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How to Answer “Why This College?” pt.2: 5 Steps to a Great Essay

July 23, 2012

how-to-answer-why-this-schoolLast time I covered what colleges look for in the “Why Do You Want to Attend Our School?” essay.

Now it’s time to buckle down and start writing.

Here are 5 Steps to a Great “Why This College” Essay:

1. Before You Start Writing, Understand What Makes This School Different From Other Schools

  • Read the website thoroughly (not just the home page). Watch videos. Connect on Facebook and get regular updates in your newsfeed. Learn about the school’s educational philosophy and traditions.
  • Pay attention when you visit. When something interests you, ask questions.
  • Think about how you’d be a good match for that school.
  • Find something that gets you excited about attending.

2. Don’t Be A Lightweight

  • It’s okay to mention after-school activities and dorm life in your essay, but they shouldn’t be your main focus. Show that you know about substantial things like courses, instructors, academic opportunities and educational philosophy.

3.  Say How You’ll Fit In

  • Visualize yourself as a freshman on campus:  What classes are you taking? Why do you love being there? How are you contributing to the campus community? Why are you a good match? Write about it.

4. If You’ve Talked to People, Say So

  • Whether it’s a tour guide, admissions counselor, coach or professor, making personal connections shows initiative and enthusiasm. So if you’ve talked to someone, write about it!
  • Mention what you learned from the people you talked to, and be specific about how it pertains to you. For instance, “My tour guide was totally excited about the classes he was taking” is too general. But, “My tour told me how accessible all my bio profs will be,” is specific.

5. It’s Almost Never Too Late to Make a Personal Connection

  • Even if your deadline’s looming you can probably get in touch with a student, alum,  or coach.
  • Start by finding emails and phone numbers online or through the admissions office. Google the local alumni association. Or use your own connections — if you have a friend with a relative or friend who went to the school you’re writing about, give them a call.
  • Introduce yourself and ask questions  – For instance, what kind of college experience they had, what professors they recommend, where you should live, what kind of majors you might enjoy, etc. Keep asking questions until you find something that gets you excited about going there!

Everyone who’s writing a “Why This School” essay
should try to make at least one personal connection.

Go Ahead! Discover what excites you and write about it. You’ll have a great “Why This School” essay.

related blog posts:
Part 1: “Why This College”: What Schools Want
Part 2: 5 Steps to a Great “Why This College” Essay
Part 3: “Why This College?” Essay Examples

helpful links:
College Confidential: Tips for Answering “Why this College”

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting and is the recipient of a Writers Guild Award and two Emmy nominations for her writing.
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone and by computer. Visit my website for more info. Connect with me on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest:

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