The Why College Admissions Essay

Why College Essays, Why University Essays, The Why College Essay

Coach K is not a reason you should cite for wanting to attend Duke (photo credit: Adam Glantzman).

The Why College admissions essay matters a great deal as a student seeks to gain admission to a highly selective college. In the highly selective college admissions process, every single admissions essay matters but we’ve got some secrets to reveal to our loyal readers about the Why College essay in particular. The Why College essay is your opportunity to demonstrate to a college what you know about that institution, what you like about it, and how you’d benefit the university. It’s also your opportunity to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework, that if admitted you’d attend (this is obviously the case for Early Decision applicants but not the case for Early Action and Regular Decision applicants).

The vast majority of Why College essays of students read something like this: “I want to attend Duke because of its beautiful campus in Durham, North Carolina. I can’t wait to attend basketball games against UNC and sleep in tents within Krzyzewskiville. At Duke, I can pursue my interests in literature, history, and philosophy through their diverse liberal arts education. The low student to faculty ratio at Duke makes for an ideal learning environment. Duke is the school I most want to attend!” Oy vey, oy vey, oy vey. While you might giggle at how bad this excerpt from a Why College essay we’ve made up is, chances are high that your son or daughter’s Why College essay isn’t much better. It is extremely, extremely rare when we’ve read a good Why College essay (before we’ve had a chance to work on it). Actually, let’s take that one step further. We’ve never read a good Why College essay that we haven’t worked on. Ever.

So what’s wrong with the excerpt from the Why Duke essay? Well, the student fails to demonstrate that he or she knows anything about the university. The student knows the school is located in Durham, North Carolina. Great. He or she took the time to look at a map. The student knows UNC is the arch rival. Great. He or she has watched Dick Vitale on ESPN during March Madness. And the student knows about Krzyzewskiville. What incredible research the student has done! Not. Also, Duke is sensitive. They don’t want to think that you only want to go to Duke because they’ve got a great basketball program. You should want to go to Duke for other reasons — namely academic reasons.

In Why College essays, the game is all about specifics. Specifics, specifics, specifics. That “beautiful campus” and interest in “literature” isn’t exactly specific since it can be applied to any school in America! Even schools with hideous campuses like to think their campuses are stunning. Anyhow, if you’re concerned that your Why College essay isn’t so far off this terrible Duke essay excerpt and you haven’t yet submitted your application, email us today at for last minute advice on how to turn around that essay. Time is running out to get your college admissions essays in shape. The November 1st deadline is tomorrow! Why on earth did you wait until the last minute? But it is what it is. If you’ve got a terrible Why College admissions essay, you still might have a little bit of time to fix it (depending upon where in the world you live, Carmen Sandiego).


You are permitted to use (including the content of the Blog) for your personal, non-commercial use only. You must not copy, download, print, or otherwise distribute the content on our site without the prior written consent of Ivy Coach, Inc.


Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *