay work?

It answers the prompt specifically.

This essay gives examples of personal experience with the school and proves that the applicant did their research: they present clear evidence as to how engineering students are involved on campus and talk about specific academic courses.

There are many impressive details in this essay, and the section that addresses extracurriculars is cleverly written to showcase the applicant's diverse interests. This student's mention of certain extracurriculars they want to do indicates that they looked at many facets of Columbia University, not just the engineering department.

It's clear from this essay just how the author views their fit at Columbia. They've talked about specific organizations they would like to be a part of, such as the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs, while also showing why they want to join that organization.

Additionally, the applicant mentions a Columbia University student they spoke with, which means they took getting to know the student body seriously and really wanted to find out what Columbia students were like to see whether they, too, would fit in.

The conversation with the Columbia alum also emphasizes the applicant's initiative: they're willing to go above and beyond to learn about the school.

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Conclusion: Writing a Great "Why Columbia" Essay

The purpose of the "Why Columbia" essay is for you to prove to the admissions committee that Columbia is the best school for you

In your essay, you could write about multiple topics that are specific to Columbia, such as academics, the student body, extracurriculars, and research opportunities.

When writing your "Why Columbia" essay, make sure to research the school extensively and be specific about activities and opportunities that really make you want to attend.

If you're stuck on how to proceed, analyzing a successful "Why Columbia" essay example might help you get inspiration for what to write.

What's Next?

How tough is it to get into Columbia? For answers, read our expert guide on how to get into Columbia and the Ivy League , written by a Harvard alum!

Should you apply early or regular decision to college? Find out the pros and cons of early decision .

Want to see some more college essay examples? We have links to 100+ great college essays that includes our expert analysis on how you can write a stand-out essay of your own.

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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.

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25 Genius "Why This Major" Essay Examples for Top-20 Colleges

Ryan

Here's the secret to writing your "Why This Major?" essays:

They're not really asking "Why this major?" but "Why you and this major?"

Just like with your Why This College essays, you need to show that you're a perfect match for the program you're applying to through specific examples , ideas , and connections to the school's offerings .

Even if you're applying undecided or undeclared , which is common for students to do, admissions officers ask this question because they want to know these 3 things:

  • Do you have an idea about what you want your future to look like (what you want to study, possible career, etc.), and will our school help you fulfill that vision?
  • Do you have what it takes to be a successful student within your desired major or program?
  • How genuinely interested are you in this area of study? Or are you choosing it for superficial reasons (like money)?

What if you're undecided?

Even if you're undecided, you should have some idea about possible fields you're interested in.

It's impossible for you to have lived 17 or 18 years and not picked up some sort of interest that you could study in college.

After all, why are you applying to colleges in the first place? Probably to pursue a more in-depth education in a particular area.

So if you're applying undecided, you'll need to still talk about potential areas you're interested in, even if you aren't totally committed to them yet.

What makes a great "Why This Major?" essay?

The best "Why this major" answers show a deep level of interest and knowledge about the field.

Admissions officers want to know that you're serious about what you want to study.

Tip #1. Avoid superficial or cliché reasons

I often see students write generic remarks like...

  • "Math is the language of the universe"
  • "Studying communications will help me learn how to collaborate with others better."
  • "Computer science is about problem solving"

These are OK starting points, but you need to delve deeper.

How do you go deeper? Try writing about specifics of the field.

Use some geeky or technical language . Instead of saying "biology," you could write about "molecular biology and its impact on genetic engineering."

Be specific and vivid in your writing, and show your interest in the field using specific anecdotes and moments that you haven't yet written about.

Tip #2. Ask yourself questions at the heart of the area of study.

If you're writing about math, some simple but deep question to ask yourself are things like:

  • Is math discovered or created?
  • What are the unsolved mysteries of math?
  • How do the different branches of math (e.g. algebra, geometry, etc.) relate to each other?

These types of questions will get you thinking about what the major represents, rather than just what it literally is.

Focus on ideas , which are always most interesting.

Tip #3. Think about what the most common answer would be, and then say something different.

For computer science, I see a lot of students write about things like "automation", "artificial intelligence", or "problem solving."

For engineering, I see a lot of students write things about Legos or other "building" toys that they played with growing up.

For medicine, I see students write about "wanting to help people."

These are fine starting points for reflecting, but on their own it'll come off as cliché.

Tip #4. What will this school in particular offer to help you study this field better than other schools?

All colleges offer pretty much the same selection of majors and programs, so what is unique about this school's approach?

Again, you'll need to do some thinking and research.

Tip #5. Show how you've already explored the field.

Think about your classes, but more importantly, think about the ways you've gone beyond the classroom.

Those reasons are the most compelling for why you're a great fit for the major.

How to structure your "Why This Major?" essay

Here's formula you can use to write this essay if you're struggling to get started:

  • I am passionate about subject X and here's why (offer a short story or anecdote)
  • Here's is what I want to do with that passion in the future
  • This is what this school has to offer or will do in order to help me achieve my goals and how (specific and unique reasons)

Now, let's look at some examples of students who wrote successful "Why This Major?" essays.

I've gathered 25 "Why Major?" essays from students who got into top-20 schools like Brown, Georgetown, MIT, and more.

This huge list covers a variety of majors and programs—from Computer Science to English to Bioinformatics—so you'll be able to find one that's similar to yours.

Let's dive right into it.

25 "Why This Major" Essay Examples

1. "why bioinformatics" georgetown essay example.

Prompt: Please relate your interest in studying at Georgetown University to your goals. How do these thoughts relate to your chosen course of study? (If you are applying to major in the FLL or in a Science, please specifically address those interests.) (500 words max)

Why This Essay Works:

Having specific details is key to making your essays more engaging. Whenever possible, substitute broader terms for more specific ones. In this essay, the student does this well, for example by writing "recombinant DNA into Escherichia coli" instead of saying "molecular biology."

Digging into why you're passionate about certain things is important for "Why Major" type of essays like this one. Admissions wants to know how and why that interest started. This student does a great job of telling a family story that inspired their interest in French and an academic experience that sparked their biology interest.

What They Might Improve:

This essay doesn't mention much of what Georgetown would offer them. Whenever possible, it's beneficial to reference specific aspects about the school you're applying to. This demonstrates genuine interest and makes it more convincing that your studies would flourish at the school. Although this isn't a "Why Georgetown" essay, these details can and should be incorporated, as the prompt asks you to relate your chosen area(s) of study to the school.

2. "Why Linguistics?" Brown University Essay Example

Prompt: Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about any academic interests that excite you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue them while also embracing topics with which you are unfamiliar. (200-250 words)

My primary interest is in languages and linguistics, specifically Spanish, Portuguese and the descent of these languages from Latin which I explored in my IB Extended Essay. Thus, something that excites me about the complete freedom of the Brown curriculum is the opportunity to learn about Hispanic and Lusophone culture, literature and language in an intersectional way through a concentration in Latin American studies combined with classes and undergraduate research in Linguistics. I intend to supplement my language acquisition with practical application through study abroad opportunities at PUC-Rio, Brazil and in Santiago, Chile, perhaps through the Engaged Scholars Program which will allow me to forge deeper connections with the communities and cultures I am studying. I am also attracted by the possibility of a 5-year BA/MA course in Linguistics which will permit me to conduct meaningful and extensive research on a topic I am truly passionate about.

However, I also have an interest in Biochemistry and Molecular biology. The Open Curriculum will enable me to pursue this avenue of study and research without detracting from my principal focus on languages. Therefore, perhaps what I am most excited for is interdisciplinary study at Brown and the possibility of forging unforeseen connections between disparate academic areas and weaving them together into a program of study that will engage, thrill, and inspire me towards a lifelong path of academic inquiry. For example, I am interested to explore how languages and sociolinguistics can be used to promote medical research and provision in Latin America.

Naming things unique to the school shows you have genuine interest. Listing specific programs, courses, or majors shows you've done your research.

The author's reasons for "Why Brown?" fit into their background and identity. This makes their reasons seem genuine and compelling.

The essay is divided into two parts with distinct answers. Showing how those reasons relate could make the essay more cohesive.

Ending with a sentence "For example..." leaves more to be desired and explained.

3. "Why Medicine and Surgery?" Pomona College Essay Example

Prompt: Most Pomona students enter the College undecided about a major, or they change their minds about their prospective major by the time they graduate. Certainly we aren’t going to hold you to any of the choices you’ve made above. But, in no more than 250 words, please tell us why you’ve chosen the academic programs (or undecided!) that you have listed. (250 words max)

I’m sitting backstage at my first international piano competition, anxiously awaiting my turn to perform. Unconsciously, I massage my right wrist, still recovering from a recent injury. The young man beside me feels my nervousness and starts a conversation.

As we whisper, I notice him rub his hands together uncomfortably. “What’s wrong?” I ask, quickly leaving my own wrist alone. He suppresses a nervous laugh, then quietly details the long and unsuccessful surgery that shattered his dream of becoming a professional musician. His hands were permanently damaged.

“Alessandra Fang,” the judges call. I stand up, walk to the main stage and look back to see him encourage me with a stiff, crooked thumbs-up. As my fingers dance on the keys, I observe the fragile muscles and ligaments under my skin.

