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November 21, 2014

How To Answer The “Why Do You Want To Go To This College?” Essay

Many schools (several of the Ivy Leagues, and many liberal arts colleges) have a supplemental essay that asks you to talk about you want to go to their school. They ask this question for a lot of reasons, but there are 2 big reasons, one cynical, one more warm and fuzzy.

The cynical reason is, bluntly, they want to accept students who will accept their offers of admissions. The higher the percent of students accepted that go there, the less they have to accept from the wait list, the lower their acceptance rate, and the better they look.

The other reason is less self-serving, and it's more about the students. Schools are not just looking to accept the best, the brightest, and most interesting, but also to find the students who are the best matches. They want students who will thrive on campus, not transfer out (which will hurt their rankings!), and who will contribute to campus life.

The moral is, these essays are important, so spend some time on them. If the school that you’re writing about is actually your safety, don’t let it show in your essay! Here are some tips to help:

Do research the school. It is important to show that you know a lot about the school. Look at the website, read their catalog, look at what college books say about it, talk to someone from your high school who went there, and visit if you can. The more little details you know, the more it will seem like you really want to go there (even if you don’t) and like you care.

Don't recycle the same essay for all the schools. I know it’s tempting---You’re busy and writing these essays is not a day on the beach. This essay, though, is all about showing how much you want to go to, and why you are a good match for, the SPECIFIC school. If you recycle, the essay will be broad and unspecific, and could end up hurting you.

Do talk about yourself. I can’t stress it enough: it’s an essay about why YOU will thrive at the college. They admissions committee already knows their school is great, what they want to know is why the school is great for you, and you for them. So, write about how you will contribute to campus life, how you can enrich the community, how you will take advantage of the college’s offerings, and how the college will help you to achieve your goals. If you visited the school, write about your personal reflections on the campus, students, and classes. Anecdotes and details are always the best approach. Show the admissions committee why you are the perfect match!

Don't bash other schools. Negativity is never good, and won’t impress anyone. In fact, it’s best to mention other schools at all. Be positive, and focus exclusively on why this school is so perfect for you. Leave the comparisons out.

Do talk about clubs, sports, curriculum, departments, professors, student body diversity, size, campus community, internships, study abroad, research opportunities, campus culture, class size, and location. There are more than enough specifics you can mention to fill this short essay!

Don't talk about parties, tailgates, easiness of professors, or hotness of the girls/guys on campus. Maybe those are factors in why you want to go to the school, but that will not impress anyone on the admissions committee!


  1. Good tips.. thanks!

  2. very helpful! thank you!

  3. Just want to say thanks for sharing some of these tips. They're so concise and straightforward. I'm a College Counselor in MA, and I'm sharing your blog with my students. Thanks!

  4. Agreed - especially the one about not recycling essays, though it definitely could be possible if the applicant is diligent enough.

  5. These are great tips, but I used them for an essay to get into a really high-tech high-school/academy. I'll probably be using them for college in a few years, as well. So thank you!

  6. My witch of a teacher is making us write this essay even though we are only in middle school. Thanks for the tips! However, I would like to know how I should start the essay.

  7. Thanks a lot for the tips. They really helped me.

  8. Thanks so very much for all the tips. I felt that your tips were mine. I was thinking same way but wasn't sure. One good think that I have learned from your tip that never bashes another college or institutions. I was thinking bashing other college is good and I am wrong. A bid thanks for your positive advice and good tips. Please keep the good work and add some essay sample. You are the best! Dhanno Bad!

  9. can you give examples of essays, I dont need tips

  10. These tips are amazing! Everything online says stuff that doesn't make any sense, but your blogged really helped!