How to Answer the "Why This College?" Essay

Many colleges ask students to specify why exactly they want to attend their school as a supplemental essay. It makes sense. After all, each school gets thousands of applicants, so it’s important for them to know whether or not you’ll strive at their institution and what you’ll contribute to the community as a student and a future alumnus.  

So, how do you approach this supplemental essay topic? We’ve covered essay writing tips and techniques to emphasize how your passions align with each school’s unique environment or opportunities. The only issue is how do you know what they are?

We asked our friends at AdmitSee, a peer-to-peer college admissions resource, to share the advice and insights crowdsourced from current college students.

Rena.s: University of Chicago ‘19Rena.s UChicago Undergraduate Profile

UChicago is a school that has an unbelievable culture behind it. There is a tradition for every possible event, and the entire school participates. If you want to show the admissions committee that you've done your research you're much better off discussing one of these traditions (Scav, midnight soccer, etc.) than some boring statistics you found in the brochure they sent you. I also talked about the Core curriculum in my Why UChicago essay because it IS such an integral part of the philosophy of the school. View full advice.

Uhoh29: Johns Hopkins University ‘19

Hopkins prides itself in being a research university. About 70% of undergraduates perform some kind of research, so it's a big part of the academic environment. Part of my "Why Hopkins?" supplement talked about having questions that I wanted to find answers to. I think Hopkins looks for students with this kind of inquisitive nature because they are the ones who will go out and, in a sense, create their own knowledge. Learn more about JHU!

Mouse43: Yale University ‘20Mouse43 Yale Undergraduate Profile

Every applicant to Yale will be asked to write a 100 word "Why Yale?" essay. You just can't fit everything you love about Yale into 100 words. There's just so much to love. I suggest picking two or three facets of Yale that appeal to you the most and elaborating on them briefly as opposed to listing multiple aspects that have no connection to each other. Things to consider discussing include: very low student-to-faculty ratio (approximately 3-to-1 in engineering/CS), 800+ labs actively conducting research and an intense focus on undergraduate research, depth of courses across nearly every department, the freshman seminar program, the wide variety of literary publications… Find out more about Yale.
Want to learn more about each specific school? AdmitSee has a database of 60,000+ successful college application files waiting for you to uncover. Be inspired by how others who have gained acceptance did it before you!

Written by Frances Wong at AdmitSee. AdmitSee is a peer-to-peer college and grad school admissions platform. Access our crowd-sourced database to read applications, essays and advice direct from the students who got in. Find out how you compare.

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Recently Updated Colleges for the 2016-2017 Season

Below are the colleges we've updated for the 2016-2017 application season.

You'll also notice that the asterisk before each of the following colleges has been removed in our database, indicating that the college is now updated:

