How to Write the Supplemental Essay “Why This College”?

Apart from grades, test scores, recommendation letters, and activity lists, prospective college-goers also need to write multiple essays as a part of the college application. While the Common Application requires a common essay (common app essay), many colleges include their own school-specific essays – supplemental college essays. In this post, we will discuss how to write a great supplemental essay for college admissionsparticularly the “why this college” essay prompt.

Supplemental Essays for College Admissions

Typically, when students (and parents) apply to undergraduate colleges in the US, they concentrate mostly on the Common App Essay. It is fair to say that the common app essay is the single most significant essay a student will have to write for their college applications.

But it is not the only critical; college essay that a young candidate will be required to complete.

Common App Essay vs Supplemental Essay

Supplemental essays are additional pieces of writing required by many highly selective universities, and they can be just as revealing and important as your personal statement. 

Unlike the Common App Essay, which is intended to assist admissions committees in understanding who you are and what you value, supplemental essays are assigned by each school in order to determine how you would fit in with their institution of higher learning.

Types of Supplemental Essays

  • The “why us” or “why this college” essay
  • Tell us more about an extracurricular
  • Design a class/a major
  • Tell us about your major
  • Diversity-in-community essay
  • Quick hits

Fortunately, certain extra essay prompts recur frequently, and I would like to share with you how to write the most common one: “Why us?”.

“Why this college” or “Why us?” is the first and most common supplemental question. Essentially, schools want to know why you want to attend their institution in particular.

Some strategies for writing a good “Why Us?” essay are as follows:

How to Write “Why This College” Supplemental Essay?

Start at the end and work your way backward

  • Consider what your main desire is—what or who you aim to become—and select a few specific things about each college you’re applying to, asking yourself how each of those characteristics will assist you in achieving your goals.
  • Instead of a generic list of attributes that the school meets for you, create a synopsis for each school you are considering.
  • For example, if you are interested in history, then you may include a nugget from the online campus walkthrough you were able to attend in the “Why this university?” essay.
  • You can include insights such as how the university’s architects focused on subtle elements or how certain places on campus are ones that you plan to spend time at.
  • These findings should be consistent with the facts and with your own research.
  • Furthermore, the school should be reputed for the program that you’re looking to highlight and for the quality that you would like to mention.

Extend your search outside the webpage and be specific

Avoid reiterating sections of the UPenn brochure such as the “About UPenn” section to the admissions committee, as they are well aware of why they are offering you such an excellent opportunity.

Discuss your interactions with the college you’re applying to—did you interact with and learn something from an ambassador, an admission official, a student, a professor, or another member of staff?

Need Personalized Advice?

Book a Consultation Session (30/60 Minutes) with Michael Wharton

Tell Admissions Officers Something They Don’t Already Know

When answering the “why this college” essay question, use specific details. It’s not enough to say, “I want to go to XX University because it’s a great school.” Or “XX College is my favorite.” Mention courses and professors of interest.

Students should elaborate on the campus organizations or programs that fit certain goals, and specific aspects of the campus community that make it a good social and academic fit.

Be as detailed as possible, but be sure to relate these details to specific goals and interests. Don’t just rattle off some course names and expect to wow the admissions committee.

Former Admission Officers at Columbia University and Boston College

Secondary / Online Engagement

For those of you who were unable to attend the official opportunities, did you conduct your own online research that put you in touch with some of the alumni or with other sources of reliable information such as your school guidance counsellor, alumni, or an independent education counsellor?

  • Perhaps, you attended a certain course or watched a certain faculty member teach online and you’ve aware that such an offering is famous on campus.
  • Is there a tradition followed at the college that you resonate with?
  • Someone from the college’s past who has inspired you through their work?
  • Or maybe a senior from high school has given you an authentic understanding of how great life would be at the university?

Other Alternatives if you’re still struggling with the supplemental essay

  • In case, you’re thinking that you have none of the above you should seriously consider doing some soul-searching and asking yourself whether you’re aware enough to study at the college in the first place.
  • If not then don’t fret; use the time in hand to build authentic relationships with schools, and take some help along the way so that it doesn’t become too overwhelming.
  • If you would like to learn more about how to write winning college supplemental essays, such as the “Diversity story” or the “Why this major?” essays then feel free to drop a message or book a session with me.

Pro-Tip Regarding Supplemental Essays

  • Keep an eye on the supplemental essays while creating your college list.
  • For example, the University of Chicago is known for its quirky essay prompts, which have required applicants to pick their brains on topics ranging from Olive Garden’s unlimited breadsticks to the potential academic design of an interstellar UChicago campus.
  • Other schools, like MIT and Caltech, require separate written supplements ranging in length from short answers to essays.
  • UC and UNC usually ask for 4 supplemental essays. While Wake Forest University asks for 6 supplemental essays.
  • So, as you can see, supplemental essays can take a lot of time. Hence, it’s critical to look at the supplemental essays for specific colleges before you put them on your bucket list.
  • If the essay prompts at a specific school are a big turnoff for you, ask yourself what they tell you about the school and do some more investigating to see if your gut feeling about it may be correct.

Need Personalized Advice?

Book a Consultation Session (30/60 Minutes) with Michael Wharton

Additional Resources on Supplemental Essays

How to Write Cornell Supplemental Essays 2021 – 2022

5 Stanford Intellectual Vitality Supplemental Essay Examples

How to Answer the “Why Yale” Essay Prompt?

Real Examples of Tufts Supplemental Essays

How to Write Brandeis Supplemental Essay

How to Write William & Mary Supplemental Essay

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