The "Why Us?" Supplement
By now, many students have completed one or several drafts of their Common Application and UC application essays.
But for private schools, an equally important question often included as a writing supplement through the Common Application asks students why they are interested in a particular institution. Don't make the mistake of answering this prompt quickly or generally. Often, this response gives admissions staff a critical way of discerning your real interest in and knowledge about their school.
1) Look over notes or reflect on your impressions from your campus visit if you made one. What aspects of the school appealed to you most? Did you duck into a class, eat a meal in the cafeteria, chatwith a current student? What did you learn about the school that you didn’t know before?
2) Research the school’s academic and extra-curricular programs on its website to find specific examples of the features that attract you to it:
--Read the school’s mission/vision statement and see how it resonates with your ideas about your higher education.
--Browse through departments, programs and majors that interest you and note what the requirements for specific majors are. Jot down titles of classes that you would like to take.
--What are the college’s general education or distribution requirements—classes you’ll need to take outside your major. How are these courses organized? Are the requirements flexible? Or do all freshmen take some sort of common core in the humanities for instance?
--Jot down the extra-curricular activities you may want to join—including clubs, sports, community service opportunities, internships, undergraduate research.
--Are you interested in study abroad programs? What does this college offer?
--Describe the college’s academic and social atmosphere as it pertains to your learning goals or extra-curricular interests. (Does the college offer small seminars or large lectures? Themed housing? Off campus internships?)
3) Focus on two to three specific aspects of the school that are important to you. Give concrete, detailed examples. Write concisely.
1) Use the same response with only minimal editing for each college. There is no one-size-fits-all essay, even for colleges with similar profiles and curricula.
2) Describe the campus’s beautiful setting as one of its important attributes. Focus on academic programs primarily.
3) Use flattery or refer to the college’s prestige or rankings.
Drafting the “why us” question shouldn’t be too difficult or time-consuming, but do use the prompt as a way to reflect again on why you chose this particular school and to craft a thoughtful and unique response that reveals why the college is a good fit for you.