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Top 4 Do’s and Don’ts of Writing the "Why Us?" Admission Essay

Explaining why you're applying to a certain college can be tough—how can you put it into words? Here are a few tips for this specific admission essay prompt.

As high school seniors are writing their college admission essays, they might get stumped by the “Why This College?” prompt. This supplemental topic is asking the very specific question of why you want to attend the college you’re applying to. Taking on this essay is a great way to demonstrate your genuine interest in a particular college. Here are some top do’s and don’ts to help you write a standout “Why Us?” essay for a better chance of admission.

1. Don’t reuse one essay for every college

Admission officers can always tell if you reuse material. For example, saying “I want to attend Harvard University because it’s a great school with a welcoming community where I can truly succeed” is much too vague. You could switch out Harvard for Duke University, Brown University, or any other college, which means you’re wasting your word count. Be more specific and find reasons why you want to attend a particular school. If you do reuse essay material, ensure that you proofread it several times before submitting your applications. Nothing is worse than an admission officer reading a “Why Us?” essay that mentions another school.

Connect me with Harvard! Connect me with Duke! Connect me with Brown!

2. Do share concrete reasons why you want to attend

You can’t just rely on your emotions to produce a great “Why Us?” essay. Saying that you’ve been dreaming of attending a certain university since you were five years old and you’re positive it’s the right place for you is a sweet sentiment, but it doesn’t show the admission officers how you would fit in and contribute to their campus community. Give them as much reason to believe that they’re the right fit for you as you are the right fit for them.

3. Don’t mention location, weather, size, or reputation

This is a trap many students fall into, and it usually doesn’t tell admission officers anything compelling about why they should admit you over another student. However, if you can come up with an impactful reason as to why the school’s location is important to you, then it may be okay to include. For example, if you want to study International Business and you’re writing a “Why New York University?” essay, it might be a good idea to mention that being in the middle of a vast international business hub only adds to your interest. But try to go a step further; you could specify one or two companies you might pursue internships with during your undergraduate years as well.

Connect me with NYU!

4. Do be specific about what they offer you and your goals

Vague and generic essays aren’t persuasive, so try mentioning specific classes, research opportunities, majors, activities, clubs, and traditions you want to participate in at your school of interest. If you want to become a journalist and the university is well known for journalism, make sure to not only mention that but also show why this program and school are right for you. Perhaps there’s a professor you want to work with, a club you want to join, a publication you want to contribute to, or a class you want to take. Mention anything that will show them you’ve done your homework to map out your potential future at their institution.

Related: How to Choose a College That's Right for You

While you’re writing your college admission essays, you can reuse general ideas, but you should also spend significant time researching each school you’re applying to. If you went on a college tour, mention something you learned to help personalize your essay. By showing what type of student you’ll be on their campus, the college can decide if you’re a good fit for them as well.

Don’t jump into the college essay process unprepared! We’ve got all the best advice to help you write your admission essays on CollegeXpress.

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About Lindsey Conger

Lindsey Conger

Lindsey Conger is a college counselor and tutor at Moon Prep.


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