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.
1. Scan your essay for capital letters.
Why? Because, chances are, capital letters mean you’ve included something specific that the school offers. In fact…
2. Highlight in bold your reasons for wanting to attend.
I’ve done this in the “Why Johns Hopkins” essay above. Notice after doing this if you have just 1-3 items highlighted in bold. If so, you can probably trim in some places to make room for more reasons. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but if you’re going for the first or second approach I’ve described, then 1-3 reasons per paragraph is a good rule of thumb, whereas if you’re going for the third approach you can kind of do whatever: you might choose to go in-depth on one really great reason. But either way…
3. Make sure that each time you mention something about the school you connect it back to yourself.
How do you know? Simply check each mention of the school and see if you’ve explained why this is important—not just in general, but to you.
Finally, just so you can see how a personal statement and “Why This College” essay can work together, here is:
The Laptop Sticker “Why This College” Essay Example
If I could pursue only one goal for the rest of my life, it would be taking measurable action towards gender equality. Since the age of six, I have observed the difference in how I am treated because of my gender—when playing sports, during mealtimes, or at social gatherings. I have tried to counter the effects of gender bias through social entrepreneurship, and now I would like to gain insight into the societal constructs that underlie these issues.
At UPenn, I hope to study Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a concentration in Feminist Studies and Global Gender and Sexuality Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. Through Professor Kathleen Brown’s “Gender & Society” class, I will learn how complex social identities such as race and gender impact economic exchange and demarcate opportunities available to minorities. I hope to further explore the consequences of electoral quotas and their effect on women’s mobilization transnationally with Dawn Teele in her class, “Sex and Power.” Such classes will help me ensure that I am not working for one cause at the expense of another, and will arm me with the skills necessary to analyze social, economic and political dynamics in the real world.
Last summer, I spent a month at UPenn, living in Harnwell College House and incubating my social impact startup, Straw’d, through the LaunchX program held at the Pennovation Center. At the program, MEAM Professor Jenna Shanis spoke about her work designing soda machines with Coca Cola. Presenting us with a simple task (“design a way for humans to enjoy flowers”), she showed us that the first solution is usually never the best solution, and that innovation is most effective when it is iteratively brainstormed and cross-fertilized. Material Science and Engineering Professor Vanessa Chan, inventor of the tangle-free headphones ‘Loopit,’ inspired me to take on the challenge of creating a consumer good instead of a company in the service industry. These two professors, along with others who spoke, have given me a new perspective on integrating theory into practice, critical thinking into activism.
Given my interest in building new social enterprises, I would like to join the Penn Social Entrepreneurship Movement to learn more about empowering women economically in different countries. Through events like ‘Social Impact Talk Series’ held by PennSEM, I will learn about the multi-faceted industry of social entrepreneurship and gain exposure to issues such as food innovation and food policymaking. Additionally, planning TEDxYouth@Austin events has been an integral part of my four years of high school, and I will continue this passion through TEDxPenn by finding women speakers from underrepresented industries and helping to elevate their voices.
I’ve been an artist longer than I have been an activist. Through classes such as “Photographic Thinking- a Benjamin Franklin Seminar” and “Art, Design, and Digital Culture”, I will learn to use design as a vehicle to fight for gender equality in the future, as digital art is currently heavily influencing the way social movements develop momentum through media.
While at UPenn, I noticed that many youth from surrounding neighborhoods grow up with difficult socioeconomic circumstances, and I hope to empower women of color from these neighborhoods as I study how race and gender impact economic opportunity. I will join the Community School Student Partnerships to lead social impact and entrepreneurship workshops at the after-school programs in high schools. I’ve experienced firsthand how entrepreneurship training can empower individuals, and by training girls from underrepresented communities, I hope to help them solve the problems they experience. Joining CSSP would give me the opportunity to give back to the Philadelphia and Penn communities while continuing my passion for empowering young females.
The GSWS program at UPenn is a perfect fit for me. Its interdisciplinary training and intersectional approach would provide me with the knowledge, mentorship, and resources I need to continue growing as a social justice advocate and champion of equality.
And there you have it. Three approaches to tackle your ‘Why this college” essay, and some important context before you dive in. Hopefully, these tips have you off and running.
Have a tip or question? Have a totally different approach to this essay? Let me know in the comments.
Happy “Why us?”-ing.