Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills

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


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

Buckle up! It’s time to start putting pen to paper.

Here are 5 Steps to Writing 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.

READ the other the posts in this series:
Part 1: “Why This College”: What Schools Want
Part 3: “Why This College?” Essay Examples


Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon lectures extensively on essay writing. Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


Leave a comment — let me know what you think!




Author: Sharon Epstein

College consultant, teaching students how to write memorable college application essays, grad school and prep school essays, and succeed at job and college interviews.

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

  1. Pingback: How to Answer “Why This College?” Essay – pt. 1: What Schools Want « Applying To College

  2. Pingback: How to Answer “Why This College?” pt 3: Essay Samples « Applying To College

  3. Pingback: 5 Questions to Ask Students on Your College Visit « Applying To College

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