6 Effective “Why This College” Essay Examples

 

When working on your college essays, chances are that you’ll come across a “Why This College” essay. These school-specific essays are a way for colleges to get a better understanding of how you’ll take advantage of the academic resources the school offers, as well as what extracurriculars you plan to get involved in.

 

In this post, we’ll share 6 essay examples from real students. For the first essay, we’ll share the first draft, the initial comments, and the revised version. For the other 5 essays, we’ll simply share the final revision. Read these examples to understand how to write a strong “Why This College” essay.

 

“Why This College” Essay Example, First Draft

 

Prompt: In no more than 250 words, please tell us why BU is a good fit for you and what specifically has led you to apply for admission.

 

The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Boston University attracts me because of its liberal arts education around a wide array of majors, including biology, neuroscience, and psychology. In fact, the CAS now has a course that combines biology, chemistry, and neuroscience. I’m extremely interested in this course because it connects all three forms of science into one class, emphasizing the importance of the cross-disciplinary connections. I am particularly interested in CAS’s research program because it would allow me to work with a mentor on a project, an extremely meaningful experience and preparation since I have a strong interest in conducting medical research. I have already had a taste of research at the college level through my data analysis project on Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). My partner and I extracted data from fMRI and PET studies and inputted them into the coding program Matlab. We then created an indicator map that we imported into another software AFNI to display the significant activity of the brain regions affected by DID. Because I had not taken a computer science or coding class prior to this course, I initially struggled to keep up with the coding processes. However, successfully analyzing these fMRI and PET studies and learning to code drives me to want to conduct more research, and this desire motivates me to study in a research university. CAS and its research opportunities, therefore, would open doors and include firsthand experience in the career I want to pursue.

 

 

Thoughts on the Essay and How It Can Be Improved

 

The focus of this essay is on research, which is something that BU excels at, so the author made a good topic choice. For the response to really be exceptional, the author needs to highlight their own interests and motivations much sooner—and they need to go into more depth about why BU is the right place for them to pursue those interests. 

 

First, the author needs to more clearly show their deepest interests and motivations. After reading this essay, we understand that they want to conduct medical research. However, it’s not clear why they’re interested in medical research, or what particular problems they’’d like to solve through their research. This, in turn, means that it’s never quite clear why BU’s particular resources (their majors, cross-disciplinary courses, and research opportunities) fit them. To address this, there are a few steps they could take. One would be to just add in a few sentences throughout the essay that explain more about why they’re interested in medical research. 

 

An even stronger approach would be to incorporate a story or anecdote that shows why they’re drawn to this career path. The best way to do this might be to include an anecdote at the start of the essay to clearly establish their interests and motivations early on—then, they can refer back to this throughout the essay. This anecdote could be almost anything: a story about someone they love who suffered from mental health issues; something they read in the news; a medical experience; or even just something they observed in passing. The goal is to use a specific moment to really show what drives them.

 

One other thing for the author to keep in mind is that their research experience has lots of potential to show a lot about what drives them, but it’s currently underdeveloped. The main focus seems to be on reporting what they did and  explaining how they overcame the challenge of not knowing much about coding. While it’s valuable to report what they did, the latter may not be an effective point of focus in this essay. Instead, they should try to illustrate why this research was meaningful and include details that show their passion and enthusiasm. Were they entranced by the process of turning data into meaningful insights? Did they love knowing that they were working on something that could help others? To use their story of research to illustrate their interests and motivations, the author should consider “flipping” the order of their essay and starting by describing their research—and then explaining how they can continue to explore these interests at BU.

 

Finally, they should elaborate more on BU’s resources. Right now, almost half of the essay is focused on their past experiences. This essay is ultimately about the future and what they want to do about BU. To address this, the author should add in more details about the kind of research they want to do at BU. What topics do they want to explore? What makes BU’s facilities ideal for this kind of research? Is there a particular person they hope to work with? 

 

Overall, the author should spend more time explaining what interests them and why. To do this, they should consider either adding an anecdote or story at the start of the essay to really show what drives them or moving the story of their research to the start of the essay to serve this same purpose. Then, focus on elaborating on BU’s resources and how they fit into their specific, personal motivation and interests.

 

The Revised Essay, Final Draft

Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) attracts me because of its support of interdisciplinary study among its wide array of majors. In fact, the CAS now offers a course that combines biology, chemistry, and neuroscience. As I hope to conduct medical research into brain disorders, I plan to pursue all three areas of study. These cross-disciplinary connections at BU will prepare me to do so.

