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How To Write The “Why This College” Essay

A student sitting outside on a ledge taking notes on a notepad.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

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.

How To Write College-Specific Supplemental Essays

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!