  1. Academy of Art University
  2. Adams State College
  3. Amherst College
  4. Aurora University
  5. Austin Peay State University
  6. Babson College
  7. Bates College
  8. Beacon College
  9. Becker College
  10. Bemidji State University
  11. Berklee College of Music
  12. Birmingham-Southern College
  13. Boise State University
  14. Bowdoin College
  15. California Maritime Academy
  16. California State University-Bakersfield
  17. California State University-Channel Islands
  18. California State University-Chico
  19. California State University-East Bay
  20. California State University-Fresno
  21. California State University-Fullerton
  22. California State University-Long Beach
  23. California State University-Los Angeles
  24. California State University-Monterey Bay
  25. California State University-Northridge
  26. California State University-Sacramento
  27. Canisius College
  28. Central Michigan University
  29. Coastal Carolina University
  30. Colgate University
  31. College of Saint Elizabeth
  32. College of St. Rose (NY)
  33. Concordia College
  34. Connecticut College
  35. Daemen College
  36. Dartmouth College
  37. DeSales University
  38. Dominican College
  39. Duke University
  40. East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania
  41. East Tennessee State University
  42. Elmira College
  43. Emmanuel College
  44. Florida Institute of Technology
  45. Florida Southern College
  46. Fort Valley State University
  47. Franklin and Marshall College
  48. Gannon University
  49. George Washington University
  50. Georgetown University
  51. Georgia Institute of Technology
  52. Gettysburg College
  53. Hamilton College
  54. Harding University
  55. Hartwick College
  56. Hastings College
  57. Hollins University
  58. Howard University
  59. Idaho State University
  60. Iowa State University
  61. Jacksonville University
  62. Johns Hopkins University
  63. Johnson & Wales at Charlotte
  64. Johnson & Wales at Charlotte at North Miami
  65. Johnson & Wales at Providence
  66. Kean University
  67. Lamar University
  68. Lenoir-Rhyne University
  69. Louisiana State University
  70. Louisiana State University-Shreveport
  71. Louisiana Tech University
  72. Luther College
  73. Manhattan College
  74. Marywood University
  75. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
  76. Merrimack College
  77. MidAmerica Nazarene University
  78. Middlebury College
  79. Midwestern State University
  80. Mississippi College
  81. Molloy College
  82. New College of Florida
  83. New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology
  84. New Mexico State University
  85. Northeastern University
  86. Northwestern University
  87. Oklahoma State University
  88. Olivet College
  89. Oregon Institute of Technology
  90. Pepperdine University
  91. Pomona College
  92. Portland State University
  93. Randolph College
  94. Regis University
  95. Rhode Island College
  96. Ringling College of Art & Design
  97. Rockland Community College
  98. Roosevelt University
  99. Sacred Heart University
  100. Saint Joseph's College of Maine
  101. Saint Martin's University
  102. San Diego State University
  103. San Francisco State University
  104. San Jose City College
  105. San Jose State University
  106. Santa Fe University of Art and Design
  107. Seton Hill University
  108. Shorter University
  109. South Carolina State University
  110. Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
  111. Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville
  112. Southern Nazarene University
  113. Southern University at New Orleans
  114. St. John's University (NY)
  115. St. Mary's College
  116. St. Thomas Aquinas College
  117. Stanford University
  118. State University of New York at Binghamton
  119. State University of New York at Buffalo State College
  120. State University of New York at Cortland
  121. State University of New York at Fredonia
  122. Stephens College
  123. Tarleton State University
  124. Trine University
  125. Trinity College (CT)
  126. Troy University
  127. Tufts University
  128. Tulane University
  129. Tusculum College
  130. Tuskegee University
  131. United States Air Force Academy
  132. University of Alabama
  133. University of Alaska-Southeast
  134. University of California-Berkeley
  135. University of California-Davis
  136. University of California-Irvine
  137. University of California-Los Angeles
  138. University of California-Merced
  139. University of California-Riverside
  140. University of California-San Diego
  141. University of California-Santa Barbara
  142. University of California-Santa Cruz
  143. University of Chicago
  144. University of Colorado-Boulder
  145. University of Florida
  146. University of Mary
  147. University of Maryland-College Park
  148. University of Maryland-University College
  149. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  150. University of Montevallo
  151. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  152. University of North Dakota
  153. University of Pennsylvania
  154. University of Saskatchewan
  155. University of Texas-Austin
  156. University of Texas-El Paso
  157. University of Toronto
  158. University of Victoria
  159. University of Virginia
  160. University of Washington-Seattle
  161. Villanova University
  162. Wake Forest University
  163. Warren Wilson College
  164. Webb Institute
  165. Widener University
  166. Williams College
  167. Winona State University (MN)
  168. Wright State University

Only a few colleges post their new questions this early. Most colleges will update in late July/Aug, and we'll be right on top of them all for you. We will also be updating many colleges before the Common App goes live Aug 1.

Make sure to Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter to get our daily  updates and special posts.
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Schools Recently Updated for the 2016/2017 Application Season

Below is a list of schools that have been updated so far in College Essay Organizer for the 2016-2017 application season.

  1. Amherst College
  2. Babson College
  3. Bates College
  4. Bowdoin College
  5. Colgate University
  6. Dartmouth College
  7. Duke University
  8. Franklin and Marshall College
  9. George Washington University
  10. Georgetown University
  11. Georgia Institute of Technology
  12. Hamilton College
  13. Johns Hopkins University
  14. Middlebury College
  15. Molloy College
  16. Northeastern University
  17. Northwestern University
  18. Oklahoma State University
  19. Pepperdine University
  20. Pomona College
  21. Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
  22. Stanford University
  23. Trinity College (CT)
  24. Tufts University
  25. University of California-Berkeley
  26. University of California-Davis
  27. University of California-Irvine
  28. University of California-Los Angeles
  29. University of California-Merced
  30. University of California-Riverside
  31. University of California-San Diego
  32. University of California-Santa Barbara
  33. University of California-Santa Cruz
  34. University of Chicago
  35. University of Florida
  36. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  37. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  38. University of Pennsylvania
  39. University of Texas-Austin
  40. University of Victoria
  41. University of Virginia
  42. University of Washington-Seattle
  43. Villanova University
  44. Warren Wilson College
  45. Williams College

Only a few colleges post their new questions this early. Most colleges will update in July/August, and we'll be right on top of them all for you. We will also be updating many colleges before the Common App goes live Aug 1.

