Why Them?

The most common supplemental essay topic is some version of “why us?” The “why us?” question may be worded slightly differently by different schools. Here are some examples: “Why is our college a good fit for you?” “Why did you decide to apply to our college?” “Why are you a great candidate for our college?”

Students often struggle with the “why us?” question because what comes to mind first are things the admissions officers already know, such as:

  • Your campus is beautiful

  • It’s located in the great city of (name of city here)

  • Your school is prestigious and highly ranked

  • Your school has great sports teams and I’m a fan

  • You have a great reputation

  • Your school has my major (unless it's an unusual major that few schools offer)

  • I can study abroad (unless there's something unique about their program)

What will lead to a good “why us” essay is research. Learn as much as you can about the college you’re writing about. How?:

  • Visit the campus

  • Set up an alumni interview

  • Attend a College Fair in which the school is participating

  • Attend the presentation given by a rep visiting your school

  • Dive into the school’s website:

  • dig deep into the course catalog to find courses that might interest you

  • read the mission statement and find words and thoughts that speak to you

  • read about traditions at the school that might give you a sense of the personality of the campus

  • read about clubs and activities that might be good matches for you

  • read about advisement and career counseling

  • Visit the school's social media sites

  • Check Niche or other student review sites to see what students are saying

  • Talk to students from your school who are now attending the college

  • Do a Google News search on the college to see what’s going on there right now that could be important to you.

You won’t be able to do all of these things but everyone can do some of them. Once you’ve done the leg work start reviewing your notes and ask yourself: What makes me smile? What gets me jazzed? What makes me feel that this school is the right fit for me? Include in your essay elements of your research that truly stand out for you. You can even throw in the fact that they have the best ice cream anywhere, but mostly, be concrete and thoughtful. Construct your essay so that it answers the prompt. If they want to know specifically why them, give them the reasons. If they also want to know what you will bring, match up their strengths with your own. For instance, if they care about community involvement, talk about your own commitment in that area. Get right to the point and be specific. No preambles about your hopes and dreams as a little kid or your desire to move to a new city to escape the mundane world you live in. The more specific you are, the more likely readers will be to believe you’ve given critical thought to this decision. For instance:

  • Discuss how important you feel hands-on internships are, and that you’re glad the business program offers them.

  • Talk about how you appreciate that peer tutoring is free and available on a convenient schedule.

  • If themed dorms are provided, mention how you can’t wait to live with other rock climbers.

Now, go forth, research, write, and let them know “why them.”

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