Published: September 20, 2015Category: Blog Written by Calli
Why do you want to attend our college? Many colleges ask applicants to write an essay answering a variation of this question. It may be tempting to jot off a quick response, but doing so is a mistake. These essays deserve your careful thought and attention.
Admissions committees don’t want to waste acceptances on applicants who aren’t likely to attend. So, they turn to these essays to sort out which applicants have thought through their reasons for applying and are most likely to attend and which ones are just tossing in an extra application to a college they know little about.
These essays are also an opportunity to let admissions learn more about your interests, goals and how you’ll contribute to campus. In other words, these questions are not just about why a particular college is a match for you, but also a chance to explain why you are a match for the college.
Here are five tips to help you write effective “Why this college?” types of essays:
Start with you. Begin by thinking about what you’re looking for in a college experience, and your reasons for seeking a college education. You may find it helpful to create a list of 3-5 characteristics that you hope to find in your future college.
Carefully read the essay question. Some colleges provide clues about what they want you to focus on in your essay. For example, Tufts University asks, “Which aspects of Tufts curriculum or undergraduate experience prompts your application?” By putting the word curriculum first, Tufts is signaling that they are most interested in hearing about your educational reasons for choosing Tufts. So, before you begin writing your essay, make sure you understand what the question is asking.
Keep it personal. Remember, this is a chance to show admissions why the college and you are a match made in heaven. There’s a big difference between saying, “I like University XYZ because it has a strong science program” and saying, “I’m very interested in animal behavior and hope to have a career as an animal researcher, so when I discovered that undergraduates can assist with research in XYZ’s Primate Research Center, XYZ became a top choice for me.”
Don’t tell admissions the obvious. The admissions committee already knows their college is highly ranked, has a beautiful campus, or is located in an exciting city. Your essay needs to get beyond the obvious reasons people apply to this college. Again, keep it personal and your essay will stand out.
Be specific. The devil is in the details. Generic statements about the college are not as convincing as specifics that show you’ve done your homework. Don’t just say, “I was impressed with your library when I visited.” Instead, take a moment to look up the name of the library and then explain exactly what it was that impressed you about it (beyond, of course, the coffee bar in the lobby.).
Here's the litmus test to know if your essay is specific enough: Try changing the name of the college in the essay. If you can drop in the name of a different college and the essay still makes perfect sense, it's a sign that you've written too generic an essay. Dig deeper and get more specific.
Finally, if you find yourself struggling with explaining why this school is a unique match for you, it may be time to sit down and consider whether this college or university is truly a good match. If, after additional research and thought, you still can't explain why you want to attend this particular college, you might want to think twice about applying.
Published: September 15, 2015Category: Blog Written by Calli
How can you know when a college is “good”? In assembling your final college list, look beyond the rankings to the characteristics that make each college right for you. What really determines the quality of a school is not how hard it is to get into but what that college does for its students.
One factor to look at is the retention rate. Are students returning after freshman year and do they finish their degrees? Students are more likely to stay and thrive at a college where they are actively engaged in learning and feel part of a community that supports their intellectual, social and emotional development.
A college that emphasizes teaching rather than research attracts professors who enjoy mentoring undergraduates. It’s a good sign when a school’s mission statement emphasizes a student-centered approach. Universities may tout their Nobel Prize winning professors, but that doesn’t mean much if undergraduates don’t have opportunities to study with them. Current students are a great source of information about professors, and you can ask them about their experiences when you visit a campus.
Advising is another important area where some colleges excel. Students who receive ongoing support as they explore majors and careers make better decisions. Advising doesn’t get much attention in the college search process, but it becomes very important once you’re in college. Ask if each student has an assigned advisor or whether students need to go to advising centers and see whomever is available. Also, how often do students meet with their advisors each semester, and are they required to discuss their course selections before registering for classes? Good advising helps students make smart curriculum choices and enables them to graduate in four years. For students who are planning to go on to law, medical or graduate school, try to meet the advisors who help students with these applications and ask how many students have recently applied and been accepted into these programs.
Starting college is a major life transition, and a strong first year experience is another indicator of quality in a college. While most colleges have a formal orientation program, a comprehensive first year experience that continues beyond the first weeks of school is desirable. These programs often provide peer mentors as well as seminars with professors who serve as academic advisors during freshman year.
Academic learning has more impact when paired with experiential learning. Colleges that have internships and service learning built into the curriculum provide a rich education that connects what you learn in class to the world. Students develop marketable skills that look great on resumes, and these experiences also enhance graduate and professional school applications. While many college websites mention internships, it’s helpful to know where students have done internships and whether they get support from a designated internship advisor or need to find internships on their own.
Some colleges require students to complete a senior capstone project before graduating, and that is an excellent way to synthesize what you’ve learned in your major, get research experience that prepares you for graduate school and connect your major with potential careers.
Tour guides rarely take families inside a college’s career center. But knowing that a school has a strong career services office that provides career exploration, resume and interview preparation, alumni mentor programs and on-campus recruiting, is just as important as seeing a well-equipped campus fitness facility.
Looking for these indicators of quality results is a more satisfying and productive college experience, so populate your list with “good” colleges.