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writing the why this college essay

How to Write a Stellar “Why This College?” Essay + Examples

What’s covered:, sample “why this college” prompts, faqs about the “why this college” essay.

  • Common Mistakes to Avoid

Good “Why This College?” Essay Examples

  • Brainstorming for this Essay
  • Outlining Your Essay
  • Where to Get Your Essay Edited

One of the most common college essay supplements will ask you to answer the question: “Why This College?” These essays are looking to see whether you’re a good fit for the campus community, and whether the college is a good fit for you and your goals. 

In this post, we’ll show you a couple examples of these prompts, go over good and bad sample responses, and break down how to ensure yours is one of the good ones. 

Let’s start by taking a look at real prompts that fit under the “Why This College?” archetype: 

Tufts: Which aspects of the Tufts undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short, ‘Why Tufts?’ (150 words)

Northwestern: Other parts of your application give us a sense for how you might contribute to Northwestern. But we also want to consider how Northwestern will contribute to your interests and goals. Help us understand what aspects of Northwestern appeal most to you, and how you’ll make use of specific resources and opportunities here. (300 words)

As you can see, these prompts are basically asking why you want to attend the school in question. Northwestern spells it out even further, and specifically asks how you’ll use their resources to achieve your goals.

Both prompts have word counts that are much shorter than that of the Common App, which is typical of supplemental essays. These two word counts are pretty representative, and you can expect the “Why This College?” essay length to be 100-400 words on average. That’s not a lot of space for a pretty important question, so it’s especially vital to use the word count wisely.

What are colleges looking for in the “Why Us” essay?

Colleges want to admit students who will not only enroll (to protect their yield), but also thrive on their campus. They ask this question to see whether you’re truly interested in the school and whether it’s the right place for you. You can write a strong response by citing specific ways the college can support your goals, as well as demonstrating your enthusiasm.

Which colleges have a “Why This College?” essay?

This is one of the most popular supplements among colleges. Here is a selection of top schools that ask this question:

  • Northwestern
  • Boston University
  • University of Michigan

Check out our essay guides for these schools for more in-depth advice on how to write these essays.

What kind of writing style should I use?

This is a straightforward question that generally has a short word count, so you don’t need to use a narrative form at all. You can simply explain what you like about the school and why, but try to use varied sentence structure and organize the essay around your major goals. 

You can start your essay with a story if you want, however. For example, if you visited campus and experienced a really interesting course, or sat in on a meeting of a club you liked, this can make for a strong anecdote to begin your essay. Just make sure that whatever story you tell has some substance, and isn’t just a narration of how nice it was to walk around campus.

Can I copy and paste my essay for other schools?

Absolutely not. If your essay is general enough to apply to other schools, you know you need to rewrite it. The resources you mention should be highly specific to the college you’re writing about.

Common Mistakes When Writing the “Why This College?” Essay

The most common mistake students make is listing generic characteristics that could apply to any school. This negatively impacts your application, since it sends the message that you didn’t do your research, and aren’t truly interested in the school.

Here’s an example of something NOT to list in your “Why this college essay.” We’ll take the example of Tufts since we shared the prompt in the beginning.

What NOT to write: I’m applying to Tufts because of its low student to faculty ratio, the strong math department, and its prime location in Medford, just a hop away from Boston. When I visited campus, the school already felt like home.

This example is bad because many schools have low student to faculty ratios and strong math departments. There are also a ton of schools in or near Boston, many of which have low student to faculty ratios and great math departments too, such as Boston College, Harvard, Northeastern, Boston University, etc. If your statements can apply to other schools, that’s definitely not a good sign (avoid things like location, weather, size, and ranking).

The student also uses an emotional appeal with the line “it felt like home,” which might sound nice, but it has no substance and can be written for any school. You should definitely avoid making any statements like these.

This example shows that the student really hasn’t thought much about their fit with Tufts, and that it probably isn’t their top choice. This will impact your application negatively, especially since Tufts is known for taking applicants’ demonstrated interest more seriously than other schools . So, if you show that you show little interest through your essay, you may end up waitlisted or rejected, even if your stats are excellent.

Another thing that this example gets wrong is that it doesn’t describe the student’s goals or interests at all. It’s important to not only talk about why you picked the school, but also how exactly those aspects will help you grow. Remember, this kind of prompt is two-fold: in addition to explaining why the school is a good fit for you, you want to show why you, out of the many thousands of applicants they get each year, are a good fit for them.

To summarize, the main mistakes to avoid are:

  • Citing generic aspects of the school (location, weather, size, and ranking)
  • Using empty emotional appeals
  • Not describing your goals and interests

Now that we know what a bad example might look like, here’s an example of a rewrite to part of the Tufts essay:

What TO write: As a potential Applied Mathematics major, I hope to gain the tools to model political behavior. I’m especially interested in elections, and am looking forward to taking the course “Mathematics of Social Choice,” as the centerpiece of Social Choice Theory is voting. I would also love to take “Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos,” because it will teach me to use differential equations to predict chaotic behavior. 

This is a good example, as the courses listed are highly-specific to Tufts, as well as the student’s professional goals. We not only learned something about Tufts, but also the student. Keep in mind that this wouldn’t be a complete essay⁠—it’s just an example of good, specific resources to list, and how to connect them to your own interests. 

If you want an example of a complete essay, here’s this real student response for Boston University’s “Why This College?” prompt.

Prompt: In no more than 250 words, please tell us why BU is a good fit for you and what

specifically has led you to apply for admission.

Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) attracts me because of its support of interdisciplinary study among its wide array of majors. In fact, the CAS now offers a course that combines biology, chemistry, and neuroscience. As I hope to conduct medical research into brain disorders, I plan to pursue all three areas of study. These cross-disciplinary connections at BU will prepare me to do so.

CAS’s undergraduate research program would allow me to work with a mentor, such as Dr. Alice Cronin-Golomb or Dr. Robert M.G. Reinhart related to their research on neurological disorders. With them, I can advance the work I have already completed related to Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). In a summer class at our local university, my partner and I extracted data from fMRI and PET studies and inputted them into a coding program. We then created an indicator map, which we imported into another software program, AFNI, to display significant activity in the brain regions affected by DID. Seeing the representation of our data thrilled me because I knew it could eventually help people who live with DID. I want to experience that feeling again. Successfully analyzing these fMRI and PET studies and learning to code drives me to pursue more research opportunities, and this desire motivates me to study at a university that offers research opportunities to undergraduates. BU’s interdisciplinary approach to psychology and support for independent undergraduate undergraduate research will optimally prepare me for a career as a neurological researcher.

This student clearly outlines BU-specific resources (the interdisciplinary course and undergrad research program), plus how these resources align with their professional goals (to become a neurological researcher). They do “name-drop” professors, but since their work clearly relates to the student’s interests, it doesn’t look disingenuous, and shows that the student has done research on their fit with BU. The student also provides background on why they want to pursue research, and shows that they already have experience, which makes their interest in the undergrad research program more concrete.

The only thing missing from this essay is the student’s fit with BU in terms of extracurriculars and social life. “Why This College?” essays should also cover extracurriculars, as the residential college experience is about more than just class and homework. Admissions officers are also interested in how you’ll contribute to their broader campus community.

In general, these essays should be academic-leaning (especially if they’re under 250 words), but you should still address some social aspects of the college that appeal to you (we recommend about 70% academics, 30% social, with more or less focus on social aspects depending on the word count). Since the student probably already detailed their previous research in their Common App activities section, they could’ve just summarized their research background in one sentence, and used the space saved to talk about a specific social aspect of BU that interests them.

Here’s another sample essay, but for UPenn. This essay’s word count was much longer, so the student was able to really hone in on several specific aspects of UPenn.

Prompt: How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying (650 words).

Sister Simone Roach, a theorist of nursing ethics, said, “caring is the human mode of being.” I have long been inspired by Sister Roach’s Five C’s of Caring: commitment, conscience, competence, compassion, and confidence. Penn both embraces and fosters these values through a rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum and unmatched access to service and volunteer opportunities.

COMMITMENT. Reading through the activities that Penn Quakers devote their time to (in addition to academics!) felt like drinking from a firehose in the best possible way. As a prospective nursing student with interests outside of my major, I value this level of flexibility. I plan to leverage Penn’s liberal arts curriculum to gain an in-depth understanding of the challenges LGBT people face, especially regarding healthcare access. Through courses like “Interactional Processes with LGBT Individuals” and volunteering at the Mazzoni Center for outreach, I hope to learn how to better support the Penn LGBT community as well as my family and friends, including my cousin, who came out as trans last year.

CONSCIENCE. As one of the first people in my family to attend a four-year university, I wanted a school that promoted a sense of moral responsibility among its students. At Penn, professors challenge their students to question and recreate their own set of morals by sparking thought- provoking, open-minded discussions. I can imagine myself advocating for universal healthcare in courses such as “Health Care Reform & Future of American Health System” and debating its merits with my peers. Studying in an environment where students confidently voice their opinions – conservative or liberal – will push me to question and strengthen my value system.

COMPETENCE. Two aspects that drew my attention to Penn’s BSN program were its high-quality research opportunities and hands-on nursing projects. Through its Office of Nursing Research, Penn connects students to faculty members who share similar research interests. As I volunteered at a nursing home in high school, I hope to work with Dr. Carthon to improve the quality of care for senior citizens. Seniors, especially minorities, face serious barriers to healthcare that I want to resolve. Additionally, Penn’s unique use of simulations to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world application impressed me. Using computerized manikins that mimic human responses, classes in Penn’s nursing program allow students to apply their emergency medical skills in a mass casualty simulation and monitor their actions afterward through a video system. Participating in this activity will help me identify my strengths and areas for improvement regarding crisis management and medical care in a controlled yet realistic setting. Research opportunities and simulations will develop my skills even before I interact with patients.

COMPASSION. I value giving back through community service, and I have a particular interest in Penn’s Community Champions and Nursing Students For Sexual & Reproductive Health (NSRH). As a four-year volunteer health educator, I hope to continue this work as a Community Champions member. I am excited to collaborate with medical students to teach fourth and fifth graders in the city about cardiology or lead a chair dance class for the elders at the LIFE Center. Furthermore, as a feminist who firmly believes in women’s abortion rights, I’d like to join NSRH in order to advocate for women’s health on campus. At Penn, I can work with like-minded people to make a meaningful difference.

CONFIDENCE. All of the Quakers that I have met possess one defining trait: confidence. Each student summarized their experiences at Penn as challenging but fulfilling. Although I expect my coursework to push me, from my conversations with current Quakers I know it will help me to be far more effective in my career.

The Five C’s of Caring are important heuristics for nursing, but they also provide insight into how I want to approach my time in college. I am eager to engage with these principles both as a nurse and as a Penn Quaker, and I can’t wait to start.

This student takes a creative approach to the essay, by using the Five C’s of Caring as a framework. This technique works especially well since these qualities relate to the student’s future career in nursing. In addition to emphasizing the student’s creativity and passion for nursing, having the Five C’s in all caps at the start of each paragraph gives this long essay a clear, easy-to-read format.

What really makes the essay stand out is the depth of the student’s fit with UPenn, and how they’re able to also share more about who they are. The student lists specific courses, research opportunities, technology, and student groups. We also learn that they are a first-generation student, are passionate about increasing access to healthcare (particularly for LGBTQ+ people, minorities, and the elderly), care about health education, and are a feminist who staunchly defends abortion rights (this controversial topic could be risky, but since UPenn is a very liberal school, this should be fine).

Overall, this essay paints a vivid picture of how the student would engage academically at Penn, and we also see clearly how the student would pursue their intellectual passions outside the classroom. Since this essay prompt focused on “intellectual and academic interests,” there was no need to address other aspects of UPenn beyond those supporting their various interests in healthcare.

See more “ Why This College?” essay examples to understand what makes a strong response.

Brainstorming for the “Why This College?” Essay

Now that we’ve gone through a couple examples, you might be wondering how to get started yourself. 

Here are three steps we recommend to get your essay underway:

  • Reflect on your academic and career goals
  • Research unique opportunities related to your academic and extracurricular interests
  • Pick your top academic reasons for applying, and your top extracurricular/social reasons

1. Reflect on your academic and career goals.

The driver behind this essay needs to be you , and not the school itself. Anyone can write nice things about the college, but only you can explain why you would be a good fit for it.

Ask yourself:

  • What do you want to major in, if you know? If you’re undecided, what are the subjects you’re interested in?
  • Which career do you want to pursue, or what are the potential options?
  • What do you want to get out of college? Any particular skills or experiences?

Once you have a clear idea of your college plan, then you can dig into how the college can support your plan.

2. Research unique opportunities related to your academic, career, and extracurricular interests.

You might be wondering where you can find all these specific courses, clubs, and other resources. The school’s website is a good place to start, or if you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, you can even use Google with the school name in your search, such as “Tufts orchestra.” 

Take a look at the website of your department/major and dig into the courses, fellowships, internships, and other resources. For course syllabi, you can visit the website of the professor who’s teaching the course; they’ll often post more detailed information than the online course catalog, including readings and concepts to be covered.

Clubs may have their own websites, but you can also try to find their Facebook groups or Instagram pages, which might be more current and even show events they’re hosting⁠.

If you can, try to speak with a current student. Your school counselor may be able to connect you with one, or you can also reach out to the admissions office to see if they can connect you. If not, speaking with an admissions officer is also great, or you can try to find day-in-the-life videos on YouTube.

3. Pick your top academic reasons for applying, and your top extracurricular/social reasons.

Once you’ve done your research and found specific opportunities to cite in your essay, pick your top 1-3 academic reasons and top 1-3 extracurricular ones, depending on the word count. Going back to the Tufts essay, the good example we gave actually was already 65 words, and it was only able to mention two courses. 

Keep in mind that you not only have to describe resources specific to the school, but also how they’ll contribute to your goals. This personal aspect is just as important as the actual opportunities, so be sure to allot space to describe why exactly these resources make the school a good fit for you.

When it comes to academic reasons, you are free to list anything from special programs to unique majors to specific courses and professors. We want to caution you against “name-dropping” professors, however⁠—unless their work actually fits with your established interests and professional goals. Otherwise, it might seem like you’re being disingenuous.

We also want to reiterate that you should be sure to not only talk about academics in your essay, but also extracurriculars (unless the prompt asks you to focus only on academics, or if the word count is unusually short, i.e. 150 words or fewer). Again, college isn’t just about what you do in the classroom. Admissions committees want to be sure that accepted students will also contribute to the college community. 

Outlining Your “Why This College?” Essay

Once you’ve identified your goals and the resources to support them, it’s time to start writing. An easy format/outline for your essay would be:

  • Introduction to your main goals and the why behind them (great spot for an anecdote). 
  • Your first goal and how the school can support it.
  • Your second goal and how the school can support it.
  • Conclusion where you look towards the future and reaffirm how the college can get you there.

You can adjust the length of the essay by adding or subtracting the number of goals you write about. As noted above, r emember to include extracurriculars when sharing how the college can support your goals. You should plan to spend about 70% of your space on academic reasons, and 30% on extracurricular reasons.

Some students choose to use a more unconventional format, like the Five C’s of Caring essay above, and that works too if you want to show off your creative writing skills. Some examples include a letter to the school or a schedule of your day as a student at the college. These unconventional formats can be harder to pull off though, so only go that route if you’re confident in your writing. The letter format can be especially tricky since it’s easy to sound cheesy and overenthusiastic.

Regardless of the format you choose, remember these two things that your essay should do. It should:

  • Reveal more about your goals and interests.
  • D escribe how the school can help you develop your interests and reach your goals, by naming highly-specific and unique campus resources, both academic and extracurricular.

If your essay checks both of those boxes, you’re well on your way to making your candidacy more compelling to admissions officers!

Where to Get Your “Why This College?” Essay Edited

Do you want feedback on your “Why This College?” essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free 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. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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

writing the why this college essay

Varonika Ware is a content writer at Scholarships360. Varonika earned her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications at Louisiana State University. During her time at LSU, she worked with the Center of Academic Success to create the weekly Success Sunday newsletter. Varonika also interned at the Louisiana Department of Insurance in the Public Affairs office with some of her graphics appearing in local news articles.

Learn about our editorial policies

writing the why this college essay

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

writing the why this college essay

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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

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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How to Write a “Why This College” Essay: Examples Included

Why this how-to college essay header image with Quad education logo

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Worried about writing your “why this college” essay? Unsure of how to make it stand out? Read on to learn how to write a "why this college” essay that’s sure to impress the admissions committee!

With thousands of students applying for limited spots in competitive colleges, admissions committees want to know why you’ve chosen them and, by extension, why they should choose you! 

The name of this essay can be a little deceiving. While the admissions committee will want to know the specific reasons you want to attend their college, they will also expect your essay to reflect on how you would make a good fit in their community and why they should accept you into it over their other candidates!

Balancing both aspects can be difficult, but with the right guidance, you should be able to write a winning essay that will blow the judges away! 

How to Write a “Why This College” Essay: Step-By-Step

A person thinking

We’ve all been there, staring at a blank page with a mix of frustration and dread, hoping a masterpiece will somehow just appear out of thin air. And as we struggle to navigate the maze of words and ideas in our head that we just can’t articulate into words, an overwhelming sense of gloom creeps up.

The good news is it’s not all gloom and doom. You can conquer your writer’s block and turn those elusive thoughts into compelling words to write a stellar “why this college” essay by following these steps:

Step One: Do Your Research

This first step is self-explanatory. If you’re writing an essay explaining why you want to attend Harvard , you should know exactly what draws you to the school. 

This means going beyond recounting Harvard’s rankings and prestige and how it can open endless doors of opportunity for you. Dig deeper! Look further than the school’s homepage and reflect on what excites you most about the college you’re applying to.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What program are you applying to? What makes this program unique?
  • What courses are you looking forward to joining?
  • What makes this college different from the other colleges you’re applying to?
  • What is their campus culture like? 
  • What have they accomplished outside of their rankings?
  • What research efforts are they involved in that you would like to join?
  • What are their principles and values?
  • What is their mission?
  • What is their motto or mantra, and how does it resonate with you?
  • Do they have distinguished faculty you’re excited to learn from?

Not all “why this college” essay prompts will be the same; some will be more specific depending on the program you’re applying to. For instance, Cornell asks its aspiring engineering majors to concentrate on one or two aspects that draw them to the program.

Ensure you tailor the scope of your research based on the essay prompt.

Step Two: Reflect On Your Own Interests

As we stated, this essay will explain why you think the college you’re applying to is a right fit for you and how you’re a right fit for it. As such, you need to reflect on your interests and goals before you begin writing your essay. 

You’ll want to come up with genuine reasons that you’re interested in attending the college that reflect your personal interests. This will help ensure your essay is unique and shows off your personality!

Step Three: Make the Connections

Once you’ve researched the college and considered your own interests, you should be able to make connections between the two. See where your interests overlap with your college’s offerings. Find aspects of your college that truly resonate with your interests.

Perhaps you’re a passionate women’s rights activist and are excited by a couple of unique courses offered by your school's Women’s Studies department. Or, you enjoy being intellectually challenged and appreciate the rigor of your college’s programs. Whatever it may be, find these connections and use them to guide your essay.

Step Four: Keep It Simple

"Keep it simple"

Once you’ve found your connections, zone in on the few that stand out the most to you and can create the most compelling essay. You don’t want your essay to be a laundry list of all of the reasons you decided to apply to college. 

Realistically, even if you choose unique courses or faculty members to discuss, chances are there are at least a dozen other applicants who have had similar ideas. The part of your essay that will make you stand out is how you develop these interests and tie them to your own aspirations and passions!

As such, you’ll want to only choose a few interests to focus on so that you can thoroughly explain them.

Step Five: Highlight Your Fit

As you share your reasons for applying to the specific college, explain how you can contribute to its community and how you see yourself and others benefiting from what the college has to offer. 

You don’t have to make any promises about how you’ll be a stellar student, join dozens of school clubs, or make significant changes on the student council. Discuss how your skills, experiences, and values align with the college's values and how you plan on using their resources to benefit your field or others.

Step Six: Revise and Rework

Once you’ve completed your first draft of your “why this college” essay, you can take a breather. Give your eyes and brain a break, and then get ready to revise your work.

It will likely take several drafts, frustrating editing sessions, and even complete rewrites until you’re completely satisfied with your work. This is all part of the writing process and will ensure you confidently submit work you’re proud of! 

Step Seven: Get Feedback

Once you’re happy with your essay, ask someone to look it over before submission. They may catch awkward phrases, misused words, or areas that require further explanation. Sometimes, when you look at your own work for too long, it can be difficult to consider how your reader will receive your writing.

“Why Us” Essay Structure

It’s important to follow a solid essay structure when writing. Let’s take a closer look at what makes a good outline for a “Why This College” essay. 

How To Start A “Why Us” Essay

Learning how to begin your “why us” essay isn’t as hard as it seems! You’ll want to engage your readers from your first word, so begin your essay with an intriguing hook. Many students choose one experience that explains their motivation to pursue a particular passion. 

Then, they explain how the college they’re applying to will allow them to further develop this passion through its specific offerings. Here are some common hooks students use:

  • The description : The essay starts with a vivid description of what the reader saw, heard, smelled, tasted, and/or felt during the experience they’re centering their narrative around.
  • The climax : The essay starts in medias res at the climax of the experience they’ll share more context about later on.
  • The quote : This one can be tricky, as we don’t mean to quote Gandhi or another famous leader. We mean a quote said by you, someone close to you, or perhaps a character from your favorite book or TV show that isn’t generic.
  • The once upon a time : You can begin your essay as you would a story, explaining your anecdote from beginning to end in chronological order.

Any of these hooks will work, but ensure you seamlessly connect it back to what interests you about the college! Do not simply share an anecdote because it’ll catch the reader’s attention. Choose the experience you share wisely and ensure it is meaningful not only to you but also to the context of the “why us” essay.

What to Write in Body Paragraph(s)

Your body paragraphs should all relate back to the thesis of your essay, which is essentially the “point.” If you’re writing a “why this college” essay, your thesis statement should concisely summarize why you want to attend a certain college. Then, the rest of your essay will expand on that point. 

Here is where you can use the research you did earlier. Be specific about the aspects of the college that resonate with you. Remember to keep it concise--don’t just list reason after reason. Narrow your focus and tell one cohesive story with your essay. 

Also, pay close attention to the word count of your essay and don’t go over it. Make sure each word matters and carries weight. 

How To Finish a “Why Us” Essay

Since you want your readers to be hooked up until the last word, it’s essential you put equal effort into your conclusion as the rest of your essay. Do not overlook these final few sentences! Use your conclusion to leave a lasting impression on the admissions committee.

Talk about the lessons you learned through the experience you shared in your essay, circle back to your hook, address the college you’re applying to and recap your reasons for joining it, and highlight what’s next for you. 

Here are a few common endings for college essays: 

  • The full circle: This essay ties the ending back to the beginning in a simple, straightforward way. Avoid overexplaining or summarizing; simply recall how you began the story.
  • The lesson learned: You can use your conclusion to reflect on what your experiences have taught you and how you have grown and changed. This shows self-awareness, humility, and a desire to learn.
  • In-the-action: You can go out with a bang by ending your essay in a moment of action. This could be a piece of dialogue or an action sentence that leaves the reader intrigued about what may have happened next.

Remember to keep your conclusion energetic and impactful. Don’t re-state what you’ve already said. Instead, find a way to nod at the future and keep your reader engaged.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing “Why This College” Essays

A frustrated person

Now that we’ve gone over how to write a “why this college” essay, let’s go over what to avoid !

  • Being generic : Avoid using generic statements that could apply to any college. Instead, focus on specific aspects of the college that genuinely resonate with you and ensure you do your research. 
  • Being cliche : Do not use overused quotes or sayings in your essay, and do not make bold and vague claims such as “I want to change the world,” or “I want to revolutionize medicine;” have clear, specific, and attainable goals.
  • Not being authentic : Be genuine; avoid exaggerating or fabricating your interest in the college. Admissions officers can often sense insincerity, so remain true to yourself!
  • Focusing on prestige : While you can appreciate a college's reputation, avoid solely focusing on its prestige or ranking. Instead, highlight the specific qualities of the college that attract you and how they align with your aspirations.
  • Guilt tripping the committee : Do not share an anecdote about adversity you faced to evoke pity in your readers in hopes it will push them to accept you into their school—it won’t work and will call your sincerity into question.
  • Not editing your work : An otherwise excellent essay can be reduced to a mediocre one if it’s riddled with grammar mistakes or typos.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can craft a compelling "why this college" essay that showcases your genuine interest, research, and fit with the institution!

