7 Crucial Tips to Writing a Solid “Why This College” Response (+ 4 Sample Prompts!)


With the Common App, it’s easy to apply to a number of schools with the click of a button. Colleges want to know that you’re not just applying to their school for the sake of applying. The “Why This College” essay prompt is your opportunity to demonstrate exactly who you are and how the specific college fit your interests and career goals. 

Read example essays on Magoosh to give you an idea of the tone and structure for this common supplemental college essay.


7 Tips for the “Why This College” Essay 

Be concise.

Clarity and brevity are your friends in this college essay. You don’t need to make a laundry list of everything listed on the Student Activities page that you’re interested in trying out. Share what you’re most excited about, “without simply regurgitating informative facts,” explains Magoosh.  

Share more about yourself.

Use the “Why This College” essay as an opportunity to share more about what makes you unique, along with the characteristics of the college that relate to your interests and passions. Do you spend hours a day watching YouTube videos to learn more about STEM cell research? Do you volunteer at the local nursing home twice a week? Relate either of those interests back to the science or human development departments offered at that school. Ultimately, the goal is to show how you and the school are the right fit for one another. 

Mention the 2-3 reasons you selected this specific school.

As you visit college campuses, start thinking about the details that stand out most to you. 

Again, in line with being concise, try to stay focused on just a few pieces of what drew you to the school. Was it their on-campus art museum? The International Relations club? Their innovative AI research? The more specific, the more effective your essay will be. Show that you’ve done your research.

Select courses that you’re interested in. 

One way to demonstrate that you’ve done more than read the Admissions page is to select specific courses that you’re interested in. Look through some of your ideal major’s course offerings, and select the ones that genuinely spark your interest. List one or two courses that catch your eye and elaborate on how they’ll support your academic or professional goals.  

Pick activities you hope to participate in.

Not to be too repetitive, but it’s important you stick with the activities you are actually interested in pursuing. Maybe they’re volunteer programs or clubs that are an extension or continuation of your high school extracurricular activities. As The College Essay Guy puts it, “Imagine yourself on campus as a freshman. What are you doing? What conversations are you having? How are you involved?”

Be Genuine.

When you’re not being genuine, even on paper, it comes across. Listing out ten courses and 5 activities you’re looking forward to won’t make for an interesting essay. But picking just a couple of things your genuinely interested in will help you show why you’re the right fit for the college. 

Avoid the weather, campus size, etc. 

According to admissions essay expert, The College Essay Guy, the one thing you want to avoid is talking about what every other student is talking about. He shares: ”DON'T: Write about the school's size, location, reputation or the weather. Why? Because that's what half of America is writing about.” 


4 Sample “Why This College” Prompts 

  • “Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests? (Required for all applicants; 550 word limit)” - University of Michigan 

  • “Why do you want to join the Colorado College community, and how do you think you will contribute to it? (Maximum 250 words.)” - Colorado College 

  • “In the Northwestern Writing Supplement, we ask students to explain why they would like to attend Northwestern. This question is intentionally open-ended. You may choose one or several aspects of Northwestern to focus your writing, though the majority of the essay’s content should relate to your own interests or experiences.” - Northwestern University 

  • “Which aspects of the Tufts undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short, ‘Why Tufts?’ (100-150 words)” - Tufts University

What do you value?

Reflecting on why you are applying to each college is a good habit to get into, whether there’s a prompt asking you to or not. You’ll start to realize what you’re priorities are and what you value most. Plus, taking time to consider what you like best about each of your colleges will help you narrow down your choice come acceptance time!