How to Structure a “Why This College” Essay

When working on your college essays, chances are that you’ll come across a “Why This College” essay. These school-specific essays are a way for colleges to get a better understanding of how you’ll take advantage of the academic resources the school offers, as well as what extracurriculars you plan to get involved in. Here are some essential tips for organizing your “why us” college essay.

First Paragraph

The beginning of your essay is an opportunity to introduce yourself, your academic goals, and your passions. Catch the reader’s attention by starting out with a surprising statement or interesting anecdote. Then, give the reader a sense of who you are so they know why you believe you’re a good fit for the school.

Body Paragraph(s)

In the body of your essay, address the specifics of the school and why these resonate with you. Describe details that prove you’ve done your research and that demonstrate your interest in a certain academic area. Remember to stay away from generalities, which can sound unconvincing.

Closing Paragraph

Close the essay by communicating your enthusiasm for the college. Avoid any trite or cliche phrases. Be authentic when expressing your hope to attend this college. You can circle back to the first paragraph or end on a note looking toward your future at the school.

What sets you apart? What can you offer the college that no other applicant can? If you know the answers to these questions, try to tie in the ways the particular university will help you be the best possible you.

Essays are stories, but they highlight you! Talk about an experience related to what you plan to study.  If you plan to major in engineering, start off by describing a project or work experience or a leadership role you had in this area. What did that experience teach you about yourself and your undergraduate and career goals? What happened? What did you learn? Why does it matter? And, for the “why this college” essay, what about that school is in alignment with you and your story?

Research what you plan to study. Are you taking a major because it sounds good or because it is a stepping stone to your intended career.? If you are going to mention specific majors, you want to go even deeper and talk about why and how they will be unique at this particular school.  If you are applying undecided, it’s still a good idea to mention specific areas of study you might like to explore. RESEARCH is the key – are there specific classes or professors that interest you? Is there a way you can participate in a specific professor’s research? Google alumni in certain fields, follow professors on Twitter. Know why you want THAT school, program, and education.

College is a full career for 4 years. How will you engage with their extracurriculars and clubs? Schools want to know that you are going to participate in their community on many levels. Programs/ activities/ organizations will help expand your knowledge about what is available for you when you are not in class. Read through the school’s websites – are there particular programs that you want to join? Turtle racing? Check. Nature Club? Check. We suggest following the college and the clubs of interest on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc.

Be specific. Don’t back up and unload the whole truck. Choose a few meaningful reasons why the school “speaks” to you. Do they have artwork throughout the campus, and therefore you know they have a strong commitment to celebrating their artists? Do not make a laundry list of all the great things about the school. Use your background and demonstrate in a concrete way how and why you should become a part of the school community. Be specific.