I realize in that moment that it is not in a massive concert hall where I wanted to change people’s lives, but on a smaller stage: an operating room. As an artist who has had her share of painful, music-related injuries, my goal is to become a musician’s physician, and blend my greatest two passions so that I might bring relief to those around me, while understanding their musical and anatomical plight.

I wish to pursue both Biology and Music programs at Pomona College. I want to become a hand surgeon while still developing my artistry on the piano. After all, surgery also has its own cadence, complexity and composition.

4. "Why Education/Teaching?" University of Michigan Essay Example

Prompt: Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests? (100-550 words)

Growing up, I always pictured myself as a great teacher as an adult. With the second best secondary education program in the country and an emphasis on the liberal arts and undergraduate education, I am confident that U-M will shape me into the great educator I’ve dreamed of becoming since I was a kid.

Hallmarks of a liberal arts education include teamwork, problem-solving, clear writing, and effective communication. These are also skills that any exceptional teacher needs. U-M offers an unparalleled curriculum that prepares students to successfully run classrooms and obtain Provisional Teacher Certifications upon graduation, exposing students to diverse classes and people in Ann Arbor, and providing them with an invaluable liberal arts education along the way.

Being an effective teacher means connecting with and stimulating all students at its core. The liberal arts foundation I will receive in the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts (LSA), married with the experiential education and training the School of Education (SoE) will provide, will mold me into that great teacher—a mentor and role model for any student, regardless of creed—I’ve always aspired to become.

The Teacher Education Preferred Admission (TEPA) for incoming freshmen piqued my interest because the program is the crossroad between the liberal arts and teacher education; two components I was looking for in a college. TEPA will allow me to build a strong liberal arts base in LSA my first two years on campus before entering SoE, while also gaining beneficial experiences in the education field early on.

The education-oriented programs WE READ and Students Empowering Education specifically appealed to me because they will bridge my liberal arts education with my anticipated career as a high school English teacher. Similarly, my Spanish classes will have a practical application in the Ann Arbor Language Partnership, a program that immediately interested me as a potential Spanish minor.

During my first two years as a pre-admit, I'll be supported by my TEPA peers and staff, specifically from my SoE personal adviser. TEPA will take the large campus and make it feel smaller, allowing me to form organic connections with like-minded people and groups that can cultivate my interest in education before entering SoE junior year.

I need a meaningful education to be a meaningful educator. Truthfully, I could go to almost any college to become a teacher, but only schools that synthesize in- and out-of-classroom learning like SoE produce great ones. U-M ranking sixth in the country for undergraduate teaching bolstered my interest in the university and confirmed what I already knew: I will receive an education in LSA and SoE that will change who I am as a person and not just a student, and prepare me to provide the same for others as a teacher.

The great educator I’ve always envisioned myself becoming is one that can inspire without bounds. From my time as a student, I’ve come to realize that a truly influential teacher can work with students who have little in common with themselves and still be impactful. LSA's purposeful and broad curriculum, paired with SoE's hands-on courses and fieldwork, and the additional opportunities available through TEPA, will shape me into that life-changing teacher, for any student who walks through my classroom door.

5. "Why Business?" University of Michigan Essay Example

Growing up in a community that bleeds maize and blue, the community represented by the University of Michigan has always been one that I could see myself representing as both a student and alumni. From football games at the big house to classes at Ross, each and every opportunity available at U of M represents a piece of my life that I hope to continue to incorporate into my life for the rest of my life.

The opportunity to take courses that allow for enriched experiences in developing a real business is one that I intend to be involved in as soon as possible. I will use this type of class as a way to test my skills and learn where I need to become stronger as a leader and student. Watching others equally driven as me, their tactics that are successful and not successful will imprint on how I attack problems in the future and shape my overall leadership style.

By being involved in the Multidisciplinary Action Projects down the road as a graduate student, I hope to learn firsthand what it takes to run and be involved with real businesses. Firsthand exposure is the best way to learn how to solve problems- especially surrounded by peers who are equally as driven and dedicated as I am.

Filled with students striving for nothing but the best they are capable of is a community that I am certain I will enrich and fit into. By sharing ideas and collaborating together instead of against each other, each and every one of us will contribute to the business world as leaders and innovators.

The University of Michigan is a place I can see myself learning and growing as a leader for the next four years as I intend to use all of the tools at my disposal to become a top business person. The opportunities within the school I will be involved in and the peers that I will work beside only enrich the values of what being a Wolverine mean to me.

6. "Why Math and Accounting?" University of Southern California (USC) Essay Example

Prompt: Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests and why you want to explore them at USC specifically. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections. (250 words max)

All throughout my life, I always loved doing math no matter what the concept. My love for math led to me taking advanced math classes for my grade. I even had to take a bus to a high school when I was in middle school to take an advanced math class. I always knew that I would want to pursue a career dealing with mathematics, but I was not really sure until my junior year. I had not decided what I wanted to be in the future, so my uncle suggested being a CPA, and I looked into it. When I did my research, it interested me as they made a decent amount of money and they worked with numbers.

At USC, I would like to major in accounting and gain the opportunity to possibly receive an internship at one of the big accounting firms in Los Angeles through the networking of USC. If I were able to get an internship, I would be able to gain experience for when I graduate and search for a job. I would also consider going for a Masters of Business Administration as I know that USC has one of the best business programs in the country.

7. "Why Computer Science?" Columbia University Essay Example

Prompt: Describe two or three of your current intellectual interests and why they are exciting to you. Why will Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences be the right environment in which to pursue your interests? (650 words max)

8. "Why Engineering and Law?" University of Michigan Essay Example

The University of Michigan’s College of Engineering has a proactive approach to career path discovery and job search. While I do hope to aspire to a corporate attorney, an engineering degree from the University of Michigan would provide me the advantage of readiness.

U.S News and World Report published an article about challenges law school applicants with STEM degrees face. Number one was the lack of research skills. Michigan Undergraduate Engineering has research opportunities for all undergraduate students. I hope to even take advantage of The College of Engineering (CoE) International Internship Program. The chance to see the world and contribute to the world-class studies conducted by Michigan Engineering students is a unique quality. The article also reported that STEM applicants often lack job experience. Michigan Engineering hosts internship fairs, which even freshman can participate in. By utilizing the opportunity to work in a professional setting, I will be more adapt to presenting myself in a mature and respectable manor in a corporate setting.

Many people are puzzled by my aspirations to become a corporate lawyer with an engineering degree. While I enjoy learning about many areas of study, math and science have always peaked my interest. Like my attraction to law, I am drawn to the definitiveness of engineering specifically. While there is a right and wrong in methods and procedures, there is a chance to be creative; for the end goal is functionality. Law requires critical thinking, problem solving, and the questioning of presented facts and figures. These skills are also encompassed in Michigan Engineering. With a technical understanding of industry and engineering, I will be able to more accurately represent a corporation. Like the professors at Michigan Engineering, I hope to be an expert in my field. At Michigan Engineering, I will be educated by the best of the best. Professors that have been exposed to their fields in every aspect; allowing them to provide the best guidance to students. Instead of just presenting facts and figures in a courtroom, I will be able to understand and explain them.

9. "Why Psychology?" Carnegie Mellon Essay Example

Prompt: Most students choose their intended major or area of study based on a passion or inspiration that’s developed over time – what passion or inspiration led you to choose this area of study? (300 words max)

When I was younger, I faced a lot of negative emotions including anxiety and low self-esteem. For a long time, I felt alone and as if no one understood how I felt. My self confidence was at an all-time low when I started taking psychology. All of a sudden the negative emotions I was feeling started making sense. I was suddenly able to understand how people were wired and why others treated me a certain way. I in fact was able to feel empathy for my aggressors after understanding that those who treated me negatively often faced struggles of their own. Most importantly, I felt as though something out there finally understood me. Because psychology offered insight into my own behavior and helped me to understand others, I was eventually able to overcome my insecurities.

In the future, I would like to help others do the same. No matter where I end up, understanding why people behave a certain way and being more considerate and empathetic for others will only help me thrive. Mental health is a growing issue in our society. The world we live in is a confusing place filled with pain, but psychology provides a way to determine the cause of this suffering and how to change it. I never want anyone to feel the isolation and sorrow I felt when I was younger. I want to help others become compassionate and unconditionally loving not just toward others, but to themselves. Even if I only make a small change in the world and affect just one person’s life, I would like to pursue that.

