Supplemental Essays 101: So… Why School X?

Welcome to the wonderful world of school-specific supplemental essays. Schools like to ask you about lots of things – how you fit into communities, what drives you on a personal level, etc. But one of their favorite questions is “Why do you want to come here, what do you want to do here, and what do we have to offer that will help you succeed?”

It may seem like a self-call, but schools don’t just ask this question because they like hearing nice things about themselves. They’re also not asking because they expect you to have everything figured out, from your fall semester courses to your post-grad job. Ultimately, they want to gauge your interest and see how you think.

So what should you write about when extolling their many virtues? That depends on you. When you visit, talk to people, and explore the website, what matters is what you find interesting and relevant. (If you’re planning on being a history major, there’s no need to talk about their groundbreaking new research labs in experimental math.) Read class descriptions, look at optional programs, follow all the links they provide for incoming freshmen… whatever you do, don’t limit yourself to the blurb on the front page of the website that 84% of applicants will quote.

As you investigate different schools, you’ll start to get a sense of what they have in common and what makes them unique. (Do this before you write any essays!) On first look, you might have been impressed by multiple libraries and a huge selection of majors… but most top schools offer those attributes. You don’t want to go to Harvard just because they offer a wide variety of psychology classes… you want to go because those classes are taught by leading researchers in the field whom you’ve seen guesting on The Colbert Report.

Once you’ve done your research, make smart connections between your goals and their offerings. You can do this no matter how clear or vague your plans are. If you’re completely undecided, maybe you reference a particularly strong advising program… if you’re completely decided, maybe you mention a specific research lab you want to join. Either way, you’re connecting your needs and wants to their solutions. Easy-peasy. (Not really, but you can do it!)

Don’t stress too much about these essays. It doesn’t matter if you rave about some less-than-unique offerings or a senior seminar that logistically, you’ll never get to take… just do enough digging to offer up some sincere thoughts on why you love School X – and then add as much passion as you can. We all like people who like us back!

 

By Katherine Kendig, Admissionado Senior Consultant

 

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