“Why This College” Essay Examples

Learning how to write a “why this college” essay step-by-step is certainly helpful and can get you started on the right foot, but seeing real “why this college” essay examples will enhance your understanding of what a great essay looks like!

Cornell “Why Us” Example Essay 1

“Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into multifaceted academic interests, embodying in 21st century terms Ezra Cornell’s “any person…any study” founding vision. Tell us about the areas of study you are excited to explore, and specifically why you wish to pursue them in our College.” (650 words)
"It was a warm and sunny summer day as I made my way across the bustling Thurston Avenue Bridge towards the Martin Y. Tang Welcome Center. I stopped for a moment to gaze at the nearby Triphammer Falls, and I heard the marching band as they walked past. Throughout my campus tour, I was impressed with all the opportunities the College of Arts & Sciences can offer, and I was stunned by Cornell’s beautiful campus. Overall, Cornell will provide me with the resources and opportunities to pursue my interest in science.
In recent years, I have heard of more bizarre weather events as a result of climate change and global warming, such as snowstorms in Texas, wildfires in California, and more severe hurricanes. I have always been invested in our planet and environment; observing these events, my interest has peaked with learning about several smaller issues that may contribute to climate change overall, as well as potential solutions or alternatives. For instance, I have recently become fascinated by the negative impact of carbon emissions from cars. Drawing from my previous experiences in other countries such as China and Italy, I have investigated alternate modes of transportation such as buses or high-speed rail, which could reduce the amount of cars on the road and therefore the amount of emissions per person.
However, while researching these topics, I have become aware that not everyone has equal access to these solutions or alternatives due to various factors and aspects of one’s life. For example, some areas may not have many developed alternatives to driving a car, and not everyone can afford access to cleaner energy sources or products made of more environmentally friendly materials. Additionally, some people may be restricted in living and housing options, whether due to circumstance or by policy, and these people could be more negatively affected by natural disasters that arise as a result of climate change. 
These issues are all extremely relevant today and I feel obligated to help find solutions to them in the future. To solve these environmental and social issues, I was not only drawn towards the natural sciences but also the humanities and social sciences. The College of Arts & Sciences’ commitment to a liberal arts education would allow me to explore all of my academic passions while taking part in interdisciplinary studies, gaining new perspectives from peers that have various academic interests and come from many different backgrounds, while learning how I can apply my knowledge to solve crucial problems. Courses in the Environment and Sustainability program such as ENVS 4443 Global Climate Science and Policy and ENVS 4444 Climate Smart Communities: State and Local Climate Change Science, could lend me the chance to learn and discuss many issues that are relevant at this moment, particularly climate change and global warming, as well as potential solutions to these problems.
Other than environmental science, I am also invested in several other science-related subjects such as physics and biology, allowing me to learn the fundamental concepts of how the world works. The College of Arts & Sciences’ Biological Physics program is particularly intriguing, as it offers interdisciplinary flexibility, allowing me to study physics and biology simultaneously while exploring possible ways to apply my newfound knowledge to solve environmental issues. Additionally, the college provides research opportunities around the nation and the world, and I could dive deeper into specific subjects by participating in research programs such as Professor Michelle Wang’s LASSP’s Single Molecule Biophysics Lab.
With additional interdisciplinary programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, I could gain knowledge on a variety of topics and then apply it to help others and the environment. The myriad of academic programs, resources, and opportunities that the Cornell College of Arts & Sciences offers would be a valuable component in my college pursuits."

Why It Works

This is an impressive “why us” essay for the following reasons:

  • The hook : From the beginning of the essay, readers are intrigued to learn more
  • Personal connection : The vivid and engaging description of the author’s surroundings and emotional response adds a personal touch and allows the reader to step into their shoes to connect with them better.
  • Demonstrates they did their research : The essay showcases the author's thorough research about the college and highlights specific academic programs, such as the Environment and Sustainability program and the Biological Physics program, to demonstrate their genuine interest in Cornell.
  • Keeps it simple : The author only chooses a few main interests to highlight but effectively expands on them to discuss their importance.
  • Demonstrated fit : The essay clearly articulates how the resources, research opportunities, and academic programs at the College of Arts & Sciences align with the student’s passions and goals. 
  • Commitment to making a difference : The essay highlights the author's commitment to addressing environmental and social issues and how they believe the College of Arts & Sciences can provide them with the knowledge and skills to contribute to finding solutions—an admiral aspiration that any college would value.

Overall, this essay effectively combines the student’s personal experiences, research, and demonstrated fit with the college's offerings to convey their enthusiasm and potential contributions to the academic community! 

Cornell “Why Us” Example Essay 2

Here’s a similar prompt that Cornell’s engineering majors must respond to:

“How do your interests directly connect with Cornell Engineering? If you have an intended major, what draws you to that department at Cornell Engineering? If you are unsure what specific engineering field you would like to study, describe how your general interest in engineering most directly connects with Cornell Engineering. It may be helpful to concentrate on one or two things that you are most excited about.” (250 word limit)
"As the sun emerges from behind the mountains, my grandfather and I remain fixated on the onigiri atop the dining table. We aren’t engrossed in the onigiri, per se, but rather their wrappers–the canvas where we sketch gadget designs.
Grandpa inspires me to follow his footsteps by designing contraptions to benefit humanity. We both place a large emphasis on the importance of transportation to the environment’s well-being. His patent for a [PRODUCT] was the biggest project I’ve contributed to. Consequently, I aspire to work with Dr. Francis M. Vanek, whose research interests involve the environmental impact of transportation systems. I imagine working together on a shared passion, alternative energy-powered cars (and maybe even convincing my family to buy them in the process).
Cornell’s engineering program places a significant emphasis on building a conscious future. Understanding the intricacies of societies and the demands of global warming is a key component of becoming an environmental engineer. Professor Zinda’s Environmental Sociology course educates students to engineer solutions with an astute understanding of the communities involved, not just knowledge of principles. When reflecting on two communities I’ve experienced intimately–[COUNTRY] and [STATE]–I understand the nuanced scenarios brought upon by different environmental concerns. I always seek to be sensitive and aware in my approach to projects.
My grandfather’s humanitarian mindset defines my own engineering process. Learning from Cornell faculty with aligned ideologies would be a dream come true. At Cornell, I believe I can carry on my grandfather’s legacy with a holistic engineering viewpoint."

Right off the bat, there’s no denying this prompt is short but sweet. Despite only being 250 words, it hits the mark in multiple ways:

  • It tells a compelling personal story : The essay begins with an intriguing scene involving the applicant and their grandfather, which adds depth and emotional resonance to the essay to capture the reader’s attention.
  • It makes connections : The student clearly articulates their passion for alternative energy-powered cars and connects it to their interest in working with a specific professor, Dr. Francis M. Vanek, whose research aligns with these interests.
  • Effectively incorporates their research : The student highlights how Cornell's emphasis on building a conscious future and their interdisciplinary approach aligns with their own values and aspirations. Mentioning Professor Zinda's course also showcases their understanding of the program's curriculum.
  • Demonstrates global perspective : This student showcases their awareness of environmental concerns in different communities and their desire to approach engineering with sensitivity and a holistic viewpoint.
  • Shows their ambition : By emphasizing their desire to design environmentally-conscious transportation, this student portrays their maturity, critical thinking skills, and readiness to contribute meaningfully to the field.
  • Has a powerful ending : The student comes full circle to their grandfather's legacy and their desire to carry it on while also addressing Cornell’s role in this goal. This adds a personal element and reinforces the applicant's genuine passion for engineering and their commitment to making a positive impact. 

This is an excellent essay to use to draw inspiration to write your own persuasive narrative! You can write a similar one by thinking about whose legacy you want to carry on or who has had a similar, profound impact on your life and career path. 

Columbia “Why Us” Example Essay 1

" Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia. (200 words or fewer) "
"I tend to view the brain in the same way one would do any other muscle, and the fact that I choose to do so explains how I’ve recently gone about challenging myself intellectually. Simply put, I take my brain to the gym; I analyze its power through its capability to ‘lift’ (fully comprehend) intellectual weights of varying mass, and attempt to broaden the reach of its abilities by repeatedly pushing it just past its limits until it's capable of handling the load of even heavier weights. And, if the brain can be treated like a muscle, then it's only logical to view attending university as the process undertaken to make said muscle as strong as possible.
The desire I feel to brain-train with maximum intensity in higher education has led me to apply to Columbia – the academic equivalent of an Olympic-level gymnasium. How exactly I plan on using the resources such a ‘gym’ would offer is something I’ve spent months pondering: courses such as “Gender and Applied Economics” taught by Professor Lena Edlund, for instance, would expand my limits of intellectual agility, as would the diversity of NYC’s melting pot mentality, which closely parallels my own upbringing and education."

Here’s why this “Why Columbia” essay works:

  • It uses a unique analogy : The essay begins with a unique analogy that compares the brain to a muscle and the process of intellectual growth to going to the gym. It is very creative and immediately captures the reader’s attention.
  • It makes good use of the “show, don’t tell” rule : Instead of simply saying Columbia is known for its challenging curriculum that pushes students to their academic brinks, they liken Columbia to an Olympic-level gymnasium, which shows their understanding of Columbia’s academic excellence in a unique way.
  • It makes specific references : The essay mentions a specific course, "Gender and Applied Economics,” as an example of how they plan to utilize the resources at Columbia. This shows they conducted thorough research on the university and identified specific academic opportunities that align with their interests.
  • Alignment with the environment : The essay highlights the applicant's appreciation for the diversity and multicultural mentality of New York City, which closely parallels their own upbringing. This illustrates a strong sense of fit with Columbia's diverse community and indicates that the applicant would thrive in it.
  • Demonstrates their well-thought-out approach : The essay shares that the applicant spent months pondering how to maximize their intellectual growth at Columbia, which proves their dedication and proactive approach to education.

This essay just goes to show how creative you can get with your writing! Don't be afraid to think outside the box, as it can result in a fantastic, unique, and unforgettable essay!

Columbia “Why Us” Example Essay 2

"Please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the areas of study that you noted in the application.” (200 words or fewer)
"It wasn’t until I arrived at [NAME OF TRAIN STATION] on a cold November morning for my first ‘shift’ with [NAME OF ORGANIZATION] that I truly grasped the significance and breadth of economics’ human impact. 
For context, [NAME OF ORGANIZATION] is a non-profit organization whose volunteers take to [CITY] streets and distribute essential supplies to the city's homeless population – or, as we called it, ‘giving a shift.’ I don’t recall exactly how many ‘shifts’ I gave with [NAME OF ORGANIZATION], but the 7-month period I spent working with the organization proved to have a profound impact on my life, character, and perspective. 
What stuck with me most from the experience was coming to admire the sheer grit and unwavering perseverance of those I met during my ‘shifts’; never before had I experienced such fulfilling and uplifting interactions with complete strangers, whose gleaming personalities and senses of humor contrasted starkly with the dire nature of their socioeconomic situations. 
It’s from these selfsame interactions that my inspiration to study economics grew; more specifically, by my pragmatic application of knowledge regarding policy studies and poverty economics that I aspire to gain through higher education, I hope to ‘give an even bigger shift’ for the world of tomorrow."

The majority of this essay is spent explaining how the student’s interest in economics began. They thoroughly explain their experience and demonstrate some key traits, such as a strong sense of social responsibility, a commitment to helping others, empathy, and understanding, without explicitly stating them. 

This student showcases traits that they know Columbia appreciates and ends by stating their specific reason for choosing their major, which is what the prompt asks. This is why it’s important to fully understand each prompt before you answer it, as it does not ask the student to list their interests in attending Columbia.

Instead, it asks about their interest in the areas of study they noted in their application. As such, they do not necessarily have to spend valuable time listing the professors or courses they’re interested in! This prompt calls for a more broad response about the major they chose.

Columbia “Why This College” Example Essay 3

"Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia.” (200 words or fewer)
"Watching Spider-Man fighting bad guys in New York made me want to do the same. I can be a superhero through my work as an architect by designing spaces that improve communities and the well-being of others. Opportunities to research the connection between systemic issues and architecture compels me to Columbia.
I am drawn to Professor Galán's lecture "Architecture and Migration in New York" with his focus on politics, nationalism, and colonialism corresponding to architecture. Growing up with grandparents who lived through British occupation, I developed an appreciation for how design affects relationships and communities. 
In particular, I was most proud of my resilient grandparents who fought to keep their traditional [ETHNICITY] homes against colonialism. Realizing architecture has a transformative power and historical significance, I aim to incorporate a thoughtful approach to my design philosophy. I would also join Columbia's Urban Experience to expand my perspectives by learning about the community of New York and experiencing how Columbia creates initiatives for students to improve the surrounding neighborhoods. 
Although I can not climb walls or shoot webs, Columbia offers endless opportunities for me to grow and make a positive impact - like everyone's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!"

Why This Works

This "why this college" essay effectively highlights the applicant's passion for architecture and their desire to make a positive impact on communities. Here's why it works well:

  • It offers a personal connection : The essay starts with a personal anecdote about watching Spider-Man in New York, which captures the reader's attention and demonstrates the applicant's inspiration to become a "superhero" architect, a unique way to explain their career goal.
  • Demonstrates clear motivation : The applicant explains how their work as an architect can improve communities and the well-being of others, showing a strong sense of purpose and commitment.
  • Clear desire to contribute to their field : The essay mentions the applicant's interest in researching the connection between systemic issues and architecture, indicating a desire to delve deeper into the field and contribute to it.
  • Includes faculty interests : The mention of Professor Galán's lecture on "Architecture and Migration in New York" demonstrates the applicant's specific interest in a particular area of study and their alignment with the program’s focus.
  • Personal touches : The essay highlights the applicant's personal background, particularly their grandparents' resilience against colonialism, and how it has shaped their perspective on design and community relationships, which evokes more emotion and allows readers to connect with the student deeper.
  • It takes a thoughtful approach : The applicant emphasizes the transformative power and historical significance of architecture, which may offer a unique perspective on this field that the committee does not see often. 
  • Clear eagerness to contribute to the campus : The student explains their intention to join Columbia's Urban Experience, showcasing their eagerness to actively participate in the community and fit in.
  • Impactful ending : The ending is humorous, relates back to their anecdote, and reiterates the applicant’s desire to make a positive impact in their field.

This applicant chose an anecdote that, at first glance, seems unrelated to the topic at hand. However, they tactfully relate it to their career aspirations, and you can do the same! 

Yale “Why This College” Example Essay 1

“What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?” (125 words or fewer)
"As someone who takes an immediate interest in new experiences, hearing about Yale’s “AND” approach to education was like hearing the Cubs won the World Series: shocking! 
The powerful research opportunities and resources found at the Jackson School of Global Affairs combined with Yale’s cozy but free liberal arts atmosphere make it an exhilarating place for me to explore the inner workings of US foreign policy. However, the flexibility of Yale’s curriculum will also allow me to continue my work with young children and pursue my interest in theater by taking a course like “Creating Theater for Young Audiences”.
With its modern 21st-century philosophy and 300+ years of experience, Yale’s curriculum invites me to immerse myself and thrive in ventures both familiar and novel alike."

This essay prompt is very short, so it would be difficult to include a narrative in it. For these kinds of answers, it’s best to just stick to the prompt and share your interests straight away, as this student has. Pay attention to the following features of this essay:

  • Its opening : While the essay does not start with an anecdote like the others, it still provides its readers with an interesting introduction by comparing Yale’s AND approach with the Cubs winning the World Series, adding some personality to their essay.
  • Its use of space : The student doesn’t dwell on one interest for too long. They mention several different interests, including Yale’s research opportunities, atmosphere, flexible curriculum, theater course, and more. They’re able to keep these ideas simple and connect them so it doesn’t feel overkill. 
  • Its conclusion : Despite the limited space, this student writes a quick conclusion to give their final thoughts on Yale in a succinct yet effective way that also mentions their ability to immerse themselves in the community and thrive in it!

This essay is able to accomplish what other 250+ word ones have in only 125 words, and the admissions committee was just as impressed as you!

Yale “Why Us” Example Essay 2

"Coming from [COUNTRY] and having traveled globally, I recognize the resource disparity in different parts of the world, particularly in the STEM fields. That’s why I also recognize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity attending Yale affords: to work in labs and with resources to which not even [ETHNICITY] professionals have access. 
This opportunity, alongside the possibility to dive further into my academic interests that lay outside my major, specifically the classics, is an incredible chance that I cannot chase in many universities in my country. The ability to intertwine several areas of study in an institution where I can meet and learn from even more unique people from even more eclectic places with diverse and adverse backgrounds alike sounds like the best possible education I could fathom."

Like the previous example, this “why us” essay packs a punch despite its short word count! Here’s how:

  • Demonstrates global perspective : The essay begins by acknowledging the applicant's experience of resource disparity in different parts of the world, demonstrating their awareness of global challenges and the importance of access to resources, particularly in the STEM fields.
  • Highlights Yale's unique opportunities : The student discusses Yale’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work in well-equipped labs and access resources that may be unavailable even to professionals in the applicant's home country, highlighting the value of Yale's academic environment and facilities.
  • Mentions interdisciplinary interest : Yale is big on its interdisciplinary educational approach, which is why it was a smart move for this student to mention their interests beyond their major. This also showcases their intellectual curiosity and desire to take full advantage of all of Yale's offerings.
  • Emphasizes cultural diversity : The applicant highlights their desire to interact with unique individuals from diverse backgrounds at Yale. This speaks to the applicant's appreciation for diversity and ability to fit in at Yale and benefit from its diverse community.

In summary, this essay effectively communicates the applicant's appreciation for Yale's resources, interdisciplinary opportunities, and diverse community while demonstrating a strong motivation to make the most of their educational experience at Yale!

Dartmouth “Why This College” Example Essay 

“Dartmouth celebrates the ways in which its profound sense of place informs its profound sense of purpose. As you seek admission to Dartmouth’s Class of 2027, what aspects of the College’s academic program, community, or campus environment attract your interest? In short, Why Dartmouth?” (max 100 words) 
"If I had to place my purpose, I’d tuck it right into my power suit on the way into the first day of my new internship that I would’ve obtained through the Entrepreneurial Internship Program or Tuck Business Bridge Program. 
Aside from attempting the black diamond at Dartmouth Skiway and hiking through the Appalachian Trail, I’ll spend most of my time on campus serving the Upper Valley community through Social Impact Non-Profit Consulting (SINC) and Social Impact Practicums (SIP), using my zest for entrepreneurship to support local non-profits that are fostering dynamic social change throughout the Upper Valley and beyond." 

This Dartmouth prompt has the shortest word count yet, but the student still manages to write a compelling “why this college” essay due to the following aspects:

  • It has clear career goals : The essay highlights the applicant's ambition to pursue an internship through the Entrepreneurial Internship Program or Tuck Business Bridge Program, demonstrating a focused career path and knowledge of Dartmouth’s programs.
  • It demonstrates community engagement : The applicant expresses their desire to actively contribute to the Upper Valley community through Social Impact Non-Profit Consulting and Social Impact Practicums. This showcases their ability to contribute to not only Dartmouth but the entire region as well.
  • Their voice is present : the student still lets their personality shine through as they mention their favorite outdoor activities like skiing and hiking.
  • It connects to the college’s values : By expressing their interest in community service, the essay aligns with Dartmouth’s values of civic engagement and making a difference in society, demonstrating a good fit between the applicant's personal goals and the college's mission.

It’s clear this student has put time and effort into their response and researched Dartmouth and all it has to offer! They are able to add personal touches, describe their career goals, and demonstrate how they’ll fit into the Dartmouth community and beyond in only 100 words!

Princeton “Why This College” Example Essay

“As a research institution that also prides itself on its liberal arts curriculum, Princeton allows students to explore areas across the humanities and the arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. What academic areas most pique your curiosity, and how do the programs offered at Princeton suit your particular interests?” (Please respond in 250 words or fewer)
"Political science is the academic area that piques my curiosity most, especially with the history of how past power structures shape inequality today. I’m fascinated with the intersection and apparent contradictions of the egalitarian ideals upon which America was built; in the same decade that the Declaration of Independence was written, declaring all men equal, Native Americans were treated as brutes and black indentured servants were shackled into servitude. 
Most of all, I’m intensely curious to learn about the lives of the invisible; currently, I’m reading A Black Woman’s History of the United States, which chronicles black women’s experiences at a time when both legal and societal systems disenfranchised them completely. At Princeton, I’d like to continue this civil rights-based political science work by conducting research with Professor Tali Mendelberg, who focuses on the institutional nuances that invisibly prevent women from holding positions of power. This research is especially important to me because I’ll be running for political office one day and am dedicated to electing more women to political office as a volunteer with [NAME OF ORGANIZATION] and She [NAME OF ORGANIZATION], organizations that support electing young progressive women to political power.
Extracurricularly, I spend my time trying to solve America’s problems through entrepreneurship. Last year, I co-founded [COMPANY], a startup working to make financial literacy available to all Americans. At Princeton, I’d immerse in the eLab startup incubator, the entrepreneurship minor’s workshops, and the Princeton Startup Immersion Program to further explore my entrepreneurial interests and scale [COMPANY]."

Here’s why this essay works:

  • Connection to personal experiences : The essay references the applicant's current reading of "A Black Woman's History of the United States" and their dedication to understanding the experiences of marginalized groups. This personal connection adds depth and authenticity to the essay.
  • Shares their future goals and impact : The student reveals their long-term goal of running for political office and their dedication to electing more women to positions of power. This demonstrates a sense of purpose and a desire to create meaningful change in the political landscape.
  • Integration of personal and academic interests : The essay effectively intertwines the applicant's passion for political science with their entrepreneurial endeavors. It showcases how they seek to apply their knowledge and skills in entrepreneurship to address societal issues. 
  • Fit with Princeton's values : The essay aligns the applicant's values and interests with Princeton's emphasis on academic excellence, research, social justice, and entrepreneurship. By proving their goals resonate with the college's values, the essay highlights a strong fit between the applicant and the institution.
  • Connection to extracurricular opportunities : The essay highlights the applicant's interest in participating in Princeton's eLab startup incubator, entrepreneurship workshops, and the Princeton Startup Immersion Program to their desire to fully immerse themselves in the college community.

Overall, this essay stands out by showcasing the applicant's intellectual curiosity, commitment to social justice, entrepreneurial spirit, emphasis on diversity, and alignment with Princeton's academic programs and values. It even mentions extracurriculars, which students often overlook!

NYU “Why Us” Example Essay 

“We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. We are particularly interested in knowing what motivated you to apply to NYU and more specifically, why you have applied or expressed interest in a particular school, college, program, and/or area of study? We would like to understand why NYU?” (2500 character maximum)
"Though the brain, in all actuality, is not like any other muscle in the human body, the fact that I tend to view my brain as one would view any other muscle is something that must be acknowledged before analogizing how I’ve recently gone about challenging myself intellectually. 
Simply put, I take my brain to the gym; I analyze its power through its capability to ‘lift’ (fully comprehend) intellectual weights of varying mass and attempt to broaden the reach of its abilities by consistently exercising it, repeatedly pushing it just past its limits until it grows stronger and is thus ready to load on even heavier weights. While I’m by no means claiming here to be some sort of bodybuilding guru – in fact, I weigh roughly the same as most large dogs – this particular process of meticulous brain-training is something I’ve found myself doing in an endless quest to satisfy my insatiable thirst for an understanding of the bigger picture. 
Although attending my current institution has provided me with a stimulating academic experience, and one where I’ve jumped at the opportunity to more deeply explore my interests in both familiar and unfamiliar subjects alike, I find myself at a level of intellectual strength and vitality today where I’m confident in my capacity to take another step forwards – or better yet, a quantum leap into the academic equivalent of an Olympic-level gymnasium that is NYU.
How exactly I plan to utilize the variety of resources such a 'gym’ would provide is a question I’ve spent years eagerly pondering: for one, continuing on my path of pursuing degrees in economics and philosophy at a school ranked 11th and 1st in those subjects respectively would be an absolute honor, as would the experience of studying beneath Professor Alberto Bisin, whose HCEO lecture on Cultural Inequality I’ve now watched countless times. 
Tantamount to my commitment towards fully exhausting NYU’s academic resources is the level to which I aim to immerse myself in the school’s diverse community, whether it be by driving Tandon’s Formula SAE racecar in competition or volunteering for the noble Change the Imbalance Initiative, I want to ensure that my character undergoes as much development as my intellect in being an NYU student. What stands above all, though, is my desire to give back to the Violet garden of intellectual growth by putting my voice into play within NYU’s academic arena, both inside and outside the classroom."

