Picture this. You are sitting in front of your computer, smiling as wide as you can. You hope the person at the other end of the video call can’t see you sweat. Your heart is pounding so hard that you can hear it through your headphones. Yes, this is it. This is your college admissions interview!
Tag Archives: why college essays
How to Write the “Why Major” or “Why College” Essays?
During the college admissions process, you may come across many supplement essays. The most challenging one is the “why” essay. Generally, these college essay prompt asks, “Why do you want to attend our school” or “why do you want to study this specific major?”
(Rather watch a video instead? Check out Senior College Admissions Counselor Zach’s video on How to Write the “Why Major” and “Why College” Essays!)
What Do College Admissions Officers Want to See in a “Why College” Essays?
It depends on the specific college or the specific program you are applying to. When you respond to the “why college” essay, you want to address the reasons that you’re drawn to that college. Essentially, you’d share what you find unique and different about that particular university.
Think of the “why college” essay like a love letter. There are thousands of colleges out there you can apply to, but what makes this college THE ONE? A good “why college” essay is based on in-depth research. You really have to do your homework! Don’t just jot down the first few things you see on the college’s website. Dig deep. What are some of the opportunities that this university offers that draw you in? How do you find yourself fitting perfectly into the campus culture? Why is this college the best fit for you academically or socially? What are some of your personal goals and values that can only be achieved at this school?
Just like any love letter, you want the reader to feel special. The why essay should not feel generic. The easiest way to check if your why essay is too general is to substitute the name. If you can replace “College A” with “College B” in your essay and it still reads fine, then you need to rewrite and be more specific.
What about a “Why Major” Essay?
The “why major” essay is specific to what you are hoping to accomplish or what career path you hope to be on in the future. Not every high school student knows exactly what they want to do. That’s perfectly normal. For those who are undecided or those who have several interests, be as clear as possible on what you are trying to achieve. What drives you to this set of majors? What do you hope to explore within this particular program?
For those who have a better idea of what they want to do, you’d want to research the resources that this major (or program) offers. What classes are available? Why do you find them intriguing? What research opportunities are offered? What facilities and labs will you be able to utilize? What professors would you study or research under? You want to demonstrate that you’ve really looked into this program, and only this major/program at this school can offer you the unique chance to achieve your goals.
How to Write a Good Why Essay?
Be specific! The more focused you are on expressing what attracts you, the better. The why essay is as much about you as it is about the school (or program or major). Don’t rely on samples or templates that are out there. You may want to talk to friends or alum who went to this college, but what they tell you to write might not make good content.
This really needs to be about you. Think about it from the admissions officer’s perspective. They are reviewing thousands and thousands of applications. You don’t want to sound like just any average joe. You don’t want your love letter to this school/program/major to sound generic. You want it to be unique. You want it to be authentic and specific. You want your own voice to come out. Most importantly, you want your why essay to supplement your personal statement.
A good why essay should provide another dimension to who you are. You shouldn’t repeat information that’s already in the activity section or your personal statement. Ultimately, a good why essay shares why this college is a good fit for you while allowing the college admissions officers to get to know more about you.
Sounds Great! How Do I Get Started?
One way to get started on your why essay is to ask – “What did you enjoy doing?” You want to reflect on what you’ve done thus far. Think back on your high school years and what you have accomplished so far. What are the ways you can continue excelling at the college level? How can this college help you grow?
For example, if you have been involved in certain charity work and you love it, look for opportunities on this college campus that will allow you to explore this. What are the ways this college or program will help you expand this experience? If you have started a particular research at the high school level, you will have access to more resources, better tools, and professors that can help you to further your research. It may lead to jobs and future career paths.
Another way is to visit the college. Check out research opportunities online. Walk around the campus. Join a virtual information session. Schedule informational interviews with alumni. Essentially, use all the possible resources to learn more about this college. This can help you convey why you are drawn to this school with detailed examples and reasons.
