Spotlight on School-Specific Essays

The essays that you will see on school-specific supplements take many different forms. However, one thing is always true: there are no trick questions. Read the essay prompts several times and make sure you understand exactly what the school is asking, then respond to it in the way that feels natural. One common question you will most likely encounter is “Why are you interested in studying here?”

It might sound counterintuitive, but each school-specific essay is really another kind of personal statement. This time you’re talking about how your interests fit with one particular school. Sometimes students make the mistake of writing about the school without writing about how that matches with what they’re looking for in a college.

One way to approach this “Why our college?” question is to pick two or three things you’re excited about doing in college and write about how you plan to do those things at the college you’re writing to. It doesn’t need to be very long—a few paragraphs is enough. Be open, honest, and straightforward, and share with admission counselors why you decided to apply to that school in the first place.

Some things you might want to discuss in an essay asking this question are:

  • Why you decided to apply
  • Your impression of campus culture and the student body
  • Which programs or majors you would pick, if you were admitted
  • If there are professors you’d like to study with
  • If there are any extracurricular activities, like clubs, athletic teams, career-focused programs, etc. that you want to be involved with
  • How studying at that school fits in with your long-term plans

Admissions counselors read this information and try to answer questions like these:

  • Does the student have a realistic understanding of this school?
  • Has the student been thoughtful about why this school is a good fit?
  • Will the student’s academic goals be supported by our academic model?
  • Will the student be able to take advantage of the resources and opportunities we offer?
  • Are we one of this student’s top choices for college?
  • What sort of community member will this student be?

As with any writing assignment, give yourself plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the prompts, think about them, write, revise, and proofread before the application deadline. A spelling error or misplaced comma isn’t going to be the difference between being admitted or not, but you’ll spend enough time on your college applications that it’s worth taking just a little longer to check over your spelling and grammar. Since these essays are often the only example of your writing that the admissions committee will see, be sure to put your best foot forward.


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