How to Write a "Why Us" Essay for a School You're Not Super Excited About

It’s “Why us” essay time and (apparently) I have a lot to say about what does and doesn’t work.

If Claremont-McKenna (CMC) is your top choice, it’s easy to sound like it. You simply gush about all the reasons why you love it, trim it to 200 words, and you’re done, right?

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But what if you’re writing a “Why us” statement for a school that isn’t your top choice? How do you get excited about a school?

Tip #1: Do your research and get excited about the school!

Finding a school that “fits” you is an active process, not a passive one. That’s one reason I appreciate and am an advocate for the “Why us” essay--you get to (read: have to) research and find out if the school you’re pledging your allegiance to is actually one that you want to pledge your allegiance to. So get researching! (For research resources go here.)

If, once you’ve researched for a while, you’re still not super excited about the school you’re writing the essay for, ask yourself: do I even want to apply here? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you need some new schools to get excited about. (For resources on finding schools go here.)

But what if you’re set on applying to a school but you’re just not, I don’t know, feeling it?

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Try this:

TIP #2: Write your “Why Us” statement for a school you are actually excited about... then switch out the variables.

Okay, for any “Why us” statement to work, you need specifics--and not just about the school--about what you’re interested in doing while attending the school. For example :

I’m eager to become involved in UChicago’s Urban Health Initiative as I’m committed to both increasing health care access and nurturing strong patient-physician relationships. And in the same way that researchers at Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab have drastically changed cancer treatment through nanomaterials and particle physics, I hope to play a part in revolutionizing cancer treatment by looking at its causes.

Crazy specific? Yeah.

But watch this:

I am also eager to become involved in University of Rochester’s Golisano Children’s Hospital as I’m committed to increasing access to children’s health care and nurturing strong patient-physician relationships. And in the same way that researchers at Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab have drastically changed cancer treatment through nanomaterials and particle physics, I hope to play a part in revolutionizing cancer treatment by looking at its causes.

Sneaky? Maybe a little. But also true, right? Aren’t those the things you’re interested in doingwherever you end up? Well there you go, then.

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Written by Ethan Sawyer – In addition to being the College Essay Guy, Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at ethan.sawyer@eliteprep.com. The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.

Posted on December 7, 2013 and filed under College Admissions.