Make sure to Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter to get our daily  updates and special posts.
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Five Ways You Can Improve Your ACT Writing Score

5 Ways You Can Improve Your ACT Writing ScoreIt is easy to think that the ACT Writing Test is about grammar, grammar, and grammar. And while knowing grammar fundamentals is an important first step, the ACT writing test involves a lot more than making sure your phrases are parallel. To really do well, you’ll need to understand how sentence, paragraphs, and entire essays logically fit together. Of course, there is also the grammar. Below are ACT writing tips that cover which grammar to study to how to make sure you get questions relating to sentence placement correct.

1. Know the grammar the ACT is testing
Grammar is a pretty vast subject. The ACT, however, doesn’t test it all. What you need to know—what comes up in almost every passage—is the following: breaking up nouns and phrases with commas, possessives, verb tense, pronoun agreement, and word choice (picking the best word given the context). Knowing that these topics are the most common will help you hone your studying. For instance, if you struggle with comma use—whether those commas are meant to break up dependent and independent clauses or a list of things—you should spend some time brushing up on your commas. I’d recommend studying commas over the course of a week, in little 30-minute sessions. As you learn the fundamentals, make sure you do practice passages so that you can apply these concepts, whether the concept be commas, verb tense, or any other area you struggle in.

2. Always pay attention to context
As I mentioned in the intro, you’ll need to know more than just raw grammar. To correctly answer many questions, you’ll have to look at the surrounding text. Is that pronoun singular or plural case? Well, you’ll likely have to read the sentence beforehand. Some questions ask you to pick the phrase that makes the most sense. To do this, you’ll sometimes have to read a couple of sentences before the underlined part to pick the best answer.

3. Don’t be afraid to read an entire paragraph before doing the question
A good strategy is to read through the paragraph doing only the questions that relate to punctuation and in-sentence grammar. For questions that ask you whether a general idea should be placed at the end of the sentence or questions that ask you to determine the best position for a sentence, you should read the entire paragraph first. That way you have a sense of the big picture. Once you get to the end of the paragraph, you can return to those questions that require this big picture thinking.

4. Take practice ACTs under timed conditions
The truth is the ACT writing is difficult because you get so little time. With 45 minutes to do a whopping 75 questions (that’s about 36 seconds per question), you’ll find yourself struggling to finish, especially without sacrificing accuracy. The best way to improve is to make sure you are carefully doing the first three tips in this post. Then, and only then, should you attempt to take full-length practice tests, because otherwise you’ll rush too much and base your answer less on context and grammar than on the way the answer sounds. By doing practice tests, you’ll get faster.

5. Read
The ACT Writing test is essentially a massive reading section, but instead of comprehension you are mainly being tested on grammar and style. To become adept at sifting through all of these words, you should make it a daily habit to read from
newspapers (The New York Times and The Washington Post are good) and magazines (Time for the easy side, The Atlantic Monthly for the more challenging reads). Find something that interests you and spend about 15-20 a day reading. Do that for three straight weeks and you’ll be surprised at how your reading brain improves.

To successfully all these tips, make sure to not only take practice tests but to make sure you are improving. To see how you perform on a section, make sure you have this ACT raw score conversion chart handy.

About Chris Lele
For the last ten years, Chris has been helping students excel on the SAT and the GRE. In this time, he’s coached 5 students to a perfect SAT score. Some of his GRE students have raised their scores by nearly 400 points. He has taken many GMAT students from the doldrums of the 600s to the coveted land of the 700+. Rumor has it he does a secret happy dance when his students get a perfect score. You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh High School Blog, and study with his lessons using Magoosh SAT Prep.

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Your FREE Ticket to a New College Admissions Telesummit

There's an upcoming free series featuring interviews with 21 of our nation's leading education experts (including Dan Stern, founder and president of College Essay Organizer, talking about college essays!).

