How to Write the “Why Computer Science?” Essay
- What is the Purpose of the “Why Computer Science?” Essay?
- Elements of a Good Computer Science Essay
- Computer Science Essay Example
- Where to Get Your Essay Edited
You will encounter many essay prompts as you start applying to schools, but if you are intent on majoring in computer science or a related field, you will come across the “Why Computer Science?” essay archetype. It’s important that you know the importance behind this prompt and what constitutes a good response in order to make your essay stand out.
For more information on writing essays, check out CollegeVine’s extensive essay guides that include everything from general tips, to essay examples, to essay breakdowns that will help you write the essays for over 100 schools.
What is the Purpose of the “Why Computer Science?” Essay?
Colleges ask you to write a “Why Computer Science?” essay so you may communicate your passion for computer science, and demonstrate how it aligns with your personal and professional goals. Admissions committees want to see that you have a deep interest and commitment to the field, and that you have a vision for how a degree in computer science will propel your future aspirations.
The essay provides an opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants. It’s your chance to showcase your understanding of the discipline, your experiences that sparked or deepened your interest in the field, and your ambitions for future study and career. You can detail how a computer science degree will equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to make a meaningful contribution in this rapidly evolving field.
A well-crafted “Why Computer Science?” essay not only convinces the admissions committee of your enthusiasm and commitment to computer science, but also provides a glimpse of your ability to think critically, solve problems, and communicate effectively—essential skills for a computer scientist.
The essay also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the specific computer science program at the college or university you are applying to. You can discuss how the program’s resources, faculty, curriculum, and culture align with your academic interests and career goals. A strong “Why Computer Science?” essay shows that you have done your research, and that you are applying to the program not just because you want to study computer science, but because you believe that this particular program is the best fit for you.
Elements of a Good Computer Science Essay
Explain “Why This Major?”
The “Why This Major?” essay is an opportunity for you to dig deep into your motivations and passions for studying Computer Science. It’s about sharing your ‘origin story’ of how your interest in Computer Science took root and blossomed. This part of your essay could recount an early experience with coding, a compelling Computer Science class you took, or a personal project that sparked your fascination.
What was the journey that led you to this major? Was it a particular incident, or did your interest evolve over time? Did you participate in related activities, like coding clubs, online courses, hackathons, or internships?
Importantly, this essay should also shed light on your future aspirations. How does your interest in Computer Science connect to your career goals? What kind of problems do you hope to solve with your degree?
The key for a strong “Why This Major?” essay is to make the reader understand your connection to the subject. This is done through explaining your fascination and love for computer science. What emotions do you feel when you are coding? How does it make you feel when you figure out the solution after hours of trying? What aspects of your personality shine when you are coding?
By addressing these questions, you can effectively demonstrate a deep, personal, and genuine connection with the major.
Emphasize “Why This College?”
The “Why This College?” component of the essay demonstrates your understanding of the specific university and its Computer Science program. This is where you show that you’ve done your homework about the college, and you know what resources it has to support your academic journey.
What unique opportunities does the university offer for Computer Science students? Are there particular courses, professors, research opportunities, or clubs that align with your interests? Perhaps there’s a study abroad program or an industry partnership that could give you a unique learning experience. Maybe the university has a particular teaching methodology that resonates with you.
Also, think about the larger university community. What aspects of the campus culture, community, location, or extracurricular opportunities enhance your interest in this college? Remember, this is not about general praises but about specific features that align with your goals. How will these resources and opportunities help you explore your interests further and achieve your career goals? How does the university’s vision and mission resonate with your own values and career aspirations?
It’s important when discussing the school’s resources that you always draw a connection between the opportunity and yourself. For example, don’t tell us you want to work with X professor because of their work pioneering regenerative AI. Go a step further and say because of your goal to develop AI surgeons for remote communities, learning how to strengthen AI feedback loops from X professor would bring you one step closer to achieving your dream.
By articulating your thoughts on these aspects, you demonstrate a strong alignment between the college and your academic goals, enhancing your appeal as a prospective student.
Demonstrate a Deep Understanding of Computer Science
As with a traditional “Why This Major?” essay, you must exhibit a deep and clear understanding of computer science. Discuss specific areas within the field that pique your interest and why. This could range from artificial intelligence to software development, or from data science to cybersecurity.
What’s important is to not just boast and say “I have a strong grasp on cybersecurity”, but instead use your knowledge to show your readers your passion: “After being bombarded with cyber attack after cyber attack, I explained to my grandparents the concept of end-to-end encryption and how phishing was not the same as a peaceful afternoon on a lake.”
Make it Fun!
Students make the mistake of thinking their college essays have to be serious and hyper-professional. While you don’t want to be throwing around slang and want to present yourself in a positive light, you shouldn’t feel like you’re not allowed to have fun with your essay. Let your personality shine and crack a few jokes.
