The “Why University X” supplemental essay is NOT a “Why University X is great” essay. Instead, it’s a “Why University X and I are perfect for each other” essay.
A very common mistake applicants make is explaining only the things they love about a school while ignoring the value they can add to a campus through their background, personal characteristics, or perspective.
So here’s what you can do to make connections between the things you love about a university and yourself:
Grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Label the left-hand column “Me” and the right-hand column “University X”. Then add 8 to 12 bullet points why you and the school are a perfect match. Be specific. For example, if you want to learn photography in your spare time, write it in the left-hand column. In the right-hand column, write down any photography classes or clubs University X offers. If you love that University X has a double major in Environmental Science and Russian, put it in the right-hand column. In the left, explain why that’s important to you.
This exercise not only shows you exactly how you and the college fit together, but your points can be quickly chunked into categories (e.g. academics, experiential learning opportunities, extracurriculars, location, etc.) and turned into an outline for the “Why University X” essay.
This exercise also turns common, boring writing into strong, specific writing. Here’s an example from a recent client:
The University of Michigan is a world famous university with strong pedagogical resources. The school provides a learning-friendly and supportive environment for high-quality teaching and research, and academic staffs are actively engaged in cutting-edge research. The programme of Electrical Engineering will enable me to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems through learning to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.
This draft doesn’t say anything the school doesn’t already know about itself, and it doesn’t say anything unique to the University of Michigan. In other words, this paragraph could apply to NYU or Stanford just as easily as it applies to U of M. Additionally, this paragraph doesn’t connect to the applicant whatsoever; the reader knows nothing about the applicant’s interests or talents.
Beyond attending the elite Electrical Engineering and Computer Science program, the University of Michigan will provide me with a wealth of opportunities to pursue my long-term goal of generating clean power for my home communities (and hopefully the world at large). I have carefully reviewed the Electrical Engineering Program Guide and am excited to take classes such as Introduction to Circuits, Signals and Systems, and Power System Design and Operation. If admitted, I also plan to join BlueLab’s Living Building Challenge team to apply my knowledge to developing eco-friendly communities. And, if possible, I would love the opportunity to work under Professor Ian A Hiskens. I find his research on renewable resources and their potential to improve the behavior of the grid intriguing.
This paragraph cites specific classes and an experiential learning opportunity that will benefit the applicant. This paragraph also shows the motivation behind the applicant’s choice of major, giving the reader insight into the applicant’s interests and his potential to add to Michigan’s campus.
That’s it! Find out how your interests and talents connect to the school you are applying to, then provide the reader with concrete examples of how you and the school are a perfect match.
If I can help you with your “Why University X” essays -- whether that be brainstorming, editing, or proofreading -- please don’t hesitate to reach out. That’s what I’m here for.
Good luck, applicants!