So, you’ve polished your main essays and right about now you’re buried in the supplemental essays. Prompts for different schools are starting to look uncannily similar, aren’t they? Suddenly you realize that nearly all your applications request an identical essay: “Why this school?” What a perfect opportunity for you to minimize your workload! You’ll just create a cookie-cutter template into which you can merely fill-in-the-blank for each school’s specifics, right? Wrong, sorry.
Tempting as the copy-paste method may be, admissions officers can tell which essays have been created using this short-cut approach. If at the end you can return to the essay, fill in another school’s name, and have the content make sense, it’s not specific enough. Though the prospect of writing multiple “Why this school” essays may be daunting, it is important to make each one specific, individualized, and genuine.
Tips for “Why This School”
- Make it about YOU. The college already knows where it is located, why it is great, and how evocative its landscaping. The purpose of this essay is for the admissions group to know why you are a great fit for their great college, not for the admissions group to see how many lifeless facts you have dredged up from their website. Truly consider why, if accepted, you would do well at this school. Dig deep.
- Identify one or two specific details about the school that genuinely resonate with you and your goals. Maybe the school has an intriguing research program, a unique/distinct major, or certain professors who wrote books you loved and you’re dying to work with them, for example.
- Things that ARE worth mentioning if they were significant in your decision to apply:
- College visit (real or virtual)
- Compelling conversation with a current student or alumnus
- Things NOT worth mentioning:
- Showing blind affection: “Ever since I was two years old, I’ve wanted to go to the University of X.” Admissions officers want your decision to apply to be an educated, thoughtful one—not one based on a childhood dream alone, or even just a family legacy.
- Referencing the school’s competitive ranking: never ever mention a school’s ranking as a reason for applying. Even if this is your #1 reason, no college wants to admit a superficial person interested primarily on prestige.
- Think about this as a two-way street: it’s not all about what they have to offer you. How might you turn the tables with brief mention of what you would bring to the relationship.