On the surface it seems like an easy question. Many colleges try to differentiate among their applicants by asking them, “Why are you interested in attending our college?”
I knew we had a lot of work to do when I asked a senior that question and her response was, “I look good in blue!” A lot of students unfortunately underestimate the value of this essay and do themselves a disservice by not devoting sufficient time to understanding what colleges want to hear.
Why do colleges ask this question? They want students who have done their homework and can articulate why a college is a good fit for them. This question weeds out students who aren’t sure why the college made it to their list in the first place. It also encourages them to do further research.
This essay is a great opportunity for students to “share the love” and gush, within reason, about why they “know for certain” that they have been destined to attend this college since they were in diapers.
There is no need to be overly effusive. A thoughtful essay that truthfully describes what you are going to contribute to campus life and what you will get out of your education will do the trick. The emphasis here is on a two-way fit: Why is the college right for you? And why are you right for the college?
Here are some things to think about when answering this question:
• Brainstorm your personal fit –factors. List the items that are most important to you at any college you attend. Go beyond the social aspects of your experience (athletics, Greek life, etc.) and really try to think of what you’re looking for in the classroom, research opportunities, clubs, community service, etc.
• Research each college. Hopefully you’ve visited the college and can remember some specifics from your information session or tour that you thought really set this college apart from others.
• Visit the college website. Research majors, study abroad programs, internships, career placement, etc.
• Don’t tell them what they already know. Don’t parrot back what is on their website – rankings, location, how many majors they have, that their campus is beautiful, etc.
• Get personal. This essay, like any other essay, is an opportunity to share insights about who you are and who you will be as a student on their campus.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.