This essay may sound familiar, as it follows a similar analogy to one of the Columbia essay examples. This is bound to happen, and it’s okay if your great essay idea is similar to one you find online, so long as you make it your own. Here are some key takeaways to note in this essay:

  • It uses a personalized analogy : Although the analogy of the brain as a muscle may have been used before, the applicant adds a personal touch by describing their own intellectual journey and the specific ways in which they seek to challenge themselves and grow to add individuality to the essay.
  • It adds tasteful humor : Humor can be risky when it comes to essays because you don’t know how well your jokes will be received. However, this student uses what we consider “safe humor” to add personality to their essay (their joke about weighing as much as large dogs).
  • It tactfully mentions prestige : As previously mentioned, you should not focus on prestige in your essay, but you can mention it, which is what this student does by briefly discussing NYU’s ranking but not dwelling on it.
  • It Integrates extracurricular interests : The essay goes beyond academic pursuits and highlights the applicant's interest in extracurricular activities at NYU. This demonstrates a well-rounded approach to college life and a commitment to making a positive impact beyond the classroom.
  • It mentions their desire to contribute to NYU’s academic arena : The essay ends by expressing the applicant's eagerness to contribute their voice to NYU's academic environment, which demonstrates their eagerness to engage in meaningful discussions and enrich the intellectual community at NYU.

So, while we’ve seen the analogy before, this essay effectively conveys the applicant's intellectual curiosity, ambition, and fit with NYU's academic resources and community in a distinct way!

Duke “Why This College” Example Essay 1

“Why Duke?”
"During the COVID-19 pandemic, my family and I volunteered at the [NAME OF HOSPITAL] in [CITY] to make cotton masks for those experiencing the mask shortage. I want to continue combatting similar medical crises in the future. I am confident Duke has the opportunities available to help me achieve my goal of providing and ensuring health care to improve the quality of life for people in my community.
While combining my Biochemistry major with a Health Policy Certificate, I also wish to contribute to the Duke community through research in Dr. Lorena Sue Beese’s lab. I want to analyze biological structures to create new therapeutic agents and diagnostics for a variety of diseases. By pairing my interest in research and participating in initiatives like Duke One Health, or with the Duke Center for Community and Population Health Improvement, I will receive a foundation in how to create and advance a unifying system of population health.
Aside from academic interest at Duke, I will seek community with individuals who share part of my common history to create a family away from [CITY]. By joining the [NAME OF GROUP], I will delve deeper into amplifying minority voices on health disparities specific to the [RACE] America, [ETHNICITY], and [ETHNICITY] communities. By participating in the Duke University Chorale, I will continue to pursue my love for beautiful and meaningful music in a community just as enchanted by it as I am."

If you’re planning on applying to Duke , consider drawing inspiration from this compelling “why this college” essay, and make note of the following parts that make it stand out:

  • Opens with a meaningful experience : The essay begins by highlighting the applicant's volunteer work during the COVID-19 pandemic, which shows their commitment to public health and their desire to address medical crises.
  • Makes specific reference to Duke’s opportunities : The essay makes reference to the student’s interest in conducting research in Dr. Lorena Sue Beese's lab. Their mention of initiatives like Duke One Health also shows their awareness of the university's resources.
  • Mentions their appreciation for diversity : diversity is an important value at Duke. This student showcases their desire to work with diverse communities and express their interest in joining a group that amplifies minority voices on health disparities, proving their commitment to inclusivity.
  • Has clear academic and career goals : The student shares their passion for combating medical crises and improving people's quality of life. They express their intention to pursue a Biochemistry major and a Health Policy Certificate at Duke, displaying a well-defined academic path.

If you want to write a laser-focused essay like this, it’s important you know what you want! Have clear, defined goals and a plan to get you there. Know which resources Duke offers will help you the most and incorporate them into your essay. 

Duke “Why This College” Example Essay 2

“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's something in particular about our offerings that attracts you, feel free to share that as well.” (250-word limit)
"At Duke, college is a verb whose definition is a collage of countless experiences and endeavors prospective students aim to undertake as Blue Devils. Though 250 words isn’t enough to encapsulate the whole collage comprehensively, I can at least venture to provide snapshots of what my own collage would look like… in other words, what it’d look like for me “to Duke.” 
For me, “to Duke” means living beyond the confines of one’s comfort zone. I’ve already started “to Duke” via high school DECA and aim to continue duking it out in different arenas - intellectually, entrepreneurially, and otherwise - as I hone my accrued high school skills on the collegiate chopping block. One way to really test myself when it comes to my dreams of becoming an entrepreneurial hotelier is by pursuing Duke’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Undergrad Certificate, because “to Duke” also means following one’s dreams and building credibility the right way en route. 
In other words, “to Duke” means taking no shortcuts and measuring twice but cutting once, as the age-old contractor’s adage goes. Thus, it’s with the best intent and utmost intention that I apply to Duke because my research has confirmed what I already felt to be true: “to Duke” is to be me, and also to be you, in a place where we can both be helping each other, too. “To Duke” is to collaborate, so it’s truly this collaboration at the core of teaching and learning at Duke that ultimately does it for me."

This final “why this college” essay works for the following reasons:

  • It uses repetition well : Throughout the essay, the student repeats the phrase “to Duke” and gives various definitions of what this means and how they’ve already done it, and what they plan on doing in the future “to Duke,” which adds cohesion to the essay and demonstrates their commitment to the college.
  • It’s specific : The essay makes specific reference to the certificate this student would like to pursue at Duke and the numerous ways they plan on stepping out of their comfort zone using Duke’s resources.
  • They quote Duke : Sometimes quoting the school’s mission can be cliche, but this student has chosen unique quotes and seamlessly integrated them into her essay while explaining what these words mean to her. This demonstrates she’s done her research and truly resonates with Duke’s motto.
  • It’s focused : This response is all about Duke; it doesn’t use anecdotes but still includes a powerful and personal message about this student’s aspirations, experiences, interests, and values.

This essay effectively communicates the writer’s passion, ambition, and alignment with Duke's values. You can feel their enthusiasm and excitement to attend Duke throughout, and it’s clear they plan on contributing to its community!

While we’ve provided you with some excellent examples to help you start your “why this college” essay, there are over 175 more essay examples you can look through before you feel confident enough to start step one of the process!

FAQs: “Why This College” Essays

In case you still have questions about how to write a “why this college” essay, here are the answers to frequently asked questions about this application material:

1. What Is the Purpose of a “Why This College” Essay?

With limited spots in each program, colleges want to know you’re dedicated to their school and its values. The purpose of a "why this college" statement is to convince the admissions committee that you have carefully considered your college choice and that you’re genuinely excited about the prospect of attending that particular institution.

2. How Do You Write a “Why This College” Essay?

To write a “why this college” essay, follow the comprehensive steps listed above. Here’s a brief summary of them:

  • Step one : Do your research on the college you’re writing your essay for
  • Step two : Reflect on your own interests and goals
  • Step three : Connect the dots between your interests and goals and the college’s offerings
  • Step four : Keep it simple by only mentioning a few of these connections
  • Step five : Explain how you’ll fit in and how your values align with the college’s values
  • Step six : Revise and rework your essay until it’s perfect
  • Step seven : Have someone look your essay over for additional feedback before submitting it

By following these steps, you should be able to write an authentic, focused, and compelling “why this college” essay!

3. Which Colleges Require a “Why Us” Essay?

Here are some colleges that typically require a “why us” essay or a variation of it: 

  • Harvard University
  • Yale University
  • Princeton University
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • New York University (NYU)
  • Stanford University
  • University of Chicago
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • California Institute of Technology 
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Bowdoin College
  • Brown University
  • Northwestern University
  • Swarthmore College
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Virginia
  • University of California
  • University of Pennsylvania

It's best to check the admission requirements of the colleges you’re interested in during your intended application cycle to get the most updated information on the required supplemental essays .

Final Thoughts

Whether you choose to write about a life-changing experience that influenced you to become a nurse and join Duke’s renowned nursing program, or you simply want to explore various disciplines through Harvard’s interdisciplinary curriculums, you can write a captivating “why this college” essay that will help get you into your dream college.

Regardless of the direction you take, so long as you follow the steps above, avoid the mistakes discussed, and use the examples in this guide for inspiration, you should be golden!

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“Why This University?” How to Ace a “Why Us?” Admissions Essay

Last Updated: March 4, 2024 Fact Checked

What is a why this college essay?

  • Choosing an Essay Topic

Structuring and Writing Your Essay

What not to do in your essay, expert interview.

This article was co-authored by Alicia Cook and by wikiHow staff writer, Raven Minyard, BA . Alicia Cook is a Professional Writer based in Newark, New Jersey. With over 12 years of experience, Alicia specializes in poetry and uses her platform to advocate for families affected by addiction and to fight for breaking the stigma against addiction and mental illness. She holds a BA in English and Journalism from Georgian Court University and an MBA from Saint Peter’s University. Alicia is a bestselling poet with Andrews McMeel Publishing and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets including the NY Post, CNN, USA Today, the HuffPost, the LA Times, American Songwriter Magazine, and Bustle. She was named by Teen Vogue as one of the 10 social media poets to know and her poetry mixtape, “Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately” was a finalist in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 3,843 times.

Many colleges require a “Why this college?” essay to help determine if students would be a good fit for their campus. This essay allows you to explain why you want to attend a specific college or university and persuade their admissions team you’d be a valuable addition to their student body. If you want to ensure your essay is the best it can be, look no further. We’ll walk you through researching, outlining, and writing your “Why this college?” essay, plus give you tips on what NOT to do, so you can wow your dream college.

Things You Should Know

  • When writing a “Why this college?” essay, research the college and its unique courses and programs to provide specific details.
  • Don’t write about generalizations like the college’s rank, location, or size. Focus on how it supports your academic goals.
  • Write about yourself, not just the college. Explain your strengths and interests and how you’re a good fit for the school.

Ask the wikiHow College Coach

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  • These essays typically have a short word count, though the exact length depends on the school you’re applying to. In general, they fall between 250 and 650 words.

Choosing a Topic for Your Essay

Step 1 Learn as much as you can about the college.

  • To get a student’s perspective, read student reviews of the school and the overall campus vibe on college review sites, or reach out to current or former students and ask if they’re open to answering some questions.
  • Find expert reviews by reading sources like The Fiske Guide to Colleges by Edward B. Fiske, Colleges That Change Lives by Loren Pope, or The Best 376 Colleges from Princeton University.
  • If possible, find a syllabus for a course you’re interested in. This way, you can list specific examples of how taking classes at that college would benefit you when you write your essay.

Step 2 Choose your angle based on the specific prompt.

  • Columbia University: “What are your reasons for applying to this particular university? Elaborate on the most significant and compelling aspects of Columbia that resonate with you.”
  • University of Michigan: “What are the distinctive qualities that make a certain school or college attractive for you to apply to? How does the curriculum submitted correlate with your interests and plans for the future?”
  • University of Pennsylvania: “With regard to the undergraduate school you have chosen, we are curious about how you plan to develop your intellectual interests at our university. Please tell us about your approach to exploring these interests within the university’s environment.”
  • University of Central Florida: “What is the main reason for your decision to join UCF? What particular characteristics and qualities would enable you to contribute to our academic community?”

Step 3 Reflect on your educational and career goals.

  • Write your reasons down in 3 separate columns: what you seek from the college, what the college will give you, and what you bring to its community.
  • In general, 70% of your essay should focus on academics, while 30% can focus on extracurriculars.

Step 2 Choose an appropriate structure.

  • The basic strategy: provide 10-15 reasons about why you want to attend the college. Organize them into a few main categories and list specific reasons and details within them.
  • The unique reasons strategy: write about 3-5 opportunities that are exclusive to that college and explain how they relate to you personally. Make sure to do your research for this strategy since it requires you to understand the institution’s unique factors.
  • The one value strategy: explore 1 core value that you and the college share and expand on that story. This is the most risky approach, as it relies on 1 topic and must be engaging.

Step 3 Outline and draft your essay.

  • Introduction: Introduce your main goals and the reason behind them. To personalize your essay, include an anecdote about your interests or an experience at the college. Remember to include a thesis statement .
  • Body paragraph 1: Write about your first goal and how the college can support it. For example, if you’re interested in math, include details about their math department and specific courses. Be sure to supply supporting evidence.
  • Body paragraph 2: Write about your second goal and how the college can support it. For example, if you want to be a journalist, write about their student newspaper or any relevant internship opportunities they offer.
  • Body paragraph 3: Write about your third goal and how the college can support it. For example, if community service is important to you, write about specific opportunities and events the college organizes.
  • Conclusion: Conclude your essay by reaffirming where you see yourself in the future and how the college can help you get there.

Step 4 Get feedback and edit your essay.

  • While you may be interested in a college’s sports teams or traditions, avoid writing about them if they’re well-known and easily researched.

Step 2 Don’t rely on emotional language.

  • It’s okay to use the same themes across essays. Just make sure those themes fit the college’s specific prompt and be genuine about why you’re interested in that college.
  • Writing a unique essay for each school you apply to helps you avoid unnecessary mistakes like mixing up mascots or accidentally including another college’s name.

Step 4 Don’t only compliment the school.

  • When the prompt asks “why us?”, don’t think of “us” as just the college. Instead, think of it as you AND the college.

Step 5 Avoid repetition from your main application or essay.

Expert Q&A

  • When proofreading your essay, scan it for capital letters. Capitalization often signifies you’ve included something specific that the college offers. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Read your essay aloud to see if any sections sound clunky or confusing. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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Thanks for reading our article! If you’d like to learn more about writing essays, check out our in-depth interview with Alicia Cook .

  • ↑ https://www.apguru.com/blog/step-by-step-guide-to-write-a-great-why-this-college-essay
  • ↑ https://afsa.org/why-college-essay
  • ↑ https://scholarships360.org/college-admissions/why-this-college-essay/
  • ↑ https://summer.harvard.edu/blog/12-strategies-to-writing-the-perfect-college-essay/
  • ↑ https://greatcollegeadvice.com/blog/how-should-i-write-the-why-do-you-want-to-go-to-our-college-supplemental-essay-the-dos/

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How to Ace the "Why This College?" Essay

With examples.

Why This College Essay

Are you wondering how to tackle the “why this college” essay? You're not the only one. Many colleges, including some of the  Ivy League schools  like  Columbia University , have at least one  supplemental college essay  prompt asking you to explain why you've chosen that particular college. Your response to this question is supposed to help the admissions committee determine whether you truly know and are interested in their school and whether you'll be a good fit for the school in question. In other words, you want this essay to be as strong as possible. In this blog, we'll give you the tips, strategies, and examples to help you write a compelling “why this college” essay.    

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 9 min read

What is the “why this college” essay.

As you have probably figured out from the name, this type of college essay requires you to explain why you have chosen to apply to a specific college. It is also sometimes referred to as the “why us” essay.

If you have started looking at college-specific essay questions, you have most likely come across one or two schools that ask applicants to write this essay. It is a part of the admissions process for many colleges including Cornell and UPenn , to name a couple. The prompt for this essay may look a little different from one school to another, but it is essentially asking you for the same thing. 

For example, if you are applying to  Yale University , you will be asked, "What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? ". If you are applying to  Dartmouth , you will need to answer the following question: "While arguing a Dartmouth-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1818, Daniel Webster, Class of 1801, delivered this memorable line: "It is, sir,…a small college, and yet there are those who love it!" As you seek admission to the Class of 20xx, what aspects of the College's program, community, or campus environment attract your interest?". In your essay responding to both of these questions, you would be expected to tell the admissions committee what aspects of the school's academic and social programs and community made you want to apply. 

The "Why this college" essay is one of the most important college essays that you will write. Colleges accept a limited number of students every year, so they want to ensure that admitted students have a genuine interest in their school. Of course, the fact that you're filling out an application form and writing all of the admission essays tells them that you want to attend the school, but this essay is supposed to tell them why.

Many students apply to colleges because of name recognition, ranking lists, or pressure from friends and family. While others apply to specific colleges because they are genuinely interested in particular programs or courses offered by the institution or values that the school and the student both share. The admissions committee wants to make sure that you fit into the latter category because it means that you are more likely to thrive socially and academically.

Learn how to write a college essay:

As with most supplemental college essays, this essay follows the format of a regular essay, but it comes in a vast range of sizes. You should expect to write between 200 and 350 words, but that can vary significantly between schools. For example,  Columbia supplemental essays  are limited to 200 words or less, while Yale asks students to answer this question in 125 words. It is important that you verify the word count that is specified by the school you're applying to and that you follow those instructions. This essay is typically relatively short, but it needs to be very informative.

Keep in mind that colleges are getting more competitive. In fact, some top colleges like  Stanford  have an acceptance rate lower than 5%. So, if you want to beat the competition and get in, you need to convince the admissions board that you are genuinely interested in their institution and that you are a good fit for it. This is especially true if you are trying to  get into college with a low GPA.

For your "why this college" essay to be strong, it needs to show the admissions board that you understand the school's values, culture, curriculum, and the opportunities or experiences that it has to offer. The person reading your letter should feel like you have already spent time picturing yourself on their campus or in the classroom, and they should feel that you are excited about that possibility. 

Do research

Writing a “why this college” essay is quite similar to answering the  “What Would You Contribute to Your Future College Campus Community” College Interview Question.  To provide a strong answer, you need to know as much as possible about the school in question. 

We recommend that you spend some time on the school’s website. Do not limit yourself to the admissions and undergraduate programs page. Instead, take a look at their online catalog, social programs, and even course schedule, if available. The aim is to find out what sets this school apart from the others you’ve applied to.  Your essay should discuss precise details about at least one of the following:

If you have questions about the programs or if you feel that the website has not provided you with enough information, you can reach out to the admissions office or a local representative. You can also put the word out on social media or in student forums that you want to speak with a current student. Current students can give you specific information about the school, help with your essay, and help with other aspects of the admissions process - like  college admissions interviews , for example. 

Don't be vague/generic

It's important to remember that the person reading your essay knows very little about you and your experiences. This means that you need to be as specific as possible when you are explaining why you have chosen to apply to this particular college.

For example, you may be a big fan of Victorian architecture, and you find the buildings of a specific campus interesting. In that case, you can't simply write "the campus is beautiful, I love the architecture." That sentence is not only generic and forgettable, but it also doesn't give the reader any new information. Instead, you should look into those buildings' history and talk about that. You can write an essay about the rich history of the beautiful campus buildings and how and why they appeal to you.

This is just one of many examples, but the idea is that you should avoid vague sentences that do not say anything new about your interests and that do not apply specifically to the school.

As mentioned earlier, you want to make sure that you're using specific details and examples in this essay. This applies to the school's information but also you. In order to tell the admissions board why you've chosen this college, you need to tell them what you were looking for or what appealed to you.

One way to make sure your "why this college" essay stands out is to show instead of tell. This means that you should use anecdotes, examples, and specific experiences to back up any claims you make about yourself and demonstrate your interest in a particular topic.

For example, if we continue with the same student, we were talking about earlier who likes Victorian architecture. Let's assume that they are applying to a history program. They can compare the campus buildings on campus to those they saw on a trip to London, where they visited the Royal Albert Hall and other famous Victorian buildings. This would show the admissions board that they genuinely have an interest in the Victorian era, thus strengthening the overall essay.

Don't focus on the school's location, reputation, or ranking.

While the school's size, location, reputation, and ranking can undoubtedly be important factors in your decision to apply there, they should not be the main focus of your essay. This is primarily because thousands of students will be talking about these factors. There are so many essays that focus on these things that certain schools make it a point to tell students not to talk about them. Take a look at this prompt from Georgia tech, for example: "Beyond rankings, location, and athletics, why are you interested in attending Georgia Tech?"

Furthermore, you want to make sure that your reasons for applying to this college are unique to the institution. If your essay says that you applied to a college because of its high ranking, that implies that you applied to multiple high-ranking colleges without much care for what they offer.

Or, if you are applying to Columbia, for example, and your essay revolves around the fact that the city of New York is exciting and has a lot to offer, the admissions committee will wonder if you might end up going to NYU instead of Columbia if they offer you admission.

So instead of focusing on external factors like ranking, location, and size, look for school-specific details such as extracurricular programs, courses, unique or exciting aspects of the curriculum, school traditions, etc.

Do connect it to you

You should think of the "why this college" essay as if it were really asking, "why is this college right for you?"

In other words, you want to use your essay to tell the admissions committee what you like about the school and how it relates to you. The reality is that they already know how great their school is, that is why they want to make sure that only the right candidates get to attend it next year.

Be honest with yourself when writing this essay. While researching the school, write down the things that interest you or that you find particularly appealing. Then, think back to your own background and experiences, and connect the two.

For example, the student who is applying to a history program and likes Victorian architecture. That student could talk about how they discovered this passion for history and architecture and what they have done to pursue that interest. This would show the admissions committee that this is something that the student cares about and actively engages with.

Now that you know what a “why this college” essay is and what it takes to write a compelling one, let’s take a look at a couple of examples so that you can get some context.

Prompt: What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer)

Puccini's "O Mio Babino Caro" was my childhood soundtrack. My mother played it so often that it was the first song I learned to sing. It introduced me to music and history- two fields I am passionate about. I couldn't imagine giving up history to pursue music or vice versa, and until last summer, I thought I'd have to.

To learn more about the Yale school of music, I met with an alumn who told me how they studied Roman and Greek literature to specialize in baroque opera. My research then showed that Yale offers courses in Italian studies, which I could take in addition to my core music classes. Thus, allowing me to explore my interests in a way that no other school can.  ( 125 words)

Wondering how to get into an Ivy League college?

Prompt: Which aspects of the Tufts undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short, "Why Tufts?" (100-150 words)

Tuft's curriculum is uniquely designed to help me achieve my dreams. I have been working towards a career in the Humanitarian sector ever since I understood what the United Nations is. The best way for me to achieve that is to have a strong understanding of international relations and developmental economics.

Tuft not only offers one of the best economics programs in the country, but it also has a unique international relations program that collaborates with 18 other departments. Furthermore, Tuft believes in approaching the same problem from different angles, and it teaches its students how to do that through interdisciplinary education. I am confident that this approach will best prepare me for the career I am working toward.

Additionally, I find Tuft's focus on civil engagement particularly appealing, and I hope to participate in programs such as the Jumbovote or be a part of Tuft's chapter of Jumpstart. (149 words)

It is a type of college essay that asks applicants to elaborate on their reasons for choosing a particular college. Essentially, it is the school asking, "why us?"

Colleges ask applicants to answer this question because it helps them determine which students are genuinely interested in attending their school.

In short, very common! The question is often phrased differently, but most universities and colleges have at least one supplemental essay prompts that asks you to elaborate on your reasons for wanting to attend that specific school.

This will depend on the school you are applying to. Most of the time, the school will give you a specific word count like in the examples above. If there is no specific word count stated in the prompt, you should stick to the length of the regular common app essay - 250 and 650 words.

A strong why this college essay will have an attention-grabbing opening statement, use specific examples, and refer to detailed information about the school that you're applying to.

Except for college admission interviews, college essays are your only chance to talk to the admissions board directly in your own words. You should, therefore, not underestimate their importance.

This means using specific examples like anecdotes or experiences to show the admissions committee that you have a certain skill or trait instead of simply telling them about it. It will make you a more memorable candidate, thus strengthening your application.

You can take the time to research the school you're applying to; this will help ensure that you are referring to specific information about the school in your essay. We recommend working with a  college essay review service  to maximize your chances of acing this tricky application component.

