Many colleges and universities require you to compose an essay on why you wish to attend their school. If you are using Common Application, chances are you will have to submit a version of this essay as a writing supplement to one of the prompts required by the Common App. While it is a relatively generic and rather dull question, do not be lulled into delivering an equally generic and dull answer.
Refrain from offering superlatives without specific evidence to back up your praise. Imagine an admissions officer, at the end of a long day’s work, getting ready to digest his or her 37th “why this college?” answer of the day. Picking up your essay, the officer learns that you want to attend their school because it is “great” and “has a stellar reputation.” Yawns ensue. After being reminded for the 37th time today of their school’s U.S. News and World Report ranking, they take another sip of espresso and move on to the next file. At best, your essay plays to no role in the eventual admissions decision.
On the other hand, you could say that University X is “great” because Professor Anderson’s research on the human genome inspired you to study biology and you are impressed by the “stellar reputation” of their one-of-kind undergraduate research initiatives. You go on to lavish praise on their state-of-the-art laboratories that were completely revamped in 2009, with further renovations scheduled for 2014. In expressing your individual passion for biology, you paint a picture of how attending University X would tie in to your academic and career aims…Now, you have gotten the admission officer’s attention.
Remember, admissions officers want to see that you have done your homework on their institution and have demonstrated serious interest in actually attending their school. They also want to get to know you further through your essays in a way that cannot be communicated by transcripts and standardized test scores. Do not just go through the motions when explaining why you want to attend a school. Make sure your essay is personalized, passionate, and specifically tailored to each school to which you apply. If you can’t accomplish this is in a sincere way, you might want to rethink why a given school is even on your application list in the first place.