Answering Supplemental Essays: THE BIG WHY
Sept 8, 2016
One of the most-feared admissions essays is the archetypal “Why would you like to attend this college?” Upon first glance, answering this prompt looks easy. Since you’re applying to a particular college, you (hopefully) know why you’re drawn to the school. But truly, this prompt is a doozy in disguise. Why? Because it requires a ton of research.
Here’s a tip: colleges are just like people. They work hard, and they want to be celebrated. But not all compliments are equal—some are inherently more effective and flattering.
Consider the following scenario as an example. Let’s say our student, Daisy, is trying to convince her dad that her new boyfriend is totally awesome. Daisy tells her dad, “he’s nice, he’s talented, and he’s really smart!”
The problem? Daisy’s compliments are too general. How exactly is her boyfriend nice, funny, and smart? Here’s a better, more specific compliment: “He’s really nice because he volunteers at beach cleanups every month, and he always gives away his lunch to people who can’t afford food. He’s talented because he’s involved in a ton of different hobbies: he plays the cello, serves as captain of the water polo team, and performs slam poetry. He’s a total brain, too! He boasts a 3.8 GPA and is enrolled in four AP classes this year!”
When writing the “Why” essay, you should seek to be just as precise as Daisy. Here’s another scenario: say you’re passionate about child development, and would like to pursue this major during college. Instead of saying “NYU’s child development major will give the skills needed to excel in my future career,” revise your answer to target NYU, “taking classes such as Global Perspectives in Child and Adolescent Mental Health will allow me to better understand the effects of society and industrialization on children’s psyches.” Much better, right?
Do Your Research
Colleges love name dropping, and it impresses admissions officers when you mention specific aspects of the school that align with your interests. Spend some time perusing the school’s website––leave no link un-clicked and no webpage unexplored! You’ll undoubtedly find information that will improve your essay. Bonus points: this information will provide you with a valuable understanding of the college should you attend.
As you research, take note of specific opportunities that you’re interested in, and name drop these programs within your essay. Be sure to note how these prospects will help you develop your academic, professional, and personal interests. If you include these key points, it’ll be clear you’re serious about attending the college.
Express a Variety of Interests
When writing the “Why” essay, you’ll want to discuss different aspects of the college to not only show the admissions officers you’re interested in the school’s offerings, but that you’ll also explore a variety of passions in college. If you need some inspiration on what to discuss, check out the graphic below.
A good “Why” essay always discusses several aspects of this list. Remember, the key rule to writing a successful personal statement is showing a multiplicity of interests. Another golden principle is to note how you’ll use opportunities as a vehicle for future success. For example, how will studying abroad in Spain further your goal of becoming an international diplomat? How will the college’s emphasis on service and stewardship advance your goal of becoming the director of a non-profit?
If you follow these guidelines, you should end up with a shining gem of an essay!