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“Why This College?” Essay Examples

May 17, 2024

As you apply for college, you’ll notice that there are several different essay writing genres you’ll need to familiarize yourself with. There’s the Common App Essay , of course, along with many specific supplemental essays like the Community Essay and the Diversity Essay that will be required by particular schools. In particular, there is the “Why This College?” Essay. The “Why This College?” Essay can be an important component in your college application, as it’s an opportunity for you to describe why you specifically would be a good fit for a particular school. It’s a popular requirement for many colleges and universities and in this article, we’re going to show you a few “Why This College?” Essay examples, and share some tips and tricks for how to write a “Why This College?” Essay.

As you peruse these examples and tips, remember that there’s no one perfect way to write a “Why This College?” Essay. Rather, there are important generic conventions you can work with and build upon to craft an essay that is unique to you as a specific college candidate. Think of a novel. You can expect a novel to have a title and chapters and contain a fictional story. At the same time, novels are written across a plethora of genres, have characters that are as different as Vladomir Harkonnen and Elizabeth Bennet, and can be short reads or thousands of pages long. It’s the same in this case. As you learn how to write a “Why This College?” Essay, you’ll see that some elements of the essay will be fixed, while others will be entirely up to you to create!

What Kind of Prompts Are There for the “Why This College?” Essay?

Many schools require some form of the “Why This College?” Essay for their supplemental application materials, and the prompts can be general or specific.  Take these extra general ones from Yale and Dartmouth , for instance:

  • What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?
  • In short, why Dartmouth?

These open-ended prompts can feel like both a blessing and a curse. Without particular guidelines, you might feel freer to describe your particular fit within a university and it might be easier to brainstorm about the content you’d like to highlight in this essay; however, beware of open prompts: they can make it tempting to veer into generality!

In other instances, the “Why This College?” Essay prompt will be specifically tailored for many schools, and this specificity can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Take, for instance, these two examples from Northwestern :

  • Community and belonging matter at Northwestern. Tell us about one or more communities, networks, or student groups you see yourself connecting with on campus.
  • Northwestern’s location is special: on the shore of Lake Michigan, steps from downtown Evanston, just a few miles from Chicago. What aspects of our location are most compelling to you, and why? [i]

“Why This College?” Essay Examples (Continued)

The positive side to specific prompts like these is that they’ve given potential applicants a couple of springboards to begin diving from as you write – you can immediately begin detailing your specific interests and likes about Northwestern that make you an ideal candidate for the school. A potential downside is that you’ll honestly need to do research here before you can even begin brainstorming about either of these questions authentically! Specific prompts may also mean that you’ll need to totally start from scratch with each “Why This College?” Essay (for these Northwestern prompts, you certainly couldn’t plug in a different “Why This College?” Essay where you’ve written about your dream of editing for the Harvard Crimson or your hope to network in nearby New York City!).

So, with prompts like these, how to even begin writing a “Why This College?” Essay? Check out our tips and “Why This College?” Essay examples next!

Also, check out our list of college application essay topics to avoid .

Tips on How to Write a “Why This College?” Essay

Regardless of the prompt, your response needs to be specific. This is possibly the most important thing to remember as you learn how to write a “Why This College?” Essay.

First and most importantly of all, focus on fit. Remember that this is your opportunity to showcase why you’re specifically a good match for a college – not why a college is a great general choice for anybody. Ultimately, this is an essay about your potential relationship with a school. If you were writing an epic love poem, you might obsess over your beloved’s hair, eyes, etc. – but obsession isn’t a relationship! On the other hand, if you were asking someone out, you might want to focus, instead, on why you’d have a great time together because it’s more persuasive (and that’s ultimately what you’re trying to do: persuade this school’s admissions committee that you belong there!).

Here are a few tips on specificity that we’ll review below as we analyze a few “Why This College?” Essay examples:

  • Before writing your “Why This College?” Essay, do your research on each school to which you’ll apply. This means finding particular programs of study you’ll pursue, looking up course titles you’d like to take and even professors you’d like to study under. It means researching clubs and extracurriculars you’ll partake in, internship programs you’ll apply for, and details about the school that will further your goals as a student there.

At the beginning of your “Why This College?” Essay, you can include a brief anecdote or bit of personal information that will make your essay stand out. As with any college application essay, this is an opportunity to brag about yourself! For instance, if you’re going to mention a particular club or extracurricular you’d like to join at a university, you can use this anecdote to briefly remind your reader that you were the president of that extracurricular at your high school (especially if that detail doesn’t appear elsewhere in your application materials). NOTE: Including a personal anecdote like this is sometimes dependent upon word length. For longer “Why This College?” Essays, it’s a great choice. For shorter ones, this hook may be a feature you’ll have to reduce or skip altogether.

Don’t linger on the general features of the school, or on school qualities that apply to everyone. Don’t focus on the school’s reputation, rankings, or student-to-professor ratios. The school knows this stuff already! Everybody paints the rock at Northwestern and paints the fence at Carnegie Mellon and these schools’ admissions counselors have read about these sorts of traditions approximately a billion times. Avoid general features and focus, rather, on detailed aspects of the school community that are particularly compelling to you .

Details about campus culture or school location are okay to write about, but remember that you’re not trying to be John Keats here. Don’t just talk about the beauty of the leaves changing in the fall or the way the palm trees sway on the school’s tropical campus. Rather, focus on what the school’s location can do for you as a scholar . Is there something particular about the school’s locale that can further your scholastic goals? Perhaps it’s situated in a region known for a particular area of study, with the best professors in the field nearby (e.g. Silicon Valley for computer science). Or maybe its setting can provide ample internship opportunities for a student with your major (e.g. Washington, D.C. for political science majors).

Edit for details. As you write your thousandth college application essay, it can be so tempting to simply copy-paste and go through the motions of writing unique drafts. While it’s okay to have a little carry-over between essays, it’s essential that you don’t have any major bloopers (like getting the school’s colors or motto wrong) in a “Why This College?” Essay.

Honesty is the best policy! It’s better to write something authentic to you than something you think the school wants to hear. After all, no matter how prestigious a school or program might be, if you can’t think of why you’d fit in there, you may want to reconsider whether a school is meant for you!

“Why This College?” Essay Examples

Below, we’ve included three fictional “Why This College Essay?” examples. The first two are good examples, along with commentary on what makes them strong and what these authors might improve upon to make them even better. The third essay is an exceptionally poor one, designed to help you see common pitfalls within this essay genre so you can think about how to avoid them yourself (or even how to correct mistakes you’ve already made in drafts!). Think of this third, poor essay as a way to test how well you’ve familiarized yourself within the genre.

Good “Why This College?” Essay Example 1:

As current Editor-in-Chief of my school magazine The Clarion , I’d like to pursue a Journalism major at the College of Northeastern Ohio, where I will deepen my experience in writing and design through classes such as “Reporting with Visual Journalism” and “International Writing.” Additionally, CNO’s Amanpour Journalism Project will give me hands-on experience as a journalist working in a newsroom. There, I’ll explore aspects of journalism such as digital storytelling and broadcasting, along with elective courses like “Feature Interviews” and “Documentary Television.”

My love for writing and communication stems from my multilingual upbringing. In high school, I explored Latin America on a study abroad trip to the Dominican Republic, where I relied on my Guatemalan heritage to further my Spanish-speaking skills. Through CNO’s International Language Studies program, I hope to attain a Spanish minor and explore Spanish-speaking countries in their study abroad program while immersing myself in international media.

With the interdisciplinary emphasis at CNO, I’ll additionally have the flexibility to study politics through a Political Science double major. I’ve written many articles on global communication for The Clarion , and I hope to further my writing on political communication with the Amanpour Project’s “Writing in Conflict Zones” class and other interdisciplinary classes with Professor Joan Walters. CNO’s robust communications offerings give me the opportunity to specifically study my interests in writing, politics, and Spanish simultaneously with the resources of multiple departments.

This essay does a great job of both showcasing the writer’s unique experiences and exploring how the college will specifically help her pursue her major and career goals. Additionally, the author has done a dynamite job researching particular classes and programs within the university that she’d like to take, listing several by name and course/program details.

How we might fix it up:

This essay primarily focuses on academics. Since academics are usually the most important reason why you’d want to attend a particular university, this definitely isn’t a major problem! However, the writer could potentially explore other extracurriculars or campus offerings that might make her a great fit for this university.

Good “Why This College?” Essay Example 2:

Data. From our politics to what we binge on Netflix, data collection and information systems have become part of the fabric of our lives. But when we think about sports, we don’t always think about numbers – and I want to do just that. The Massachusetts Institute of Stanford Mellon offers a top-ranked Data Science and Information Systems major, which will provide me with transferable skills that can be applied to my dream career path: sports marketing and data analytics.

I would like to go to a university where I can immediately participate in research. In high school, I created an algorithm that helps me predict how much fans will spend on team gear, based on their previous purchases and levels of engagement with games, betting, and online searching. The MISM Data and Numbers Lab allows undergraduates to access their databases and start conducting research right away (without having to wait until grad school!) and courses like “Analysis of Algorithms” and “Marketing and Numbers” provide the tools to conduct research on issues like sports marketing. At MISM, I hope to study with mentors like Professor Bill Jobs, whose work on information systems and regional spending might facilitate my own independent research. Additionally, MISM has alumni networks that facilitate internship and job placement in both Silicon Valley and with major sporting equipment stores like Rick’s Sporting Depot.

Finally, MISM offers a variety of extracurriculars that I would love to join, particularly the Little Pucks program, which provides community outreach to aspiring hockey players with physical disabilities. Since my sophomore year, I’ve volunteered at our local rec center, volunteering with kids who have special needs and helping them learn about and play sports. As I pursue a career in sports marketing and data analytics, I want to make a positive impact on companies and consumers alike. I’d love to live up to MISM’s motto: “Knowledge for service.”

Again, this writer does a fantastic job showcasing his own strengths and specifically demonstrating how this university has particular offerings (courses, labs, professors, extracurriculars, etc.) that will help him in his chosen major and career path. The generalities of this essay (like the school motto) are also used for a purpose: to illustrate how the writer hopes to use his education to give back to the community.

This is a great draft. To make it even better, we might consider how this essay focuses a lot on what the school can do for the writer. The writer might want to consider: how will I, in turn, contribute more to the campus community?

Poor “Why This College? Essay” Example:

When I took a campus visit at Princevard University last year, I was sure to stop at the Wishing Fountain in the middle of the quad. There, I threw in a penny and recited Princevard’s motto, “Veritas in vota” – “truth in wishes” and made my wish: that I will get accepted into Princevard this fall. I’ve known that I wanted to attend Princevard ever since I was a little boy and found out that my Great Uncle Howie graduated from there in 1965. At Princevard, I would study in their English program so that I could pursue my dream of becoming a novelist and a teacher when I graduate.

Ranked at #7 in the nation, Princevard’s reputation is another reason why I would like to attend; a degree from Princevard will open up doors to jobs and internships that many other schools could never open. Finally, I hope to join one of Princevard’s fraternities because the school offers more Greek organizations than any other university on the East Coast.

Well, it’s a start. If you’ve written a similar draft to this one, which breaks many of our “Why This College?” Essay writing rules, don’t despair! Instead, use this draft as a springboard for your next one.

How we might fix up this essay:

You’re probably familiar enough now with the genre conventions of the “Why This College?” Essay to think of a few reasons why this essay is a poor one. Now, let’s see how we can take even a poor first pass and turn it into a viable essay:

Our main goal with a draft like this is to turn all of this generality into an essay that specifically tells the school why this student would be a good fit there. Hint: avoid the sentiments about ranking and general location!

While this essay begins with a personal anecdote, it doesn’t tell us anything about this particular student. Instead, it focuses on a vague campus tradition. Remember that personal anecdotes serve as an opportunity to hook your reader and tell them something unique and positive about yourself.

There’s not much need to mention that a family member attended a university unless a) you are such a strong legacy there that your name is literally on a building (in which case, you should probably have a donating family member make a call on your behalf to the admissions department) or, b) your family history is somehow relevant to your future career and attendance at that school (e.g. your mother went to law school there and you want to become a lawyer and join her firm). If the latter, be sure you’re using this detail as a vehicle to demonstrate why this university is right for you.

While it’s great to talk about your major and career aspirations, be specific! Most schools have English departments so it’s not super useful to point this generality out. Writing that “Princevard University offers a unique dual English program with concentrations in both Creative Writing and Literary Theory, which would enable to me to pursue an ultimate graduate degree in literary and cultural studies while honing my craft as a novelist,” on the other hand, is a much more useful and detailed statement that demonstrates fit and brags a little about the applicant’s writing aspirations!

Similarly, many universities have Greek life organizations. If you’re going to mention an extracurricular, name which ones and why. Perhaps a particular Greek organization on this campus is affiliated with your major; maybe a chapter is politically motivated with a cause you’ve previously championed; maybe a fraternity is historically associated with your ethnicity or race and you’d love to take part in that community.

Closing Thoughts on the “Why This College?” Essay

As you write a “Why This College?” Essay, remember that this essay is perhaps the first conversation you’ll have about your relationship with a university – a relationship that, if you’re accepted, will be a formative one for the rest of your life. Good luck!

[i] “Completing Your Northwestern Application,” Application Materials: Undergraduate Admissions – Northwestern University, 2024. https://admissions.northwestern.edu/apply/requirements.html

  • College Essay

Jamie Smith

For the past decade, Jamie has taught writing and English literature at several universities, including Boston College, the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University. She earned a Ph.D. in English from Carnegie Mellon, where she currently teaches courses and conducts research on composition, public writing, and British literature.

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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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Why This College Essay Sample

Why this college essay sample – introduction.

Not sure how to start a “why this college” essay? Looking for a why this college essay sample? You’re in luck. We’ve compiled a collection of standout why school essay examples from a variety of schools to help you prepare to write your own why this college essay.

Throughout the admissions process, you’ll likely write “why this college” essays for many schools on your list. These prompts ask you to cite specific reasons why you’d like to attend a given school. As you start writing these essays, it can be tough to know where to start.

In this guide, we’ve included a variety of “why school” essay examples. Our why school essay examples come from many different schools—ten, to be exact. We hope these essay examples can help you prepare to write your own why this college essay.

We’ll review a “why this college” essay sample from each of the following schools and explain what made it effective.

We’ll look at why school essay examples from:

  • University of Chicago
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Wake Forest University
  • Tufts University
  • Lewis & Clark College
  • Loyola Marymount University
  • Duke University
  • Franklin & Marshall College
  • University of Florida
  • Lafayette College

What are examples of Why School essay prompts?

Before we take a look at our why this college essay examples, let’s start with the prompts. You’ll notice that our why this college essay examples have a lot in common. Namely, each why this college essay sample discusses specific details why a student belongs at a given school.

Still, you should note that each why this college essay sample is different. Each essay responds to their own why this college essay sample prompt. While these prompts have a lot in common, you’ll notice some key differences.

Essay prompts change

As you read our why college essay examples, you may notice that the prompts are slightly different from those below. That is because some schools change their prompts in different years.

At times, colleges will also eliminate prompts entirely. Certain schools, like Franklin & Marshall and Lewis & Clark , no longer require a why this college essay. However, we have still included why college essay examples for these schools. By reading these why this college essay samples, you can learn more about how to approach this type of prompt.

Now, let’s look at some prompts in the table of why this college essay examples below. 

As you can see from our why school essay examples prompts, not every prompt is as open-ended as “why this school.” So, compare each school’s why this college essay examples and prompt. Then, you’ll notice certain similarities and differences. You can apply this knowledge as you draft your own essays.

By reading through our “why college” essay examples, you’ll also familiarize yourself with the different prompts you might encounter. You can approach any prompt that references a school itself, either generally or specifically ( academics , curriculum, culture, etc.). You can see this in our why college essay examples prompts.

Different schools, different prompts

Some of the prompts are quite straightforward. They simply ask the question you’ll see answered in our why college essay examples: “Why this school?”

Other prompts, however, are a bit more leading. These might ask students about their chosen majors and how they align with a school’s values. They may also ask why a specific school will help them achieve their goals.

In all of our “why college” essay examples, you’ll notice that the prompts discuss each school by name. You’ll find questions like “why are you applying” and “how did you learn about us?” in these prompts. However, each of these boil down to the same essential question: why are you a good fit for our school?

Next, we’ll look at how our why college essay examples answer this question. But first, let’s take a look at a handful of schools and their essay prompts. This will help you understand how your why this college essay sample fits into your application strategy.

Which schools require a Why This College essay?

As you’ll see from our why school essay examples, many schools require a why this college essay sample. Our why this college essay examples include many schools, but this list isn’t exhaustive. So, do your own research to see if each school on your list requires a why this college essay.

The good news is many of our why school essay examples prompts are very similar. So, wherever you apply , our why college essay examples are great resources to reference as you write your own why school essay.

To get you started, here are some of the schools that require a why this college essay. You’ll find some why this college essay examples for these schools below. Others, you can check out in our school-specific essay guides :

Top Universities with a Why School Essay

  • Northwestern
  • American Unviersity

Why college essay examples for some of these schools didn’t make it into our list of college essays that worked. However, we still wanted to mention a few more schools that require a why this college essay.

More Why School Essay Examples Guides to Explore

Why northwestern.

Northwestern University has a two-part “why this college” essay sample prompt. They want to know what resources, opportunities, and/or communities you plan to engage with on campus. They also want to know how these offerings may enrich your time at Northwestern and beyond.

Why Barnard

The why this college essay sample prompt for Barnard College is a little more open-ended. Similar to other schools, Barnard asks what factors led you to apply at Barnard. They also ask you to share why you think Barnard will be a good match for you.

Yale University’s why this college essay sample prompt is similar to Barnard’s: “What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?” This is your opportunity to get specific about why Yale excites you. It also lets you share what you hope to take advantage of on campus.

Why Dartmouth

Dartmouth College’s why this college essay sample prompt asks students “Why Dartmouth?”—a classic why school prompt. Similar to Northwestern’s prompt, Dartmouth’s specifically asks what aspects of their academic program, community, or campus environment attract you.

Brown University asks students to describe their academic interests and how they might use Brown’s Open Curriculum to pursue them. In this instance, since the curriculum is specific to Brown, you can think of this prompt in two parts. First, what do you want to study, and second, why do you want to study it at Brown? In this way, this essay is a why this college essay, so should also be our list.

Why This College Essay Examples

You can use our why school essay examples to help you begin to write your why school essays. Each of our college essays that worked was chosen because it is a strong and compelling “why this college” essay sample.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read a why this college essay sample, you’re in luck. Take some time to read some below from over ten schools. These include our UF supplemental essay examples, Tufts essays that worked, Georgia Tech essay examples, why Duke essay examples, and more.

Why this college essay sample #1- UChicago

The University of Chicago is well-known for its quirky supplemental essay requirements. Among those you can expect to find some kind of Why This College essay. Below is an example of how one student crafted their response.

Why UChicago Essay Examples

How does the university of chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to uchicago. (1-2 pages).

The best thing about the University of Chicago is its subtle inconspicuousness. The ivy leagues and big select schools all have a stereotype/reputation it holds in the public eye that is difficult to live up to. Go to Harvard? Oh, you must be the smartest person ever! Go to UC Berkeley, MIT?  You must be the greatest genius the world has ever seen. But when U Chicago is mentioned, most people find it difficult to generalize the institution as anything outside of “top university” or “prestigious school.” This is because while universities at the forefront of media attention are some of the best in the United States, such overexposure lends itself to negative connotations that cannot be escaped.

I myself knew little about U Chicago, but soon came to realize how great knowing little could actually be in the grand scheme of things.

Everything starts with the amazing education system U Chicago prides itself on. Core Curriculum allows for students to really engage in critical thinking with an expanded view of the world and how it works. Students at U Chicago are not there for the perceived prestige or bonus points you get from attending a top university, they’re there to learn, and not just learn for the final exam and forget. They are there to learn and continue to use their gained knowledge as they expound upon it throughout their journey through schooling and life.

In high school and in my time taking community college courses, I haven’t been exposed to these types of students. People take courses just to put a check mark on the list, and I have been doing the same because it’s what required and it’s all I’ve ever known. There was never an opportunity to take specialized courses and as a result, my classmates’ zeal for knowledge acquisition has never been awakened. Though I try to satisfy my curiosities through articles and books, there was never anyone to discuss it with in depth without one of us leaving frustrated.

Though I plan to major in a Neuroscience-related program as a pre-medical student, I want to be able to learn new languages, Norwegian mythology, the situation of public health; anything that has piqued my interests for multiple years but remained untouched due to circumstances. I like that U Chicago forbids students from taking courses solely for their major and requires them to spend a large portion of their time in the Core Curriculum in order to make this happen.

Instead of dealing with constant pressure from society, students at U Chicago are free to pursue their passions without fear of judgment or stereotype. With the focus on education where it belongs, the overall atmosphere at the institution is laid-back and does not add stress to the rigorous course load.

A secret utopia of sorts, U Chicago sets an invincible foundation that will exponentially increase the vitality of a person in any field of work or practice and I want to be a part of that.

Explaining why this essay worked

This is one of our Why UChicago essay examples and one of our first college essays that worked. In it, the author reflects on UChicago’s academic values and culture. This “why this college” essay sample highlights the type of student that thrives at UChicago. It also shows how this student’s values align with UChicago’s.

As you’ll see in our other why school essay examples, this writer mentions specific qualities about UChicago’s Core Curriculum. They foreground how it will allow them to pursue all of their academic interests. In doing so, this student makes a strong case for why they belong at UChicago.

If you want to read another why this college essay sample, check out our guide . There, you’ll find more UChicago why school essay examples.

Why this college essay sample #2 – Georgia Tech

The second why this college essay sample we are sharing is Why School essay from Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech only requires one supplemental essay and it is a Why This College essay. Let’s look at how one student responded to the prompt below.

Georgia Tech Essay Examples

Why do you want to study your chosen major at georgia tech, and what opportunities at georgia tech will prepare you in that field after graduation (300 words).

March 29, 2019. 11 AM EST. GT Shadow Day. I remember it all so clearly: Descending the red-brick steps of the Old Civil Engineering Building. My friend and I, chatting up a storm, our minds blown by our newfound perspectives. 

We had just walked out of ECON-4060: Money & Capital Markets. To say that it changed my life would be no exaggeration; within an hour, The professor had upended my perception of society and defined my future aspirations. 

We had been asked to consider a popular commodity, diamonds. Hardly rare, fast-decaying, and intrinsically worthless. So why do we buy them? The professor had then illuminated the factors in our economic behavior that cause us to gift a ring in marriage rather than something with real value, say a treasury bond. These realizations were enough to rock me back on my heels, for I had never before noticed the large degree to which our everyday economic decision-making is irrational.

Craving more than that one splendid hour, I knew where and what I wanted to study for the next four years. I saw myself strolling through Bobby Dodd Way, bumping into old friends as I made my way to Midtown Atlanta. I saw myself exploring the realm of economics, probing questions ranging from price formation to income disparity. I saw myself at a place that felt familiar enough to call “home,” learning in a way that felt genuine enough to call “discovery.”

Educating myself on the mechanics of economics is just a glimpse of my great desires. Through the senior research project, I seek the one-on-one guidance of faculty in yielding a publishable journal paper. Someday, with the support of the program’s alumni network, I plan to pursue career and internship opportunities in the great company headquarters of Atlanta.

Why did this Georgia Tech essay work?

This is one of our favorite Georgia Tech essay examples because the writer drops us into a story that defines their interest in attending Georgia Tech. This “why this college” essay sample has a delightful and passionate tone. It communicates the writer’s interest in economics, passion for learning, and desire to explore these ideas at Georgia Tech.

Once again specificity is key (something you’ll continue to see in our other why school essay examples). This writer mentions Bobby Dodd Way, which is a street on campus. They also discuss opportunities for a senior research project and the specific professor and class that inspired them.

Why this college essay sample #3 – Wake Forest

Our next college essay that worked is from Wake Forest University.

Why Wake Forest Essay Examples

How did you become interested in wake forest university and why are you applying (150 words) .

Each time I return to campus, I see a true fit between myself and Wake Forest. I will dedicate myself to furthering the university motto, pro humanitate, by actively working with the Volunteer Service Corps and continuing my community service of providing for the basic needs of others. In addition, I will engage in the world around me and pursue a minor in Spanish while studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain; since I am currently taking AP Spanish, the language and cultural immersion would advance my fluency and expand my exposure to other cultures. In the diverse and intellectual community of Wake Forest, I will continue to pursue my goals with natural curiosity while growing as a leader in the service of others. Wake Forest is the window into the endless possibilities of my future.

