As students move through the application process, the following question often appears in the application. Why do you want to attend this school? Whether boarding school or university, this question comes up more often than not. Let’s take some time to look at what this question is really about and how to answer it.
First off, this very simple question usually creates an enormous amount of panic because it is so simple. What are the schools driving at? What do they want to hear? Doesn’t my application basically say that I am interested in the school?
There are varied responses to the questions above but in the end, the school wants to know why you think you are a fitting applicant to their particular school. Creating a compelling reason for the school to see that you are a student who would add value to their community.
How to go about tackling this question, comes in a variety of formats? Most importantly, you must research the school. I mean, really research the school. Understanding what the school is all about does not come from looking at ranking. Schools are more than a number. Investigate their courses, read about their professors, understand their curriculum and how it leads to your overall education, see what students do on campus – what clubs and organizations they have, etc. Understand the housing, food quality, and what current students say about the school. Research takes time and to answer the question why takes thought.
What are the important factors schools are looking for in the question? They are interested in students who understand their academic and personal interests and know how they are going to move forward in whatever school they are applying. What do you like about the academics and activities at your current school and how does that relate to the school you are applying to, its academic program and student life? What are you bringing to the school? Academic passion? Musical interest? How have you engaged in your current school and how to you plan to do that at the next school?
What if you have lots of interests? That’s excellent, but can you say why you have them? How do they make up you? At the end of the essay, the admission committee should see that you love to learn and you love to be engaged in being a part of the school and school community. But you need to understand the nuances of the school and that comes from research.
What schools do not want to hear is everything they already knows about themselves. In other words, don’t tell the about their ranking and what a great school they are. No need to tell them they are in a city or that it has a beautiful campus. What they do want to know is the connection between who you are, what they are, and what they do. As always, the essays main topic is you, not the school. Is it revealing who you are, what you think, and does it demonstrate your interest in learning at that school?
Some schools will ask you about your intended major. First it is important to understand, they are not asking you to declare your major but what do you think, at this time in your life, will possibly be the focus of your studies. Give them clear thinking about why you, at this time in your life, think this is the subject you are most interested in. What have you done? Why do you like that subject? Show your passion and distinct interest in the subject matter talking about the things you have done in and out of class related to that subject. In the process, show them that you think critically and explore beyond the classroom. And finally, how does this relate to the school to which you are applying.
By the end of your essay, the admission committee should one, know about you and how you think and learn, second, know why that school fits you as a student and as a person, and three, what kind of passions and interests you are bringing to the school and community. Remember, admission to a school is determined by the admission’s committee; give them all the evidence you can using the space and word limit to answer the question provided.
Hamilton Gregg is the founder of International Educational Consulting and has worked in education since 1985. He helps students and their families understand their personal and educational needs and find the right school to meet their requirements. If you are a student or parent who would like to ask Gregg a question on our blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: Colin_K, Photosteve101 (Flickr)