You can, and should, also get creative with your essay. A great way to do this in a computer science essay is to incorporate lines of code or write the essay like you are writing out code.
Computer Science Essay Example
Now we will go over a real “Why Computer Science?” essay a student submitted and explore what the essay did well, and where there is room for improvement.
Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized.
I held my breath and hit RUN. Yes! A plump white cat jumped out and began to catch the falling pizzas. Although my Fat Cat project seems simple now, it was the beginning of an enthusiastic passion for computer science. Four years and thousands of hours of programming later, that passion has grown into an intense desire to explore how computer science can serve society. Every day, surrounded by technology that can recognize my face and recommend scarily-specific ads, I’m reminded of Uncle Ben’s advice to a young Spiderman: “with great power comes great responsibility”. Likewise, the need to ensure digital equality has skyrocketed with AI’s far-reaching presence in society; and I believe that digital fairness starts with equality in education.
The unique use of threads at the College of Computing perfectly matches my interests in AI and its potential use in education; the path of combined threads on Intelligence and People gives me the rare opportunity to delve deep into both areas. I’m particularly intrigued by the rich sets of both knowledge-based and data-driven intelligence courses, as I believe AI should not only show correlation of events, but also provide insight for why they occur.
In my four years as an enthusiastic online English tutor, I’ve worked hard to help students overcome both financial and technological obstacles in hopes of bringing quality education to people from diverse backgrounds. For this reason, I’m extremely excited by the many courses in the People thread that focus on education and human-centered technology. I’d love to explore how to integrate AI technology into the teaching process to make education more available, affordable, and effective for people everywhere. And with the innumerable opportunities that Georgia Tech has to offer, I know that I will be able to go further here than anywhere else.
What the Essay Did Well
This essay perfectly accomplishes the two key parts of a “Why Computer Science?” essay: answering “Why This Major?” and “Why This College?”. Not to mention, we get a lot of insight into this student and what they care about beyond computer science, and a fun hook at the beginning.
Starting with the “Why This Major?” aspect of the response, this essay demonstrates what got the student into computer science, why they are passionate about the subject, and what their goals are. They show us their introduction to the world of CS with an engaging hook: “I held my breath and hit RUN. Yes! A plump white cat jumped out and began to catch the falling pizzas.” We then see this is a core passion because they spent “Four years and thousands of hours,” coding.
The student shows us why they care about AI with the sentence, “Every day, surrounded by technology that can recognize my face and recommend scarily-specific ads,” which makes the topic personal by demonstrating their fear at AI’s capabilities. But, rather than let panic overwhelm them, the student calls upon Spiderman and tells us their goal of establishing digital equality through education. This provides a great basis for the rest of the essay, as it thoroughly explains the students motivations and goals, and demonstrates their appreciation for interdisciplinary topics.
Then, the essay shifts into answering “Why This College?”, which it does very well by honing in on a unique facet of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing: threads. This is a great example of how to provide depth to the school resources you mention. The student describes the two threads and not only why the combination is important to them, but how their previous experiences (i.e. online English tutor) correlate to the values of the thread: “For this reason, I’m extremely excited by the many courses in the People thread that focus on education and human-centered technology.”
What Could Be Improved
This essay does a good job covering the basics of the prompt, but it could be elevated with more nuance and detail. The biggest thing missing from this essay is a strong core to tie everything together. What do we mean by that? We want to see a common theme, anecdote, or motivation that is weaved throughout the entire essay to connect everything. Take the Spiderman quote for example. If this was expanded, it could have been the perfect core for this essay.
Underlying this student’s interest in AI is a passion for social justice, so they could have used the quote about power and responsibility to talk about existing injustices with AI and how once they have the power to create AI they will act responsibly and help affected communities. They are clearly passionate about equality of education, but there is a disconnect between education and AI that comes from a lack of detail. To strengthen the core of the essay, this student needs to include real-world examples of how AI is fostering inequities in education. This takes their essay from theoretical to practical.
Where to Get Your Essay Edited
Whether you’re a seasoned writer or a novice trying your hand at college application essays, the review and editing process is crucial. A fresh set of eyes can provide valuable insights into the clarity, coherence, and impact of your writing. Our free Peer Essay Review tool offers a unique platform to get your essay reviewed by another student. Peer reviews can often uncover gaps, provide new insights or enhance the clarity of your essay, making your arguments more compelling. The best part? You can return the favor by reviewing other students’ essays, which is a great way to hone your own writing and critical thinking skills.
For a more professional touch, consider getting your essay reviewed by a college admissions expert. CollegeVine advisors have years of experience helping students refine their writing and successfully apply to top-tier schools. They can provide specific advice on how to showcase your strengths, address any weaknesses, and generally present yourself in the best possible light.