Why this Wake Forest essay worked

This why this college essay sample shows how to successfully and succinctly write a why this college essay. Just like in our longer why school essay examples, this writer combines values, academics, and specificity. In doing so, they show how Wake Forest will impact their continued growth and future goals.

College essays that worked #4 – Tufts

Why tufts essay examples, “why tufts” (150 words).

I fell in love with Tufts immediately upon entering the Granoff Music Center. Standing in the lofty, sunlit atrium, I imagined being there with my enormous ekantha-veena gathered in my arms. Catching sight of the World Music Room, the glistening Indonesian gamelan housed inside—I knew that both my instrument and I would feel right at home at Tufts.

After all, Tufts is the type of school that embraces women who play instruments twice their size and, moreover, actually listens to their music.

Tufts provides women like me ample space in the music center, as well as on ground-breaking research teams such as the Sandler International Research Program; or access to intimate classroom settings with faculty such as one key professor whose dissertations are lauded by the American Sociological Association.

Tufts is a place where both the young woman and her ekantha-veena, her music and her ideas, will be heard.

This why this college essay sample prompt from Tufts admissions is extremely simple. In fact, this essay is one of our Tufts essays that worked because of its simplicity. We imagine Tufts admissions gravitated towards this essay because it reveals the writer’s passion for music. It also highlights the type of research and culture they’d like to engage with at Tufts.

Check out Tufts admissions page for more why Tufts essay examples and advice on Tufts essays that worked.

Why this college essay sample #5- Lewis and Clark

Lewis & clark supplemental essay example, lewis & clark college is a private college with a public conscience and a global reach. we celebrate our strengths in collaborative scholarship, international engagement, environmental understanding and entrepreneurial thinking. as we evaluate applications, we look for students who understand what we offer and are eager to contribute to our community. in one paragraph, please tell us why you are interested in attending lewis & clark and how you will impact our campus..

For the last eighteen years, my dad has repeated the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” at least once a week, attempting to satisfy my unrelenting curiosity. In response, I’ve adopted the mantra “but knowledge brought him back.” At Lewis and Clark College, I seek to fulfill my intense interest about the workings of society by conducting sociology research on issues in urban areas under one professor at Lewis and Clark. This research will also support my plans to perform an independent study on the aspects of criminal justice in urban environments, as the unique tensions in cities often affect the role of criminal justice.

I’ve read countless books on America’s legal system and wish to use sociology to analyze the factors that influence how justice is carried out. My unwavering curiosity also extends to my adoration of architecture, so the chance to explore my fascination with urban design through a self-designed major at Lewis and Clark deeply excites me. I know that creating my own course of study will enable me to explore my curiosity about urban history and planning. Furthermore, the chance to double major will allow me to combine architecture and social perspective and explore the connections between my majors.

The freedom to study both sociology and urban architecture at Lewis and Clark will give me a distinctive perspective on the artistic and social issues that are present in Portland and other major cities. Another opportunity that excites me is the chance to study abroad in Seville, Spain.

I am particularly enthusiastic about the ability to use my sociology and architecture education to explore a unique geographical area. Classes such as Art History of Spain will supplement my concentration on urban architecture, while Contemporary Issues of Spain will allow me to study the sociological aspects of a different culture. I also plan to study Spanish in college, so living with a host family gives me the unique ability to practice Spanish around the clock.

I believe that studying abroad in Seville, Spain through Lewis and Clark will enable me to engage in many unforgettable learning experiences. Finally, Lewis and Clark is bursting with non-traditional learning opportunities outside of the classroom. I can’t wait to learn a new skill by joining the sailing team and debating moral theories with the philosophy club.

I believe that there is no better place for me to study sociology and architecture because Lewis and Clark’s emphasis on diversity and international study are values that align perfectly with my interests.

Exploring the strengths of this essay

The Lewis and Clark College acceptance rate is higher than that of some other top schools. Still, you can tell how much thought and care this writer put into their “why this college” essay sample. Since the Lewis and Clark College acceptance rate is 79% , you might think crafting a strong supplemental essay would be easy. However, you can tell the writer of this “why this college” essay sample took their time time. In their essay, they weave a clear and compelling story about their interests and how Lewis & Clark will allow them to pursue those interests.

No matter a school’s acceptance rate, whether it is lower or higher than the Lewis and Clark College acceptance rate, make sure you take the time with every essay you write to make it the best it can be.

Why this college essay sample #6 – Loyola Marymount

Loyola marymount essay example, please briefly state your reason for wishing to attend lmu and/or how you came to select your major. (500 words).

Whether I’m bustling through people in the Metro station, taking a leisurely stroll on the beach, or studying at my local cafe, I embrace the sights, sounds, and people of Los Angeles. Though I was born in New York, I am a true L.A. native: the sunset is my muse, and my dreams are ambitious (I want to cure cancer, win a Pulitzer-Prize, and walk the red carpet, simultaneously).

Even if I don’t accomplish all of these things, I am encouraged by the fact that they are all possibilities at LMU. With a unique fusion of academic excellence, strong communal identity, and a faith-based education, LMU would prepare me to be an innovative and compassionate leader in the real world.

Reflective of L.A.’s rich cultural diversity, LMU offers students a wide array of resources. For one thing, the student to teacher ratio is 10:1, which enhances learning by fostering personal relationships with professors and peers. Furthermore, it creates a collaborative group environment, something I consider integral to my education. Secondly, as someone who is passionate about both Chicano/Latino studies and Biology, I was excited to discover that with LMU’s major and minor policy, I would be able to study both, even if they are located in different colleges.

Ultimately, I want to become a doctor, possibly a neurologist, hence my desire to major in biology. With a broad course list–encompassing everything from Immunology to Animal Behavior– and intensive, faculty-mentored research, LMU’s biology program will enable me to pursue my passion for science. At the same time, I wish to apply my medical studies to serving a greater purpose.

This is why I’ve chosen to minor in Chicano Studies. I have always taken great pride in my ethnicity, so being able to examine the Latino identity through political, historical, and cultural lenses would enrich how I understand myself and the entire Latino/a community.

The final and most important reason why I want to attend LMU is its emphasis on serving the community and the world at large. Being a practicing Catholic myself, it is important to me that faith be integrated in my education, not only because it is a part of my own identity, but because it nurtures both spiritual and personal growth. At my current high school, I have encountered and conversed with students of different faiths, or even no faith, who fully embrace the spirit of community service that characterizes Christianity.

This is what I admire most about LMU; regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or religion, LMU embraces everyone and teaches students to do the same. In short, LMU would not only augment my love of service, it would propel me forward in my mission: to be a woman of great heart and right conscience for others.

With a higher word count, this is one of our longer why school essay examples. This writer likely captured the attention of Loyola Marymount admissions with their eloquence and ambition.

While there’s no one right way to impress Loyola Marymount admissions, showcasing the school’s unique programs will help show them why attending Loyola is vital to your future. This why this college essay sample touches on LMU’s faith-based curriculum, and biology and chicano studies programs, and why they are important to this writer.

Why this college essay sample #7 – Duke

Duke University is another school that asks students Why This College as part of their supplemental essay requirements. Take a look at the essay that worked below for some ideas about how to write your Why Duke essay.

Why Duke Essay Examples

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’s something in particular about our offerings that attracts you, feel free to share that as well. (250 words).

At Duke University, I would get the opportunity to immerse myself in interests that I harbored but never had the opportunity to explore due to circumstances. With incredible resources from world-renowned professors, I would learn directly from the best in any subject, and be able to use this advantage to further myself in my future career plans and goals.

The quality of my education, though attributed to the institution, would be the most highly enriched from the students. Although from diverse backgrounds, all the students share the same thirst for knowledge and a drive to make a difference. With the focus on education where it belongs, the overall atmosphere at the institution is collaborative and does not add stress to the rigorous course load.

A secret utopia of sorts, Duke sets an invincible foundation that will exponentially increase the vitality of a person in any field of work or practice.

Why this essay worked

This is one of our favorite why Duke essay examples because it highlights the people this writer plans to learn from at Duke: their professors and their fellow students. Surprisingly, this is probably one of the least specific why school essay examples. However, this writer still successfully manages to capture their passion for learning and how excited they are to pursue these goals on Duke’s campus.

Want more why Duke essay examples and tips on how to approach this “why this college” essay sample prompt? Check out our Duke University Essay Guide .

Why this college essay sample #8 – University of Florida

Uf supplemental essay examples, the university of florida honors program is a “community of scholars” bound together by a shared interest in maximizing the undergraduate experience. why are you drawn to this type of community at uf, and how do you plan to contribute to it in and out of the classroom.

Anyone who’s ever played a high school sport can attest to the fact that every coach has his or her own catchphrase. For some coaches, it might be “always give 110%”. Others say, “You miss every shot you don’t take.”

My 10th grade basketball coach? His catchphrase was more like a repeated lecture. It would start off as “This team is made up of different personalities.” Pause. “80% of you are pulled either up or down by your teammates. 10% of you have negative energy and bring everyone down.” Pause and sigh. “And then there’s the last 10%. You guys are the ones who carry this team with positive energy. So what percent do you want to be tonight?”

His rhetorical questions seemed like another pep talk to the rest of my team but would always strike a chord within me. From that basketball season and on, I strived to be the 10% pulling everyone positively. 

My reformed attitude taught me many things. I learned how productive and influential a positive force on a team can be. I learned something about myself too: wherever I went to college, I wanted to be in a team-like environment. A close-knit group of scholars full of diverse perspectives, but all striving towards the same common goal: gaining knowledge. 

This is what I see in the UF Honors Program. The opportunity to be surrounded by like minded people. People who are all part of that 10% who pull you up. People who are genuinely interested in learning, research, and discussion. To be able to walk into a room with overlapping conversations about an intellectual topic like the current economic status of Dubai or the psychosocial issues in the United States is something I crave in my college experience.

Not only do I envision myself in a place like this, but I also see a platform which will give me great opportunities, beginning with peers who share the same academic drive as me and smaller class sizes, which result in profound discussions. I hope to be given an opportunity to walk onto this platform and show everyone just how high I can raise it.

Why this UF Honors Program essay worked

It’s important to note that a why this college essay sample is not necessarily a required portion of your UF application. You only need to submit a why this college essay with your UF application if you apply to the UF Honors Program.

However, we still included this “why this college” essay sample as part of our why school essay examples because this writer beautifully described the kind of student and community member they hope to be at UF. They highlight a personal story—a moment where they grew and learned a valuable lesson. Then, they combine it with what they hope to find in UF’s honors community. 

Why this college essay sample #9 – Franklin & Marshall

Franklin & marshall essays.

A Franklin and Marshall education is in line with my commitment to stimulate and chronicle a more just world through health, justice, and activism for marginalized people locally and internationally in a way that giving a check never could. 

I would be able to synthesize my fascination with medicine and people by seeking out experiences in biomedical research and patient care through the Quick Response Service organization as an EMT responder for the Lancaster community. Most importantly, I can investigate a breadth of topics to a much fuller extent than I can at any other institution.

With a Franklin and Marshall acceptance rate of 38% , this is considered a more selective school. However, the Franklin and Marshall acceptance rate should not affect your why this college essay. Also, as you craft your Franklin and Marshall application, note that the university no longer requires a Why School essay. Still, this essay provides a useful blueprint for other why school essay samples.

Rather than focusing on the Franklin and Marshall acceptance rate, you’ll want to review the supplemental essay requirements . Then, use the prompt to articulate the benefits of receiving an education from Franklin and Marshall. In order to gain acceptance to Franklin and Marshall, you should focus on what attending this particular college means to you.

Why this college essay sample #10- Lafayette College

Our final why this college essay sample, is from Lafayette College. A Why School essay is the cornerstone of Lafayette College’s supplemental essay requirements. Let’s take a look at an example from a student accepted to Lafayette.

Why Lafayette College Essay Examples

Students identify lafayette as an excellent fit for countless reasons. in your response, be deliberate and specific about your motivation for applying to lafayette. why do you see yourself at lafayette (200 words).

“If you were to be accepted to every college in the country, which one would you choose above all others?” An admissions officer prompted the room with this question early in my college search. Back then, I didn’t know the answer, but now it’s a obvious choice: Lafayette.

When I visited Lafayette, I’d already seen 15 colleges. However, when I toured campus, I instantly felt a difference in the school and the students themselves. Everyone looked truly happy to be there, especially considering the people I saw were remaining at school during break while their peers returned home.

When I looked around, I saw people I could imagine myself befriending and spending time with, something I struggled to find at other institutions. I later connected with my tour guide, who also happened to be a Civil Engineering major. I’m interested in pursuing an architecture minor, and she told me about a project in her Architectural Engineering class in which students design bus stops with features like charging stations or mini libraries. I appreciated that she took time to email me, and her genuine enthusiasm about her classes was infectious. With that email, I cemented my decision to apply.

There’s a difference between being busy and being engaged. Lafayette comes alive each day with the energy of students who are deeply engaged in their academic, co-curricular and extracurricular explorations.

Of all of our why school essay examples, this why this college essay sample discusses an actual experience the student had on campus. In truth, this is a great strategy. Using this topic, admissions gets to hear about how they connected with a student. They also learn how this student already sees themself as part of the student community.

Like many of our other why school essay examples, this writer follows a strong structure. They started with a personal story, sprinkled in specific and valuable details, and ended with a big-picture summary of “Why this school.”

How To Write A Why This College Essay

We’ve read some outstanding why school essay examples, including Why Duke essay examples, Tufts essays that worked, and more. Next, let’s talk about how to write your own why this college essay.

At times, you’ll find a “why this college” essay sample or two with a longer word count. However, most of our why school essay examples prompts have a smaller word limit. So, you generally need to be succinct when writing a why this college essay. For some students, this may mean writing your initial draft without worrying about the word count, then editing your draft down to the most important parts.

Do your research

Before you get into writing your why this college essay sample, we recommend getting to know more about the school you are applying to. One of the most important things you can do to prepare to write your why this college essay sample is to spend time researching specific aspects of the school that align with your candidate profile.

For example, let’s say you’re a student who wants to study engineering , you want a big school, and you’re also passionate about doing your own research. As you begin your college search , you’d want to look for schools that meet all of your needs. Once you have a list of potential schools , do some research into each school and their requirements. Watch webinars , read guides about meeting application requirements, like what is a good SAT score and test-optional colleges , and guides about approaching your college application essays . 

How to Start a Why This College Essay

Next, let’s go over how to start a “why this college” essay. The beginning of your essay is always the most important because it can draw your reader in and make them want to read more. We have tons of guides to help you through every step of the writing process. So, after reading through our why school essay examples, take a look at exercises to help determine a college essay topic and what admissions officers think of 3 common college essay topics.

Once you have a topic for your why this college essay sample, take a look at our 39 essay tips . These helpful tips are from our admissions experts. We also have a resource with tips on how to craft your college essay . Then, when you’re ready to start editing your essay, check out our advice on making your essays shine .

Use these examples to help brainstorm

We’ve reviewed a variety of why this college essay examples. By reading these examples, we hope you got some insight into how to write a why this college essay. These why school essay examples are college essays that worked. That is, they used specific details to show why an applicant was a perfect fit for a given school. Each why this college essay sample is slightly different—and every student is, too. So, use our why school essay examples as a jumping-off point.

We can’t include a why this college essay sample from every school in our college essays that worked roundup. But, keep reading to the end of the guide for more CollegeAdvisor.com resources full of why school essay examples. These resources include: why Northwestern essay examples and why Yale essay examples. They also include why NYU essay examples and a why Barnard essay example.

Other CollegeAdvisor Resources on Why This College Essays

If you’re looking for a why this college essay sample for a school we haven’t touched on, you’re in luck! We have “why school” essay examples for a ton of top schools that are sure to be on your college list. These why this college essay examples will be just as helpful as the ones we’ve already covered, like our Tufts essays that worked, Georgia Tech essay examples, and why Duke essay examples.

First, we have our why Northwestern essay examples. This guide offers two why Northwestern essay examples and a breakdown of what made each essay so impactful.

Why Northwestern Essay Examples

Then, check out our why Barnard essay example page. In addition to a why Barnard essay example, you can get some application tips. The article also covers information about Barnard’s acceptance rate and essay requirements.

Barnard Essay Examples

Next, stop by our Why Yale essay examples guide. The why Yale essay examples cover all three Yale supplemental essay requirements. These include the essays about your potential majors and a topic or idea that excites you.

Why Yale Essay Examples

Finally , read some Why NYU essay examples (and why they worked). Each of our why NYU essay examples is accompanied by feedback from an ex-admissions officer on why the essay worked.

NYU Essay Examples (And Why They Worked)

Why This College Essay Sample – Final Thoughts

After reading our why school essay examples, we hope you have a better sense of what a “why this college” essay sample should include. We also hope it can help you go about writing your own. While there is no perfect formula for writing your supplemental essays , don’t forget to take advantage of all of the resources available to you. 

If you’re nervous to begin writing your why this college essay sample, don’t worry! Each of our “why school” essay examples was written by a student just like you that managed to gain a college acceptance letter from their dream school. All it takes is time, patience, and dedication to making your college essays the best they can be. To find more examples of college essays that worked, check out our personal statement examples .

This essay guide was written by Stefanie Tedards. Looking for more admissions support? Click  here  to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. I n fact, d uring 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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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. 

writing the why this college essay

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 . 

writing the why this college essay

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)

writing the why this college essay

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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37 Unique "Why This College" Essay Examples for Top-20 Colleges

Ryan

Here's the secret to writing your "Why us?" and "Why this college?" essays:

Admissions officers ask these questions because they want to see if you'll be a good match for their school—both academically, socially, culturally, and otherwise.

Admissions officers are trying to answer these 4 questions about you with this essay:

  • Are you genuinely interested in our school? Is there a good chance you'll go here if we accept you?
  • Do you have what it takes to be a successful student here? What does this essay reveal about you that we didn't already know ?
  • Are you a good fit for our school and the culture? Will you positively contribute to the school if you attend?
  • Do you have an idea about what you want your future to look like, and will our school help you fulfill that vision ?

Biggest Mistakes Students Make in "Why This College" Essays

Most students approach these essays with generic answers that focus too heavily on the school itself.

Things like... "I want to go to Yale because it has..."

  • "amazing academics"
  • "world-class professors"
  • "interdisciplinary education"
  • "a hands-on approach to learning"

Then, most students throw in a few specific, but generic, qualities about the school, like...

  • "I want to research with Professor Chiang about the impact of climate change on population decline"
  • "I imagine joining the Yale Debate Team where I could continue my passion for public speaking"
  • "I'd love to take ECON 142—Behavioral Economics as I'm interested in the intersection of psychology and economics"

This is generic .

It's super generic because it doesn't tell the admissions officer anything about you .

Anybody could write these things. Admissions officers already know these things about their school.

A Better Approach to "Why This College" Essays

A better approach is to focus on yourself .

Specifically, what's a unique, specific, and interesting idea that you can explore?

Exploring ideas always make for the best essays, because sharing your thoughts is what tells the admissions officer the most about who you are.

A better approach would be something like...

I've always been fascinated with abstraction. Whether within math, physics, or computer science, abstraction is what ties it all together. And at Yale, abstraction isn't an afterthought or begrudging obligation, but it's at the heart of learning. From the Engineering Physics Club, which focuses on abstracting the theoretical physics behind engineering feats and then instantiating those learnings to create new engineering solutions, to the Leitner Observatory, where I could work with astrophysicists and infers vasts amounts of knowledge from seemingly chaotic data, Yale embodies the cycle of learning I've come to love: abstraction and instantiation, understanding the mysteries of the universe and engineering solutions based on them.

So why does this approach work so much better?

  • It focuses on an idea : a specific, unique reason that matters to you.
  • It's not focused too heavily on the school itself, but rather what you value and how the school can help you fulfill that.
  • It connects tangibly to the school's offerings, without just listing generically.

Find an interesting, unique, idea.

It could be...

  • "solving systemic problems by taking full accountability"
  • "promoting social justice through radical honesty"
  • "reducing the latency of communication to deepen our learning experience"

Or any other ideas that matter to you.

Then, connect your idea to the school's offerings.

Any student could also mention the "Engineering Physics Club" or the "Leitner Observatory", but the difference in how you mention these things.

What do these opportunities represent? How do they tie into that idea ?

Now, let's look at some examples of "Why this college?" essays that worked for top-20 schools.

I've gathered 37 "Why us?" essays that range in topics, quality, and schools, so you can see what works and what doesn't.

Let's dive right in.

37 "Why This College" Essay Examples

1. "why northwestern" essay example.

Prompt: "Why Northwestern" Statement:

While other parts of your application give us a sense of who you are, we are also excited to hear more about how you see yourself engaging with the larger Northwestern community.

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. (300 words max)

I love Northwestern’s academic flexibility, including the freedom of the curriculum to explore a variety of fields and the emphasis on cross-department study. Also, the quarter system provides a faster pace of learning and the opportunity to take more classes than a semester school.

Specifically, I am excited by the Spanish and Portuguese department and the classes on Hispanic and Lusophone culture, literature, and phonetics. For example, the accelerated Portuguese program is a perfect way to pick up the language at a faster pace using my prior knowledge of Spanish. I intend to supplement my language acquisition through the study abroad programs offered at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro or an affiliate program in Santiago, Chile. Additionally, the GESI program in Costa Rica is another intriguing opportunity through its intersectionality. It will allow me to combine a practical application of my language skills with studies in environmental conservation that I find a pressing and interesting issue. As an open-minded learner keen to forge links between academic fields of study, I believe I would be an excellent fit for the program.

I am also interested in Linguistics and pursuing undergraduate research or possibly undertaking the coterminal BA/MA program. The opportunity to link my research to a modern language of choice and investigate, for example, regional variation in Latin American Spanish or how Portuguese loanwords have infiltrated native Amazonian languages sounds fascinating and exciting.

Finally, the unique sense of community at Northwestern captivated me when I visited campus. The residential college system, the school spirit at Wildcat games, and the friendliness of the students I met, one of whom described the school as “the most welcoming place ever”, were all emblematic of this atmosphere for me. I think I will thrive in such a dynamic and inquisitive place.

2. "Why Northwestern?" Essay Example

The only reason I fear going for lunch in a hotel is probably because I wouldn’t choose between fried chicken and roasted meat and so is my dilemma over my college major. The multifaceted whole brain approach at McCormick, however, grants me the perfect opportunity to pursue my interest in Computer Science whilst acquiring the appropriate skills in entrepreneurship to a one day startup as an innovator.

As a NU computer scientist, I particularly look forward to Software Development EECS 473 – NUvention: Web, through which I would not only learn intricacies of Software development, but have related studies in real time software development in relation to market requirements in CS+X that would form a base for a startup. That would also provide a bridge for me to join Prof Todd Warren at Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation where I would specifically join the NUvention; Web + Media. Through this unparalleled program I would have the intimacy of working in a team with fellow wild cats towards an innovative business project. The results of which will be an introduction to the Northwestern Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO) through which I look forward to gaining practical exposure in launching businesses to the general public.

Outside McCormick, I would be excited to pursue the Managerial analytics Certificate program at Kellogg to acquire intelligent business management skills, let off steam at SPARK exploring hacks while fostering entrepreneurial habits, and eventually joining preparations for the Benedictine Eagle Invite at the Henry Crown Sport’s Pavilion (SPAC) with the NU track club. I may not the best of singers, but I do have intense phases of music obsessions and where best to let it off than taking non major classes at Bienen and, joining one of the numerous Acapella groups as I await Armadillo day!

3. "Why Northwestern?" Essay Example

Why Northwestern? Because this introduction was so difficult to write; because I cannot possibly summarize these reasons in one introductory sentence. Simply put, my interests span across a wide range, and Northwestern has a place for them all.

As an enthusiastic programmer and advocate for positive minority representation in the media, I hope to combine both these interests and conduct research on the influence of media on society. To my delight as a prospective communications major, the School of Communication's research labs showcase project topics ranging from the depiction of STEM in media to improving digital communication. I look forward to taking advantage of the high-quality research, internship and even career opportunities offered to explore my ideas.

