Student Life

The “Why this School?” Essay - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The most common supplemental essay simplified for your convenience.

Student Contributor, Piper Megellas

November 12, 2022

The “Why this School?” Essay - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Approach your college application with confidence with these essay examples.
Why the “Why this school” essay? Isn’t it obvious that you want to attend the school from your application alone? Well, not exactly. In this essay, it should be your goal to show the admissions panel that you have a clear, thought out line of reasoning as to why you’d like to attend their specific college. You should also try to convince them that you will enroll in the school if admitted - this is what they’re looking for, and the best way to do it is to write a good essay. To determine what qualifies as a “good” essay, we can use the “white-out” test. Ask yourself, if you were to put white out over the name of the school you’re writing about, would someone still be able to tell what school you’re writing about?
To further demonstrate this point, let’s look at some essay examples. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of the “why this school?” essay.

College Essay Examples

The Good

“The University will provide me ample research opportunities and allow me to work alongside professors and participate in the Green Research Symposium as I pursue my ambitions in STEM. Access to the University’s renowned metabolic research institute will permit me to work in my field of interest alongside professors who I admire, like John Smith. During my trip to the University, I was allowed to see and experience just what the institute will provide me with and was even able to talk to Smith about his most recent projects.
This example never references the university that the student is writing about by name, but the student is still clear in which school it is. A person who is familiar with the college, like the admissions panel, would be able to tell which school they are talking about just from this passage, through the way the student mentions the “Green Research Symposium”, the “metabolic research institute”, and “Professor John Smith”. The panel can tell that the student has a true interest in the college and will use its resources - and will also be likely to attend if admitted. This is what you’re going for.

The Bad

“I would like to attend the University for its strong academic programs and unmatchable school spirit. I know that I will be academically and socially supported at the University and will have the potential to chase my goals. At the university, I will engage in research with my professors and peers and add to the overall social climate.”
Sure, these are all reasons you might want to attend a college, but they’re not specific to any one school, and they’re not going to help your case. Using the white-out test, we can see that if the school were not specifically named, an admissions officer wouldn’t know which school you were writing about. This student is not doing a good job at convincing the panel that they want to attend their institution. Furthermore, if you can’t write a more specific essay than this, maybe you should consider if you truly want to attend that school. After all, there are lots of other schools with “strong academic programs” out there. Why not consider a different one? If your essay looks like this, it might be time to do some reflecting on what you really want in a first choice (or second or third choice) school.

The Ugly

”Why should I have to tell you why I wish to attend the university? Through my application, you can tell that I’m more than qualified to attend and most certainly interested as well. I’ve put a great deal of time into my application; I hope it speaks for itself.” Hopefully I don’t have to say this, but please do not be this person. You may scratch your head at why this is even here, but this does happen. I promise, trying to stand out by brushing off the question or even claiming that another school is your first choice is not going to work. All it is going to do is irk the admissions panel. Other “quirky” options - like attempting to be humorous - are risky at best. If you’re looking for a surefire way to get rejected, this is a great way to do it! Otherwise - just don’t. Following these tips, you should be well on your way to writing a “why this college” essay that isn’t just good, but great. So, consider your reasons for going through the college admissions process at this school and write away. If you’re stuck, try the white-out test. It might reveal weaknesses in your essay you hadn’t noticed before.

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