Tips for Parents

“Why This College” Application Essay Question Analysis

by Dr. Jon Reider, Former Senior Associate Director of Admissions, Stanford University and Kit Muller, Former Admissions Counselor, Harvard University

“Why do you want to attend this college?”

This question, like all the others, is about you. It is a continuation of the task of the main essay (and the whole application, really): to make yourself sound interesting to the admissions evaluator. The college is an academic institution, first and foremost. What they are looking for is what you want to do intellectually, and why you want to do it at their college. So, you need to research either by visiting the college or online: what kinds of courses they offer, how their curriculum is unique, whether you can do research as a student, what their professors are like, what subjects are needed for general education or core requirements, etc. Then write about how you will use their intellectual resources.

You don’t need to know what you want to major in to answer this question. The college wants you to show that you appreciate them for what they offer you, whether it is one overriding interest of yours, or a whole spectrum of subjects.

Answering this question by talking about the physical or demographic aspects of the college will result in a bland and uninformative essay. Colleges are not that different from each other in general, and writing about size, location, dorms, sports, or even the wonderful library will not make much of an impression. If there is something that attracts you like their nationally-ranked water polo program, it’s fine to mention that, just don’t make it the only reason for wanting to attend.

What is most relevant is the way in which you will fit at this college because of your intellectual curiosity. What is not relevant is the college’s proximity to your dream city, the Mexican border, or the cute girls at the neighboring college. Don’t be a dork when you answer this question!

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