10. "Why Biology and Environmental Science?" University of Pennsylvania Essay Example

Prompt: Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania? For students applying to the coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer these questions in regard to your single-degree school choice; your interest in the coordinated dual-degree or specialized program may be addressed through the program-specific essay. (300-450 words)

As a child the world fascinated me. From questioning the makeup of the dirt I played in, to doubting the existence of gravity as I flew a kite, I was always thinking. Time passed, and my consciousness opened to more, like atoms, the Big Bang Theory, the psychology behind dreams, and the list goes on. Everything fascinated me; curiosity quickly became a part of my character. Some say ignorance is bliss, but I have to disagree. Ignorance is what fuels my curiosity; ignorance is what drives me to discover, learn, and initiate change. Living in a small rural town with my grandmother and disabled father, I have been limited by geography and socioeconomics. A perfect blend of humanities and factualities, the College of Arts and Sciences is an exploratory lab for all I do not know. At Penn, courses from Neurobiology of Learning and Memory to The Sociology of Gender allow me to rid my ignorance one class at a time. The unique and specialized curriculum provides a place to explore whatever I wonder and answer whatever I question. While my grandmother did not have the money for me to attend science camps, to visit museums, or to travel more than a few hours from my home, living in the country always provided me with endless exploration. My interest in trees in particular led me to specialize in the forestry portion of our Envirothon team for four years of high school. The passion I have for biology is second to my interest in helping others. Rural areas of Pennsylvania are in desperate need for physicians, especially in the field of women’s health. My goal is to return to my community and fill that need. As a low income, first-generation student, I have had limited opportunities, but I have seized any that I could and where there were none, I created some. As a seventh grader, I pioneered the colorguard of our newly formed high school marching band. Last year, as captain of 14 twirlers, I took my first plane ride to Disney World where my band performed. This experience taught more than I could ever learn in a classroom. Similarly, there are endless opportunities at Penn, both intra- and extra-curricular, and I plan to take advantage of all that I can to feed my fire.

11. "Why Finance and Political Science?" University of Pennsylvania Essay Example

This essay does a great job of conveying a thoughtful and candid applicant. Their phrasing, although verbose in some places, comes across genuine because the author walks you through how they learned about the school, what they're looking for in a school, and why the school would offer those specific things. Phrases like "I didn't know if I could honestly see myself studying that" are conversational and natural-sounding, which help create a sincere tone.

By referencing specific programs, like "Penn in Washington" as well as various minors and concentrations, it is clear this student has done their research about the school. One of the most important aspects for a "Why Us" essay is to find specific and unique opportunities and name them in your essay. These could be things like specific professors and their work, campus and its location, interesting classes, unique internship/study-abroad/job programs, special events, and many more. The key is referencing things that are entirely unique to the school and not many other schools too. Avoid broad terms like "renowned faculty" or "interdisciplinary studies" because virtually all colleges offer things like this, and these are some of the most over-used and artificial reasons used in "Why Us" essays.

This essay has many moments of repetition that are unnecessary. In general, avoid repeating your ideas and when editing, ask yourself of each sentence: does this add something distinctly new and important to my essay? There are two common mistakes that often create repetition: prefacing your ideas and summarizing your ideas. Unlike academic writing, you don't need to "prepare" the reader for what you're going to say, and you don't need to conclude it with a summary. By doing so, you only create unnecessary repetition and take up words which could otherwise be used to include new specific details or ideas.

This essay spends nearly half of its words explaining the "interdisciplinary" opportunities at UPenn. However, this reason is quite superficial and not at all unique to Penn, as almost all colleges offer some sort of interdisciplinary study (i.e. combining your interests or studying multiple fields). Talking about "interdisciplinary study" is one of the most common reasons students use in their "Why Us" essay, and it often comes across as generic and unoriginal. Instead, look for offerings that no other (or very few other) schools provide. Narrow down your reasons "why" to make them more specific to the school, even if they are smaller scale. You can mention things like "interdisciplinary studies" or "diverse student body" briefly as a reason why, but don't make them one of your primary reasons why, unless you have something particularly unique about it.

12. "Why Engineering?" Duke University Essay Example

Prompt: If you are applying to the Pratt School of Engineering as a first-year applicant, please discuss why you want to study engineering and why you would like to study at Duke. (150 words max)

At Duke I was equally entranced by the articulate movements of 3D printers in the Co-Lab and the stunning Gothic architecture. Instead of forming a dichotomy, these aspects of Duke blended to symbolize its emphasis on interdisciplinary education, which will offer me a nuanced perspective of the world integral to becoming a leader in engineering.

I will join the Academy for Model Aeronautics and share my passion for designing drones, while taking fascinating courses such as “Taboo Markets” and “Banality of Evil”, while simultaneously working on an engineering project that improves real people’s lives in “Engineering Design”. By joining the Duke Robotics Club, I can expand upon my love for robotics, and I hope to write for the Duke Engineering magazine, as well as join the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. By drawing from this diverse range of educational experiences, I can become a leader in creating a better future.

13. "Why Neuroscience?" University of Southern California (USC) Essay Example

I had never considered traveling across the country to pursue an education. In fact, living in Pittsburgh all of my life and growing up with people who are so adamant about staying put, forced me to believe that I too had to box myself into this small, yet evolving city. However, now I can confidently tell my friends and family that I want to travel to California for college (and ignore their odd looks).

What strikes me most about USC is its ability to maintain uniformity despite its diverse student body--in interests, ethnicity, and opinion. There are not many schools where I could be best friends with filmmakers, artists, photographers, chemists, potential CEOs, and writers. Although all of these people are spread across different schools, they still seem to maintain a cultural unity. Being surrounded by such a distinct trojan pride combined with the ambitious atmosphere would be both inspiring and propulsive.

At USC, I would not have to confine to merely one of my interests. I have always had aspirations of becoming a doctor and pursuing neuroscience, but have never felt comfortable ignoring the humanities. As a Trojan, I could pursue research at the Dana and David Dornsife Cognitive Neuroscience Imaging Center or even take part in PIBBS, while also honing my writing skills through the intricate Writing Program.

Much like the students, my interests could somehow be molded into a diverse uniformity, and I could prove my fellow Pittsburghers that perhaps they need to move around more.

14. "Why Journalism?" Ithaca College Essay Example

Prompt: Please tell us why you selected this specific academic program and what other academic programs interest you. (10-200 words)

Recording devices have been banned from the courtroom of the Supreme Court Building since 1946. Therefore, when the Court makes a landmark decision, interns must hand-deliver paper copies of the ruling to news organizations.

The interns often pair running shoes with their business attire, for the quarter-mile sprint from the Court building to the area where networks ​await.

When I first saw photographs of “The Running of the Interns”, I wanted nothing more than to ​be​ one of those people. I wanted to feel my running shoes beating against the sidewalks, to feel sweat staining my suit.

Why did this tradition attract me to journalism? Because it reminded me that the news is a race, a constantly-changing collection of stories shaping social and political development.

The opportunity to contribute to that collection is why, beyond Ithaca’s journalism program, I’m also interested in the College’s minors in Politics and Writing.

I think all of this desire to be part of a story defines what it means to be a journalist, a writer: When I become a journalism major at Ithaca College, and, later, perhaps a running intern, I get to be a contender in the race to change the world.

15. "Why Economics and Political Science?" University of Michigan Essay Example

In my junior year microeconomics class, my teacher extensively explored the ways in which people from different socioeconomic classes were affected by our economic system. I was frustrated by the ways our country forces those living in poverty to spend the little money they have on taxable goods. I began to empathize with them. How can people pull themselves out of poverty if their government seems to be working against them? More than anything, I was frustrated that I felt powerless to help them in any way.

Those lessons inspired and motivated me. I had always looked at economics as nothing more than an analysis of business models and resource allocation. I began to see it as a way to fix fundamental problems in our society, from examining the effects of healthcare expansion on crime and poverty rates to studying how shifts in our political climate affect how our country’s financial process will change. I now see economics as a way to help those in need in my country and throughout the world.

I volunteered after school for Representative Dingell and had the opportunity to attend numerous events hosted by the Ford School. Again and again, I was impressed by the extent of the Ford School’s student involvement in critical issues. Through my work with the Congresswoman, I was able to gain a greater understanding of how different groups of people were affected by shifts in political and economic priorities. My goal is to become a civil rights attorney or study economics as a way to promote sustainable growth in developing nations.

I want to begin my studies at the University of Michigan in LSA to gain a foundation in economics and political science-related courses. After my first year, I hope to gain admission to the Ford School. The connections that LSA and Ford have to Poverty Solutions solidified by interest in the University of Michigan. If I attended these schools as an undergraduate student, I would be able to assist with research on the causes and ramifications of poverty. Professor Michael Barr’s research on policy initiatives and our financial system is fascinating from the perspective of a prospective economics major. At the University of Michigan, I would be able to join teams of renowned researchers working toward the betterment of our society and our world.

The range of schools working in connection with Poverty Solutions is evidence of the University’s devotion to civic engagement. I would be able to participate in groundbreaking research regarding issues I am interested in; I would have the ability to study poverty and ways to stunt or alleviate its effects in other countries. As someone hoping to pursue a career in public service, it is truly incredible to have the opportunity to join a research community specifically geared toward solving problems I am passionate about solving.

I want to join the University of Michigan’s legacy of innovators. I want to be part of the LSA community, studying economics and political science. I want to attend the Ford School and understand how policy in America and abroad has an effect on global poverty. I want to be involved with the Poverty Solutions Initiative, conducting groundbreaking research on the ways we can reform our financial system to better serve the lower and middle classes.

