“Why This College” Essays are typically short (around 250 words) and ask you the reason that you chose to apply to a particular college. Probably, this essay is the most popular type of supplementary essay. In this article, I will discuss some tips regarding writing this particular type of supplementary essay.

Why is Writing an Excellent “Why This College” Essay Important?

  1. An essay is an extremely important part of your application right next to GPA and standardized scores. Some competitive colleges think that your essays are more important than your GPA and standardized scores. For this reason, the “Why This College” essay might be the factor that determines whether you are accepted or denied.
  2. Researching the college to write this essay will help you to determine which college to attend. As you are researching, you will know the environment, academic opportunities, and other positive and negative aspects of each college. This is extremely important to international students, who might not have the ability to visit colleges because of high transportation costs. It is always better to research beforehand than to regret later.

Why Do Colleges Require “Why This College” Essays?

  1. Colleges require “Why This College” essays to differentiate the students who are passionate about the college from students who are just window shopping.  With the Common Application facilitating the application process, many students have applied to numerous colleges without researching the colleges thoroughly. Many students will apply to many colleges without having a good reason for applying. Because of this, colleges want to make sure that they admit students who are committed to attending in order to protect their yield. Yield is a ratio of enrolled students to admitted students and is crucial in college rankings. “Why this College” essay helps the college to differentiate the committed students from the non-committed students.

Check Also: Available Programs for International Students

Tips on Writing “Why This College” Essays

1. Research the college through personal visits, student blogs, interviews, social media, and college confidential forums and find specific aspects of the college. 

The word specific means that it is found only in that college or a handful of other colleges. For example, Professor (insert name)’s research interest is superconductivity, the topic that I have experimented with in high school and wish to further the experiment. Also, (insert name) college offers free music lessons to students who participate in a student music group. You need to find specific aspects of the college that is appealing to you and include them in your essay.

Personal Visits– This is the most recommended method of finding information. Most international students do not have the time or the money to visit colleges. However, there is so much information available if you do visit.  On the campus tour,  write down notes about interesting things that the tour guide explains. Also, ask the current students and tour guide about unique things about the college and what they like the most. If you have a specific major in mind, find more information about that department and what it offers.

College Websites–  The college website is the go-to place for information about that college. Many colleges post many informative articles to promote their website to prospective students.

Alumni Interviews– After your interviewer has finished asking questions, ask your interviewer about what they have enjoyed the most in that college.

Social Media– Many colleges use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to post information about them and the success stories of their alumni. It is a good idea to follow prospective colleges and learn more about them through social media.

College Fairs– Many high schools in America have hundreds of colleges that participate in college fairs inside their high school. You should ask the representatives for more information about those colleges. Also, obtain brochures and pamphlets in college fairs that contain useful information.

Student Blogs– Most colleges run student blogs that contain information about the college from students’ perspectives.

College Confidential Forums– College Confidential Forums contain numerous discussions regarding the academic programs, experiences from a personal visit, and other useful information about many colleges.

2. Write the essay using specific points about the college.

After you have gathered useful information, your next step is to write the essay. There are many common aspects of colleges such as research opportunities and strong academic programs. Your job is to find the differences between them, the unique characteristics which set THAT college apart from any other college. Each and every college have one or more aspects that set that college apart. Your job in this essay is to find those unique aspects and explain how you will take advantage of those aspects.

3. Don’t use the same generic form for the “Why This College” Essay

Everyone will feel the urge to “copy and paste” the essay and just change the name of the college. However, it is obvious in the admission officer’s eyes that you have just copied and pasted. They have read thousands of essays and know when you have recycled your essays.  As I emphasized in the earlier paragraph, your essay needs to contain unique aspects of the school, the thing that sets the college apart.

So, here is a trick to writing a great essay. If you replace the college’s name with a rival college’s name, and the essay does not make sense, you have written a fabulous “Why This College” essay. For example, if you replaced Harvard with Yale, and the essay does not make sense, you have done your job!

4. Don’t use these common and shallow reasons 

The following reasons are overused in “Why This College” essays and are also very shallow. You should avoid these reasons, if possible.

  1. Location– “Oh, I love the beach, and this college in Florida has beautiful beaches” or “Oh, I love the fall leaves in Massachusetts.” You should never use location as the main reason for choosing to apply to a college because it is not unique. For example, there are dozens of colleges and universities in Florida that offer beautiful beaches. Location is an extremely common reason and should be avoided.
  2. Prestige– Prestige should not be a reason for applying to a college because it is also too shallow. Admission officers would be disappointed if you chose prestige to be the reason over many academic and extracurricular opportunities that the college offers.
  3. Pretty campus– There are literally hundreds of pretty campuses. This reason is shallow, common, and not specific.

5. Do the following:

  1. Be very specific– You need to be as specific as possible. The more specific, the better because that shows that you have researched the school to the admission officers
  2. Be enthusiastic– Show excitement about the possibility of attending that college. Admission officers like to admit students who are excited to attend that college.
  3. Compare and contrast with high school experience– In this essay, comparing and contrasting your high school experience with college experience is a good idea. For example, if you went to a small high school, you can state the advantages of attending a small high school and want to continue to enjoy those advantages in a small college.

We hope this article on Tips on writing “Why This College” essay was helpful to you. To know more information on studying abroad, check out the Available Programs for International Students.

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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