My multiple passions keep me creative and energetic, and I plan to continue pursuing them at Northwestern. With years of editing and writing experience for school publications under my belt, for instance, I hope to join the staff of Helicon and North by Northwestern . Last but not least is the constant school spirit and sense of inclusion present within campus. During my campus tour, each tour guide seemed genuinely excited to introduce prospective students to the school. As my particular tour guide described the quarter system and tradition of guarding and painting the rock with passion in her eyes, I knew that only at Northwestern could I find students as enthusiastic about the school itself as they are about their majors. I also spotted many students of color while visiting; as an Asian woman, Northwestern's focus on diversifying reassures me that not only will I not be judged for my background, but that I will get to meet students of all ethnicities and cultures.

College is a time of self-discovery, and I firmly believe I can see my dreams become reality at Northwestern.

4. "Why Northwestern?" Essay Example

I felt the cold sheets beneath me and the beeping sounds of a monitor next to my bed, my chest moving up and down and my body sinking into the mattress. I opened my eyes and was greeted with a plastic surgeon holding the cyst that was once in the corner of my eye. Medicine, I decided, was my destiny.

Flash forward to 8th grade, the year I decided to read 100 books. Emerson, John Green, Ernest Cline--you name the author, I read them. I became instantly inspired to learn to write like the wonderful authors I had read. So, writing, I decided (maybe), was my destiny.

Wait--or was it medicine? Well, perhaps it can be both.

The thing I find most striking about Northwestern is its emphasis on the word “AND.” Northwestern students can love computer science AND music theory, poetry AND Latin History, journalism AND business--I can love science AND English. At Northwestern, my interests would not be hindered by strict and unwavering guidelines. Rather, they could be effortlessly streamlined and integrated into one another. I could go from ​PSYCH 361--Brain Damage and the Mind to ENG 206 - Reading and Writing Poetry to Carol Clayberger’s Lab to continue my extensive research on T-lymphocytes, similar to that I conducted at UPMC. I would be learning each level of the human psyche, communicating my thoughts through writing, and putting them into action through my research.

At Northwestern, I plan to take advantage of the various resources that would enable me to pursue my passions, find new ones, and combine them into one, pulling from both sides of my brain. I know that I am right for Northwestern and Northwestern is right for me because we have a mutual understanding of what education should look like--emphasis on “AND,” not “OR.”

5. "Why Tufts?" Essay Example

Prompt: Which aspects of the Tufts undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short, "Why Tufts?" (150 words max)

The cross-curricular focus and freedom of study at Tufts would allow me to pursue an interdisciplinary major and draw together my love for Spanish, Portuguese, Linguistics, and the natural sciences. This unique ability to design my own major by combining elements from a variety of academic fields definitely excites me. To support this, I intend to participate in the study abroad program in Chile or a civic semester in Urubamba, Peru that will allow me to practice my language skills while also benefitting the local community and gaining an invaluable cultural understanding through intimate homestay experience. Other than the academics, the vibrant community at Tufts also attracts me, with the warm and compassionate students acting as flattering adverts for the school. One student I spoke with described the average Jumbo as “goofy and loving” which I feel accurately matches my own character and outlook.

6. "Why Tulane?" Essay Example

Prompt: Please describe why you are interested in attending Tulane University (optional). (50-800 words)

I need a meaningful education to be a meaningful educator. Tulane is unparalleled in its dedication to development of the students, on a personal and intellectual level. From when I touch the Victory Bell after Convocation all the way to when I say farewell at the Wave Goodbye Party at Commencement, I’ll have changed and grown, both in my mind and in my heart.

Why This Essay Works:

For "Why Us" essays, it's critical that you imagine how you'll be involved on campus. One strategy is to research specific initiatives, events, or programs already taking place. The more unique these are to the school, the better. Then, talk about how your personal interests would make you a perfect fit for participating in these opportunities. Don't reference too many (over 5 is pushing it) in a committal way (i.e. saying "I will do XYZ") because it can seem unrealistic. Instead, focus on a handful that you're most interested in, and then you can reference others as "possible" ways you'd get involved.

For "Why Us?" essays, one of the hardest parts is finding what is super unique about the school that other colleges don't offer. Most colleges have similar research, curriculum, sports, clubs, etc. While those can be good references (if unique to the school), it can sometimes be easier to find unique aspects by focusing on the intangibles: the culture, approach to education, values, character of student body, ideals they uphold, etc. Having a combination of both unique offerings (programs, opportunities, curriculum, etc.) and ways the school is unique in its approach will make for the most compelling reasons for "Why Us?".

What They Might Improve:

Avoid telling admissions officers what they already know about their school. You don't need to repeat the school's history or information about its faculty, unless there is something exceptionally unique about it that you're pointing out. Admissions officers will already know these facts, so instead jump into the "meat" of your point. Focus on the unique aspects that make you interested in the school, rather than the ones that could be said about almost any school.

7. "Why Tulane?" Essay Example

What starts with the letter P and is distinct to Louisiana and not the other forty-nine states? This question stumped my fifth-grade class when our resource teacher was giving a lesson on Louisiana culture. Among hands that threw out guesses, such as ports and Lake Pontchartrain, my minuscule fingers, like unwrapping a Christmas present, unveiled the correct response: parishes. It was this moment that sparked my awakening of Louisiana’s profoundly unique traditions and history, ranging the gamut of culture, such as food, music, and holidays.

From Gumbo to Zydeco to Mardi Gras, these distinctions made Louisiana my home when I emigrated at the age of three from Mexico, which, like Louisiana, shared the status of owning an inimitable culture; from an early age, I took comfort in this common characteristic. Basking in rich traditions, Tulane joins Louisiana and my Hispanic background to form a trio of diversity. With staple practices, such as swinging beads into a tree or Crawfest, Tulane fosters a living and learning experience that is grounded in unparalleled traditions, offering enlightening and invigorating undergraduate opportunities to explore social milestones.

In its liberation from normal college practices, Tulane encourages students to kindle a life that is eccentric but indicative of the individual beliefs of a student. Because of Tulane’s vigorous ties to special traditions, I would be humbled to have Tulane advise me in crafting my art piece adorned with decorations, my life adorned with personal values.

In addition to the customs on Tulane’s campus, another reason I want to attend Tulane is because of the university’s integration with the most vivid city in the United States: New Orleans. Inside this bright, bustling city, Tulane students participate in myriad festivals and celebrations, cultivating a new social perspective. Aside from the social revelations, New Orleans is Tulane’s classroom, inviting students to apply classroom discussions and academic theories to the neurons of interactions between individuals, businesses, agencies, and other entities.

Tulane returns the favor to New Orleans through community service, serving as a catalyst for students to aid a city often decimated by natural or social injustices. Moreover, Tulane emphasizes its commitment to community service throughout its undergraduate population. As a Louisiana resident, I am invested in Louisiana’s unique physique, whether it is being ecstatic for a super bowl win secured by the Saints or being sympathetic to victims of flooding. Heeding the advice of a stockbroker, it is wise to invest in a system that will provide a generous, satisfying return. Therefore, I would like to make an investment of my leadership potential, my academic excellence, my service dedication, and my social experiences into Tulane University. This investment would reap mutualistic rewards because I would be the beneficiary of a robust education and Tulane would be the beneficiary of a loyal student, who is pious to the university’s commitments to diversity, learning, and service.

8. "Why 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.

9. "Why 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.

10. "Why 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.

11. "Why 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.

12. "Why Oberlin?" Essay Example

Prompt: How did your interest in Oberlin develop and what aspects of our college community most excite you? (250 words max)

“Give Oberlin a look” my father suggested. A school I knew little about. I casually added Oberlin to the long list of schools of which Tufts was perched atop. My father had gone to Tufts and I had convinced myself that I should follow.

Adding Oberlin to my list begat the serendipitous series of events that ultimately saw a fly-in invitation to Oberlin in my email inbox. My father encouraged me to go; “It doesn’t hurt to listen”.

The most influential component of Oberlin were the people. My host, Estrella, like every Oberlin student I met, was generous with her time and her experiences. It wasn’t 24 hours before I could imagine myself laughing with friends at the 10 pm dinner, dozing off on a swing bench in Tappan square, spending late nights at the library in a womb chair, or petting kittens in some little art store. Sharing a day with these people who were clearly in the right place brought some force to my mind that Oberlin was the right place for me. My short trip revealed that Oberlin offered me both the academic rigor I seek and the visceral experience of living in a community of people with broadly varying backgrounds─an experience that I had in this small Ohio town and nowhere else.

I don’t know whose essay I’d be writing right now if this opportunity had never presented itself, but I am very grateful it did.

13. "Why Dartmouth?" Essay Example

Prompt: While arguing a Dartmouth-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1818, Daniel Webster, Class of 1801, delivered this memorable line: “It is, sir,…a small college, and yet there are those who love it!” As you seek admission to the Class of 2026, what aspects of the College’s program, community, or campus environment attract your interest? (100 words max)

I see myself nestled under the wooden arches of Sanborn Library in my Dartmouth EMT jacket too enthralled in my work to notice the snow flurries outside. I'll take a quick study break with some cross-country skiing at the outing club and then take my professor, Dr. Ackerman, out to lunch at the Hanover Inn to talk about her groundbreaking research in vaccine development. After a conversation on protein engineering and immunology, I'll stop by Foco for an infamous chocolate chip cookie with my friends from our unforgettable freshman hiking trip. I know I'm home when I am at Dartmouth.

14. "Why Claremont McKenna?" Essay Example

Prompt: Why do you want to attend CMC? (150-250 words)

I’ve been able to get to know CMC well, since my sister has relished pursuing her undergraduate studies at this amazing school. I’ve visited Claremont many times, and I’m certain this is exactly the school best positioned to both challenge and support me during this critical stage of my education.

The person I aspire to be in the wake of my undergraduate studies is a knowledgeable, accomplished and compassionate leader ready to take over our family business. The privilege of diving into CMC’s unique undergraduate major in Economics will certainly enable me to attain the knowledge I will need. The rigorous classes of the inimitable Finance Sequence will definitely challenge me, but I will savor this. My sister often talks about the exuberance with which professors at the Roberts Day School conduct their classes and I hope to experience this. More specifically, I want to study Financial Economics under Dr. Lisa K. Meulbroek and get an insight into the world of corporate finance by evaluating everything from mergers to investments.

A CMC education also complements my intellectual curiosity, since it would enable me to pursue a second major in Religious Studies. This is immensely important to me since I come from an area where religious tensions are spiraling out of control. In addition, to enable me to develop the hard and soft skills of leadership, CMC offers experiential projects and countless opportunities for me to take on leadership roles in clubs and societies I’m passionate about, like the Blockchain club.

15. "Why Indiana University?" Essay Example

Prompt: Describe your academic and career plans and any special interest (for example, undergraduate research, academic interests, leadership opportunities, etc.) that you are eager to pursue as an undergraduate at Indiana University. Also, if you encountered any unusual circumstances, challenges, or obstacles in pursuit of your education, share those experiences and how you overcame them. (200-400 words)

Walking into school on the first day of my senior year, the excitement about college was evident as I passed through the halls. While many students discussed the local options, the one name I heard that really drew me in was Indiana. Unaware of the tremendous opportunities that would be within my reach as a student there, I began to learn more information through both individual research and from discussion with alumni. This was how I knew Bloomington was the place for me.

Always interested in business, the characteristics of the Kelley School run parallel to those that I value in numerous ways. First, because I have taken Chinese for most of my time as a student, international experience is vital to me. While classroom learning is no doubt helpful, continuing my education of the language within the culture will teach me more meaning to the words that I am speaking. Tying in with business, it also will give me leadership experience dealing with planning and collaboration around the globe.

The collaborative community is another aspect of Indiana that I truly appreciate. Dating back to the first group activities I worked on at school, I have always appreciated the helpfulness in working with my peers rather than against them. Working with others to solve problems is not only how I have accomplished so many of my goals, but also how I have made some of my closest friends. Additionally, I will utilize this emphasis of collaboration with my professors at the Kelley School as a way to enrich what I have learned in their classrooms.

While in collaboration with my classmates, friends, and professors, I will begin connecting myself with the future alumna- and eventually become one down the road. Since the Kelley School has the largest alumni population of any other business school, the community I am entering into is sure to be influential in the future. This opportunity to enter this prestigious group will open up doors and give me access to some of the top people in business today.

I cannot wait to be a part of the community within the Kelley School: for not just the next four years of my life, but the rest of my life.

16. "Why New York University (NYU)?" Essay Example

Prompt: Why NYU?

We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. What motivated you to apply to NYU? Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please also tell us why you are interested in these additional areas of study or campuses. We want to understand - Why NYU? (400 words max)

Living in a suburb my whole life, I've always felt as if I lived in a two-dimensional plane. I can go left, right, forward, and backward.

In a suburb, however, it is nearly impossible to get any meaningful altitude. Upon visiting New York City during the summer before my senior year, however, I found myself gazing up at the skyscrapers soaring high above me. I've always loved the views mountains and buildings; both from above and below. I also have spent time studying Mandarin, and Shanghai would offer a unique opportunity to further my linguistic studies while engaging in cultural immersion.

Beyond settings, NYU has the capacity and the resources available for me to engage in research in quantum computation. Playing video games got me into math and science beyond just playing with my calculator as a baby. There were practical applications of the numbers, and I wanted to understand how it all worked in order to get the best equipment and maximize ammo efficiency. I would watch "Mythbusters" and try to come up with my own hypothesis and see if it matched their conclusion.

In 8th grade, I figured out that I loved science along with math, but I didn't exactly know what science I loved. At the time I was in "physical science" and I did enjoy the class a lot, but I always thought of physics as "speed distance time" triangles which were no fun at all. I was convinced to take AP Physics in my junior year with my friends, and I loved it. It was almost every week we would learn something that completely altered my perception of the universe.

Once I learned about quantum physics and how it basically destroys our understanding of everything, I knew I wanted to pursue it further, and be at the forefront of quantum research.

At NYU, not only can I take courses to learn about the subject, but I can also participate in research through the "Center for Quantum Phenomena". Taking advanced courses and conducting research in a new setting, such as New York or Shanghai, can offer me a new perspective and a breath of fresh air. Conversely, I can help over NYU a new perspective on critical thinking and problem-solving. I chose to apply to NYU because NYU is fit for me, and I am fit for NYU.

17. "Why 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 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.

19. "Why 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.

20. "Why University of Michigan?" Essay Example

Throughout my college search, I had yet to come across the perfect undergraduate school for my interests. The safe pick was always the standard “College of Arts and Sciences” or its equivalent, with the most varied options for me to craft my experience. Something was different about Michigan. I didn’t need to craft my own academic experience at another university when the perfect one was already designed here: The School of Kinesiology’s Movement Science program.

In my house, we never eat scrambled eggs. We eat denatured albumin and yolk proteins served with a sprinkling of sodium chloride; cooking was chemistry, not just a chore. From a young age, my parents have cultivated a sense of curiosity in me. So when I injured my left wrist in the summer before freshman year, it was so much more than just an injury. I researched more into my growth plate dislocation and radial fracture. I got to see the details of the procedure, the recovery process, and the gradual reversion of my X-rays to a normal wrist image. This fascinating journey got me through an otherwise disappointing summer: no basketball and no french horn.

While the seeds were planted during my injury, they didn’t start blooming until I spent a week shadowing Dr. Kesavan Ramanujan in the Royal United Hospital, Bath, England. I realized that the field of orthopedics was a field where I could visually identify a problem, come up with a solution, implement the solution through operation, and help someone progress to full recovery. The gratification on the doctor’s faces when their recovered patients came back to visit them was infectious. While this trip was my first time staying abroad without my family, the biggest takeaway for me was that I had found a career I was truly interested in.

My volunteer work at the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital Physiotherapy Clinic has only strengthened this notion. While my work as a volunteer may be the more routine tasks: making schedules, doing paperwork, cleaning the beds and the gym, setting up hot packs, cold packs, and stimulation pads, I have learned so much about the subtle details of patient interaction through what I absorb from the physical therapists. Even if a PT is having a bad day, they have taught me how important it is to have a smile on your face for the next patient coming through the doors. They have also taught me how much of an intersection there is between teaching and medicine/therapy.

These experiences draw me to the School of Kinesiology, and specifically the Movement Science program. The opportunity to actively engage with skeletomuscular system studies as opposed to solely classroom learning appeals to me, as do the extensive research opportunities. The specialized IONM Intraoperative Neuromonitoring Program-- the only accredited IONM program in the world-- would give me the chance to engage in an exciting, interdisciplinary curriculum that cannot be found anywhere else.

From scrambled eggs to broken bones; from British adventures to lessons learned in the RWJ clinic. Discovering my passion for orthopedics and movement science has already been an exhilarating ride; yet, these have all been just the beginning steps of my journey. I cannot think of a better place to continue than the University of Michigan.

21. "Why 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.

22. "Why 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.

23. "Why 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 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.

25. "Why 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.

26. "Why Tufts University?" Essay Example

Prompt: Why Tufts? (100 words max)

What struck me most about Tufts was not only the warm, open, and energetic atmosphere, but also the students’ willingness to be walking contradictions. With the ExCollege ​encouraging interdisciplinary education through ​classes like ​EXP-0058-PS Health, Communication & Society, it is easy to be contradictory.

During my visit, I met Biological Poets, Singing Physicists, and Mathematical Artists. I know that Tufts is right for me because it preaches everything I believe about synergistic learning. Being a contradiction my entire life--the scientific, mathematically inclined, yet literature obsessed barista--it was comforting to find a community of people identical to and completely different from me.

27. "Why Tufts University?" Essay Example

Prompt: Which aspects of Tufts’ curriculum or undergraduate experience prompt your application? (100 words max)

Touring a college is not always enough to get a sense of what the college is like. But, I had the unique opportunity to meet with Professor Dennis Rasmussen and discuss Political Science at Tufts. He talked to me about the unique opportunities which Tufts students have, from the fantastic study abroad opportunities to a senior thesis which lets you dip your feet into research before moving onto higher education. The combination of Professor Rasmussen’s thoughtfulness and the school’s academic prowess proved to me that Tufts is the place to be.

28. "Why Northwestern?" Essay Example

Think Purple: Aspiring journalist dreams of being a Wildcat F​iled under ​A​dmissions​, ​Top Stories

After brochure browsing, website wandering, and campus canvassing what felt like hundreds of different schools, it took Daisy Conant exactly 32 seconds on the Northwestern University campus to realize she had found the one.

“Northwestern is undefinable in the best way, an addicting hub of intellectuality, creativity, and school spirit - something especially appealing to a football lover,” laughed Conant. “But what excites me most about NU is the opportunity to study at the Medill School of Journalism.”

A writer with hopes of becoming a foreign correspondent, Conant has always been drawn to people and their stories, especially those completely unfamiliar to herself and her experiences. Once learning she could start on day one at Medill acquiring investigative journalism experience writing an enterprise story and end on day 600 with a journalism residency and international experience already under her belt, she was hooked.

“Conducting groundbreaking research on the socioeconomic disparities in the CPS system for the Medill Justice Project, spending a semester abroad reporting on cultural crisis in Greece, interning at the Post - at Medill, my options are boundless,” remarked Conant. “I could explore the world of print news writing in-focuses for the Daily Northwestern, dabble in magazine editing laying out spreads for North by Northwestern, even try my hand at broadcast reporting for WNUR.”

A journalist at heart, Conant is fascinated with the intersections of other disciplines. As an NU student she would be free to engage her passions for international studies and business through outside concentrations in addition to investigative journalism, uncovering the adventures (and discovering the tenacious Wildcats) that lie between Evanston and the shores of Lake Michigan. “My story is just beginning,” said Conant. “And Northwestern is the perfect lede.”

29. "Why Notre Dame?" Essay Example

Prompt: What excites you about the University of Notre Dame that makes it stand out from other institutions? (200 words max)

Lou Holtz once said, “You don't go to Notre Dame to learn something; you go to Notre Dame to be somebody.” While I can hardly tell the difference between a linebacker, quarterback and fullback, I know that the advice from the former football coach rings true. Notre Dame will not only provide me with a wonderful education, but will equip me with the tools to pursue a career in government.

Notre Dame’s emphasis on a practical political science education is what first drew me in. The emphasis on equipping students with the ability to do research through the Research Apprenticeship Course and the ability to complete a thesis allow for an undergraduate to get hands-on experience in helping contribute to the body of knowledge in political science.

Further, the ability to obtain internships, especially with the U.S. Department of State and the City of Chicago Law Division emphasize the experiential learning I hoped for. Real-world experience will empower me to solve real-world problems and enter the workforce.

While I may never understand football, with a Notre Dame education I know I will learn to understand political science deeply and be equipped for a successful future.

30. "Why Notre Dame?" Essay Example

When I attended a Notre Dame information session, the admission representative, Zach, told us wonderful stories about campus life. One thing that especially stuck out to me was how diverse Notre Dame is. It was intriguing to think that I could sit down at a lunch table and there would be someone there from Hong Kong, Germany, and Korea. This nurtures my love of cultures different from my own. Also, I’ve spent my whole life in Kansas City, which is roughly 8 hours away from Indiana.

The idea of leaving everything that I’ve grown so familiar with frightens me. A family friend who attends Notre Dame says that you form a close bond with the people in your dorm, but it extends beyond that because it’s like everyone at Notre Dame is family. Even the Alumni stay involved long after they’ve graduated. People are proud to have graduated from Notre Dame, leading me to believe that when you attend Notre Dame, you become a family for life. Notre Dame has a history and legacy of greatness, and I would love to be a part of a school that changes lives like that.

31. "Why 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.

32. "Why Rice University?" Essay Example

Prompt: How did you first learn about Rice University, and what motivated you to apply? (250 words max)

I live in Ponchatoula, but I am from New Orleans. Most of my family is from there, including my parents, and as a result, I have grown up in a food-loving household. My parents and I decided to take a foodie vacation to Houston since we heard about how amazing the food is there. My mom suggested I research the schools in Houston so I could visit one while we were there. I will admit that I chose Rice simply because it was the highest-ranking school according to a quick Google search. I didn't do any further research.

However, as soon as I stepped through the Sallyport, my nonchalance faded, and I was entranced.

The beauty of the school was nearly enough for me to apply, but I was intrigued when my tour guide spoke about the importance of liberal arts at Rice because I have never been in an environment that held such respect for them. I also loved the housing system of Rice. It reminded me of the houses in Hogwarts from Harry Potter! I felt incredibly welcomed at Rice; I was pleasantly surprised when I asked the tour guide if I could visit the Shepherd School of Music by myself since it wasn't included in the tour, and she told me "of course." As I stepped through the unlocked doors and strolled through the maroon floors of the Shepherd School of Music, I didn't hesitate to inform my parents of my new dream school.

33. "Why University of Wisconsin-Madison?" Essay Example

Prompt: Tell us why you decided to apply to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected undecided please describe your areas of possible academic interest. (80-650 words)

This essay uses a lot of a great, specific references about UW Madison that show that the author has done their research and know the school well. Your reasons for applying in these "Why Us?" essays should be as specific as possible. This essay uses references to specific professors and their work, lab equipment ("biolayer interferometry"), courses, and features about campus. All of this works to create a compelling reason why this student would be a good fit, while also demonstrating strong interest in the school. When writing "Why Us" essays, doing your research to find unique and specific aspects is most important.

Even for "Why Us?" essays that don't explicitly ask you to write about your major, referencing your intended major is often a strong reason "why." By connecting what you want to study with what the school offers, you can show how your studies would be made even better. Admissions officers are trying to imagine how you'd fit into campus, so try showing them how you'd be engaged in the specific department. Researching the department is also a good idea, as often times it is easier to find unique qualities about a department (like "Biochemistry department") than it is to find about the school as a whole.

This essay starts off with a somewhat unserious introduction, referencing Wisconsin's reputation for cheese-making. Although this is casual and humorous, it serves as an engaging introduction into their main ideas about what the school offers. Using humor can show your personality, while also making it more fun for admissions officers to read. They'll be more likely to find your essay likable if you can include small moments of lightheartedness. This student also shows their personality through interjecting their thoughts (like this is doing here) using parentheses, which works to bring the reader into your thought process.