16. "Why English Major?" Rice University Essay Example

Prompt: Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected above. (150 words max)

It's an understatement to label me as an English geek; I am that kid who squeals in excitement in English class when given a new essay assignment while others may groan in exasperation. I understand why some may be a bit anxious when preparing to turn in an essay for evaluation; you could bring an essay to two different English teachers and receive two different grades on it. This subjectivity is why some folks may prefer subjects such as mathematics in which the right answer is not debatable. However, its subjectivity is exactly what captivates me. I enjoy reasoning my opinions of arguments and the intentions of authors.

I was really happy when I learned I didn't have to major in Criminal Justice or Political Science to be a civil rights lawyer because I want to become a professional author as well. So, majoring in English is perfect for me.

17. "Why Political Science?" University of Michigan Essay Example

Riding the elevator to the seventh floor of Haven Hall, my heart was practically leaping out of my chest. I was meeting with Dr. Jenna Bednar of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Department of Political Science, and as I recalled her credentials- B.A. in Political Science from Michigan, M.A. and PhD in Political Science from Stanford- I felt increasingly out of place. As a junior in high school with limited political experience, I am grateful that she agreed to take time out of her day to meet with me and answer my numerous questions about LSA, Michigan, and political theory.

Upon entering her office, my eyes were drawn to bookshelves full of political literature, from the classics like De Tocqueville and Locke (which I read in a summer college program in 2017), to her own recently published work, The Robust Federation. Encouraged by her broad smile and having just completed an official campus tour, I launched into my questions. Dr. Bednar described the connections she and her students have made at Michigan, through LSA and in general.

This revealed to me that the faculty would take a personal interest in my academic career. We discussed the average class size in LSA and the Department of Political Science, her academic background, and how to survive Michigan winters. Dr. Bednar then brought my attention to the benefits that LSA Political Science gives its students.

For example, as head of the Michigan in Washington program, Dr. Bednar's passion for both political science and education was evident as she introduced me to one of Michigan's most influential academic programs. Although I hail from two miles outside the D.C. border, I aspire to participate in the Michigan in Washington program, to build on my internship of the past year with my delegate to the Maryland General Assembly.

Under his guidance, I conducted nationwide policy research, attended civic association meetings and development forums, and traveled to our state capitol to watch the legislative process unfold. Consequently, an internship at the federal level is my logical next step toward building the foundations of a political career.

Dr. Bednar, upon hearing about my internship with my delegate, suggested that I think about the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. I believe that this research program offers a unique means of building my understanding of political science. I am eager to apply to the UROP program in hopes of furthering my research skills within the complex political landscape of today. Furthermore, the variety of courses that I can explore as a political science major is remarkable: from "Sports, Politics, and Society", to "Nations and Nationalism," the scope of topics will keep me engaged.

When I sat down with Dr. Bednar, I expected a five-minute chat; I received forty-five minutes of helpful advice, political theorizing, and well wishes. Leaving her office, I felt energized and ready to dive into LSA Political Science right there. Her demeanor helped to build my confidence to boldly seek connections in my search for knowledge. I saw the Michigan difference firsthand, from various undergraduate opportunities for political science, to a universal love for the school from students and faculty alike.

18. "Why Chemistry and Biology?" MIT Essay Example

Prompt: Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why? (100 words max)

I remember boiling down cabbage with my dad to make titration indicators. When I first read about the process of translation, of rendering mRNA into proteins, my eyes filled with tears; this is what I would do, apply the chemistry that had defined my childhood to my love of biology. In the past few months alone, MIT researchers have visualized a critical growth kinase and decoded the kavalactone gene. To major in both the chemistry and biology departments at MIT would be an unequaled opportunity to explore the molecular basis of life and apply that knowledge to real-world innovation.

19. "Why Neuroscience?" University of Michigan Essay Example

My favorite class in high school was also my hardest. It was World Culture/World Literature, an hour and a half each day of seeing history, art, and literature not as separate entities but as intricately connected, one incomplete without the other. I learned to see humanism in Greek sculpture, religious propaganda in the chiaroscuro of Baroque paintings, disillusionment in modern art. Although seemingly unrelated to my STEM-leaning interests, the analytical skills I learned there would prove invaluable in neuroscience research. Connecting electroencephalography results to mechanisms for chronic pain relief wasn’t all too different from drawing links between historical movements and paintings; both required an intimate knowledge of background information and a willingness to take risks, to see new relationships and forge unprecedented connections.

LSA embodies precisely this mentality, fostering interdisciplinary learning and problem-solving. With classes like “Health, Biology, and Society: What is Cancer?”, bridging humanistic and biological approaches to disease, and graduation requirements ranging from Natural Sciences to Race and Ethnicity, LSA prepares students for the real world, where problems necessitate not just single-minded expertise but also a diverse understanding of other factors involved. My internship experience only confirmed the practicality of this perspective; we used mindfulness meditation alongside spinal cord stimulation technologies to treat chronic pain.

This mindset is not confined to learning inside the classroom. The LSA Opportunity Hub is robust, connecting students to internships at Nike, Forbes, and the US Department of Education, among other places. To intern as a research assistant at Mayo Clinic, to use mathematical models to predict brain tumor growth like current Michigan junior Tatum Doyle would be an unequalled opportunity. Her work in incorporating mathematical concepts in medical research personifies the LSA culture, where problems are best solved holistically. LSA’s interdisciplinary approach does not detract from fostering specialization and excellence in specific fields, but adds; its Biochemistry program promotes innovation and independence in its students and is ranked top in the nation.

I remember boiling down cabbage with my dad to make acid/base indicators. In elementary school, my teacher wrote that I had been spending too much time reading animal books and too little time playing with other kids. I loved (and still love) all things living, often marvelling at the complexity of the animal kingdom, the human body, the organs, and the cells that were the foundation for everything else. The first time I read about the process of translation, of rendering mRNA into proteins, my eyes filled with tears; this is what I wanted to do, to apply the chemistry that had defined my childhood to my love of biology.

LSA shares that passion, dedicating a plethora of resources, both intellectual and material, to its Biochemistry department. With equipment like atomic absorption spectrophotometers, classes in Endocrinology, and distinguished professors, the University of Michigan has everything any biochemistry undergraduate student would need, and much more. To research under a PI like Dr. Kopelman, winner of the J. William Fulbright Research Award, would be a dream fulfilled. His work in employing 5-dimensional chemical imaging to visualize and treat tumors does what LSA does best; it uses an interdisciplinary approach to make academic discoveries both relevant and essential in the real world. It is a culture I would be honored to take part in, should I be accepted.

20. "Why Undeclared?" University of Michigan Essay Example

Sweat drips down my face onto homework in front of me.

I just got home from a soccer game; I’m not stressed. This is until I realize I still have a plethora of edits to make on my lab report as well as emails to write for an upcoming NHS event. AND I have three tests the next day.

Although stressful, I enjoy every minute of juggling a variety of academics and extracurriculars. I appreciate all the opportunities my high school offers to me and I take advantage of as many as I can handle. Thanks to my involved years of high school, I have received a great education as well as many experiences I would never trade away.

Entering my senior year and researching universities I may want to attend, there is one question which continuously presents itself. What do I want to major in when I get to college? It is a scary question and I have never known the answer. Despite participating in many extracurriculars such as National Honor Society, Science Olympiad, Math Honor Society, and Future Business Leaders of America, I still have no idea what I want to do with my life.

As a student at LSA, I would be able to use the abundance of resources to explore possibilities for life after college. Since I am one of the many college applicants who has not decided upon a major, a large, liberal arts college like LSA is the perfect place for me to discover more about myself, pursue interests, and find my purpose. I have considered medicine, business, economics, and law. The two courses I have enjoyed the most are biomedical sciences and US History. I am truly all over the map!

With so much variety at LSA, I would be able to change majors or take a diverse group of classes so that I could find what I want to study. LSA is unique from its University of Michigan counterparts because it offers a broader range of departments, majors, and courses. The flexibility at LSA would help me discover what I want my life to be like while supporting me through my journey.

Additionally, LSA provides students with multiple opportunities not found anywhere else at University of Michigan. One program that caught my eye was Michigan Learning Communities. This program appeals to me because having the resources of this large university, yet finding a niche in the community to challenge myself and others, can help me grow as a student and a person. Similarly, the Opportunity Hub at LSA jumped out at me as I researched the University and toured the school. I would take full advantage of the great connections the Opportunity Hub provides, as it could help me find an internship or job offer when the perfect time comes. MLCs, the Opportunity Hub, and the many other programs which LSA offers are the main reasons why LSA would be the best college fit for me.

I was initially drawn to the University of Michigan by the beautiful campus, great athletics programs, unmatched prestige, and massive alumni network. However, as I dove deeper, I discovered LSA, a school that can help me realize my purpose and passions while providing a focused learning environment to lead me to a bright future.

21. "Why Computer Science?" Cornell Essay Example

22. "why kinesiology" university of michigan essay example, 23. "why mathematics" cornell essay example.

Prompt: Cornell Engineering celebrates innovative problem solving that helps people, communities…the world. Consider your ideas and aspirations and describe how a Cornell Engineering education would allow you to leverage technological problem-solving to improve the world we live in. (250-650 words)

For "Why Us?" college essays, one of the most important parts is to show ways you imagine being involved on campus. This student does a great job of showing that they've done their research about Cornell, by connecting their passion for studying heart disease to specific initiatives already taking place on campus. Try researching what events, research, or programs are being conducted. By referencing those specifics, you can create convincing reasons of why this school is fit for you.

