How to answer the “Why Us?” Admission Essay Question

Many colleges ask the question, “Why us?” as part of the college admission process. The question is asked differently by the colleges, but the idea behind the question is always the same: why us?

Here are a few examples of “why us?” essays:

  • Columbia University: “Please tell us what you value most about Columbia and why.”
  • University of Notre Dame: “What excites you about the University of Notre Dame that makes it stand out from other institutions?”
  • University of Pennsylvania: “How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania?”

Colleges are asking “why us” because they are trying to learn how serious students are about their college. Admission officers are looking for serious interest in the institution and a passion for wanting to attend. Therefore, students must do their research about each college and be very specific about why they want to attend the institution.

Tips for the “Why us?” essays:

  • Recycling college admissions essays is common. However, students must proofread to ensure it is specific to the college. Do not send an essay that says, “I want to attend ‘X’ university” when applying to ‘Y’ university.
  • Check the facts. Do not use the wrong information when talking about a university. If mentioning city, state, professor name, team colors, etc., make sure the correct information is included.
  • Do not regurgitate information that is listed on the website or publications. The average class size, for example, may be great, but many other colleges have the same statistics. If the fact is important, students should explain why it is important to them.
  • The main reason for attending a college should not be location, prestige, size or weather. Do not list these reasons in the essay because they can apply to many other colleges. This information should only be included if it is supporting other reasons listed in the essay.
  • Read each sentence of the essay and see if it could apply to another college. If it can be for another college, it might not be specific enough for the “why us” essay.
  • The “Why us?” essay is the perfect time to use names. If you have met professors or learned about a specific student organization, share this information. If there is something specific that is drawing the you to the university, share it in the essay.
  • Although many of the essay prompts do not ask this, students can also include what they will contribute to the college campus. Colleges want to admit students who will be active on campus.

You must research the programs, resources and activities of interest at the college before submitting your essay. Writing “I want to attend ‘X’ University because it feels right,” is not enough. Instead, you should go into detail about the unique offerings the college offers and why it would be beneficial for you. If you have visited the campus, use this in your essay.

If you are having a hard time writing specific reasons why you want to attend a college, it might suggest the college is not the best fit for you. Alternatively, it might suggest you need to dedicate more time to researching the college to learn about the unique opportunities the college offers. The “Why Us” essay shows the admission committee your interest, so make it sounds like you are interested in the college.

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