 

CAS’s undergraduate research program would allow me to work with a mentor, such as Dr. Alice Cronin-Golomb or Dr. Robert M.G. Reinhart related to their research on neurological disorders. With them, I can advance the work I have already completed related to Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). In a summer class at our local university, my partner and I extracted data from fMRI and PET studies and inputted them into a coding program. We then created an indicator map, which we imported into another software program, AFNI, to display significant activity in the brain regions affected by DID. Seeing the representation of our data thrilled me because I knew it could eventually help people who live with DID. I want to experience that feeling again. Successfully analyzing these fMRI and PET studies and learning to code drives me to pursue more research opportunities, and this desire motivates me to study at a university that offers research opportunities to undergraduates. BU’s interdisciplinary approach to psychology and support for independent undergraduate research will optimally prepare me for a career as a neurological researcher.

 

More “Why This College” Essay Examples

 

Essay 2: Boston University

Prompt: In no more than 250 words, please tell us why BU is a good fit for you and what specifically has led you to apply for admission. 

 

I am fascinated by research, though completely uninterested in the disciplines traditionally associated with it, such as STEM fields. I need to find a school that will balance my desire to conduct research with my interest in political science. 

 

While many schools boast in-depth student research programs for those looking to cure diseases or develop solutions to global warming, few tout their support for humanities research. Additionally, many universities that do allocate funding to social science research typically reserve these monies for graduate students or upperclassmen. BU, with the help of its Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, will allow me to conduct research on the topics that most intrigue me, such as gender disparity in politics, or the relationship between dominant parties in power and the country’s economy and involvement in foreign affairs. Furthermore, I can begin these studies as early as my first year. Not only can I take classes with professors like Sandra McEvoy or Dino Christenson to develop my interests in a classroom setting, but I could also work with one of them to develop new knowledge in the topics that we both enjoy learning about. With this knowledge base and experience conducting studies with top professors in a respected research institution, I will be well-prepared for my future law career. I want to learn in an environment that encourages independent study no matter one’s field of interest or experience, and BU’s support of intellectual curiosity for all of its students makes it a perfect fit for me.

 

Essay 3: Tufts

Prompt: Why Tufts? (100 words) 

 

When Deanne, Tufts’ admissions counselor, visited my school, she immediately caught my attention by emphasizing Tufts’ diverse yet unified campus. Tufts’ inclusive definition of diversity goes beyond merely recruiting students from a variety of backgrounds. Tufts seeks to integrate these categories of diversity and pushes its students to learn from one another. One such intersectional program that attracts me is CAFE (Conversation, Action, Faith, and Education). By joining CAFE, a community that promotes interfaith education, I will learn from my peers, become more understanding of other religious backgrounds, and apply this broader understanding to my academic work at Tufts.

 

Essay 4: Tufts

Prompt: Why Tufts? (100 words)

 

Someday I hope to conduct medical research in developing countries; Tufts attracts me because of its wide array of majors it offers and support for undergraduate research. To understand the human brain, I hope to study biology, neuroscience, and psychology. In addition to outstanding faculty in each of these areas, Tufts also organizes initiatives including the International Research Program. Through this program, I would work with other students and faculty members on an international project related to brain diseases. This opportunity will give me a taste of my future career and help me narrow the scope of my later studies.

Essay 5: UPenn

Prompt: How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying (650 words).

 

Sister Simone Roach, a theorist of nursing ethics, said, “caring is the human mode of being.” I have long been inspired by Sister Roach’s Five C’s of Caring: commitment, conscience, competence, compassion, and confidence. Penn both embraces and fosters these values through a rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum and unmatched access to service and volunteer opportunities.

 

COMMITMENT. Reading through the activities that Penn Quakers devote their time to (in addition to academics!) felt like drinking from a firehose in the best possible way. As a prospective nursing student with interests outside of my major, I value this level of flexibility. I plan to leverage Penn’s liberal arts curriculum to gain an in-depth understanding of the challenges LGBT people face, especially regarding healthcare access. Through courses like “Interactional Processes with LGBT Individuals” and volunteering at the Mazzoni Center for outreach, I hope to learn how to better support the Penn LGBT community as well as my family and friends, including my cousin, who came out as trans last year.

 

CONSCIENCE. As one of the first people in my family to attend a four-year university, I wanted a school that promoted a sense of moral responsibility among its students. At Penn, professors challenge their students to question and recreate their own set of morals by sparking thought- provoking, open-minded discussions. I can imagine myself advocating for universal healthcare in courses such as “Health Care Reform & Future of American Health System” and debating its merits with my peers. Studying in an environment where students confidently voice their opinions – conservative or liberal – will push me to question and strengthen my value system.