When discussing your intended area of study, one effective strategy is to identify a problem that you see. This problem can be in the field itself, your community, or the world. Then, you can connect this problem to yourself by showing how you'd want to help solve it. Don't try to tackle it entirely yourself, but show how you'd "take bites" out of this larger problem. It is also important that you identify potential solutions to the problem. You definitely don't (and shouldn't) have all the answers, but what do you see as potential steps for combatting the issue?

Using technical language, such as referencing "semi-elliptical curves" and "modular form" in this essay, will help show your in-depth knowledge and passion. Don't be afraid to use technical jargon like this, and don't worry if admissions officers may not know all the terms. As long as they have context and knowing the terminology isn't critical to understanding your point, including "nerdy" language will make your essay more engaging and demonstrate your intelligence.

If you have personal connections to the school you're applying to (such as legacy, family members who work there, students or faculty you're close with), it can be a good idea to reference those connections. Showing personal connections to the school makes admissions think, "They're already practically one of us!" Just make sure that these connections aren't contrived: only write about them if you have a clear purpose within your essay for introducing them. In this essay, the student references their brother who attended Cornell, but does so in a way that naturally ties into the rest of their reasons for "why Cornell."

24. "Why Computer Science?" Brown University Essay Example

Prompt: Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated? (150 words max)

There was a time when I was low and afraid to be with myself. That’s when I dived into programming. I always sat with my laptop. But unlike others on Instagram or Snapchat, I was coding. I always kept myself occupied so I wouldn’t think about hardships. But as I was solving those little Instantiation and StackOverflow errors, I realized that any problem in my life had a solution. I could either modify the code and right the wrong, or just keep compiling them, producing no output. So, life is not all that different. That is why I want to pursue Computer Science. I know I can work to keep myself happy. Inevitably, what makes me happy is Computer Science, which is what I want to pursue.

25. "Why Journalism?" Emerson College Essay Example

Prompt: As you know, the academic programs at Emerson College are focused on communication and the arts. Please tell us what influenced you to select your major. If you're undecided about your major, what attracted you to Emerson's programs? Please be brief. (100-200 words)

Recording devices have been banned from the courtroom of the United States Supreme Court Building since 1946. Therefore, when the Court makes a landmark decision, interns must hand-deliver paper copies of the ruling to news organizations.

The quarter-mile sprint from the Court building to the area where networks ​await ​is no easy feat. But the interns dress with this mind, often pairing running shoes with their business attire.

When I first saw photographs of “The Running of the Interns”, I knew that I wanted nothing more than to ​be​ one of those people. I wanted to feel my running shoes beating against the limestone sidewalks, to feel sweat staining my suit.

Why did a tradition centered around dashing through D.C. attract me to journalism? Because it reminded me that the news is a race, a constantly-changing collection of stories shaping social and political development.

This, I think, defines both what it means to be a journalist and why I want to be a journalist: When I become a journalism major at Emerson, and, later, a part of the press--perhaps a running intern--I get to be a contender in the race to change the world.

What You Can Learn From These "Why This Major" Essay Examples

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Princeton Admitted Essay

People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is... uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable...

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Her baking is not confined to an amalgamation of sugar, butter, and flour. It's an outstretched hand, an open invitation, a makeshift bridge thrown across the divides of age and culture. Thanks to Buni, the reason I bake has evolved. What started as stress relief is now a lifeline to my heritage, a language that allows me to communicate with my family in ways my tongue cannot. By rolling dough for saratele and crushing walnuts for cornulete, my baking speaks more fluently to my Romanian heritage than my broken Romanian ever could....

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A cow gave birth and I watched. Staring from the window of our stopped car, I experienced two beginnings that day: the small bovine life and my future. Both emerged when I was only 10 years old and cruising along the twisting roads of rural Maryland...

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What is Presidents Day and how is it celebrated? What to know about the federal holiday

Many will have a day off on monday in honor of presidents day. consumers may take advantage of retail sales that proliferate on the federal holiday, but here's what to know about the history of it..

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Presidents Day is fast approaching, which may signal to many a relaxing three-day weekend and plenty of holiday sales and bargains .

But next to Independence Day, there may not exist another American holiday that is quite so patriotic.

While Presidents Day has come to be a commemoration of all the nation's 46 chief executives, both past and present, it wasn't always so broad . When it first came into existence – long before it was even federally recognized – the holiday was meant to celebrate just one man: George Washington.

How has the day grown from a simple celebration of the birthday of the first president of the United States? And why are we seeing all these ads for car and furniture sales on TV?

Here's what to know about Presidents Day and how it came to be:

When is Presidents Day 2024?

This year, Presidents Day is on Monday, Feb. 19.

The holiday is celebrated on the third Monday of every February because of a bill signed into law in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Taking effect three years later, the Uniform Holiday Bill mandated that three holidays – Memorial Day, Presidents Day and Veterans Day – occur on Mondays to prevent midweek shutdowns and add long weekends to the federal calendar, according to Britannica .

Other holidays, including Labor Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day , were also established to be celebrated on Mondays when they were first observed.

However, Veterans Day was returned to Nov. 11 in 1978 and continues to be commemorated on that day.

What does Presidents Day commemorate?

Presidents Day was initially established in 1879 to celebrate the birthday of the nation's first president, George Washington. In fact, the holiday was simply called Washington's Birthday, which is still how the federal government refers to it, the Department of State explains .

Following the death of the venerated American Revolution leader in 1799, Feb. 22, widely believed to be Washington's date of birth , became a perennial day of remembrance, according to History.com .

The day remained an unofficial observance for much of the 1800s until Sen. Stephen Wallace Dorsey of Arkansas proposed that it become a federal holiday. In 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law, according to History.com.

While initially being recognized only in Washington D.C., Washington's Birthday became a nationwide holiday in 1885. The first to celebrate the life of an individual American, Washington's Birthday was at the time one of only five federally-recognized holidays – the others being Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.

However, most Americans today likely don't view the federal holiday as a commemoration of just one specific president. Presidents Day has since come to represent a day to recognize and celebrate all of the United States' commanders-in-chief, according to the U.S. Department of State .

When the Uniform Holiday Bill took effect in 1971, a provision was included to combine the celebration of Washington’s birthday with Abraham Lincoln's on Feb. 12, according to History.com. Because the new annual date always fell between Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays, Americans believed the day was intended to honor both presidents.

Interestingly, advertisers may have played a part in the shift to "Presidents Day."

Many businesses jumped at the opportunity to use the three-day weekend as a means to draw customers with Presidents Day sales and bargain at stores across the country, according to History.com.

How is the holiday celebrated?

Because Presidents Day is a federal holiday , most federal workers will have the day off .

Part of the reason Johnson made the day a uniform holiday was so Americans had a long weekend "to travel farther and see more of this beautiful land of ours," he wrote. As such, places like the Washington Monument in D.C. and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota – which bears the likenesses of Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt – are bound to attract plenty of tourists.

Similar to Independence Day, the holiday is also viewed as a patriotic celebration . As opposed to July, February might not be the best time for backyard barbecues and fireworks, but reenactments, parades and other ceremonies are sure to take place in cities across the U.S.

Presidential places abound across the U.S.

Opinions on current and recent presidents may leave Americans divided, but we apparently love our leaders of old enough to name a lot of places after them.

In 2023, the U.S. Census Bureau pulled information from its databases showcasing presidential geographic facts about the nation's cities and states.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the census data shows that as of 2020 , the U.S. is home to plenty of cities, counties and towns bearing presidential names. Specifically:

  • 94 places are named "Washington."
  • 72 places are named "Lincoln."
  • 67 places are named for Andrew Jackson, a controversial figure who owned slaves and forced thousands of Native Americans to march along the infamous Trail of Tears.

Contributing: Clare Mulroy

Eric Lagatta covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach him at [email protected]

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The Loss of Things I Took for Granted

Ten years into my college teaching career, students stopped being able to read effectively..

Recent years have seen successive waves of book bans in Republican-controlled states, aimed at pulling any text with “woke” themes from classrooms and library shelves. Though the results sometimes seem farcical, as with the banning of Art Spiegelman’s Maus due to its inclusion of “cuss words” and explicit rodent nudity, the book-banning agenda is no laughing matter. Motivated by bigotry, it has already done demonstrable harm and promises to do more. But at the same time, the appropriate response is, in principle, simple. Named individuals have advanced explicit policies with clear goals and outcomes, and we can replace those individuals with people who want to reverse those policies. That is already beginning to happen in many places, and I hope those successes will continue until every banned book is restored.

