Supplemental essays are an important part of your college application—they help admissions officers determine your fit for a school. The “why this college” prompt is one of the most widely-asked questions. Colleges ask this question because they want to know who you are, where your interests lie, how you’ll make use of resources, and ways you’ll contribute to campus.
These essay prompts require detailed research and thoughtful responses. Use these essays to demonstrate your understanding of how unique offerings at the school can support your interests and goals.
An important first step in answering the “why this college” essay is to read the prompt and determine what it is asking you for. Different schools frame the “why this college” prompt differently, so be sure you’re responding to each school’s question accurately. Take a look at some examples of “why this college” prompts below:
- Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests? (550 words)
- What about being a student at Boston University most excites you? (250 words)
- What factors encouraged your decision to apply to Barnard College, and why do you think the college would be a good match for you? (300 words)
As you can see, even though these questions are similar, each prompt is asking for something slightly different. Boston University, for instance, has kept their essay very open-ended by encouraging you to discuss what you’re passionate about at the college. When applying to schools that pose such questions, ask yourself what stands out the most to you about the school. You could be looking forward to a niche academic program or want to access a particular student organization or campus resource. Regardless of what you’re excited about, find ways to connect your interests to unique features of the college. Admissions readers want to know that you’re a good fit—and that your love for the school is genuine.
The University of Michigan asks for an essay that centers your academic goals and articulates how your college of choice within the university can help you reach them. For a prompt like this, it’s a good idea to conduct thorough departmental research. Look through the detailed requirements, courses, faculty, and resources available to students at the specific school within the university and see how they align with your interests. For instance, if during a campus tour, you met a particular faculty member that captured your attention, mention them in the essay and talk about why they stood out to you.
Note the length of the supplement—550 words is nearly as long as your personal statement. This is longer than typical supplemental essays. For essays with higher word limits, you’ll need to use the entire word count (or close to it) to go into detail about your background, experiences, goals, and how the department you’re applying to can best support you.
When answering Barnard’s prompt, you must articulate why you’d be a great fit for Barnard specifically, rather than women’s colleges in general. This is important to remember when you apply to a school that falls under a certain category—whether it’s a women’s institution, a block plan college, or a school with an open curriculum. Go through Barnard’s website, attend information sessions—you might even look at social media profiles for school programs and clubs. Seek out academic, extracurricular, and career opportunities that appeal to you. Make those the central points of your response.
During the research process, go beyond information that is easily available on the college website. You must show that you’ve dug deeper than just the homepage of your chosen academic department. Read course descriptions, faculty profiles, and seek out information about special programs students participate in. Campus visits really come in handy here—if you can write about your real-life impressions of a school or a department, that’s great! It’s also a great idea to watch admissions TikToks, student Instagram takeovers, and “day in the life” YouTube videos to get a sense of what daily student life is like.
Once you’ve conducted in-depth research, connect the school’s resources to your interests and make your essay personal. Remember that you’re presenting a picture of yourself, and that should help admissions officers picture you on campus.
Rather than writing generic statements that could be true for any school, focus on the uniqueness of the college and how specific qualities can support your interests and goals. Don’t just write about what you’re going to get out of the experience, but why it matters to you as well. How will the college help you grow? In what ways will you contribute?
Remember that specific details—about both you and the school—are key when it comes to a response that supports your application well. When writing these essays, focus on the unique relationship between you and the school you’re applying to. Hopefully, you’ll find yourself writing strong “why this college” essays for each school that asks for them.