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Essay Advice: Tips for "Why this school?" essay

digmediadigmedia Registered User Posts: 3,307 Senior Member
edited November 2011 in College Essays
Many of the supplemental essay prompts are some variety of "Why this school?" And it seems so hard to write. What do you say? What do you really know about the school? Unfortunately, so many times the final essay will go on about how awesome the school is, how great the faculty is, and how unbelievable certain programs are.

And that's so wrong.

Tip #1: The essay needs to be about YOU. The schools don't want to hear about themselves. They want to know why their school would be a good fit for YOU. What are YOU interested in and why would their school provide that for you?

Tip #2: You don't want to come across as blindly in love with the school. Never say things like "I've wanted to go the Great State since I was two years old." Or "Going to Great State would be the culmination of a lifetime dream." As a matter of fact, you want to be just a little aloof. You want to come across as: "I wondered if Great State would be a fit, so I investigated..."

Tip #3: (Pardon this crude analogy, but it really works here). Imagine that the school is a classmate of the opposite sex that you really would like to date. How would you approach that person? Would you walk up and say "You've been my dream date since I started thinking about girls/guys"....? Of course not. It would be a turn-off and you would come across as a little nutty and desperate. And you know desperate does not work. What would work is... "Hey, I love sci fi movies and I heard that you might also." A little cool and casual might win the day.

Tip #4: Don't laugh at Tip #3. It works.

Let's look at the following essay on "Why Stanford?" and analyze it:
Stanford was probably the sixth or seventh campus we visited. Each of the previous ones left me with the thought of, "Well, perhaps I could learn to love the place... maybe (gulp)." But when we visited Stanford and first left the car, I knew something was different. I found myself listening a little more closely and paying more attention to the tour. My parents even said that my body language seemed more relaxed when I was there. When I returned home, I immediately started my research to see if Stanford was indeed a fit.

I had an idea about my major. I have been interested in Earth Sciences since a 9th grade field trip we did to a prototype geothermal power plant. We learned how this power could be tapped for pollution-free production of electricity. I was hooked.

So I investigated the Earth Sciences program at Stanford and found that they nourished that wonder and awe about the earth and its systems. I watched several videos of guest speakers on climate change and renewable energy resources. I dipped into the websites for some of the research centers. I devoured the information about the various departments within the schools.

It all reaffirmed the belief that I may have found my home for the next four years.

Nowhere does it rave about how great Stanford is in general. Nowhere does it talk about prestige. The general tone was: "I felt at home, so I did my research to see if Stanford might POSSIBLY be a fit for ME. And it WAS!"

It was NOT love at first sight... not yet. But there was that air of possibility. Only after I got to know the place did it look like there was a match. Just like with a person... even if there is chemistry on the first date, you don't declare everlasting love. How much stronger will it seem if that declaration only comes after you get to know the person in depth?

Good luck!

---Robert Cronk, author of Concise Advice: Jump-Starting Your College Admissions Essays
Post edited by digmedia on

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