If and when that happens, however, we will not be able to declare victory quite yet. Defeating the open conspiracy to deprive students of physical access to books will do little to counteract the more diffuse confluence of forces that are depriving students of the skills needed to meaningfully engage with those books in the first place. As a college educator, I am confronted daily with the results of that conspiracy-without-conspirators. I have been teaching in small liberal arts colleges for over 15 years now, and in the past five years, it’s as though someone flipped a switch. For most of my career, I assigned around 30 pages of reading per class meeting as a baseline expectation—sometimes scaling up for purely expository readings or pulling back for more difficult texts. (No human being can read 30 pages of Hegel in one sitting, for example.) Now students are intimidated by anything over 10 pages and seem to walk away from readings of as little as 20 pages with no real understanding. Even smart and motivated students struggle to do more with written texts than extract decontextualized take-aways. Considerable class time is taken up simply establishing what happened in a story or the basic steps of an argument—skills I used to be able to take for granted.

Since this development very directly affects my ability to do my job as I understand it, I talk about it a lot. And when I talk about it with nonacademics, certain predictable responses inevitably arise, all questioning the reality of the trend I describe. Hasn’t every generation felt that the younger cohort is going to hell in a handbasket? Haven’t professors always complained that educators at earlier levels are not adequately equipping their students? And haven’t students from time immemorial skipped the readings?

The response of my fellow academics, however, reassures me that I’m not simply indulging in intergenerational grousing. Anecdotally, I have literally never met a professor who did not share my experience. Professors are also discussing the issue in academic trade publications , from a variety of perspectives. What we almost all seem to agree on is that we are facing new obstacles in structuring and delivering our courses, requiring us to ratchet down expectations in the face of a ratcheting down of preparation. Yes, there were always students who skipped the readings, but we are in new territory when even highly motivated honors students struggle to grasp the basic argument of a 20-page article. Yes, professors never feel satisfied that high school teachers have done enough, but not every generation of professors has had to deal with the fallout of No Child Left Behind and Common Core. Finally, yes, every generation thinks the younger generation is failing to make the grade— except for the current cohort of professors, who are by and large more invested in their students’ success and mental health and more responsive to student needs than any group of educators in human history. We are not complaining about our students. We are complaining about what has been taken from them.

If we ask what has caused this change, there are some obvious culprits. The first is the same thing that has taken away almost everyone’s ability to focus—the ubiquitous smartphone. Even as a career academic who studies the Quran in Arabic for fun, I have noticed my reading endurance flagging. I once found myself boasting at a faculty meeting that I had read through my entire hourlong train ride without looking at my phone. My colleagues agreed this was a major feat, one they had not achieved recently. Even if I rarely attain that high level of focus, though, I am able to “turn it on” when demanded, for instance to plow through a big novel during a holiday break. That’s because I was able to develop and practice those skills of extended concentration and attentive reading before the intervention of the smartphone. For children who were raised with smartphones, by contrast, that foundation is missing. It is probably no coincidence that the iPhone itself, originally released in 2007, is approaching college age, meaning that professors are increasingly dealing with students who would have become addicted to the dopamine hit of the omnipresent screen long before they were introduced to the more subtle pleasures of the page.

The second go-to explanation is the massive disruption of school closures during COVID-19. There is still some debate about the necessity of those measures, but what is not up for debate any longer is the very real learning loss that students suffered at every level. The impact will inevitably continue to be felt for the next decade or more, until the last cohort affected by the mass “pivot to online” finally graduates. I doubt that the pandemic closures were the decisive factor in themselves, however. Not only did the marked decline in reading resilience start before the pandemic, but the students I am seeing would have already been in high school during the school closures. Hence they would be better equipped to get something out of the online format and, more importantly, their basic reading competence would have already been established.

Less discussed than these broader cultural trends over which educators have little control are the major changes in reading pedagogy that have occurred in recent decades—some motivated by the ever-increasing demand to “teach to the test” and some by fads coming out of schools of education. In the latter category is the widely discussed decline in phonics education in favor of the “balanced literacy” approach advocated by education expert Lucy Calkins (who has more recently come to accept the need for more phonics instruction). I started to see the results of this ill-advised change several years ago, when students abruptly stopped attempting to sound out unfamiliar words and instead paused until they recognized the whole word as a unit. (In a recent class session, a smart, capable student was caught short by the word circumstances when reading a text out loud.) The result of this vibes-based literacy is that students never attain genuine fluency in reading. Even aside from the impact of smartphones, their experience of reading is constantly interrupted by their intentionally cultivated inability to process unfamiliar words.

For all the flaws of the balanced literacy method, it was presumably implemented by people who thought it would help. It is hard to see a similar motivation in the growing trend toward assigning students only the kind of short passages that can be included in a standardized test. Due in part to changes driven by the infamous Common Core standards , teachers now have to fight to assign their students longer readings, much less entire books, because those activities won’t feed directly into students getting higher test scores, which leads to schools getting more funding. The emphasis on standardized tests was always a distraction at best, but we have reached the point where it is actively cannibalizing students’ educational experience—an outcome no one intended or planned, and for which there is no possible justification.

We can’t go back in time and do the pandemic differently at this point, nor is there any realistic path to putting the smartphone genie back in the bottle. (Though I will note that we as a society do at least attempt to keep other addictive products out of the hands of children.) But I have to think that we can, at the very least, stop actively preventing young people from developing the ability to follow extended narratives and arguments in the classroom. Regardless of their profession or ultimate educational level, they will need those skills. The world is a complicated place. People—their histories and identities, their institutions and work processes, their fears and desires—are simply too complex to be captured in a worksheet with a paragraph and some reading comprehension questions. Large-scale prose writing is the best medium we have for capturing that complexity, and the education system should not be in the business of keeping students from learning how to engage effectively with it.

This is a matter not of snobbery, but of basic justice. I recognize that not everyone centers their lives on books as much as a humanities professor does. I think they’re missing out, but they’re adults and they can choose how to spend their time. What’s happening with the current generation is not that they are simply choosing TikTok over Jane Austen. They are being deprived of the ability to choose—for no real reason or benefit. We can and must stop perpetrating this crime on our young people.

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Why the Case Against Fani Willis Feels Familiar to Black Women

In interviews, professional women were dismayed by the personal attacks on the Georgia prosecutor, but not surprised.

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A portrait of Fani Willis, the district attorney of Futon County, Ga.

By Clyde McGrady and Katie Glueck

Tangala L. Hollis-Palmer felt a sense of pride when she learned that Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga., and one of the nation’s few elected Black female prosecutors, would lead the election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump.

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But that pride would be tempered by dismay as news emerged of Ms. Willis’s personal relationship with a fellow prosecutor, Nathan J. Wade , an outside lawyer she hired to help run the case. Ms. Hollis-Palmer, a Black, 40-year-old attorney from Mississippi, is mostly upset at critics trying, she said, to discredit Ms. Willis. At first, she was skeptical of the allegations. But when Ms. Willis herself conceded the relationship, Ms. Hollis reserved some disappointment for the prosecutor who should have used a “little more discretion and a little better judgment,” she said.

Mr. Trump and several co-defendants are calling Ms. Willis’s hiring of Mr. Wade a conflict of interest and want Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade disqualified, potentially upending a critical case against the former president and doing grievous damage to Ms. Willis’s reputation.

“We just have to be so careful when we are in these positions to not give people the ammunition to come after us,” Ms. Hollis-Palmer said.

On Thursday, a Georgia judge is scheduled to hear evidence on the relationship between the two prosecutors.

A defense lawyer for one of Mr. Trump’s co-defendants argues that Ms. Willis’s hiring of Mr. Wade is a “form of self-dealing” that provides Ms. Willis with incentive to keep the case going.

Mr. Wade has earned more than $650,000 since his hiring in 2021 while also spending money on joint vacations he has taken with Ms. Willis, issues that will be central to the hearing this week. Ms. Willis has said that the costs of joint personal travel have been “divided roughly evenly” between her and Mr. Wade.

Interviews with a dozen Black women at varying stages of their careers found them to be painfully conflicted about Ms. Willis’s situation and her treatment in the public eye.

To many, there is something galling about watching Mr. Trump and his allies attack Ms. Willis over a consensual romantic relationship when he has faced accusations of sexual misconduct and assault. Mr. Trump was recently ordered by a Manhattan jury to pay $83.3 million to the writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her after she accused him of a decades-old rape. A civil jury also found Mr. Trump liable for sexually abusing Ms. Carroll.

Some lamented Ms. Willis’s conduct as a mistake, but not one that should remove her from the case against Mr. Trump. Others, thinking about their own experiences in the workplace, suggested another concern: They feel that Black women are held to a different standard and that Ms. Willis should have known that her identity, along with the enormous political stakes of the case, would create a white-hot spotlight on her personal conduct.

“I can’t sit in judgment of her as a human being, but I can say, in terms of her role as a public prosecutor, yeah, she showed bad judgment,” said Donna Brazile, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, adding that she had always kept a clear separation between her own personal and professional life with “a bright red line.”

She said Ms. Willis faced “vitriol” and “racial animus” as a woman of color in a position of power.

But, Ms. Brazile said, some of the attention is to be expected for a high-profile person involved in a high-profile case, especially one that concerns a former president of the United States.

“She is undergoing public scrutiny — she’s a public official,” Ms. Brazile said. “Comes with the territory.”

Jeff DiSantis, a spokesman for Ms. Willis’s office, declined to comment.

