How to Answer “Why This College?” - Essay Samples

So you have to answer the essay question, “Why Do You Want to Go To This School?” Here are 3 essay samples.

Hi Everyone! Sorry I’ve been absent with my posts – I’ve been working with lots of students, but I also broke a bone in my foot and it waylaid me for a while (ouch). But I’m back! Here’s the final installment on “How To Answer Why This College.”

So you have to answer the essay question, “Why Do You Want to Go To This School?”

Here’s the good news (yup, there’s good news). This college essay doesn’t have to be a killer, if you know what schools are looking for and where to begin. (Part 1 and Part 2 — check them out.)

Now, take a look at some essays in action. Here are 3 essay samples; I tell you if they work or not, and why.

Example #1

“I like Bowdoin College because it’s close to the Canadian border.” Doesn’t Work.

Why: The student is telling the school what it already knows.  (“It’s close to the Canadian border.”)  Instead, tell the school why this piece of information is important, and how you’ll take advantage of it.

New Version: “I like Bowdoin’s proximity to Canada because my family is French Canadian. I’m excited about being close enough to learn more about my heritage and practice my language skills.” Works

Why: The answer is specific. This student clearly states why this school is a good match for her.

Example #2

“Your school really inspires me. The students were friendly and the campus is amazing. Plus, I like cold weather. I can really see myself going there.” Doesn’t Work

Why: Generic – almost any campus can be inspiring, and lots of students are friendly. It’s also impersonal – there’s no feeling the student connects with this school.

New Version: “I introduced myself to some of the students who were on their way to Dr. Gruber’s psych class. As we walked across the quad they told me how exciting his lectures were and how much they liked him as a teacher. My high school psych course really made me want to learn more about psychology, and if I’m admitted, the first class I’m signing up for is Dr. Gruber’s.” Works

Why: The student has made her answer personal. By referencing an instructor and a course that interests her, she’s able to give the school a clear picture of how she sees herself fitting in.

Example #3

“During the campus tour, my guide gave me a great inside view of the University. He told me about the school culture, and I knew this was the place for me.” Doesn’t Work

Why: 1. Vague. It doesn’t mean anything to say you have an “inside view” or that “this is the place for me.” You need specifics to back it up.

New Version: “After I got home, I remembered my tour guide played cello in the orchestra, so I shot him an email asking what it was like. He replied right away and told me he’d definitely recommend it, especially because of the great friendships he’d made. That’s the kind of experience and camaraderie I’m looking for.” Works

Why: Personal connection. This is an excellent revision. When the student realized his essay wasn’t specific enough, he remembered that his tour guide played in the orchestra, and that he had the guide’s email. So they chatted, and the end result was an essay that showed initiative, enthusiasm, and connection. The student understood why he wanted to go to this college.

Is Your Essay Specific Enough? Use this Test:

If 100 other students can say the same thing, it’s time to either dig deeper or start over. Your essay needs to be unique to you.


Every school wants to see two basic things: that you know something specific about what they offer and that you understand how you’ll fit in.

Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info.
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