Latest7 Tips for a Great “Why This School?” Application Essay

7 Tips for a Great “Why This School?” Application Essay

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“Dear Student, why do you want to attend our school?” – Application essay guru, Sharon Epstein talks us through how to answer this question.

This is an important essay; you have to give it time and thought. Why? Because schools want to know that you understand why they’re special and how you’ll fit in. Your mission is to tell them.

Tip #1 – What is your goal?

Show that you understand what makes this college special and why it’s a good fit for you.

Be specific. Use details and examples. The more specific you are, the more successful your essay will be.

Tip #2 – What schools want to know

Schools want to know that you ‘get them’.

That means that you understand what makes them different from other schools. Think about academic philosophy, courses, traditions, and student life.

Schools want to know how you’ll fit in. Colleges aren’t admitting a bunch of test scores and grades, they are choosing members of their campus community. Think about how you’ll contribute and how you’ll take advantage of what they have to offer. Tell them why their school matters to you.

Tip #3 – Get excited!

Enthusiasm is contagious. So even if this school isn’t your first choice, find out what they offer that matches your interests and get excited about going.

Read the website thoroughly (not just the homepage). Watch videos, connect on Facebook and get regular updates in your newsfeed. Pay attention when you visit and, when something interests you, ask questions.

Visualize yourself as a freshman on campus: What classes are you taking? Why do you love being there? How are you contributing to the campus community? Why are you a good match? Write about it.

Tip #4 – If you’ve talked to people, say so

Whether it’s a tour guide, admissions counsellor, coach, professor, or alumni, making personal connections shows initiative and enthusiasm.

Mention what you learned from the people you’ve spoken to and be specific about how it applies to you. For example, it’s too general to say, “my tour guide was totally excited about the classes he was taking”. Instead, say what your own experience will be like: “My tour guide told me how accessible all of my biology professors will be and I’ll take advantage of that.”

Student writing an application essay

Tip #5 – Avoid these two big mistakes

Don’t write vague answers, such as “Your school really inspires me…”, “I like cold weather…”, “The campus is amazing.” Anyone can write that. Remember, you’re trying to stand out from the pack.

Don’t tell schools what they already know. For example, don’t say, “I’m looking forward to going to your school because it’s a prestigious university in the middle of an urban environment”. The school knows that.

Instead, tell them why that matters to you: “Your school inspires me, because it challenges students in an insightful and meaningful way, and because, even in the middle of a big city, it’s one of the warmest and most thoughtful campuses I have ever visited.”

Tip #6 – Don’t be a lightweight

While it’s okay to mention after-school activities and dorm life, these shouldn’t be your main focus.

Make sure to include courses, instructors, academic opportunities or educational philosophy in your answer.

Tip #7 – Don’t use the same essay for different schools

This shouldn’t be a ‘fill in the blank’ essay where you plug in the name of a dorm or professor. The schools will catch that.

Discover what excites you and write about it. That way you’ll have a great “Why this school?” essay.

Why this school essay - college applications help

Sharon Epstein is a college consultant in Redding, Connecticut, specializing in college essay writing and interview skills. Her business is First Impressions College Consulting and she blogs about college admissions at

Follow Sharon on Twitter or Pinterest for more great advice

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