 

COMPETENCE. Two aspects that drew my attention to Penn’s BSN program were its high-quality research opportunities and hands-on nursing projects. Through its Office of Nursing Research, Penn connects students to faculty members who share similar research interests. As I volunteered at a nursing home in high school, I hope to work with Dr. Carthon to improve the quality of care for senior citizens. Seniors, especially minorities, face serious barriers to healthcare that I want to resolve. Additionally, Penn’s unique use of simulations to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world application impressed me. Using computerized manikins that mimic human responses, classes in Penn’s nursing program allow students to apply their emergency medical skills in a mass casualty simulation and monitor their actions afterward through a video system. Participating in this activity will help me identify my strengths and areas for improvement regarding crisis management and medical care in a controlled yet realistic setting. Research opportunities and simulations will develop my skills even before I interact with patients.

 

COMPASSION. I value giving back through community service, and I have a particular interest in Penn’s Community Champions and Nursing Students For Sexual & Reproductive Health (NSRH). As a four-year volunteer health educator, I hope to continue this work as a Community Champions member. I am excited to collaborate with medical students to teach fourth and fifth graders in the city about cardiology or lead a chair dance class for the elders at the LIFE Center. Furthermore, as a feminist who firmly believes in women’s abortion rights, I’d like to join NSRH in order to advocate for women’s health on campus. At Penn, I can work with like-minded people to make a meaningful difference.

 

CONFIDENCE. All of the Quakers that I have met possess one defining trait: confidence. Each student summarized their experiences at Penn as challenging but fulfilling. Although I expect my coursework to push me, from my conversations with current Quakers I know it will help me to be far more effective in my career.

 

 

The Five C’s of Caring are important heuristics for nursing, but they also provide insight into how I want to approach my time in college. I am eager to engage with these principles both as a nurse and as a Penn Quaker, and I can’t wait to start.

 

Essay 6: UPenn

Prompt: How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying (650 words). 

 

Throughout high school, my teachers and mentors constantly encouraged me to be “well-rounded.” The problem was, that didn’t seem possible. In order to take AP Bio – the only AP science class offered – I had to forfeit my opportunity to take classes in the humanities that were scheduled for the same time. As an aspiring doctor, I knew it was necessary for me to understand the scientific basis of my field. However, I also wanted to develop my interests in art and culture. I never had the chance to diversify my abilities because my small school only offered limited courses and conventional activities like track, orchestra, and National Honor Society. I want to participate in activities that go beyond my academic goals. Studying at the University of Pennsylvania will broaden my horizons and help me to improve in other areas of my life so that I can show my future patients how to live a balanced lifestyle. 

 

When I visited UPenn two years ago, an enthusiastic sophomore lit up as she told me about the endless variety of clubs we could pursue. I’m a firm believer in the idea that almost any experience can be useful to practicing medicine, no matter how unusual. Some of these connections are more obvious; mastering the cello and participating in an orchestra contribute to attentiveness by working parts of the brain that aren’t utilized in other subjects. On the other hand, I believe learning to relax and achieve balance is critical to success in life. I would love to get involved with the Cheese Appreciation Society, the Kickboxing Club, or the Netflix Addict Club. These clubs may seem to lack academic merit, but they can still contribute to my development as a student outside the classroom. In the Kickboxing Club, I can gain a first-hand appreciation for relieving stress through physical activity. The Cheese Appreciation Society and Netflix Addict Club can both teach me how to indulge every now and then – in moderation, of course. Furthermore, as a doctor, it is critical to be able to connect with people. By pursuing exciting and non-academic clubs and organizations, I can develop hobbies and interests that I may share with future patients. 

 

In addition to clubs, another way to pursue well-roundedness is UPenn’s unparalleled research and internship opportunities. In high school, science students did not often participate in humanities-based pursuits. However, UPenn offers the unusual opportunity of pursuing both areas simultaneously. I hope to use my scientific and medical knowledge at internships that center on arts and humanities in order to better understand the context of medicine in our society. Many of the internships I could pursue while at UPenn engage with Philadelphia’s culture, including positions with museums and community centers. For example, I could intern at the Science History Institute in order to immerse myself in Philadelphia’s history and to learn about the background of my primary field of study. My understanding of the history of science and medicine will help me to better be able to understand my patients as individuals with backgrounds and concerns of their own. Additionally, through the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, I can undertake my own research project regarding the intersections of humanities and medicine. Although an internship at a museum or a research study in the arts may not initially seem beneficial to a career in medicine, they most certainly can be. 

 

UPenn is a huge step up from my conventional high school experience because of all the different opportunities offered, each of which would contribute to my professional aspirations in its own unique way. The high level of intellect and creativity required to succeed at UPenn would prepare me to face challenges and problem-solve as a doctor. I can see it already: I step onto campus for the first time as a student, smiling in anticipation and ready to begin this journey.

 

←How to Research a School for the “Why This College” Essay

 

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Short Bio
Asia is a graduate of Tulane University where she studied English and Public Health. She's held multiple writing positions and has experience writing about everything from furniture to higher education to nutrition and exercise.

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