The "Why This College" Essay
Updated: Nov 13
You're applying to 10+ colleges and they all feel the same. Here's four categories of research to help your essay stand out for each school!
This essay requires a cause and effect argument. Before I explain, Let’s pretend this is about restaurants instead of colleges. The question is: Why do you want to go to our restaurant?
Compare these two answers:
1. This restaurant would be an unprecedented opportunity to explore numerous kinds of foods and drinks. I love food, and I am so excited to be able to eat food made by some of the most esteemed chefs in the world alongside other passionate customers. Finally, I love Los Angeles, and the fact that this restaurant is in LA is an amazing chance for me to experience all the diversity such a city has to offer.
2. Ever since my sixth birthday party at Olive Garden (yes, I know it doesn’t really count), Italian food has always been my passion. In particular, I fell in love with how a rich marinara or alfredo sauce can elevate even a simple pasta to gourmet heights; my dream is to become a saucier. This restaurant’s specialty is in Italian sauces, and Chef Basil’s background as a saucier at some of Italy’s best restaurants means that I can have full confidence that the Bolognese I get will be as authentic as it gets.
The first example is what I typically see from students. It’s, well, a terrible answer to the question. You could easily copy-paste this answer and use it for just about any restaurant, as long as you change the name of the city!
The second example uses a cause and effect argument. You need to specifically:
explain your long-term professional goals or major area of interest. (Otherwise, how are you supposed to argue that the college will help you?)
explain how the college’s resources will help you achieve these goals.
This shows that you've thought through your goals and why this college is a good choice for you. If you aren't exactly sure about a career, you can still mention a broad area of professional interest, or even just a major! If you're not sure about your major or area of professional interest, you can still do this essay, but you will need to think carefully about what specific resources a college has that are appealing to you and how you will use them to your benefit.
The Four Categories of Research
I’ve broken up the research you need to do into four main categories. You do not need to do all four categories; in fact, I would recommend against it. I’ve listed these in order of importance.
1. Main Academic
Your long-term professional goal
What major you picked
Relevant research or internship opportunities
2. Auxiliary Academic
Professors with a unique area of specialty or particular importance in a field
Unique or interesting classes
Something unique about the general education curriculum
Opportunity for a double major or minor
3. Main social
Clubs or extracurriculars
Campus life (if applicable)
4. Auxiliary Social
School “ethos” (values like divestment, commitment to diversity, religious institution)
Location (this is the least important part)
Most departments (the part of the college that teaches a specific major) have their own websites! Don't just go to the main college website; the department you're interested in usually has much more helpful and relevant information.
Let us know!
What are some reasons why you're interested in your dream school?
As always, best of luck with applications!