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Why X college? essays

  1. Jun 5, 2012 #1
    "Why X college?" essays


    I will be applying to college for entry in the fall of 2013. For many of the colleges I'm considering, there is a required "Why X college?" essay. I have no clue how to even begin answering this question. I can think of a few things, such as the kind of student body the college attracts, specific courses, flexibility within major, research opportunities, specific distribution requirements (say, Columbia's Core and then Brown and Amherst having no such requirements) and what I hope to achieve with the education I receive there.

    BUT...all of that stuff is very generic. Is it meant to be generic? I mean, the two CommonApp essays are enough for one to "play about" with... Is it just to check whether student has a clue about the school they're applying to, to gauge their level of interest? I understand that each college has different reasons for the questions on their supplement but this is one I've seen on that of many colleges' application form. (Why Vassar?, Why Reed?, Why Yale?, etc)

    I would appreciate any kind of help you may have on the subject.

    Further, how holistic is the process at the "top colleges"? I wonder if it's just a term they randomly throw about or whether it's actually true. I'll be applying to about 20 of them, largely due to my grades during the last two years of high school being average (and these colleges being the ones with most financial aid available to international students). I am confident I can do well on the SATs and I am involved in some interesting extra curricular activities ("wrote bestselling book" is not one of them, mind!) and I think my application can actually end up being competitive but they grades will really be holding me back. Now, I'm not asking anyone to whip their crystal balls out or anything. Rather, I am merely asking whether they have known of anyone who made it in while not having a stellar academic record? The answer won't change my decision to apply but even a vaguely positive response on that subject could give me some hope...
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 6, 2012 #2
    Re: "Why X college?" essays

    Here's what my old school says about the essay, and doing it right is VERY important.

    http://admission.gatech.edu/apply/freshman-application/essay [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Jun 6, 2012 #3
    Re: "Why X college?" essays

    Most colleges offer similar general information.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting them to hold my hand through it. I only wonder how one is supposed to "bring myself to life on paper" *and* "talk about what I'll bring to community" when answering the first prompt, "Why X college?", without sounding like an obnoxious prick or my essay ending up being very generic (see: OP).
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Jun 6, 2012 #4


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  6. Jun 6, 2012 #5
    Re: "Why X college?" essays

    Honestly, these days, going to X college should be first and foremost about the money. For an undergrad degree, it really doesn't matter where you go, just go to the one that will drag you down with the least amount of debt. Students who are motivated are going to do well no matter where they go, and many times it doesn't even matter where you went to undergrad for a grad degree as long as you are qualified to get in.
  7. Jun 6, 2012 #6
    Re: "Why X college?" essays

    Why do you want to go to that college? Honestly.
  8. Jun 6, 2012 #7


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    Re: "Why X college?" essays

    I don't know too much about the undergraduate process, but this kind of question is often asked for students looking at graduate programs (perhaps not always as an essay but as a verbal question). One of the big things that we look for in a response is that the candidates have done some research into the program and they know what they are getting into. People who have a good idea of where they are, how they got there and have a reasonble plan for the direction they want to go in their future tend to be more successful than those who simply float around.

    The "I just want to get in somewhere" attitude is often a flag because if a candidate does not have a sense of direction it's difficult to instill one in him or her. And when you have your choice among applicants, you generally don't want to go with the one who is sitting on the oxcart waiting for you to pull.

    I wouldn't worry too much about being generic. Often people's reasons for attending university are quite similar. But sometimes that's the point.

    When I shipped off to basic training I remember that first day with all of us green recruits sitting on a bus, a little nervous because we'd all heard the stories of what was coming. Someone made each of us stand up, make an introduction and state why we chose to spend our summer in the army. Most of us had similar reasons, but there was a value in doing that. Even though I could have guessed that we all had similar reasons for being there, it was nice to hear it.
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