What to Include in Your Essay
Yesterday, we discussed what to avoid when writing your "Why Us" college application essays. Today, let's get positive and talk about what should be in there.
DO: Think of this as a "Why we are perfect for each other" essay.
Imagine you're on a date and the person sitting across from you leans in to ask, "So, why do you like me?" You can't just say, "Because you're hot." You're gonna need to be a little more specific. How do you do this? Here’s how:
DO: Fold a piece of paper in half to create two columns, then at the top label one "What I want" and the other "What they have."
As you're researching the school, bullet-point 10-15 specific, concrete reasons why you and the school are a great match for one another.
So, for example, if the school has a music and medicine program, put that in the right column. Next to it, in the left column, say why that's the perfect program for you. Or maybe you're interested in studying Chinese? Put that it in the left column and then look for something related to learning Chinese that the school offers--either academically or extracurricularly (an actual word but don't use it in your essay)--and put that it in the right column. How does this help? It takes your essay from:
"Michigan's well-known legacy, its fantastic football team and spectacular location in Ann Arbor are just a few reasons why I believe UM is the place for me." #supergeneric
"I look forward to Academic Argumentation (225) and Professional Writing (229), as I believe these courses will provide me with a firm basis in journalistic writing technique and improve my abilities to write analytically and develop well-supported arguments. Furthermore, the Professional Writing course will teach me how to write in a concise, straightforward style, a skill vital to a journalist." #likeaboss
See what he's done there?
DO: Mention specific classes, professors, clubs and activities that you will actually be excited about being a part of.
And don't BS it. Imagine yourself on campus as a freshman. What are you doing? What conversations are you having? How are you involved? I want to say "You can't get too specific," although I'm sure you could if you try... On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being "I want to be involved in all the campus activities!” and 10 being "There was a particular student's dorm window I looked in during the campus walking tour and I saw her reading a Microecon book and drinking a Strawberries Wild from Jamba Juice--my favorite--and I thought--" (Slow down, creeper. And how did you know what flavor it was??) Anyway, keep it at like a 7 or an 8. And make sure all your details are relevant and appropriate. Here's a good gauge to know what’s relevant and appropriate. Ask:
- Am I showing that I've done my research?
- Am I demonstrating my intelligence?
- Am I connecting what they have to with what I have?
If you’re doing all three, keep it in. If you’re not doing any of these, consider cutting. And I know I said that third thing already, but it's worth repeating: often students only say why the school is awesome. But remember that this essay is not about why the school is awesome. The school knows it’s awesome; the admissions readers spend a lot of their time telling students like you why it's awesome.
DO: Remember this is another chance to show a few more of your skills/talents/interests/passions.
Make a list of 10 things you definitely want the school to know about you. Ask yourself: are all these values/qualities in my main essay or another supplement? If not, the "Why us" may be a place to include a few more details about who you are. But remember: connect it to some awesome opportunity/program/offering at or near the school.
Okay, I said I was finished but here's one more: If the school doesn't have a particular program/opportunity you're looking for, don't freak out. Look at this not as a dead end, but as an opportunity.
DO: Offer to start something.
And by “something” I mean a club, group, or activity.
Fair warning here, though:
DON'T: Offer to start something that you probably can't start.
Your freshman year, for example, you probably won't start a brand new International Studies and Dance double major. You might, however, offer to start the school's first West Indian Dance Company. Which reminds me:
MAKE SURE THEY DON'T ALREADY HAVE A WEST INDIAN DANCE COMPANY. Or whatever it is you're offering to start.
And I'm not saying you shouldn't push for that International Studies and Dance double major once you're there… just get into the school first.
You can push for the double major your sophomore year.
For all the resources you need to learn about a particular school, be here tomorrow. More to come!
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 email@example.com. The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.