“Why Yale”? “Why Georgetown”? “Why UCLA”? Most colleges ask applicants this question on their applications, and the reality is that most will expect you to come up with a bold statement about why their college is a good fit for you — often in just 200-300 words! Visiting a college campus in person is often great inspiration for writing supplemental college essays, but COVID-19 has made the college application process seem more daunting this year than ever. With in-person campus tours and events canceled, you might find yourself at a loss during your college exploration process.
Luckily, most colleges have made the bulk of their resources available online, and this provides you with a fantastic opportunity to speak to admissions officers during online info sessions and learn more about each specific school. At the end of the day, you also should be confident that any given school is a good fit for YOU! We’ve come up with 5 questions that will help you to navigate the “Why X College” essay prompt, as well as your personal decision to apply to (and maybe later attend) the college on your mind.
What is the school culture like?
This question, although broad, will give you a great idea of what the student body and culture is like. This question can help you decide whether or not you will be able to envision yourself at the college in question. For example, if you like to be in a fast-paced and structured environment, maybe Brown, known for it’s Open Curriculum and liberal environment, shouldn’t be at the top of your application list. If you like to have complete freedom in your course choices, on the other hand, Brown might be a fantastic fit, as opposed to Columbia or UChicago, who have many core requirements. Learning a little bit more about the student and academic culture will help you ultimately decide which schools to fall in love with.
What are the undergraduate opportunities for internships, research, and employment?
This is a really big aspect to take into consideration, especially if you’re considering pursuing the pre-professional or academic route. Maybe the college has a specific professor whose research in cosmology perfectly aligns with your interests, or maybe the school’s engineering department doesn’t generally like to take on undergraduate research assistants. Wherever your interests may lie, being aware of the opportunities that coincide with your future plans will enhance your college experience and prepare you for what’s to come post-college
How have admissions standards changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Given the numerous test cancellations, many colleges and universities have adopted “test optional” or “test blind” policies, or made other crucial changes to their admissions process. The UC schools, for instance, are not considering test scores at all for the 2020-2021 application cycle. If the college of your choice has made significant changes to its application policies, make sure to keep yourself and your parents in the loop about how potential changes might affect your chances of admission.
What are some unique campus traditions?
This can be a valuable and strategic question to ask when considering the “Why X College” essay. Demonstrating that you did your research beyond just poking around on your intended department’s website will show colleges that you’re genuinely interested in their campus and community. Every undergraduate college, especially those with rich histories, will have their own quirky campus traditions. Learning more about these can also help you understand what the social environment will be like once you arrive at your dream school.
What does a typical weekend/leisure evening look like for students?
When applying to college, many students consider the academic and professional opportunities, but it is easy to forget that college encompasses so much more than just high school. Your college experience might include student clubs/organizations, hanging out with friends in a restaurant, unwinding with an evening yoga class, or giving back to your local community. Getting a feel for what students do in their free time will be very helpful for the decision-making process later on down the road.
In the midst of all of these uncertainties, the college application process might initially leave you at a loss, but the good news is that there are many resources available online to help you through this process. The important thing to remember is to be proactive in finding answers to all of your questions. College admissions counselors and current students can be fantastic resources in helping you navigate this process – from crafting the perfect essay to ultimately deciding which college is the best fit for you.