Many college applications include a supplementary essay that asks applicants why they are applying to that institution. Although it may be a shorter piece, this essay can be as important as the long application essay. Admission officers at some schools believe the response to this question tells them how much effort a student has put into getting to know the school and whether she is a serious applicant who is likely to matriculate. A student who has researched a college and knows it’s the right place for her is also less likely to transfer or drop out, and that means a higher retention rate for the school.
While some students use this essay as an opportunity to demonstrate “fake” interest in a school, they usually end up with a generic answer that won’t enhance their application. For students who are genuinely interested in a college, the process of answering this question helps them assess whether the school is a good fit and enables them to write a meaningful response.
When responding to the “why our college” prompt, in addition to writing what they think admission officers want to read, most students tell admissions officers what they already know. They are aware that their college has a reputation for educational excellence. They know the low student-teacher ratio and the great internship opportunities. This is the kind of essay that sounds as if it were lifted from a school’s viewbook or website.
You need to use this essay to show that you and this school are a perfect match, and flattery is not the best way to do that. Telling a school that it is respected will get you no respect. Instead, think about your interests, strengths and goals, and look for how they mesh with those of the school. If one school’s mission statement talks about the importance of the life of the mind and another stresses its commitment to preparing students for the job market, you get a sense of the different approaches each college has to education. You may realize that one school is a much better fit for you. Taking the time to review course offerings in the catalog, and reading up on professors, research opportunities, and student organizations will help you make sure you are applying to schools that are truly good matches. Instead of trying too hard to win over admissions officers, you will be able to make a compelling case for admission.
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