“Why do you want to attend this school?” Tips On How To Answer The Toughest Application Question

Maybe your favorite part of a college is its campus — but you can’t very well write a whole essay on that, can you?

It’s the one supplemental essay question you’ll find on nearly every college application: “Why do you want to attend this school?” Though the question is simple enough, for many high school students, it can prove the most challenging to answer. Most college counselors will tell you to choose an answer that differentiates yourself from other applicants, but it’s hard to balance writing an essay that offers original reasons for liking a school while staying true to your personal voice.

To help out, I’ve compiled the top tips for writing a killer response to the toughest application question.

Make a list of what you like about the college or university.

First and foremost, it’s important to get your thoughts down on paper. Jot down a list of all the reasons you like the school, from the biggest (maybe the school has a renowned degree program that interests you) to the smallest (delicious cookies in the dining hall, or great school colors). It won’t be necessary for you to include every item on your list in your essay, but you’d be surprised how simply writing down your thoughts can help you write a more authentic and comprehensive response.

Get specific about academics and extracurriculars.

This essay question is your chance to show that you’ve done some serious research on the school (on that note: if you haven’t already, you should take some time to research the school!). So, don’t just write that you admire their Global Politics program — explain why you admire the professors in the program, that you’re excited to study abroad with your classmates, and that you’re intrigued by the required undergraduate thesis. In addition to academics, show that you’re excited by specific extracurricular or sport programs that the school may offer; remember, most schools are searching for well-rounded candidates, so they’ll be expecting future students to have interests outside the classroom. For example, many schools have excellent service programs that encourage students to volunteer in the local community, or Emergency Medical Technician training classes that allow students to work as medical responders on campus. If these types of programs interest you, great: include your thoughts, in detail, in your essay.

Show them why you’ll fit.

It’s important to remember that these questions are designed to give admission officers a better idea of who you are — so, consider why you think you’d fit well with the college’s approach to academics and student life. For example: instead of writing that you’re a hard worker, explain that you would thrive in the school’s small, discussion-based class setting. Remember though, “fitting in” doesn’t mean you can’t break the status quo. Explain how your own, unique background and interests would help diversify classroom discussions and campus life.

Be real.

No matter what, write in a way that is true to yourself. You don’t need to scour the thesaurus to show admission officers you’re smart, or write about aspects of the school that you don’t find compelling. Write a response that is true to how you feel about the college, no matter how “cliche” it may seem. If you’re honest and articulate, your essay will come across as unique.