The discussions about race, gender and Ms. Willis’s dilemma have played out in group chats with text messages flying back and forth, in kitchen table discussions between couples and at student hangouts.

“We deal with the sexism as well as the racism,” Ms. Hollis-Palmer said. “But sometimes the sexism is a little worse.” She practices law with her husband and said that when they walk into a courtroom, people automatically assume that he’s the lead counsel. “A lot of times people have thought that I was his assistant,” she added.

When publicly discussing Ms. Willis’s predicament, some women of color have tried to walk a tightrope of empathy and anger.

Those conflicting feelings played out during a recent discussion on the daytime talk show “The View.”

“I’m very pissed off, too,” said the co-host Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, who is a Nicaraguan American. “Because when you are a woman of color in such a high-profile position, you know that the scrutiny that’s going to befall you is greater than on anybody else, and she needed to have kept her house clean.”

The co-host Sunny Hostin, who is Black and Latina, chimed in, “Your stuff cannot stink,” before adding that she agreed with Ms. Navarro-Cárdenas.

In some cases, the concerns about Ms. Willis’s treatment are balanced with uneasiness over how her behavior could jeopardize a potential Trump conviction.

“My initial reaction was that it seemed to be kind of a halfhearted attempt to get the entire case thrown out, which I thought was just an incredible stretch,” said Faith Udobang, 25, president of the University of Chicago Black Law Student Association.

But now she is worried that the misconduct accusations against Ms. Willis could delay the outcome until after the election.

“I believe the American people deserve to have adequate information once they go to the polls,” she said.

Some legal observers have said the attempts to disqualify Ms. Willis rest on shaky legal ground. They say the allegations against Ms. Willis have nothing to do with whether or not Mr. Trump interfered with the state’s election in 2020, and conspired to subvert the will of Georgia voters. But lawyers for defendants could use the misconduct allegations to undermine perceptions about the fairness of the prosecution by calling into question Ms. Willis’s judgment.

In a January address at one of Atlanta’s oldest Black churches, Ms. Willis suggested that her critics are playing the “race card.” She defended her hiring of Mr. Wade and said that his “impeccable credentials” were only being questioned because they are both Black.

“Obviously, it was in somebody’s interest to bring her down,” said the former Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Democrat of Illinois and the first Black woman to serve in the Senate. “The fact that she’s a high-profile Black woman just means that she’s a bigger target.”

Others are less sure that race or gender are central to fueling the accusations, but instead argue that anyone in Ms. Willis’s position would be the target of personal attacks from Mr. Trump.

Luci Walker, a 54-year-old data analyst from Decatur, Ga., said she doesn’t believe Ms. Willis’s race or gender had played a role in the scrutiny.

“It would be some reason or another, but I think they might just be looking for excuses to get out of it, or to get her off the case,” Ms. Walker said.

Leah D. Daughtry, a veteran Democratic strategist, said that the focus on Ms. Willis’s personal life was, in some ways, in keeping with the kind of attention that follows many in public life. But there is an added complication for Black women, she said.

“There are people who will be emboldened and invigorated by the fact that she’s a Black woman and make it, then, their business to go further and farther than they may have gone,” she said. It is “easy to argue that white men are not often held to the same scrutiny.”

She pointed to the many accusations of misconduct Mr. Trump has faced, including from Ms. Carroll.

“No one made that a disqualifier,” she said of the current Republican presidential front-runner. “But for Fani Willis, the fact that she’s in a consensual relationship with another adult person somehow makes her disqualified, or unqualified, to continue the work that she’s been doing. In that sense there’s a double standard, absolutely.”

Glynda C. Carr, the leader of Higher Heights for America, an organization focused on engaging Black women in politics, said she had been raised with the idea that Black women must be “twice” as good to navigate challenging dynamics in the workplace.

“Yes, we have a playbook about how we have to be twice as better, that we have to dot all the i’s and cross the t’s,” she said. When the public thinks Black women have made a mistake, she added, they “fall harder on the sword.”

Audio produced by Patricia Sulbarán .

Clyde McGrady reports on how race and identity is shaping American culture. He is based in Washington. More about Clyde McGrady

Katie Glueck is a national political reporter. Previously, she was chief Metro political correspondent, and a lead reporter for The Times covering the Biden campaign. She also covered politics for McClatchy’s Washington bureau and for Politico. More about Katie Glueck

Our Coverage of the Trump Case in Georgia

Former president donald trump and 18 others face a sprawling series of charges for their roles in attempting to interfere in the state’s 2020 presidential election..

RICO Charges:  At the heart of the indictment in Georgia  are racketeering charges under the state Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act . Here’s why such charges  could prove to be a powerful tool for the prosecution .

Who Else Was Indicted?:   Rudy   Giuliani , who led legal efforts in several states to keep the former president in power, and Mark Meadows , the former White House chief of staff, were among the 18 Trump allies  charged in the case.

Plea Deals: Sidney K. Powell , Kenneth Chesebro  and Jenna Ellis  — three lawyers indicted with Trump in the case — pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors   against the former president.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones: Since the indictment of Trump and his allies, a question has gone unanswered: Would charges also be filed against the longtime Trump supporter? It is now up to a state agency to find a special prosecutor to investigate him .

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why this college sample essays

A 200+ Word “Why Major” Essay Example and Analysis

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Hale Jaeger in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.

What’s Covered:

250 word essay example, start with an anecdote, but avoid cliches, include smooth transitions and be specific, do your research and avoid overusing phrases, be concise and emphasize school fit.

In this article, we will focus on a prompt from Duke University that is specific to the Pratt School of Engineering.

If you are applying to the Pratt School of Engineering as a first year applicant, please discuss why you want to study engineering and why you would like to study at Duke. (250 words).  

As opposed to a 100 word essay, 250 words gives you a little more space to write about your interests. Another thing to note about this prompt is that it is asking two questions: “why do you want to study at this school in particular?” and “why do you want to study engineering?” 

The extra words give you enough room to talk about the type of engineering you’re interested in, Duke specific resources, and how you grew your interest in engineering over time.  Here we will go through an example of a response to this prompt. Then for each paragraph, we’ll analyze what the essay does well and where it could be improved.

“One Christmas morning when I was nine, I opened a snap circuit set for my grandmother. Although I had always loved math and science. I didn’t realize my passion for engineering until I spent the rest of winter break creating different circuits to power various lights, alarms, and sensors. Even after I outgrew the toy, I kept the set in my bedroom at home and knew I wanted to study engineering.

Later in high school biology class, I learned that engineering didn’t only apply to circuits, but also to medical devices that could improve people’s quality of life. Biomedical engineering allows me to pursue my academic passions and help people at the same time. Just as biology and engineering interact in biomedical engineering, I am fascinated by interdisciplinary research in my chosen career path. 

Duke offers unmatched resources, such as DuHatch and The Foundry, that will enrich my engineering education and help me practice creative problem-solving skills. The emphasis on entrepreneurship within these resources will also help me to make a helpful product. Duke’s Bass Connections program also interests me; I firmly believe that the most creative and necessary problem solving comes by bringing people together from different backgrounds.

Through this program, I can use my engineering education to solve complicated societal problems, such as creating sustainable surgical tools for low income countries. Along the way I can learn alongside experts in the field. Duke’s openness and collaborative culture span across its academic disciplines, making Duke the best place for me to grow both as an engineer and as a social advocate.” 

“One Christmas morning when I was nine, I opened a snap circuit set for my grandmother. Although I had always loved math and science. I didn’t realize my passion for engineering until I spent the rest of winter break creating different circuits to power various lights, alarms, and sensors. Even after I outgrew the toy, I kept the set in my bedroom at home and knew I wanted to study engineering.”

This first paragraph does something excellent, which is it starts with an anecdote. In the introductory anecdote, the author mentions specific things like alarms, lights, and sensors, so the reader can really visualize what’s happening. 

Another strength of this excerpt is that the anecdote moves through time very quickly. It starts with Christmas morning, progresses to the rest of winter break, and then finally ends by discussing after the author outgrew the toy. That temporal growth is good because it gets a reader in and out of the anecdote quickly while feeling nostalgic. It makes the reader feel connected to the writer.

One weakness of this paragraph, however, is that the last line is a little too much; it hits you over the head with “I want to study engineering.” Admissions officers know that one experience from when you were nine years old may be too much to ascribe your passion for engineering to, so this doesn’t feel believable. Instead, this instance can be framed as a spark that ignited your passion for engineering or made you interested in learning more about engineering.

“Later in high school biology class, I learned that engineering didn’t only apply to circuits, but also to medical devices that could improve people’s quality of life. Biomedical engineering allows me to pursue my academic passions and help people at the same time. Just as biology and engineering interact in biomedical engineering, I am fascinated by interdisciplinary research in my chosen career path.” 

This paragraph does a really good job of transitioning from the anecdote to the writer’s specific and current interest in biomedical engineering. However, there are a few drawbacks from this excerpt. 

One weakness from this paragraph is that helping people is a trope that is really overused when talking about an interest in health and healthcare. You can help people in a variety of careers, so it is a bit naive to say that the only way you can help others is by pursuing a particular path. Instead, you want to make the essay sound more genuine by displaying the heart of your passion. What particular types of medical devices and interdisciplinary research is the student interested in? Which intersection of fields is the most interesting to them and why? Giving more details or even specific adjectives here would help the essay sound more informed and robust.

