The "Why [this college]?" Essay

If you're applying to a number of schools via the Common Application, you'll most likely see a supplemental essay prompt that asks something along the lines of “Why do you want to attend NYU [or whatever school]?" Some variations on this prompt would include “What specific courses of study at [NYU] have inspired you to apply?" Or, “The [NYU] student body is bright and diverse. Why are you motivated to join them here at [NYU]?" In other words, “Why [NYU]?"Being the hilarious college counselor that I am, I have often wanted to advise my clients to respond this way: “Why NYU? Why not?" However, I think such a concise, brilliant reply would no doubt result in the shortest distance possible between your application in the admission officer's hands and the “DENY!" pile. So, I don't offer that knee-slapping insight to frustrated essay writers.

I do have a few thoughts, though, about the best way to handle this (WARNING: SAT word ahead) ubiquitous essay prompt. It all falls under the umbrella of one word: specificity. (Maybe I should have posted another SAT-word warning for that one.) In any event, your response will require you to do some Web research. The result will be a “Why [put your college name here]?" essay that will set you apart from the other unimaginative, even lazy applicants against whom you are competing.

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