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How to Write The "Why University X" Essay: My 4 Top Tips

Almost all colleges and universities ask applicants to submit more than a personal statement. In fact, with the University of California Personal Insight Questions, Common Application and Coalition Application personal statements, and supplemental essays, the average applicant can expect to write at least 15 essays. One of the most common supplemental essays — Why University X — asks you to explain how a school’s academic and non-academic resources align with you and your goals.

For example, Tufts University directly asks: Which aspects of the Tufts undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short, ‘Why Tufts?’ (150 words)

The University of Pennsylvania words it a little differently by focusing on the applicant’s interests; however, this prompt is really a Why University X: How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying. (650 words)

A common mistake I see in the “Why University X” essay is a focus on the school rather than the applicant. This is a problem because, frankly, the admissions officers already know what their school has to offer; what they don’t know is how their academic and extracurricular resources will help you. As such, one of the most important things to understand about the Why University X essay is that it is just as much about you as it is about the school.

The other important thing to understand about the Why University X essay is that specificity is key. Strong essays are highly-specific to the school or program and to the applicant’s academic, professional, and personal goals. To successfully make specific connections between yourself and the university, you should:

  • Read this article for a very helpful activity as well as good and bad Why University X examples.

  • Conduct research on the university:

  • 1) Attend a campus visit. All schools are offering online tours and information sessions due to Covid. Take notes on the aspects that are attractive to you.

  • 2) Follow the school on social media. Mention something that was recently posted by the university and how it’s attractive to you.

  • 3) Read the student newspaper. Take notes on interesting happenings around campus.

  • 4) Read the university website for information on what they are looking for in an applicant. Include personal experiences, characteristics, interests, etc. that line up with their stated preferences.

  • 5) Read the school and program mission statements. Think about how your values, motivation, and interests overlap with theirs.

  • 6) Find classes and professors that appeal to you. If possible, contact those professors for their syllabi. Doing so will help you describe how those classes and faculty members will help you develop academically.

  • 7) Find campus activities, clubs, and resources that entice you and discuss how you will take advantage of them.

  • Detail how you and the university overlap. A simple T-Chart will help you organize your ideas and reinforce the mutually-beneficial relationship you must present in your essay.

  • Another great blog post to check out comes from Tulane University: Apps 101: The "Why College X"? Statement. Take a moment to read it.

Writing application essays can be daunting, from knowing what to write and how to write it — all while balancing your academic and personal responsibilities — but World Awaits can give you an advantage thanks to the devotion we have to your success. If you’re struggling with your essays, reach out to us today.

Good luck, applicants!



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