We'd love to pass on a complimentary ticket to our members to join the telesummit from July 7-28, "Your Child's Best Future: How to get your child into a top college."

You can register now using this link:

The interviews are real, short, and to-the-point conversations with experts who have helped thousands of high school students achieve success:

  • College counselors
  • Financial aid experts
  • Tutoring companies
  • College essay experts
  • Creativity experts
  • Time management experts

Make sure to Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter to get our daily  updates and special offers like this.

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University of Chicago Changed its 2016-2017 Essay Questions

UchicagoUniversity of Chicago recently released its new essay prompts for the 2016-2017 season. It's always a boon to have the essay questions released early in the season, except in cases like this where the prompts get revised after their initial release. If you're diving into the writing process, make sure to recheck the essay prompts, as the 5th option just changed! You can find the new prompt below:

Vestigiality refers to genetically determined structures or attributes that have apparently lost most or all of their ancestral function, but have been retained during the process of evolution. In humans, for instance, the appendix is thought to be a vestigial structure. Describe something vestigial (real or imagined) and provide an explanation for its existence.

This prompt (or, for that matter, the one that this one replaced) will probably not be the most popular pick, but it's always good to know your options!

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Schools Recently Updated for the 2016/2017 Application Season

Below is a list of all the schools that have been updated so far in College Essay Organizer for the 2016-2017 application season.

  1. Colgate University
  2. Georgetown University
  3. Georgia Institute of Technology
  4. University of California-Berkeley
  5. University of California-Davis
  6. University of California-Irvine
  7. University of California-Los Angeles
  8. University of California-Merced
  9. University of California-Riverside
  10. University of California-San Diego
  11. University of California-Santa Barbara
  12. University of California-Santa Cruz
  13. University of Chicago
  14. University of Florida
  15. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  16. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Only a few colleges post their new questions this early. Most colleges will update in July/August, and we'll be right on top of them all for you. We will also be updating many colleges before the Common App goes live Aug 1.

Make sure to Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter to get our daily  updates and special posts.
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Join Our Webinar To Kick Off The 2016/2017 Season

This webinar is for both newcomers who can learn all about the longest-running and most popular college essay web tool on the market and veterans who can discover all the newest upgrades in response to IEC feedback.

For members using us directly through College Essay Organizer:
Monday, June 13 @ 1pm ET -- Click here to register now

For members using us through College Planner Pro:
Tuesday, June 14 @ 1pm ET -- Click here to register now

(Recordings can be emailed to you upon request if you can't tune in live)

Bonus: All attendees will be eligible for our free accounts giveaway!

What's new this season?

Use our new master account interface (now available through CPP, too) so you can access all your clients' essay reports and alerts on one page, getting a quick snapshot of everyone's status
Set up alerts to be emailed to any counselor you want so students can edit drafts with whomever
Track alerts more easily with student and counselor names visible in email subject lines
Customize each student's RoadMap with more essay topic options so that you control everyone's writing plans
Remove schools on your own from a student's RoadMap so you don't need to look at dropped colleges anymore
Keep track of tasks and notes for each student with our new To Do List and Scratchpad features

Get started now

Most IECs have already started using College Essay Organizer for this year so get organized now before summer begins:

Existing members using us directly -- start here

New members using us directly -- start here

CollegePlannerPro members can email us directly to order in bulk -- you'll save money this way! (simply tell us how many student accounts you want)

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Gap Years are Increasing in Popularity

gap yearAs high school seniors get ready to head off to college next year, there is another option that is slowly growing in popularity. Parents aren't always on board with the idea, worrying if college will be put off forever, but for some grads, a year off from school is a good idea.

According to Kevin Doran, "Gap years can involve meaningful work, community service, specialized study or travel. Students can plan it themselves or be part of an organized program; some even pay expenses." There are definitely lots of opportunities for growth, with a growing number of resources available. Visit the below websites for more information, as well as this article:

AFS Intercultural Programs

City Year



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End of Year Tip for Seniors

calmAs the school year winds down, it's tempting for students to become less focused, especially seniors who have already been accepted to college. However, every year, colleges revoke a small percentage of acceptances to admitted students whose grades have noticeably slipped or who have experienced disciplinary actions.

According to Paul Seegert, admissions director at the University of Washington, 10 to 20 acceptance letters are revoked each year, and although a student can appeal the decision, the results are almost always the same.

To read more about how senior missteps can result in the loss of an acceptance, click here.

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