The purpose of the “Why us?” or “Why this college” essay is to demonstrate—through specific details and examples—why you’re a great match for a particular school. In some cases, the “Why us?” essay is an important way to demonstrate an interest in a particular college.
The “Why this college?” essay, and variations of this prompt, also happens to be one of the most popular supplemental essay questions asked of students on the college application.
Mistake #1: Writing about Haverford’s size, location, reputation, weather, or ranking
Mistake #2: Simply using emotional language to demonstrate fit
Mistake #3: Screwing up the mascot, stadium, team colours, or names of any important people or places on campus
Mistake #4: Parroting the brochures or website language
Mistake #5: Describing traditions Haverford is well-known for
Mistake #6: Thinking of this as only a “Why them” essay
Here’s a solid Haverford example essay.
Haverford’s exceptional liberal arts education, coupled with its tight-knit student body, exemplifies the values of acceptance, respect, and dedication. These are the principles I’ve worked to embody in my community as a member of the Student Life Advisory Committee (SLAC), where I focus on restorative justice and fostering a welcoming environment.
In SLAC, I’ve experienced how restorative justice encourages vulnerability and resolution, and lets students shape their community. At Haverford, I will continue encouraging student involvement as a member of the Student Engagement Office to empower other students to take charge of their opportunities and grow as a leader and advocate for self-governance and collaboration. Additionally, the consortium and special programs, like the Master’s Program at Claremont McKenna, offers networking and additional learning opportunities.
I desire a school that prioritizes students’ voices, encourages them to be active, and maintains a supportive environment, Haverford has all of these qualities and more. (150 words)
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Tips + Analysis
- Choose your “why.” Since this prompt is giving you only 150 words to explain Why Haverford, consider clearly stating your why in the first sentence, as this student has done. Though this essay could have been stronger had the student chosen details that were more unique to Haverford, since he could have gotten an “exceptional liberal arts education [that has a] tight-knit student body, exemplifies the values of acceptance, respect, and dedication” at many elite U.S. colleges. As we suggest in the “Why us?” guide linked above, look for those Haverford-specific opportunities that you won’t find at other colleges on your list.
- Don’t approach this like an activity sheet. Your Common App will detail your top 10 activities from high school on your Activities List, so don’t think you need to rehash them in this supplemental essay. But it is a good idea to share “why me” examples of what makes you a great fit for Haverford. So how do you do that without making it look like you’re resume dumping? By sharing insights and learnings that you took from specific experiences and showing how they’ll inform how you engage with Haverford resources. Like this: “In SLAC, I’ve experienced how restorative justice encourages vulnerability and resolution, and lets students shape their community. At Haverford, I will continue encouraging student involvement as a member of the Student Engagement Office to empower other students to take charge of their opportunities and grow as a leader and advocate for self-governance and collaboration.”
- Write first, edit later. We know what you’re thinking: I only have 150 words! How do I know what to include and what to cut? We get it, but while it may seem counter-intuitive, when you start writing your essay, don’t even think about your word count … yet (within reason, of course—don’t, for example, write 600 words and expect cutting to 150 to be anything but taxing, and time-consuming). We find that it’s easier to write first, getting your content and ideas down, then edit it down later.