At this point in the application process, you have probably spent countless hours on the QuestBridge application, and likely wrote numerous drafts of your essays. It would be great to hear that you never have to write a college admissions essay again, but unfortunately, that is probably not the case.
Many of our partner colleges have a short answer/essay prompt that you need to pay attention to. Sometimes it’s just a few words long:
“Why [college name]?”
Generally, they want to know why you want to go to their school. What they’re thinking is: There are hundreds of schools out there. Why do you want to come here?
This is your time to shine. This is your time to prove to the admissions officers that you have done your research (because you have, right?) and know exactly why you would be a great fit at that school. Here are the best strategies we encourage you to use for this essay:
Actually write a different essay for each school.
It’s easy to spot a standard response:
“[College name] is an incredible school and I’ve heard great things about it. Here is one standard, but cool, piece of information that I found in the mail you sent me, or that is easy to find on the homepage of your website.”
It’s even worse when you accidently leave the name of a different college in, or mix up the “fun” pieces of information you pulled from their emails. Trust us – this happens all the time. And yes, it matters. Don’t be one of those applicants!
If you have visited the school, specifically mention that.
Tell them that you have been to their campus already, mention what you saw and what you liked, and can see yourself there.
If you haven’t been able to visit, but you have talked with current students via phone or email (which hopefully you have, and if you haven’t, you should!), talk about that! Show the admissions officers that your thorough research has only further convinced you to apply there.
Show your excitement and talk specifics.
Is there a particular academic program you’re really interested in? Something about the student life that sets it apart from other colleges? Tell them exactly what makes you excited to attend their school.
What does this look like? Below, we’ve written a mediocre answer to this prompt, and a stellar one. Remember – these essays are often capped at around 200 words – so use your space wisely!
Why College X?
I’ve always dreamt of attending College X mostly because it is ranked in the top 10 in the US! I am very dedicated to my academics, and I want to go to a top school so that I can get into a great grad school. Besides having great academic reputation, I hear that the campus is very beautiful. The high school that I go to right now is in really terrible condition, so it would be very cool to go to a school that actually looked nice. Everything about College X sounds like a dream – tons of student groups, a diverse student population, living in dorms, and some of the best dining hall food in the country. I really think that College X is the college of my dreams – and I look forward to being an active and contributing member of the student body.
Why College X?
For a long time, I thought I wanted to go to college close to home, which would have meant a big state school. But the more I’ve researched College X, I’ve learned that I really want to be to be part of a passionate and close-knit community, and in order to find the right one, I’m okay with going further from home. Though I haven’t been able to visit College X in person, I have researched it extensively online and on social media. However, the best insight into X was through a conversation with a current student. We emailed back and forth, and even Skyped once, when she said something that has stuck with me since: “College X is like a family to me. Sure everyone has their quirks, but we celebrate those, and come together through shared goals, a passion for learning, and being strong individuals.” That is the kind of community I have always wanted to be part of. Sure, I’m excited to study thermo-nuclear engineering on campus (I’ve learned some exciting things about your program!), but I am even more excited to see what my peers are interested in, and continue learning with them.
If you were an admissions officer, which student would you be more interested in admitting to your school? Definitely the student who wrote the second essay.
Now’s your chance – go and write that winning supplemental essay!
Dear QB is an advice column for QuestBridge applicants and QuestBridge Scholars. To submit a question, email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Dear QB” in the subject line.