Tips for Writing the Why School Supplemental Essay: Demonstrating Your Fit

Padya Paramita

Tips for Writing the Why School Supplemental Essay: Demonstrating Your Fit

Different colleges have various characteristics that they look for in incoming students and supplemental essays are often what they use to determine a good fit. The most common prompt among these is the why school supplemental essay, which as the name suggests, wants to know exactly why you want to attend the particular college. Don’t underestimate the “why school” prompts that await you. To help guide you through how to navigate these essays, we’ve provided some factors you should consider.

Research, Research, Research

For any of the why school supplemental essay prompts, make sure you’ve conducted your research! Explore the detailed requirements, courses, faculty, and resources available to undergraduates and see how they align with your profile and interests. Emphasize your “demonstrated interest” in the school—drive home that you’re the right fit for this college and vice versa. You might explain how well you understand the mission or educational philosophy of the school or program. You must focus on how one or two particular aspects of the college suit you. Be as specific as possible and make sure that you show your enthusiasm.

The next factors will dive deeper into what exactly you should be researching!

Know What the School Focuses On

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 why school supplemental essay.

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.

Know Exactly What Makes the Particular School Unique

Schools can definitely tell if the examples you’ve provided in the why school supplemental essay are generic or taken from a different response. If it’s relevant to every single college, you’re approaching this essay incorrectly. If there’s information that’s easily found on the first page of the school’s website, you must try harder. The “why school” essay needs to include information that is unique to that particular school. So include names of classes, professors, programs, extracurricular activities, and other specific factors and resources that only exist in that school that you’d take advantage of and elaborate on why.


How important is it to you to make sure your professors know your name? 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 why school supplemental essay

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. Some schools have very unique research programs—make sure you specify who and what your research project would benefit from.

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 the arts and are applying to a university near New York City, mention the importance of the theatre or publishing opportunities in the broader community in your why school supplemental essay.

Academics and Course Offerings

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 schools (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 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 why school supplemental essay!


While the beauty of a campus is not the most important aspect of why you would choose to go to a particular school, 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 school 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 reading your why school supplemental essay.

Take the time to research specific student organizations, both at the college 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

Colleges like goal-oriented students, and they want to know how you can use their resources to reach your aspirations. You can always change your mind on what you major in during the course of your education (admission officers know that many students will), and part of going to college 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 curious for knowledge and have particular ambitions.

When you’re answering why school supplemental essay, 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. The reader should leave your essay knowing that you are a great fit and will contribute meaningfully to their institution.


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