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ApplicationEssayPreparing for College

College Essay Tips for Students: Writing the “Why” Essay

By October 29, 2014 No Comments

how-to-write-an-essay-2By Jessica Kirstein

Essay Editor at Galin Education

Crucial point: The why-this-college essay needs to show the university why you and the school are a good match. You don’t only want to say what you want to study and why, but why you want to study your chosen major at the school to which you are applying. The purpose of the why-this-college essay is not to describe what you want to study generally, or what you want to do with your life in the future, but to emphasize why you want to do it at the specific university you’re writing the essay for, and/or how the specific university will help you achieve your goals. Remember: there are many, many universities and colleges, and most of them will have some variant of what you want to study. Your essay should help clarify why, out of all the universities where you could study, you want to attend the specific place where you’re applying.

If you want to study history, for example, you could do so anywhere. In your why-this-college essay, you need to emphasize why you want to study history at the specific college. This means you must refer to specific aspects of the university to which you are applying, so that the school knows that you really are interested in it, and so that the school knows that you have good reasons for wanting to go there. For that reason, you need to mention the specific opportunities available to you at the school you’re applying to.

The college website/website of your major department is extremely helpful in writing the why essay because you can find all the information you need to write a good essay there. By including specific information about the college and the department that includes your major, you will show the college that you have put thought into where you want to go to school, and you will demonstrate that you believe that the college is the right place for you.

Questions that should be addressed in your why-this-college essay (Note: You don’t have to answer all of these questions in your essay, but you should, at the very least, mention two or three courses from the course catalog that interest you, and explain briefly why the courses interest you)…

  • What do you want to major in?
  • What courses in the department would you like to take?
  • Why are they interesting to you? How would they contribute to your future goals?
  • Are there any professors that you’d like to work with? Why do you want to work with them? How would working with you benefit you or help you achieve your academic or career goals?
  • Are there courses or programs in other areas of the university that you’d like to minor in or otherwise participate in? Why do they appeal to you?
  • What sort of special academic opportunities are available for students in your major or at the university? Some examples would be internship programs, study abroad programs, the ability for students to do research as undergraduates, etc. If you need to find information about the availability of such programs, check the college website and the website of the department where you think you might do your major.
  • How would you take advantage of these opportunities? How do they relate to your major, or what you want to do in the future?
  • Does the university itself have any special features (for example, small class sizes, liberal arts education, courses that all freshmen must take, no required courses, only one course at a time, etc.)? Why do these features appeal to you?
  • When writing about extracurricular activities, you should check out what sort of activities relate to your major or the career you think you’d like to pursue in the future. (Again, you can find descriptions of student organizations on the university website.) Why do these activities interest you? How would they contribute to your education or college experience? By all means, feel free to mention the school’s location, Greek life and sports teams, but mention a substantive extracurricular activity, too.
  • Sum up your essay by telling the university what makes it a good match for you. This is the purpose of the essay! Mention all the points you’ve addressed in the body of the essay: academics, special opportunities, extracurricular activities, location, etc. to show why the school is the place for you.