DOs and DON'Ts for Your "Why Us?" Essay

I wrote in a different post that the best way to sound excited in your “Why us” statement is to actually get excited about the school you’re writing for. How? By doing research.

But is there a way to tell the difference between a student who really wants to go to a particular school and one who’s just faking?

There is a way.

And here’s a hint: your..."baloney" detector is actually pretty good. You just need to turn it on. Do so now...




Turn on your baloney-detector and tell me if this sounds like the person actually wants to go to this school or not so much:

Given that I am an individual that genuinely enjoys being introduced to new concepts, ideas, and new information, Kalamazoo would definitely be a great fit for me. Being around sophisticated and intellectual students, with similar ambitions as mine, would inspire me to challenge myself on a daily basis. By doing so, I would gradually grow not only as a student, but as a human.

What do we learn about what makes K-Zoo special in this student’s eyes?

Survey says...

Survey says...

Survey says...

Absolutely nothing. Let’s try again:

SMU has a program called the NCA, which stands for the National Communication Association, and it helps support students to be able to solve problems by communicating. SMU also has over 90 student organization for students to get involved with that can complement their academic pursuits, which will allow me to join organizations I really enjoy.





Sorry, caps lock got stuck. Let’s try once more:

I like the fact that the professors are dedicated to helping students succeed in their studies and are willing to help…


Oh, as opposed to that other university where the professors aren’t dedicated to helping students succeed.

So how do you write sentences that sound like you actually want to go to the school? Like this:

I believe USC is perfect for me because, though other schools offer a Judaic Studies major, I have yet to find a program as comprehensive as USC’s. Take, for example, courses like “Biblical Hebrew” (as opposed to just Modern Hebrew) and “Why Be Jewish?”

Like a boss. Look how specific. Beautiful.

And another, from the same student:

Though the CogSci program at USC is in its inaugural year and little information was available during my open house visit, I was able to contact Associate Professor of Psychology and Linguistics Toby Mintz through email and was happy to discover that USC’s program is extremely interdisciplinary in nature, cross cutting traditional disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, computer science, and anthropology. I have always been interested in languages (I speak three), consider computer science a strength and am drawn to the “Philosophy of Language” courses, as I recently wrote a research paper addressing the potential implications of applying J.L. Austin’s work with “performative utterances” to smart-phone technology.

Now that’s legit.

Has he demonstrated interest in the school? Yes.

Has he done his research? Oui.

Is he clearly showing why he’s specifically interested in USC while revealing more about himself?نعم.

Get it? Got it? Good.


And if you haven’t read it, here’s the full How to Write a “Why Us” Essay post.


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 The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.