Another aspect of this essay that could be improved is that the author mentions their ideal career path but doesn’t elaborate on this beyond biomedical engineering as a field of study. There are many different paths you can take after studying biomedical engineering. You could go into the research and development of products, or medicine, or the research behind patient-facing studies. What about your ideal career makes you excited to pursue that given field or major?

”Duke offers unmatched resources, such as DuHatch and The Foundry, that will enrich my engineering education and help me practice creative problem-solving skills. The emphasis on entrepreneurship within these resources will also help me to make a helpful product. Duke’s Bass Connections program also interests me; I firmly believe that the most creative and necessary problem solving comes by bringing people together from different backgrounds.”

This paragraph takes on the question in the second part of the prompt by explaining explicitly why they want to study biomedical engineering at Duke. One thing this essay does very well is that it brings up Duke specific resources and opportunities – DuHatch, The Foundry, and Bass Connections. They also mention the spirit of entrepreneurship that is ingrained in the teaching at Duke and how this is important to the design process in engineering. By connecting to Duke’s academic philosophy, this shows the admissions officers that this student not only did their research but also shares values with the school itself. 

One of this paragraph’s weaknesses, however, is that the student mentions that “Duke offers unmatched resources, which is quite cliche and generic. Duke already knows that they are well regarded in the engineering field, so this is a waste of words in this essay. 

Another aspect of the essay that could be improved here is the vague and undeveloped idea of creative problem solving skills that would be honed by attending Duke. The author uses the phrase “problem solving” a couple of times and wastes some space on two transition sentences. Overusing this phrase detracts from the power of the language and weakens the general cadence of your essay.

“Through this program, I can use my engineering education to solve complicated societal problems, such as creating sustainable surgical tools for low income countries. Along the way I can learn alongside experts in the field. Duke’s openness and collaborative culture span across its academic disciplines, making Duke the best place for me to grow both as an engineer and as a social advocate.” 

This final paragraph is a strong conclusion because it is succinct and ties together all of the previous paragraphs. It makes the essay feel complete by the time the reader reaches the end. Combining engineering and social advocacy is also a great thought. It is in line with the rest of the essay and shows that this student is person-minded and not machine-minded. It demonstrates a dedication to community, which is something that Duke values as well.

However, if the author had incorporated these ideas of social advocacy earlier in the essay, this would have emphasized their fit with Duke and made the essay even stronger. Additionally, the specific idea of creating sustainable surgical tools for low income countries is very unique and would have been more powerful if it had been mentioned earlier; here it simply feels like an afterthought.

The conclusion also includes awkward wording in some of the phrases like “Duke’s openness and collaborative culture,” which could be reworded as “Duke’s open and collaborative culture.” By reducing some of the awkward phrasing, the author would have had some more space to play around with their specific interests in biomedical engineering and Duke’s programs.

Is Your “Why Major” Essay Strong Enough?

Essays account for around 25% of your admissions decision, as they’re your chance to humanize your application and set yourself apart from other applicants with strong profiles. 

The “Why Major” essay is especially important, as it allows you to reflect on your unique interests and fit with the school. Your supplement needs to demonstrate your interest in the major and paint a picture of how you’ll contribute to their program.

To understand if your essay is strong enough, we recommend using our Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. This tool will make it easier to understand your essay’s strengths and weaknesses, and help you make your writing even more compelling.

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What is the 5+7 College Football Playoff model, and why did the CFP change from the 6+6?

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 09: The College Football Playoff National Championship trophy is displayed on the field before the College Football Playoff National Championship game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the TCU Horned Frogs at SoFi Stadium on January 09, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The first year of the expanded, 12-team College Football Playoff hasn’t even happened yet, but the format has already changed.

The CFP’s Board of Managers voted Tuesday to reduce the number of automatic qualifiers from six to five , creating an additional at-large bid for the next two seasons. The new model — colloquially, the “5+7” — includes the five highest-ranked conference champions and seven at-large bids.

The original model for the 12-team CFP — the 6+6 — included six automatic bids for conference champions.

BREAKING: College Football Playoff approves a move to 5+7. Five automatic spots for conference champions. pic.twitter.com/IFkCrdWsFR — Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) February 20, 2024

That vote occurred at an important time for the CFP as it tries to chart out its future. ESPN has agreed to terms with representatives for the College Football Playoff on a six-year, $7.8 billion extension to televise the event through the 2031-32 season. But the decision on automatic bids is one of many still being sorted out beyond the next two years after conference realignment changed the dynamics of Playoff expansion.

go-deeper

As CFP meetings resume, the battle for control of the sport's future persists

You might see or hear the terms “6+6” and “5+7” a lot this week. These aren’t math equations. They’re models. And they work like this …

What is the 5+7 model?

The 5+7 Playoff model gives the five highest-ranked conference champions an automatic playoff bid and the next seven highest-ranked teams an at-large bid.

In this format, the top four conference champions receive a first-round bye, with the No. 5 team playing No. 12, No. 6 facing No. 11, No. 7 facing No. 10 and No. 8 facing No. 9. The 5-8 seeds would host the first round at their respective schools, and the New Year’s Six bowls (Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl) would host the quarterfinals and semifinals on a rotation, similar to how the six bowls took turns hosting the semifinals under the four-team format.

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Who would have made the 2023 Playoffs in a 5+7 model?

Under the 5+7 model, No. 1 Michigan (Big Ten), No. 2 Washington (Pac-12), No. 3 Texas (Big 12), No. 4 Alabama (SEC) and No. 5 Florida State (ACC) would have landed automatic spots if the 12-team Playoff began in 2023.

No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Ohio State , No. 8 Oregon, No. 9 Missouri, No. 10 Penn State , No. 11 Ole Miss and No. 12 Oklahoma would have earned the seven remaining bids.

Notre Dame was No. 16 in the final CFP rankings, so it would have been left out. As an independent football program that does not play a full conference schedule, the Irish can only secure an at-large bid and have no current way of procuring a top-four seed and, therefore, a first-round bye.

What was the 6+6 Playoff model?

The 6+6 model gave the six highest-ranked conference champions automatic Playoff bids. The next six highest-ranked teams receive the remaining at-large bids.

This was the originally agreed-upon format for the CFP before conference realignment led to the dismantling of the Pac-12 .

Who would have made the 2023 Playoff in a 6+6 model?

No. 1 Michigan (Big Ten), No. 2 Washington (Pac-12), No. 3 Texas (Big 12), No. 4 Alabama (SEC), No. 5 Florida State (ACC) and No. 23 Liberty (Conference USA) would have nabbed the top six spots as the highest-ranked conference champions if the 12-team playoff began in 2023 with a 6+6 model.

No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Ohio State, No. 8 Oregon, No. 9 Missouri, No. 10 Penn State and No. 11 Ole Miss would’ve captured the six remaining at-large bids, which go to the next six highest-ranked teams.

American Athletic Conference champion SMU would have missed the Playoff after finishing one spot behind Liberty at No. 24.

Why is the CFP moving to a 5+7 model?

The CFP management committee initially agreed on the 6+6 model when deciding to expand the Playoff from four teams to 12. That format, however, was created when there were five complete power conferences.

The Pac-12’s demise left one fewer power conference with an interest in virtually assuring its champion a Playoff berth. The CFP Management Committee in November introduced a policy requiring a conference to have at least eight teams to be eligible for one of the five automatic qualifying spots. That would leave what’s left of the Pac-12, now run by Washington State and Oregon State , ineligible for an automatic bid unless its membership increases.

Sticking with the 6+6 model in a world with only four power conferences would have opened the door for a second Group of 5 conference champion to snag an automatic Playoff bid. Enter the 5+7 model. The probable answer — in the short term, at least — to the tsunami of conference realignment.

“This is a very logical adjustment for the College Football Playoff based on the evolution of our conference structures since the board first adopted this new format in September 2022,” Mark Keenum, Mississippi State president and chair of the CFP Board of Managers, said in a statement. “I know this change will also be well received by student-athletes, coaches and fans. We all will be pleased to see this new format come to life on the field this postseason.”

What about beyond the next two years?

Two sources involved in the approval process said they expect 5+7 to be the starting point of the format debate for 2026 and beyond but acknowledged that it may not be the final resolution. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has suggested on numerous occasions a world with no automatic berths at all. Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti has suggested reconsidering bracket sizes that were previously passed over, such as a 16-team field, people familiar with that discussion have told The Athletic .

More on this week’s CFP meetings and the battle for control of the Playoff’s future here.

Required reading

  • College Football Playoff close to moving to 5+7 model for 12-team format starting in 2024: Source
  • College Football Playoff, ESPN agree to 6-year extension worth $1.3 billion per year: Sources

(Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)

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Lauren Merola

Lauren Merola is a staff editor on the news/live team. Before joining The Athletic, she covered hockey and football as a staff writer for both the NHL and AthlonSports. Based in New York, Lauren is a double graduate of the University of Southern California. Follow Lauren on Twitter @ laurmerola

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