Why This Particular College? How to Write an Effective Response to This Essay Question

By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: July 24, 2013

It’s a tough question: “Why do you want to join our XYZ University community?” What the admissions people are clearly not looking for is a rehash of the viewbook or website. That will get you nowhere. Any fourth grader can duplicate the words.

“I think XYZ would be a perfect fit.” Really? Perfect? And you base your subjective analysis on what, exactly? Don’t write about the pretty campus. Write about who you are (it’s always about who you are) in the context of why and how you see yourself fitting into the campus community as you understand it.

The admissions people already know how special their schools are. Saying so in your essay is meaningless, if not downright silly. We’ve included a few essays here that exemplify a positive approach to this typical application question. They were written by applicants who were subsequently accepted to these universities. Use them to stimulate your brain – not plagiarize, please!


How do I answer why university of Pennsylvania? It was not the quaint historic setting or the sculptural display of modern art that caught my attention one Friday afternoon in Philadelphia. While I was fascinated by the extraordinary architecture and urban flair of the University of Pennsylvania, it was the spirit of the student body that truly captivated me. Strolling down Locust Walk, I was hoping to absorb in a brief moment all the activity that defined the university. Immediately I was surrounded by a horde of cheerful girls urging me to join their sorority. I took another few steps and stumbled upon a table sponsored by the Hillel, where students were telling their peers of upcoming Shabbat services. However, as I approached the Class of 1920 Commons, I was particularly excited by the outward political activism on campus. The College Democrats stood on one side of the walkway and the College Republicans on the other, both handing out literature and encouraging others to become involved. I knew then that Penn is the place for me.

Locust Walk is not only the social center of campus, but also the pathway I’ll take to a myriad of classes and activities. Of primary interest to me is the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major. As a debater, philosophy enthusiast, and quintessential math nerd, I look forward to merging each of these disciplines into one with courses such as “Philosophy and the Constitution” and “Law and Economics.” My pursuits in international politics have spawned my interest in Middle Eastern affairs. While I regularly read about the events occurring overseas, I hope to take a more in-depth approach to learning about the religions, governments, and ideologies of the area. I am especially interested in studying the Arabic language, which will prepare me for a potential career in international law or the Foreign Service. The PPE major and the ability to thoroughly explore the Middle East produce an irresistible combination unavailable at any other undergraduate school.

Like Penn’s unique curriculum, the system of college housing also sets the university apart as an intriguing place for me. A residence hall at Penn is a community of students who share common interests, not simply a place to live. Considering my reputation as a political pundit, “Law and Society” in Fisher Hassenfeld College House is the perfect home for me to socialize with likeminded students. Alternatively, having spent countless hours in my synagogue, school, and local library tutoring children in Hebrew, Spanish, and various core subjects, I would embrace the chance to continue guiding students as a member of the “Mentors Program” in Riepe College House.

It is my ever-growing thirst for knowledge and involvement that would be aptly met by the diverse curriculum and hundreds of student organizations at Penn. Next year I hope to find myself on Locust Walk not as a bystander but as an active and thriving Quaker.


How do I answer "Why University of Chicago?"The University of Chicago emanates an aura of growth. It’s not just the blankets of green foliage that seem to consume some Gothic buildings! The growth belongs to students like me whose minds are molded and expanded to view the world by means of compelling scholarship. The mind echoes “THINK Think think” when U Chicago is mentioned, because few other schools resonate as strongly as UC in terms of focus on developing critical thinking among young adults who will not only be prepared to survive in the world, but be prepared to change it. That’s the very preparation I want for my future as a health care physician: training in ethics and sociology along with the core science courses. Such integration is important to me, since I believe that future generations of doctors need to have an education that goes beyond the clinical, and toward the development of good people, whole people. Then there are the school’s secret attractions: those experience that fill me with stories to relate to my parents about Doc Films, whose nightly film showings sometimes include actors and filmmakers themselves. Here’s my secret: I have a dream of one day becoming a film producer. Careful! My presence on a campus so involved in that industry may induce a positive hysteria. Not to mention the opportunity to be a part of the world’s largest scavenger hunt. I’ll probably end up on the pier, though, “drinking in” the water and the skyline.


How do I answer "Why Notre Dame?"Top notch education. Domer network. Unified responsibility toward world inhabitants. While these qualities first prompted me to investigate Notre Dame, my decision to apply lies in the campus customs augmented by each freshman class. The camaraderie of the residential colleges and their unique identities and traditions draw me to the campus. Muddy Sunday, Polar Bear Plunge, Dance-A-Thon, Fisher Hall Roofsit: all unique takes on a united cause: helping others in the community and around the world. This is the logical continuation of my humanitarian roots, locally through Bikes For Kidz, nationally by way of Bank of America Student Leaders, and globally via Doctor's Goodwill Foundation. The popularity of Notre Dame's study abroad programs exemplifies the community commitment to global interaction. Together with my aspirations to international business, the school’s comprehensive multicultural direction represents a crucial component of my education and future.

Topics: College Application Essay College Application


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