If a college or university asks you a “why us” question, it wants to assess your level of commitment. It wants to find out if (1) you have researched the school and now know what it’s all about, (2) your actions demonstrate how consistent and dedicated you are, and (3) you are passionate about who you are and what you want to do. Why do these schools care about these points? Naturally, they want to know if you have what it takes to make the most of your college experience. So let’s look closely at how you can satisfy these schools’ curiosity.
Pick one specific moment in your life to frame your narrative. It should be a point in time when you thought, “Wow, I really want to do X when I grow up.” Share the anecdote and explain how this event shaped your decision to attend school X or study major Y. From that “a-ha” moment until now, what concrete steps have you taken to follow through with the decision you made about your chosen major, career, or school?
- Don’t rehash information found elsewhere in your application. For example, avoid listing all the courses you’ve taken, your standardized test scores, or all the extracurricular activities you’ve undertaken. Instead of drawing a list, focus on one specific life event or an interest you have spent considerable time pursuing.
- Focus on telling a story about how you decided what you want to do and how you intend to pursue your goals in college.
- Think hard about what you want admissions officers to see in you. What can’t they see by looking at your grades and test scores alone? Are you a deeply motivated person? Are your grades a bit lower than you wanted because you’ve spent a lot of time pursuing worthwhile side projects like volunteering or sports? If so, talk about these passions and how these activities support your future plans.
- For example, in “Building a Twenty Story Apartment Building—Kyle,” a successful college admissions essay published by Johns Hopkins University, Kyle talks about his internship at a construction engineering firm. He uses this experience as a springboard to discuss his interests in civil engineering and what he hopes to do in the future after acquiring the training and tools that only Johns Hopkins can offer him.
Research your school
Research your target school’s academic and extracurricular programs. Pay attention to its mission statement and any special programs it offers students. Choose two to three classes offered by the department whose major you want to study and explain why you want to take them and what you hope to gain from those classes. Also, choose two to three extracurricular activities you’d participate in and explain why.
- Double-check your facts. You don’t want your application thrown out because you said you wanted to study ballet at an engineering school!
- Instead of listing all the benefits the school can offer, make sure to show how your personal goals are aligned with what the school hopes to achieve (its mission), its philosophy, and its curriculum design. In other words, you want to show that you and the school are on the same page and that only this school can give you what you need to succeed.
- By taking the time to do your research, schools will be impressed by your motivation and will feel that you actually want to attend their school!
- For example, in “Dissonance—Leila,” another essay posted by Johns Hopkins, Leila eloquently shows how Hopkins would be an environment in which she would thrive. She likes to pursue many topics at once, so Hopkins’ lack of a fixed core curriculum would suit her well. Her statement convinced admissions officers that she would not become lost in a less structured academic setting.
Your essay must prove your commitment to the decisions you’ve made. Every part of your essay must show what you want and how you intend to achieve that goal. A brief outline of your essay would like this:
- Part 1: Start with a personal anecdote that led you to the “a-ha” moment (that moment when you knew what you wanted to do in the near future.)
- Part 2: Talk about the actions you took once you decided what future you wanted. Did you take up some new activity or devote more time to a particular task? Did you seek out avenues to learn more about this passion/goal? If so, what did you do?
- Part 3: Show how the school will help you achieve your goals. Research its courses, mission/vision, special programs, etc. Then explain how these aspects will benefit you and help you develop into the person you want to be. Also, show how this relationship between you and the school would be synergistic. What could you offer the school in return?
- Part 4: Brief conclusion. Summarize your goals and how you look forward to your next adventures in life at the school of your choice.
Be honest (if you don’t know what you want to do)
Even if you do not have a concrete plan regarding your future career or major, you can still elaborate on what you hope to achieve in college. Explain what measures you would take to explore and narrow down your major and potential career paths. Most importantly, explain how this particular college would be instrumental in helping you make one of the most important decisions of your life.
For additional tips on how to draft your college admissions essays, please feel free to check out our other articles!
We hope the above advice gives you a better understanding of how to approach one of the most common supplemental admissions essay topics. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!