The key point to remember as you write your why essay: you want this college (or major) to do as much for you as you can for it.
Need professional guidance for your college essays? Schedule a personalized one-hour consultation with our College Admissions Counselor!
This article is inspired by an interview by Insight Senior Counselor Zach Pava.
Zach has guided hundreds of students throughout the college admissions process. His extensive writing background includes essay contributions online and in print, a sports blog, screenplays, and film reviews. Contact Insight Education today to schedule an initial consultation with Zach. Read his full bio here.
All You Need to Know about Demonstrated Interest
As some of you embark on the college admissions journey, you may start to hear the term “demonstrated interest.” How does it play into the college admissions process? What can you do to use demonstrated interest to your advantage? In this article, we will share our insights on demonstrated interest and its benefits!
(More of an audio learner? Check out this video by Insight’s Head of College Admissions Counseling Purvi Mody!)
What is demonstrated interest?
Starting around 2015, demonstrated interest has started to play a role in SOME colleges’ admissions decision-making process. For the colleges, demonstrated interest helps them understand which students will apply and attend their schools. These colleges want to know that when they send out acceptance letters, the students would likely attend.
How does this help you, the students?
When you are demonstrating interest, you send a message to the college: “I am interested! I may want to join your school.” Beyond that, you are learning if this school is the right fit for you. Whether through online information sessions, college fairs, email lists, or college visits, you can build a better idea of what your college years may look like.
Do all schools care about demonstrated interest?
Not at all. Previously, we emphasized that only SOME colleges look at demonstrated interest. Those are usually small private or small liberal arts schools. However, that doesn’t mean you should just stop your college research completely. If you need to write supplemental essays or a “Why College” essay, attending information sessions and talking to an admissions representative are great ways to gather ideas!
Read more: List of Colleges Where Demonstrated Interest May Benefit You
What are some ways to demonstrate interest?
There are so many ways for you to learn about your potential schools (and for them to get to know you too!). Here are some examples:
- Go to college fairs and fill out your information
- Sign up for email lists (and actually check out the content that interests you)
- Campus visit – online or in-person
- Early application
- Supplemental essay showing how well you have researched the school and why those qualities are important to you
- Speak to college admissions representatives
- Informational interviews with alumni or students
- Attend information sessions. If you join a virtual session, make sure you ask thoughtful questions that can help you learn more about the school beyond what’s on its website
Read more: The Art of Informational Interviews
How do I get the most out of a virtual information session?
First, be engaged. It’s so easy to have three to five programs on your screen while you sit in a webinar. It is also tempting to chat with your friends on your phone. Don’t. Focus on the presentation, take detailed notes, and personalize your data. You want to take notes of things you care about or find interesting, so you can use them in a supplemental essay or help you make the final decision to attend.
Do some research before you attend the virtual info session, so the questions you ask are actually meaningful to you. Don’t ask questions that you can easily answer by searching on the college’s website.
What about online college tours?
While walking on the campus and visiting the city that the school is located in can be a great experience, online college tours can save you time and money and provide you plenty of information about the campus. It should not be used as the only tool for you to use. Join an information session. Follow the school’s social media. Talk to a couple of alumni or current students. We have a wonderful network of Insight students who are either now in college or have graduated. Our counselors connect them with current Insight students, so they can learn about major choices, career paths, and college experience!
Remember, you don’t want to do this for every school. The most important key is to build a meaningful, authentic relationship with colleges. And that takes time and effort. You need to figure out which schools you may want to know better and adjust your list along the way. The college admissions process is a self-discovery journey for you, and learning to prioritize what’s important to you is part of that growth.
Read more: Think it Through: Early Decision
This article was a summary of the video interview with Insight’s Co-Founder and Head of Counseling Purvi Mody.
Since 1998, Purvi has dedicated her career to education and is exceedingly well versed in the college admissions process. Her philosophy centers around helping kids identify and apply to the schools that are the best fit for them and then develop applications that emphasize their unique attributes and talents.