In this intro, the author sets up three points that they use as criteria for what they want in a school. However, this ultimately ends up creating unnecessary repetition because they later they discuss each of those points in detail. In general, avoid prefacing your ideas or thoughts. That is, you don't have to "prepare" or "introduce" what you're about to say to the reader. Instead, it is usually more compelling to just start with those juicy details rather than setting them up.

34. "Why Cornell 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)

35. "Why Brown University?" Essay Example

Prompt: Why Brown, and why the Brown Curriculum? (200 words max)

I believe any college should equip you with tools as you embark upon your journey. Brown provides the necessary. That is what the capstone experience does (not to mention the importance of internships given to Brown Students). You can never know everything about anything. But quench the questions is exactly what the Capstone Experience fosters.

The Open Curriculum was obviously the first thing that caught my eye. In school, you are sometimes forced to take the subjects you don’t like. College shouldn’t be the same. It is supposed to be a fresh start and that is exactly why you should be allowed to take the courses that appeal to you. Here is where the S/NC option was interesting. Only if you know perspectives from all subjects, can you determine a solution; S/NC promotes this. Group Independent Study Projects is also unique. Getting into the course is something hard. But creating your own course is amusing.

I would love to be a part of The Society of Women Engineers because I had to fight with my own family to study Computer Science in the United States. If it means providing the help for people I wish I'd got, never better.

36. "Why UPenn?" Essay Example

Prompt: How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying. (650 words max)

37. "Why Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)?" Essay Example

Prompt: Why Carnegie Mellon? (650 words max)

With a strong background in computer science and communications, I hope to incorporate both into a future career of building data systems, conducting research, and consulting for organizations that serve underrepresented citizens.

Specific details and anecdotes will almost always be more compelling than less specific ones. In this essay, the student does a great job of including specific, "nerdy" details, such as "an association test between melanoma associated variants and survival outcome." These details demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of an area and make your essay more engaging.

This essay does a fantastic job of addressing real-world problems and emphasizing the "bigger picture" impact of their studies. Rather than just explaining what they want to study, this student explains how their education will help them have an impact on the world. Make an argument for what problems you see in the world and how you could potentially help solve them.

For "Why Us?" college essays, one of the most important parts is to reference unique aspects to the school. Almost all colleges have strong academics, great faculty, etc. So instead of referencing those points, reference what makes the school unique and different. In this essay, the student talks about "CMU's Technology Consulting in the Global Community" program, which is both highly specific to CMU and relevant to their own interests.

In general, you should avoid simply listing your achievements. This student has many remarkable activities and experiences, but it comes across less interesting because the first half of the essay is simply describing these accomplishments.

For "Why Us?" essays, it is also a good idea to reference the values the school represents. Each school has a different "culture" and type of student body, and admissions wants to know how you will fit in.

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

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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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If you grow up to be a professional writer, everything you write will first go through an editor before being published. This is because the process of writing is really a process of re-writing —of rethinking and reexamining your work, usually with the help of someone else. So what does this mean for your student writing? And in particular, what does it mean for very important, but nonprofessional writing like your college essay? Should you ask your parents to look at your essay? Pay for an essay service?

If you are wondering what kind of help you can, and should, get with your personal statement, you've come to the right place! In this article, I'll talk about what kind of writing help is useful, ethical, and even expected for your college admission essay . I'll also point out who would make a good editor, what the differences between editing and proofreading are, what to expect from a good editor, and how to spot and stay away from a bad one.

Table of Contents

What Kind of Help for Your Essay Can You Get?

What's Good Editing?

What should an editor do for you, what kind of editing should you avoid, proofreading, what's good proofreading, what kind of proofreading should you avoid.

What Do Colleges Think Of You Getting Help With Your Essay?

Who Can/Should Help You?

Advice for editors.

Should You Pay Money For Essay Editing?

The Bottom Line

What's next, what kind of help with your essay can you get.

Rather than talking in general terms about "help," let's first clarify the two different ways that someone else can improve your writing . There is editing, which is the more intensive kind of assistance that you can use throughout the whole process. And then there's proofreading, which is the last step of really polishing your final product.

Let me go into some more detail about editing and proofreading, and then explain how good editors and proofreaders can help you."

Editing is helping the author (in this case, you) go from a rough draft to a finished work . Editing is the process of asking questions about what you're saying, how you're saying it, and how you're organizing your ideas. But not all editing is good editing . In fact, it's very easy for an editor to cross the line from supportive to overbearing and over-involved.

Ability to clarify assignments. A good editor is usually a good writer, and certainly has to be a good reader. For example, in this case, a good editor should make sure you understand the actual essay prompt you're supposed to be answering.

Open-endedness. Good editing is all about asking questions about your ideas and work, but without providing answers. It's about letting you stick to your story and message, and doesn't alter your point of view.

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Think of an editor as a great travel guide. It can show you the many different places your trip could take you. It should explain any parts of the trip that could derail your trip or confuse the traveler. But it never dictates your path, never forces you to go somewhere you don't want to go, and never ignores your interests so that the trip no longer seems like it's your own. So what should good editors do?

Help Brainstorm Topics

Sometimes it's easier to bounce thoughts off of someone else. This doesn't mean that your editor gets to come up with ideas, but they can certainly respond to the various topic options you've come up with. This way, you're less likely to write about the most boring of your ideas, or to write about something that isn't actually important to you.

If you're wondering how to come up with options for your editor to consider, check out our guide to brainstorming topics for your college essay .

Help Revise Your Drafts

Here, your editor can't upset the delicate balance of not intervening too much or too little. It's tricky, but a great way to think about it is to remember: editing is about asking questions, not giving answers .

Revision questions should point out:

  • Places where more detail or more description would help the reader connect with your essay
  • Places where structure and logic don't flow, losing the reader's attention
  • Places where there aren't transitions between paragraphs, confusing the reader
  • Moments where your narrative or the arguments you're making are unclear

But pointing to potential problems is not the same as actually rewriting—editors let authors fix the problems themselves.

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Bad editing is usually very heavy-handed editing. Instead of helping you find your best voice and ideas, a bad editor changes your writing into their own vision.

You may be dealing with a bad editor if they:

  • Add material (examples, descriptions) that doesn't come from you
  • Use a thesaurus to make your college essay sound "more mature"
  • Add meaning or insight to the essay that doesn't come from you
  • Tell you what to say and how to say it
  • Write sentences, phrases, and paragraphs for you
  • Change your voice in the essay so it no longer sounds like it was written by a teenager

Colleges can tell the difference between a 17-year-old's writing and a 50-year-old's writing. Not only that, they have access to your SAT or ACT Writing section, so they can compare your essay to something else you wrote. Writing that's a little more polished is great and expected. But a totally different voice and style will raise questions.

Where's the Line Between Helpful Editing and Unethical Over-Editing?

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether your college essay editor is doing the right thing. Here are some guidelines for staying on the ethical side of the line.

  • An editor should say that the opening paragraph is kind of boring, and explain what exactly is making it drag. But it's overstepping for an editor to tell you exactly how to change it.
  • An editor should point out where your prose is unclear or vague. But it's completely inappropriate for the editor to rewrite that section of your essay.
  • An editor should let you know that a section is light on detail or description. But giving you similes and metaphors to beef up that description is a no-go.

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Proofreading (also called copy-editing) is checking for errors in the last draft of a written work. It happens at the end of the process and is meant as the final polishing touch. Proofreading is meticulous and detail-oriented, focusing on small corrections. It sands off all the surface rough spots that could alienate the reader.

Because proofreading is usually concerned with making fixes on the word or sentence level, this is the only process where someone else can actually add to or take away things from your essay . This is because what they are adding or taking away tends to be one or two misplaced letters.

Laser focus. Proofreading is all about the tiny details, so the ability to really concentrate on finding small slip-ups is a must.

Excellent grammar and spelling skills. Proofreaders need to dot every "i" and cross every "t." Good proofreaders should correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. They should put foreign words in italics and surround quotations with quotation marks. They should check that you used the correct college's name, and that you adhered to any formatting requirements (name and date at the top of the page, uniform font and size, uniform spacing).

Limited interference. A proofreader needs to make sure that you followed any word limits. But if cuts need to be made to shorten the essay, that's your job and not the proofreader's.

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A bad proofreader either tries to turn into an editor, or just lacks the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job.

Some signs that you're working with a bad proofreader are:

  • If they suggest making major changes to the final draft of your essay. Proofreading happens when editing is already finished.
  • If they aren't particularly good at spelling, or don't know grammar, or aren't detail-oriented enough to find someone else's small mistakes.
  • If they start swapping out your words for fancier-sounding synonyms, or changing the voice and sound of your essay in other ways. A proofreader is there to check for errors, not to take the 17-year-old out of your writing.

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What Do Colleges Think of Your Getting Help With Your Essay?

Admissions officers agree: light editing and proofreading are good—even required ! But they also want to make sure you're the one doing the work on your essay. They want essays with stories, voice, and themes that come from you. They want to see work that reflects your actual writing ability, and that focuses on what you find important.

On the Importance of Editing

Get feedback. Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don't allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others' edits and opinions when they seem helpful. ( Bates College )

Read your essay aloud to someone. Reading the essay out loud offers a chance to hear how your essay sounds outside your head. This exercise reveals flaws in the essay's flow, highlights grammatical errors and helps you ensure that you are communicating the exact message you intended. ( Dickinson College )

On the Value of Proofreading

Share your essays with at least one or two people who know you well—such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend—and ask for feedback. Remember that you ultimately have control over your essays, and your essays should retain your own voice, but others may be able to catch mistakes that you missed and help suggest areas to cut if you are over the word limit. ( Yale University )

Proofread and then ask someone else to proofread for you. Although we want substance, we also want to be able to see that you can write a paper for our professors and avoid careless mistakes that would drive them crazy. ( Oberlin College )

On Watching Out for Too Much Outside Influence

Limit the number of people who review your essay. Too much input usually means your voice is lost in the writing style. ( Carleton College )

Ask for input (but not too much). Your parents, friends, guidance counselors, coaches, and teachers are great people to bounce ideas off of for your essay. They know how unique and spectacular you are, and they can help you decide how to articulate it. Keep in mind, however, that a 45-year-old lawyer writes quite differently from an 18-year-old student, so if your dad ends up writing the bulk of your essay, we're probably going to notice. ( Vanderbilt University )

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Now let's talk about some potential people to approach for your college essay editing and proofreading needs. It's best to start close to home and slowly expand outward. Not only are your family and friends more invested in your success than strangers, but they also have a better handle on your interests and personality. This knowledge is key for judging whether your essay is expressing your true self.

Parents or Close Relatives

Your family may be full of potentially excellent editors! Parents are deeply committed to your well-being, and family members know you and your life well enough to offer details or incidents that can be included in your essay. On the other hand, the rewriting process necessarily involves criticism, which is sometimes hard to hear from someone very close to you.

A parent or close family member is a great choice for an editor if you can answer "yes" to the following questions. Is your parent or close relative a good writer or reader? Do you have a relationship where editing your essay won't create conflict? Are you able to constructively listen to criticism and suggestion from the parent?

One suggestion for defusing face-to-face discussions is to try working on the essay over email. Send your parent a draft, have them write you back some comments, and then you can pick which of their suggestions you want to use and which to discard.

Teachers or Tutors

A humanities teacher that you have a good relationship with is a great choice. I am purposefully saying humanities, and not just English, because teachers of Philosophy, History, Anthropology, and any other classes where you do a lot of writing, are all used to reviewing student work.

Moreover, any teacher or tutor that has been working with you for some time, knows you very well and can vet the essay to make sure it "sounds like you."

If your teacher or tutor has some experience with what college essays are supposed to be like, ask them to be your editor. If not, then ask whether they have time to proofread your final draft.

Guidance or College Counselor at Your School

The best thing about asking your counselor to edit your work is that this is their job. This means that they have a very good sense of what colleges are looking for in an application essay.

At the same time, school counselors tend to have relationships with admissions officers in many colleges, which again gives them insight into what works and which college is focused on what aspect of the application.

Unfortunately, in many schools the guidance counselor tends to be way overextended. If your ratio is 300 students to 1 college counselor, you're unlikely to get that person's undivided attention and focus. It is still useful to ask them for general advice about your potential topics, but don't expect them to be able to stay with your essay from first draft to final version.

Friends, Siblings, or Classmates

Although they most likely don't have much experience with what colleges are hoping to see, your peers are excellent sources for checking that your essay is you .

Friends and siblings are perfect for the read-aloud edit. Read your essay to them so they can listen for words and phrases that are stilted, pompous, or phrases that just don't sound like you.

You can even trade essays and give helpful advice on each other's work.

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If your editor hasn't worked with college admissions essays very much, no worries! Any astute and attentive reader can still greatly help with your process. But, as in all things, beginners do better with some preparation.

First, your editor should read our advice about how to write a college essay introduction , how to spot and fix a bad college essay , and get a sense of what other students have written by going through some admissions essays that worked .

Then, as they read your essay, they can work through the following series of questions that will help them to guide you.

Introduction Questions

  • Is the first sentence a killer opening line? Why or why not?
  • Does the introduction hook the reader? Does it have a colorful, detailed, and interesting narrative? Or does it propose a compelling or surprising idea?
  • Can you feel the author's voice in the introduction, or is the tone dry, dull, or overly formal? Show the places where the voice comes through.

Essay Body Questions

  • Does the essay have a through-line? Is it built around a central argument, thought, idea, or focus? Can you put this idea into your own words?
  • How is the essay organized? By logical progression? Chronologically? Do you feel order when you read it, or are there moments where you are confused or lose the thread of the essay?
  • Does the essay have both narratives about the author's life and explanations and insight into what these stories reveal about the author's character, personality, goals, or dreams? If not, which is missing?
  • Does the essay flow? Are there smooth transitions/clever links between paragraphs? Between the narrative and moments of insight?

Reader Response Questions

  • Does the writer's personality come through? Do we know what the speaker cares about? Do we get a sense of "who he or she is"?
  • Where did you feel most connected to the essay? Which parts of the essay gave you a "you are there" sensation by invoking your senses? What moments could you picture in your head well?
  • Where are the details and examples vague and not specific enough?
  • Did you get an "a-ha!" feeling anywhere in the essay? Is there a moment of insight that connected all the dots for you? Is there a good reveal or "twist" anywhere in the essay?
  • What are the strengths of this essay? What needs the most improvement?

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Should You Pay Money for Essay Editing?

One alternative to asking someone you know to help you with your college essay is the paid editor route. There are two different ways to pay for essay help: a private essay coach or a less personal editing service , like the many proliferating on the internet.

My advice is to think of these options as a last resort rather than your go-to first choice. I'll first go through the reasons why. Then, if you do decide to go with a paid editor, I'll help you decide between a coach and a service.

When to Consider a Paid Editor

In general, I think hiring someone to work on your essay makes a lot of sense if none of the people I discussed above are a possibility for you.

If you can't ask your parents. For example, if your parents aren't good writers, or if English isn't their first language. Or if you think getting your parents to help is going create unnecessary extra conflict in your relationship with them (applying to college is stressful as it is!)

If you can't ask your teacher or tutor. Maybe you don't have a trusted teacher or tutor that has time to look over your essay with focus. Or, for instance, your favorite humanities teacher has very limited experience with college essays and so won't know what admissions officers want to see.

If you can't ask your guidance counselor. This could be because your guidance counselor is way overwhelmed with other students.

If you can't share your essay with those who know you. It might be that your essay is on a very personal topic that you're unwilling to share with parents, teachers, or peers. Just make sure it doesn't fall into one of the bad-idea topics in our article on bad college essays .

If the cost isn't a consideration. Many of these services are quite expensive, and private coaches even more so. If you have finite resources, I'd say that hiring an SAT or ACT tutor (whether it's PrepScholar or someone else) is better way to spend your money . This is because there's no guarantee that a slightly better essay will sufficiently elevate the rest of your application, but a significantly higher SAT score will definitely raise your applicant profile much more.

Should You Hire an Essay Coach?

On the plus side, essay coaches have read dozens or even hundreds of college essays, so they have experience with the format. Also, because you'll be working closely with a specific person, it's more personal than sending your essay to a service, which will know even less about you.

But, on the minus side, you'll still be bouncing ideas off of someone who doesn't know that much about you . In general, if you can adequately get the help from someone you know, there is no advantage to paying someone to help you.

If you do decide to hire a coach, ask your school counselor, or older students that have used the service for recommendations. If you can't afford the coach's fees, ask whether they can work on a sliding scale —many do. And finally, beware those who guarantee admission to your school of choice—essay coaches don't have any special magic that can back up those promises.

Should You Send Your Essay to a Service?

On the plus side, essay editing services provide a similar product to essay coaches, and they cost significantly less . If you have some assurance that you'll be working with a good editor, the lack of face-to-face interaction won't prevent great results.

On the minus side, however, it can be difficult to gauge the quality of the service before working with them . If they are churning through many application essays without getting to know the students they are helping, you could end up with an over-edited essay that sounds just like everyone else's. In the worst case scenario, an unscrupulous service could send you back a plagiarized essay.

Getting recommendations from friends or a school counselor for reputable services is key to avoiding heavy-handed editing that writes essays for you or does too much to change your essay. Including a badly-edited essay like this in your application could cause problems if there are inconsistencies. For example, in interviews it might be clear you didn't write the essay, or the skill of the essay might not be reflected in your schoolwork and test scores.

Should You Buy an Essay Written by Someone Else?

Let me elaborate. There are super sketchy places on the internet where you can simply buy a pre-written essay. Don't do this!

For one thing, you'll be lying on an official, signed document. All college applications make you sign a statement saying something like this:

I certify that all information submitted in the admission process—including the application, the personal essay, any supplements, and any other supporting materials—is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented... I understand that I may be subject to a range of possible disciplinary actions, including admission revocation, expulsion, or revocation of course credit, grades, and degree, should the information I have certified be false. (From the Common Application )

For another thing, if your academic record doesn't match the essay's quality, the admissions officer will start thinking your whole application is riddled with lies.

Admission officers have full access to your writing portion of the SAT or ACT so that they can compare work that was done in proctored conditions with that done at home. They can tell if these were written by different people. Not only that, but there are now a number of search engines that faculty and admission officers can use to see if an essay contains strings of words that have appeared in other essays—you have no guarantee that the essay you bought wasn't also bought by 50 other students.

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  • You should get college essay help with both editing and proofreading
  • A good editor will ask questions about your idea, logic, and structure, and will point out places where clarity is needed
  • A good editor will absolutely not answer these questions, give you their own ideas, or write the essay or parts of the essay for you
  • A good proofreader will find typos and check your formatting
  • All of them agree that getting light editing and proofreading is necessary
  • Parents, teachers, guidance or college counselor, and peers or siblings
  • If you can't ask any of those, you can pay for college essay help, but watch out for services or coaches who over-edit you work
  • Don't buy a pre-written essay! Colleges can tell, and it'll make your whole application sound false.

Ready to start working on your essay? Check out our explanation of the point of the personal essay and the role it plays on your applications and then explore our step-by-step guide to writing a great college essay .

Using the Common Application for your college applications? We have an excellent guide to the Common App essay prompts and useful advice on how to pick the Common App prompt that's right for you . Wondering how other people tackled these prompts? Then work through our roundup of over 130 real college essay examples published by colleges .

Stressed about whether to take the SAT again before submitting your application? Let us help you decide how many times to take this test . If you choose to go for it, we have the ultimate guide to studying for the SAT to give you the ins and outs of the best ways to study.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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How Long Should a College Essay Be

writing the why this college essay

Writing a college essay is a big deal for students, giving them a chance to share their unique stories and ambitions with admissions officers. But here's the thing: figuring out how long it should be can be tricky. 

In this article, we're going to tackle the question of a perfect essay length head-on. We'll break down what influences the ideal length for your essay and give you some tips on finding that sweet spot between saying enough and not saying too much.

Why Following a College Essay Word Limit Is Important

Sticking to the college essay length matters for a few important reasons. Firstly, it shows that you can follow instructions, which is a skill you'll need in college and beyond. Admissions officers have lots of essays to read, so keeping within the limit respects their time and attention. 

Plus, it helps level the playing field for all applicants, giving everyone a fair chance to make their case without overwhelming reviewers with too much information. And on your end, it forces you to be concise and clear, focusing on what really matters in your story. If the word limit of your essay is too large, simply say, ‘ do my essay for me ,’ and our experts will help you fit into any word limit.

Why Essay Length Varies in Different Assignments

The issue of how long is an essay can change depending on the assignment for a few reasons. First off, it's about who's reading it and why. A formal academic essay might need more detail and research, so it could end up longer. But it might be shorter and more casual if you're just sharing your thoughts with a friend. 

Then there's the topic itself – some things need more explanation. Plus, your teacher's guidelines, like how many words or pages to aim for, can also affect how long your essay turns out. It's about fitting the essay to the task at hand and making sure you cover everything you need to without going overboard.

Struggling to Fit into the Word Count?

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Wondering about the ideal length for your college essay? You're not alone. Figuring out how much to write can be a head-scratcher for many students. But fear not! In this guide, we'll show you how to strike the right balance between text length and informational richness.

How Long Should a College Essay Be

High School Essay

The length of a high school essay can vary depending on the assignment and teacher's instructions. Generally, essays in high school classes range from around 500 to 1000 words, though some assignments may require shorter or longer compositions. The length often reflects the depth of analysis and detail expected by the teacher, as well as the complexity of the topic. 

Shorter essays might focus on summarizing information or making a concise argument, while longer essays allow for more in-depth exploration and analysis. Regardless of length, students should prioritize clarity, coherence, and relevance to effectively convey their ideas and meet the requirements of the assignment.

College Admission Essay

College admission essay length typically ranges from 250 to 650 words, with many colleges setting specific word limits. Admissions officers receive thousands of applications, so brevity is key. A well-crafted essay should be concise yet impactful, showcasing the applicant's personality, experiences, and aspirations within the given word count. 

Adhering to the word limit demonstrates the applicant's ability to follow instructions and communicate effectively, while exceeding it may signal a lack of respect for guidelines or an inability to convey ideas succinctly. 

Undergraduate College Essay

Undergraduate college essay length typically ranges from 400 to 650 words, although some institutions may specify shorter or longer limits. The essay aims to provide admissions officers with insight into the applicant's character, values, and potential contributions to the campus community. 

While brevity is important, the essay should be substantive enough to convey meaningful information about the applicant's experiences and aspirations.

Graduate School Admission Essay

Graduate school admission essay length varies, typically ranging from 500 to 1000 words, although specific requirements may differ by program. These essays allow applicants to articulate their academic and professional goals, research interests, and reasons for pursuing graduate studies. 

Admissions committees seek concise yet comprehensive essays demonstrating the applicant's readiness for advanced academic work and alignment with the program's values and objectives. 

Graduate School Essay

Graduate school essay length typically ranges from 500 to 1000 words, although requirements can vary between programs. These essays serve as a crucial component of the application process, allowing applicants to convey their academic background, research interests, career goals, and suitability for the program. 

Admissions committees value conciseness and coherence, so applicants should prioritize quality over quantity when crafting their essays. Ultimately, the essay should offer a compelling narrative that highlights the applicant's strengths, experiences, and motivations for pursuing graduate studies.

Recommended Length of Each Part of the Essay

While the recommended college essay length of each its part can vary depending on the specific requirements of the assignment or application, here's a general guideline:

  • Introduction

The introduction typically comprises 10-15% of the total essay length. It should provide background information on the topic, establish the context, and present the thesis statement or main argument.

  • Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph should be roughly the same length and account for approximately 60-70% of the total essay length. Aim for around 150-200 words per paragraph. Each paragraph should focus on a single main idea or point and provide supporting evidence or examples to strengthen the argument.

The conclusion should be similar in length to the introduction, comprising around 10-15% of the total essay length. It should summarize the main points discussed in the essay, restate the thesis or main argument, and provide a sense of closure or resolution.

Remember that these are general recommendations, and the actual length of each part may vary based on the specific requirements of your assignment or application. 

It's essential to review any guidelines provided and adjust your essay accordingly to meet the expectations of your audience. Use a specialized college essay writing help from experts who always hit the mark when it comes to the length of assignments.

How Long Should an Introduction Be

An introduction should typically span between 50 to 100 words, offering enough context to engage the reader while succinctly presenting the main argument or thesis. It serves as a roadmap for the essay, providing an overview of what to expect without delving into excessive detail.

