As you complete your college essays (ideally you’ll do so this summer like our students), you’ve probably come across the supplemental essay prompt that asks you why you want to attend a certain college. It’s known as “The Why College Essay.” For instance, the question might read, “Please tell us more about your decision to apply to College X. Why does College X appeal to you as a college option? Who or what has influenced your decision to apply?”
If you’re like most students, maybe you’ll write something like this: “From the beautiful campus replete with friendly and intelligent students to the small classes that in many ways define the college, I am in love with College X. In fact, when I saw students tossing a Frisbee on the campus lawn, I couldn’t help but feel I was at home!” Oy vey! This is pretty bad. While at least the sentences are coherent (it could be worse), it says absolutely nothing. These sentences do not distinguish College X from College Y.
Students toss Frisbees at just about all colleges! Most admissions counselors probably think their campus is beautiful but making such a general statement is sure not going to get you in his/her favor. And small classes? Even some courses at a big school like the University of Michigan are small. How does writing small classes show an admissions counselor that you really love their school, you’ve done your homework on it, and, if accepted, you’d plan to go?
These are clearly sentences that the applicant used on all of their why college essays! And this is a bad, bad decision! Each college wants to feel special. Each college wants to feel unique. When you tell a boy that he’s a boy, that’s not going to make him jump up and down inside. When you tell a boy that he has tight abs, gorgeous hazel eyes, and great musical taste, he’s sure to take that a whole lot more to heart than if you were to tell him that he’s a boy — something he already knows. In the end, the why college essay is all about specifics! We can’t stress this enough. If you think your essay is specific, chances are it can be way more specific! And no, a great dining selection is not specific!