Free Report for Students

What do you write about when an application asks, “Why do you want to attend our college?”

When a college asks why you want to attend, rather than simply recycling the college's brochure, you should share your intellectual and personal passions, expressing them in terms of how that college would enable you to develop and achieve your goals. This way your essay is about you, not about the college.

Don’t make the common mistake of regurgitating a college’s own brochure. The college already knows what makes its campus special. The college now wants to know about you—what makes you unique, what makes you tick, what makes you you.

Below is an essay sample written and submitted by an actual student who used College Essay Organizer for guidance. How you judge its quality depends on your own writing skills. Regardless, it will give you a good idea of what colleges look for when they ask, “Why are you applying here?” Also, it runs a bit long, but the goal here is to show you how to respond to such a question by telling the college about your unique identity.

We replaced the college name with “University X” to protect the student’s identity. Please do not reuse this essay in any form. Oh, and yeah, she was accepted!

Why do you want to attend University X?

Words are precious to me. After all, words are the medium for conveying my passion for University X, a special place I very much hope to find myself for the next four years.

My own intellectual passions and aspirations have revolved around words and the broader theme of expression, and I find that University X embodies and promotes these interests. When I visited your campus this September, I was struck by the expressiveness of the students. They not only were eagerly socializing with one another, but also were exceptionally excited to share their ideas with me about the school. While the community’s excitement and warmth were infectious, I also loved the Independent Study option, specifically the emphasis on written, oral, and performance requirements.

University X’s diverse student body mirrors my experience growing up in New York City, hearing different manners of speech, unique accents, and colorful words. I don’t have a favorite word, per se, but I do have favorite phrases. I love certain clichés forbidden in essays but uttered liberally by my mom’s friend Carol, who tells me, “You’re a chip off the old block, dear,” when I repeat my mom’s guacamole recipe by heart. And I feel a deep connection to the more elegant expressions of poets like Robert Frost who in his “Directive” wrote, “And if you’re lost enough to find yourself / By now, pull in your ladder road / And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me."

I was so impressed with University X’s English department and believe that the wide range of course options, especially “Literature, Gender, and Sexuality” (which expands upon the ideas discussed in my current English class on 20th century female literature), will foster my developing ideas. The words of writers like E.B. White, Harper Lee, J.D. Salinger, and Virginia Woolf also move me. I love White’s tale for all ages dressed up in the children’s book Charlotte’s Web. I love Lee’s simple storytelling technique that subtly weaves important lessons of empathy into To Kill a Mocking Bird. I love Salinger’s informal, blunt style and colloquial dialogue

in Catcher in the Rye. And I love Woolf’s personal tone in her controversial ideas of women novelists in A Room of One’s Own. These authors have encouraged me to find my own voice, which I experiment with through creative writing and journaling. My words are passionate, and the catharsis and clarity that writing brings about for me are among the most powerful things I know. I would love to enhance my skills in University X’s esteemed creative writing program, taking advantage of the study abroad writing opportunity, as well.

Experiencing other cultures, after all, is incredibly important to me. In fact, I did not truly appreciate the powerful expression gained from words until a couple of years ago when the ability to fully explain myself was obstructed by a foreign language barrier. I have always been a linguistic connoisseur. My love of French led me to Corsica in the summer of my freshman year. I simply stared into my friend Philo’s eyes, stuttering to explain the full depth of my sad state after hearing the tragic story she had just told me. I had understood what she’d said in French but could not convey to her my feelings. Two days later I realized that I needed to push myself to truly speak French fluently if I ever hoped to penetrate this lingual wall. My excitement for this melodious Romance language has left me yearning to learn and absorb Spanish and Italian language and culture, and I will have this opportunity through University X’s various abroad options, like the “University X Program in Barcelona,” and the many courses in your French and Italian programs.

Language and written documents also allow us to learn about history, another one of my passions. The words and biases in primary and secondary sources throughout history transfer different information to future generations. History depends on words, the right words. Other fields like psychology study how words are an external manifestation of our inner beings—the way words translate and sometimes misrepresent our thoughts and feelings is in many ways at the essence of our intellectual and emotional nature. University X’s History and Psychology Departments are replete with stimulating courses that address the modern mass media machine and its sweeping global impact on the way we live and perceive ourselves. It’s all about communication, whether intimate or international.

University X’s supportive community and extensive academic offerings would cultivate not just my personal but also my intellectual development. Ironically, despite my commitment to self- expression, I cannot begin to convey how enthusiastic I am about the prospect of joining University X’s incoming class next fall. 

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Checklist for Juniors

As the end of the school year approaches, juniors are beginning to wonder what they can do to prepare for the college admissions process ahead. Kristen Learner, the director of college counseling at The Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and Jeffrey Wong, a college counselor at the school, offer some advise on what to focus on during the summer months.

  • Make sure you have a challenging group of classes for senior year. Colleges want to see that you're pushing yourself, and taking harder classes each year.
  • Seek out teacher recommendations now, and pay attention to how a teacher responds to your request. If he or she sounds less than enthusiastic, you may want to consider a different teacher.
  • Choose your summer plans carefully. Colleges want to see that you're doing something you love and developing your interests.
  • Decide which standardized tests you will be taking
  • Start your Common App main essay. College Essay Organizer already has it updated, and we'll be on top of all the supplements as well. Many students are worried about missing an essay question due to the new CA4 format, but College Essay Organizer has you covered.


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