How Long Is a Body Paragraph

A body paragraph is typically around 100 to 200 words in length, although this can vary depending on the complexity of the topic and the depth of analysis required. Each paragraph should focus on a single main idea or point, supported by evidence or examples, and contribute to the overall argument or thesis of the essay.

How Long Should a Conclusion Paragraph Be

Knowing how long should a college essay be – from 400 to 600 words – a conclusion paragraph should mirror the length of the introduction, comprising between 50 to 100 words of the total essay length. It should summarize the main points discussed in the essay, restate the thesis or main argument, and provide a sense of closure or resolution to the reader.

How to Check Word Count

To check the word count of an essay, you can use various methods depending on the software or platform you're using:

How to Make an Essay Longer

To make an essay longer, consider these strategies:

  • Expand Ideas: Add more detail and examples to elaborate on your points.
  • Provide Supporting Details: Include additional evidence or references to strengthen your arguments.
  • Address Counterarguments: Discuss opposing viewpoints and explain why they're invalid.
  • Use More Sources: Incorporate more research to support your claims.
  • Use Transitions: Improve the flow between paragraphs with transitional phrases.
  • Rephrase and Expand: Clarify and expand on your ideas by revising your sentences.
  • Consider Different Angles: Explore the topic from various perspectives.
  • Revise Carefully: Edit your essay to ensure added content enhances its quality.

How to Shorten an Essay

To shorten an essay length while maintaining its essence, follow these strategies:

  • Remove Redundancy: Cut out repetitive phrases or sentences.
  • Combine Similar Ideas: Condense related points to streamline your message.
  • Simplify Language: Use clear, concise language to convey your ideas.
  • Delete Unnecessary Details: Eliminate irrelevant examples or explanations.
  • Focus on Essentials: Keep only the most relevant information.
  • Check for Wordiness: Remove filler words and phrases.

When working on your compositions, remember about the impact of remote learning on students and your productiveness.

How to Format a College Essay Based on the Required Length

Let’s explore strategies to tailor your essay's structure and content to fit within specified word limits. By understanding how to adjust your writing style and organization, you'll be better equipped to craft a compelling essay that adheres to length requirements without sacrificing quality or clarity.

Spacing is crucial for how long is an essay looking, its readability and adherence to length requirements. Opting for double-spacing ensures adequate room for markers to review your content and allows for easy reading. Additionally, double-spacing aids in maintaining a clean, organized appearance, enhancing the overall presentation of your essay.

  • If the instruction is to double-space the paper, consider using a spacing of 2.1 or 2.2 instead. 
  • You can extend the margin size by a quarter, such as increasing the right and bottom margins from 1 inch to 1.25 inches, to make subtle adjustments in length without significantly impacting the overall appearance.
  • Another strategy is to increase the spacing between characters, although it should be done cautiously to avoid excessive alterations. 
  • Aim to keep the spacing between 1.2 and 1.5 to maintain readability and visual consistency throughout the document.

Font and Size

Font selection and size can be key to adjusting the college essay length. Opt for a standard, easily readable font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri to ensure clarity and consistency. Aim for a font size of 12 points, which is the standard for most academic writing and provides optimal legibility without sacrificing space or readability.

  • If your instructor hasn't specified a font, consider using larger options such as Arial, Bangla Sangam MN, Cambria, or Quicksand. 
  • Exercise caution and try not to exceed an increase of 0.1-0.5 points to avoid noticeable alterations. 
  • Another technique is to increase the size of punctuation marks, such as periods and commas, by a couple of points compared to the main text size, or italicizing them, which can subtly add to the overall length of your essay.

Following the specified length for your college essay is super important because it shows that you can stick to the rules and pay attention to instructions, which is a skill colleges value. Plus, sticking to the word count helps you be concise and get your point across clearly without rambling or overwhelming the reader.

If you’re struggling to fit into the required word limit, buy a college essay that will be written by a seasoned professional who knows exactly how to meet academic standards.

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Daniel Parker

Daniel Parker

is a seasoned educational writer focusing on scholarship guidance, research papers, and various forms of academic essays including reflective and narrative essays. His expertise also extends to detailed case studies. A scholar with a background in English Literature and Education, Daniel’s work on EssayPro blog aims to support students in achieving academic excellence and securing scholarships. His hobbies include reading classic literature and participating in academic forums.

writing the why this college essay

is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

  • How long should my essay be? – BigFuture | College Board . (n.d.). https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/help-center/how-long-should-my-essay-be  
  • 12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay - Harvard Summer School . (2022, August 9). Harvard Summer School. https://summer.harvard.edu/blog/12-strategies-to-writing-the-perfect-college-essay/
  • How Long Should a College Essay Be? | Honor Society - Official Honor Society® Website . (n.d.). https://www.honorsociety.org/articles/how-long-should-college-essay-be

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What I’ve Learned From My Students’ College Essays

The genre is often maligned for being formulaic and melodramatic, but it’s more important than you think.

An illustration of a high school student with blue hair, dreaming of what to write in their college essay.

By Nell Freudenberger

Most high school seniors approach the college essay with dread. Either their upbringing hasn’t supplied them with several hundred words of adversity, or worse, they’re afraid that packaging the genuine trauma they’ve experienced is the only way to secure their future. The college counselor at the Brooklyn high school where I’m a writing tutor advises against trauma porn. “Keep it brief , ” she says, “and show how you rose above it.”

I started volunteering in New York City schools in my 20s, before I had kids of my own. At the time, I liked hanging out with teenagers, whom I sometimes had more interesting conversations with than I did my peers. Often I worked with students who spoke English as a second language or who used slang in their writing, and at first I was hung up on grammar. Should I correct any deviation from “standard English” to appeal to some Wizard of Oz behind the curtains of a college admissions office? Or should I encourage students to write the way they speak, in pursuit of an authentic voice, that most elusive of literary qualities?

In fact, I was missing the point. One of many lessons the students have taught me is to let the story dictate the voice of the essay. A few years ago, I worked with a boy who claimed to have nothing to write about. His life had been ordinary, he said; nothing had happened to him. I asked if he wanted to try writing about a family member, his favorite school subject, a summer job? He glanced at his phone, his posture and expression suggesting that he’d rather be anywhere but in front of a computer with me. “Hobbies?” I suggested, without much hope. He gave me a shy glance. “I like to box,” he said.

I’ve had this experience with reluctant writers again and again — when a topic clicks with a student, an essay can unfurl spontaneously. Of course the primary goal of a college essay is to help its author get an education that leads to a career. Changes in testing policies and financial aid have made applying to college more confusing than ever, but essays have remained basically the same. I would argue that they’re much more than an onerous task or rote exercise, and that unlike standardized tests they are infinitely variable and sometimes beautiful. College essays also provide an opportunity to learn precision, clarity and the process of working toward the truth through multiple revisions.

When a topic clicks with a student, an essay can unfurl spontaneously.

Even if writing doesn’t end up being fundamental to their future professions, students learn to choose language carefully and to be suspicious of the first words that come to mind. Especially now, as college students shoulder so much of the country’s ethical responsibility for war with their protest movement, essay writing teaches prospective students an increasingly urgent lesson: that choosing their own words over ready-made phrases is the only reliable way to ensure they’re thinking for themselves.

Teenagers are ideal writers for several reasons. They’re usually free of preconceptions about writing, and they tend not to use self-consciously ‘‘literary’’ language. They’re allergic to hypocrisy and are generally unfiltered: They overshare, ask personal questions and call you out for microaggressions as well as less egregious (but still mortifying) verbal errors, such as referring to weed as ‘‘pot.’’ Most important, they have yet to put down their best stories in a finished form.

I can imagine an essay taking a risk and distinguishing itself formally — a poem or a one-act play — but most kids use a more straightforward model: a hook followed by a narrative built around “small moments” that lead to a concluding lesson or aspiration for the future. I never get tired of working with students on these essays because each one is different, and the short, rigid form sometimes makes an emotional story even more powerful. Before I read Javier Zamora’s wrenching “Solito,” I worked with a student who had been transported by a coyote into the U.S. and was reunited with his mother in the parking lot of a big-box store. I don’t remember whether this essay focused on specific skills or coping mechanisms that he gained from his ordeal. I remember only the bliss of the parent-and-child reunion in that uninspiring setting. If I were making a case to an admissions officer, I would suggest that simply being able to convey that experience demonstrates the kind of resilience that any college should admire.

The essays that have stayed with me over the years don’t follow a pattern. There are some narratives on very predictable topics — living up to the expectations of immigrant parents, or suffering from depression in 2020 — that are moving because of the attention with which the student describes the experience. One girl determined to become an engineer while watching her father build furniture from scraps after work; a boy, grieving for his mother during lockdown, began taking pictures of the sky.

If, as Lorrie Moore said, “a short story is a love affair; a novel is a marriage,” what is a college essay? Every once in a while I sit down next to a student and start reading, and I have to suppress my excitement, because there on the Google Doc in front of me is a real writer’s voice. One of the first students I ever worked with wrote about falling in love with another girl in dance class, the absolute magic of watching her move and the terror in the conflict between her feelings and the instruction of her religious middle school. She made me think that college essays are less like love than limerence: one-sided, obsessive, idiosyncratic but profound, the first draft of the most personal story their writers will ever tell.

Nell Freudenberger’s novel “The Limits” was published by Knopf last month. She volunteers through the PEN America Writers in the Schools program.

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Why writing by hand beats typing for thinking and learning

Jonathan Lambert

A close-up of a woman's hand writing in a notebook.

If you're like many digitally savvy Americans, it has likely been a while since you've spent much time writing by hand.

The laborious process of tracing out our thoughts, letter by letter, on the page is becoming a relic of the past in our screen-dominated world, where text messages and thumb-typed grocery lists have replaced handwritten letters and sticky notes. Electronic keyboards offer obvious efficiency benefits that have undoubtedly boosted our productivity — imagine having to write all your emails longhand.

To keep up, many schools are introducing computers as early as preschool, meaning some kids may learn the basics of typing before writing by hand.

But giving up this slower, more tactile way of expressing ourselves may come at a significant cost, according to a growing body of research that's uncovering the surprising cognitive benefits of taking pen to paper, or even stylus to iPad — for both children and adults.

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In kids, studies show that tracing out ABCs, as opposed to typing them, leads to better and longer-lasting recognition and understanding of letters. Writing by hand also improves memory and recall of words, laying down the foundations of literacy and learning. In adults, taking notes by hand during a lecture, instead of typing, can lead to better conceptual understanding of material.

"There's actually some very important things going on during the embodied experience of writing by hand," says Ramesh Balasubramaniam , a neuroscientist at the University of California, Merced. "It has important cognitive benefits."

While those benefits have long been recognized by some (for instance, many authors, including Jennifer Egan and Neil Gaiman , draft their stories by hand to stoke creativity), scientists have only recently started investigating why writing by hand has these effects.

A slew of recent brain imaging research suggests handwriting's power stems from the relative complexity of the process and how it forces different brain systems to work together to reproduce the shapes of letters in our heads onto the page.

Your brain on handwriting

Both handwriting and typing involve moving our hands and fingers to create words on a page. But handwriting, it turns out, requires a lot more fine-tuned coordination between the motor and visual systems. This seems to more deeply engage the brain in ways that support learning.

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"Handwriting is probably among the most complex motor skills that the brain is capable of," says Marieke Longcamp , a cognitive neuroscientist at Aix-Marseille Université.

Gripping a pen nimbly enough to write is a complicated task, as it requires your brain to continuously monitor the pressure that each finger exerts on the pen. Then, your motor system has to delicately modify that pressure to re-create each letter of the words in your head on the page.

"Your fingers have to each do something different to produce a recognizable letter," says Sophia Vinci-Booher , an educational neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University. Adding to the complexity, your visual system must continuously process that letter as it's formed. With each stroke, your brain compares the unfolding script with mental models of the letters and words, making adjustments to fingers in real time to create the letters' shapes, says Vinci-Booher.

That's not true for typing.

To type "tap" your fingers don't have to trace out the form of the letters — they just make three relatively simple and uniform movements. In comparison, it takes a lot more brainpower, as well as cross-talk between brain areas, to write than type.

Recent brain imaging studies bolster this idea. A study published in January found that when students write by hand, brain areas involved in motor and visual information processing " sync up " with areas crucial to memory formation, firing at frequencies associated with learning.

"We don't see that [synchronized activity] in typewriting at all," says Audrey van der Meer , a psychologist and study co-author at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She suggests that writing by hand is a neurobiologically richer process and that this richness may confer some cognitive benefits.

Other experts agree. "There seems to be something fundamental about engaging your body to produce these shapes," says Robert Wiley , a cognitive psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. "It lets you make associations between your body and what you're seeing and hearing," he says, which might give the mind more footholds for accessing a given concept or idea.

Those extra footholds are especially important for learning in kids, but they may give adults a leg up too. Wiley and others worry that ditching handwriting for typing could have serious consequences for how we all learn and think.

What might be lost as handwriting wanes

The clearest consequence of screens and keyboards replacing pen and paper might be on kids' ability to learn the building blocks of literacy — letters.

"Letter recognition in early childhood is actually one of the best predictors of later reading and math attainment," says Vinci-Booher. Her work suggests the process of learning to write letters by hand is crucial for learning to read them.

"When kids write letters, they're just messy," she says. As kids practice writing "A," each iteration is different, and that variability helps solidify their conceptual understanding of the letter.

Research suggests kids learn to recognize letters better when seeing variable handwritten examples, compared with uniform typed examples.

This helps develop areas of the brain used during reading in older children and adults, Vinci-Booher found.

"This could be one of the ways that early experiences actually translate to long-term life outcomes," she says. "These visually demanding, fine motor actions bake in neural communication patterns that are really important for learning later on."

Ditching handwriting instruction could mean that those skills don't get developed as well, which could impair kids' ability to learn down the road.

"If young children are not receiving any handwriting training, which is very good brain stimulation, then their brains simply won't reach their full potential," says van der Meer. "It's scary to think of the potential consequences."

Many states are trying to avoid these risks by mandating cursive instruction. This year, California started requiring elementary school students to learn cursive , and similar bills are moving through state legislatures in several states, including Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina and Wisconsin. (So far, evidence suggests that it's the writing by hand that matters, not whether it's print or cursive.)

Slowing down and processing information

For adults, one of the main benefits of writing by hand is that it simply forces us to slow down.

During a meeting or lecture, it's possible to type what you're hearing verbatim. But often, "you're not actually processing that information — you're just typing in the blind," says van der Meer. "If you take notes by hand, you can't write everything down," she says.

The relative slowness of the medium forces you to process the information, writing key words or phrases and using drawing or arrows to work through ideas, she says. "You make the information your own," she says, which helps it stick in the brain.

Such connections and integration are still possible when typing, but they need to be made more intentionally. And sometimes, efficiency wins out. "When you're writing a long essay, it's obviously much more practical to use a keyboard," says van der Meer.

Still, given our long history of using our hands to mark meaning in the world, some scientists worry about the more diffuse consequences of offloading our thinking to computers.

"We're foisting a lot of our knowledge, extending our cognition, to other devices, so it's only natural that we've started using these other agents to do our writing for us," says Balasubramaniam.

It's possible that this might free up our minds to do other kinds of hard thinking, he says. Or we might be sacrificing a fundamental process that's crucial for the kinds of immersive cognitive experiences that enable us to learn and think at our full potential.

Balasubramaniam stresses, however, that we don't have to ditch digital tools to harness the power of handwriting. So far, research suggests that scribbling with a stylus on a screen activates the same brain pathways as etching ink on paper. It's the movement that counts, he says, not its final form.

Jonathan Lambert is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance journalist who covers science, health and policy.

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writing the why this college essay

Opponents say discipline is ‘Orwellian,’ ‘re-education’

New York University students who were arrested at a recent anti-Israel encampment must write “reflection” essays as part of their discipline, according to the campus Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine.

The university’s Office of Student Conduct issued the punishments last week for students who were arrested April 22 in connection with a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus, according to a news release .

The pro-Palestinian group referred to the disciplinary measures as “Orwellian” in the release.

One punishment, a five to six page “reflection paper,” must include “a clear, well-developed response that demonstrates that you have thought about all aspects of the issue/decision/behavior that resulted in your involvement with the Office of Student Conduct,” according to a university instructions sheet .

The instructions sheet states the paper “cannot serve to justify your actions, evaluate the actions of others, or challenge a conduct regulation.”

In the essay, students also must describe their personal values and consider how their actions affected other people, including the university and “society as a whole.” Additionally, the instructions tell students to consider what they need to do to “make things right.”

NYU is requiring other student protesters to write “dozens of writing assignments” through its Ethos Integrity Series Modules , according to the news release. The series is supposed to help students develop “moral reasoning” and “ethical decision-making skills.”

In addition to writing essays, some students were banned from campus and university activities, according to the group.

Middle Eastern studies Professor Sara Pursley, a member of the pro-Palestinian group, criticized the disciplinary measures in the news release.

“Since they can’t write anything justifying their action, students seem to be banned from writing about personal values that might be relevant here, such as a belief in freedom of expression, the responsibility to oppose genocide, or the duty of nonviolent civil disobedience under certain circumstances,” Pursley said. “This seems rather ironic in an essay on integrity.”

On X, conservative Princeton University law Professor Robert George said while he believes students should be disciplined for unlawful activities, NYU’s specific essay requirements are concerning.

“Students who engage in disruption, harassment, or other unlawful activities – no matter the cause they are seeking to advance – should be subject to disciplinary proceedings and appropriate sanctions, but they should not be subjected to thought reform or re-education,” George wrote .

Police in riot gear arrest dozens of NYU students and faculty who refused to leave a makeshift anti-Israel encampment in late April, The Fix reported .

Police said the protesters were arrested for “disorderly conduct” and unlawfully blocking traffic, according to the Washington Square News , NYU’s student newspaper.

MORE: Jewish NYU student kicked out of campus leadership post for opposing Hamas terrorism reinstated

IMAGE: Freedom News TV/YouTube

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Is college worth it that’s the wrong question.

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Young people today hear over and over again that they need to attend college to be successful. But they also hear student debt has become such a problem that President Biden sees fit to cancel at least $870 billion of it by executive fiat. Unsurprisingly, this creates an apparent paradox: if college is such a good deal, why do so many people have trouble repaying their loans?

As it turns out, the binary framing of the question—"is college worth it?”—is wrong. Students shouldn’t ask if college is worth it. Instead, they should ask when college is worth it.

“College” is not a single pathway. Rather, there are many different paths students can take through higher education, each with their own benefits and risks. Higher education can be a bachelor’s degree, or a two-year degree or trade program. Students can choose from different schools with different levels of cost and quality. They can choose from different majors. Much depends on the particular path each student takes. College could rocket her to the ranks of the one percent—or leave her deep in debt she’ll never repay.

In a new analysis for the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP), I use data on over 50,000 degree and certificate programs to assess the financial value of these different pathways. The analysis computes return on investment (ROI) for each degree program. ROI is how much a particular college pathway is expected to boost a student’s lifetime earnings, after accounting for the cost of tuition, the time spent earning the degree, and the risk of dropping out.

The analysis shows that college is a good bet more often than not—69 percent of the programs analyzed have a positive ROI, meaning that the typical student can expect to be better off for having enrolled. But that also means that in 31 percent of programs, the typical student is likely to be worse off. Much of the student debt crisis traces back to those 31 percent of programs that are negative-ROI.

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Fortunately, students have some control over their college fortunes. The analysis demonstrates that certain majors are likelier to pay off. Among four-year degrees, most engineering, computer science, nursing, and economics programs yield an ROI above $500,000—meaning students can expect to boost their net lifetime earnings by over $500,000. Other majors, including business, political science, and mathematics, have more modest but still strong financial returns. But students should be warier of majors like psychology, English, education, and fine arts, where a significant share of programs have a negative ROI.

Students are also likelier to succeed if they make sure they’re prepared to complete college if they enroll and attend a school with a high on-time graduation rate. Starting but not finishing college can be worse than not going to college at all. Students who drop out are responsible for some of the costs of college but usually see little of the earnings increase that graduates enjoy. Dropouts default on their student loans at far higher rates than completers.

Students who don’t want to pursue a four-year degree also have some good options. Vocational programs in the technical trades—such as HVAC technology, auto repair, welding, and so forth—have a higher ROI than the median bachelor’s degree. In addition, a two-year degree in registered nursing has a handsome return. But field of study matters here, too: a two-year degree in liberal arts won’t boost your earnings much.

Of course, society shouldn’t place the burden of securing a good ROI entirely on students. The federal government funds higher education through Pell Grants, student loans, and other subsidies to the tune of $130 billion per year. I estimate that about a third of federal student aid flows to programs with no financial return, fueling political demand for loan cancellation. Uncle Sam should be more careful about which schools he allows access to taxpayer funding, and for which types of degrees.

Other stakeholders, including state governments, trustees, and colleges themselves, should also consider ROI when making decisions. Schools with a high number of negative-ROI programs should make changes to produce more value for students. Lower tuition, better career services, and incentives to boost completion rates are all options to consider. The worst programs should be shut down altogether.

FREOPP has published all its ROI estimates here to help students, parents, and other stakeholders better navigate the college decision. Young people should beware adults who tell them that college always pays off—or that it never does. Instead of asking whether college is worth it, the proper question is how they can make college worth it.

Preston Cooper

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  1. How to Write a Stellar "Why This College?" Essay + Examples

    Pick your top academic reasons for applying, and your top extracurricular/social reasons. 1. Reflect on your academic and career goals. The driver behind this essay needs to be you, and not the school itself. Anyone can write nice things about the college, but only you can explain why you would be a good fit for it.

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    college essay prompts: Colorado College: "Describe how your personal experiences with a particular community make you a student who would benefit from Colorado College's Block Plan." Tufts University: " I am applying to Tufts because…. Tulane University: "Describe why you are interested in joining the Tulane community.

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    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.

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    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.

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    5 Tips for Writing a Great "Why This College" Essay. Follow the five tips below to help your "why this school" essay leave a memorable impression on admissions officers. 1. Treat Each "Why Us" Essay Individually. Although it may seem tempting to write one essay about why you want to attend college and send it to every school, this strategy isn ...

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    The Top Secret Three-Word Trick to Finding Specific Info for Your "Why this College" Essay. Step 2: Organize Your Research. Step 3: Decide on Your Approach: Approach #1: The Basic, Solid "Why this College" Essay That Includes a Bunch of Reasons. Approach #2: The "3-5 Unique Reasons" Strategy. Approach #3: The "One Value" Strategy.

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    Step three: Connect the dots between your interests and goals and the college's offerings. Step four: Keep it simple by only mentioning a few of these connections. Step five: Explain how you'll fit in and how your values align with the college's values. Step six: Revise and rework your essay until it's perfect.

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    The Top Colleges That Ask "Why College" Essay Prompts. The following top 25 national universities in the 2023 US News & World Report ranking pose "Why College" essays: Princeton University. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Stanford University. Yale University. University of Chicago. University of Pennsylvania. Duke University.

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    1. Brainstorm a list of reasons you want to attend the college. This should be a mix of aspects you like about that college and the things you bring to the table as a student. Try to come up with at least 15-20 reasons. You likely won't use all of them in your essay, but you'll have plenty of options to choose from.

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    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. DO: 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 ...

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    As with most supplemental college essays, this essay follows the format of a regular essay, but it comes in a vast range of sizes. You should expect to write between 200 and 350 words, but that can vary significantly between schools. For example, Columbia supplemental essays are limited to 200 words or less, while Yale asks students to answer ...

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    Essay Example 1: As current Editor-in-Chief of my school magazine The Clarion, I'd like to pursue a Journalism major at the College of Northeastern Ohio, where I will deepen my experience in writing and design through classes such as "Reporting with Visual Journalism" and "International Writing.".

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    37 "Why This College" Essay Examples. 1. "Why Northwestern" Essay Example. Prompt: "Why Northwestern" Statement: While other parts of your application give us a sense of who you are, we are also excited to hear more about how you see yourself engaging with the larger Northwestern community.

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    Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don't allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others' edits and opinions when they seem helpful. ( Bates College) Read your essay aloud to someone. Reading the essay out loud offers a chance to hear how your essay sounds outside your head.

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