Supplemental Essays 101: How to Approach “Why This School?” Responses


Supplemental Essays 101: How to Approach “Why This School?” Responses

“Why do you want to go to our school?” is a question that hundreds of colleges ask in some shape or form. Maybe it’s your dream school and you have an immediate answer, or maybe you’re applying to a safety school and are thinking “Ummm, because I know I’ll get in…” Whatever your initial answer, it would be wise to consider your response more deeply for supplemental essays.

There may be limitless right answers, but there are most definitely some wrong answers. As you consider your reasons for why you want to go to a certain university, make sure you give enough specifics to convey your excitement for the school in your supplemental essays. And do so in a way that makes the admissions officer reading your application picture you on the campus.

Here are nine ideas to consider for your “Why This School?” supplemental essays. There are too many to include in a 300-word essay, and not all will apply to you or the school you’re applying to, so choose wisely. And if your initial answer to why you want to go to a school is “Ummm, because…,” pick some topics that are interesting and do your research. Look at the admissions website, clubs, the department for your intended major, and the wider community. If after all the research you still have no specific reasons, maybe you should consider taking the school off your list!

The School’s Focus

Universities take many shapes and sizes. The most common are liberal arts colleges, state universities, private universities, technical or science-oriented schools, and parochial/religious schools. You may be applying to a variety of colleges, but some students seek a specific experience that can only be found at a certain type of school. Express concretely how this environment appeals to you in your supplemental essays.

For example, liberal arts schools tend to be more flexible in their course and major requirements. If you haven’t declared a major or you have many interests, use your supplemental essays to write about how the school’s emphasis on interdisciplinary studies will allow you to have both breadth and depth in your education.

Admissions officers seek students who will appreciate and “fit” their school and values. Show how you will integrate and benefit the campus community. Explore the websites, mottos, and even school crests of the colleges on your lists. Everything featured there will give you a peek at what a given school holds near and dear.


How important is it to you not to be “just a number?” Faculty-to-student ratio can be an important deciding factor when choosing a school. Liberal arts colleges and other small schools often have low faculty-to-student ratios. If that is important to you, write about how you value getting to know your professors and having more discussion-based classes in your supplemental essays. This can be done in large university classes, but is an essential element of many schools.

Be sure to name particular professors whose classes interest and excite you. Researching these specifics will only take you about 10 minutes, but will go a long way to underscore the theme of your application!

Research Opportunities

If you want to gain hands-on experience in your chosen field, research is a great way to get that. Faculty often need research assistants and will provide opportunities for undergraduates to learn how to conduct or assist in complex projects. If this is important to you, mention the titles of one or two research projects that excite you.  

Location of the School

Some schools, because of their location, will provide access to industry, art, and volunteer opportunities, which can enhance your educational experience. If you are interested in computer science and are applying to a college near Silicon Valley, mention the school’s proximity to potential internships. If you love art and are applying to a university near New York City, mention the importance of the art opportunities in the broader community in your supplemental essays.

Education and Curriculum

The most relevant reason for choosing a school is the educational opportunities afforded by attending. You obviously wouldn’t attend a college that doesn’t offer the degree you’re interested in, so write about how you will be able to receive an unparalleled education in your major.

Research the degree requirements and include a class you want to take or discuss the major requirements that are not found at other school (don’t name the other colleges, but mention that the school offers a unique course of study). At the end of the day, academics are at the core of your college experience. Fill your “Why This School?” supplemental essays with details about the classroom experience you’re hoping for!

Student Body and Community

You will be in classes with fellow college students and many will become your friends. This community will help you have an amazing educational experience. You might write about the diversity, inclusivity, or the sense of belonging you felt during a tour. Write about a particular experience you had when you visited or a particular initiative that embodies these values. Give examples of how you will add to this dynamic community in your supplemental essays!


While the beauty of a campus is not the most important aspect of why you would choose to go to a university, it can be something that you mention in your supplemental essays. You could start or end your supplements mentioning a particular location that felt like home, or how you could see yourself studying on the quad among fellow students. The look and feel of college campuses have the power to draw students, so don’t be afraid to mention this aesthetic aspect.


While you work hard in college to earn a degree, you also need to maintain a balanced life, which includes extracurriculars. A university wants to know how you would engage in their community and what parts of campus you would spend your time in. Help admissions officers envision you as a student while readying your “Why This School?” supplemental essays.

Take the time to research clubs or groups, both at the university and in the broader community, where you can continue some of the activities that you enjoyed in high school. Consider if there are any new extracurriculars that you would like to explore at the university. Be as specific as possible—don’t just highlight clubs that are at every college campus. Mock Trial may be your favorite activity, but a Mock Trial presence isn’t unique to any school. Take the time to learn what the schools on your list have to offer outside of the classroom.

Your Future

You’re applying to a university and will be there for four years, so why do you need to mention anything beyond that? Well, you also need to tell the admissions office why are you even going to college, what your goals are, and how their university is integral to the vision.

You can always change your mind during your education (admission officers know that many of you will), and part of going to a university is discovering new interests. Your motivation can be to get an education and learn, but you will have to articulate that clearly and provide evidence to show that you’re thirsty for knowledge.

The Take-Away

When you’re answering “Why This School?” supplemental essays, it is essential to help admissions officers picture you on campus. Specifics and details are so important here. Do your research, and if you visit campus, take notes. Your college experience starts with the application process!

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