How to write those required essays: "Why I want to go to College X."

May 16, 2000

There are numerous volumes (and epinions) written on how to write a winning personal statement for college admission. However, I feel that not a lot of time has been devoted to helping students figure out how to write an equally snazzy and powerful statement about why they want to attend a certain college. Many of the colleges I applied to required a brief paragraph about the applicant's reasons for wanting to go to the school. They were usually phrased like this: "Why do you want to attend College X?"
The answer the college is looking for is not, as one might think, a shower of compliments about the virtue and prestige of a certain school. Brown, for example, already knows it's a great school, and they can give you the reasons why. The admissions officers do not want to hear that you want to go there because the campus is beautiful, it has a good reputation, or Mom or Dad went there and say it's just peachy. They will not refuse to admit you based on a wishy-washy, cliched answer to the "College X" statement, but a more personal and unique one just might put you over the rest of the applicants, and it shows that you took care in making all parts of the application truly "you."
So what should a good "College X" statement include? I tried to make mine speak not about why College X was so great, but why I was a good fit for College X. Are you applying there because it's a small college, and that's what you want? Say so! Pick the elements of the college that attracted you and write about them in terms of yourself. Always remember that this statement comes down to you. Here's an example from my brief "Why Oberlin?" statement:

I first learned of Oberlin when I was sifting through the masses of college mail I received during my sophomore year. Oberlin’s viewbook, with the question, “Think one person can change the world?” immediately caught my eye; the school earned a spot on my ‘cool college’ list when I saw the answer inside: “So do we.” Oberlin’s history of social action and its encouragement of student activism are inspiring to me, as I definitely do want to change the world. The Conservatory, the small student body, and the womb chairs and rainbow couches in Mudd Library also appeal to my loves for music, friendship, and whimsy. Academically, I learn best when I am given a challenge and the independence to conquer it creatively, but also receive support and nurturing. I feel that Oberlin would provide this kind of environment and allow me to thrive both inside and outside of class.
My main academic goal at Oberlin would be to graduate knowing that I had learned and helped others to learn as well; I plan to accomplish this goal with a possible major in English. Personally, I want to enjoy my college years to their fullest. A few weeks ago I e-mailed a recent Oberlin graduate with some questions about the College. He told me that one of Oberlin’s most defining qualities is that “everyone is into everything there. It's not like Oberlin kids to separate work from play—a lot of times work is play and vice versa.” I want to live out my college years with the same kind of energy and put passion into everything I do.

I wouldn't say that my example is perfect, but you can see that I conveyed myself through it. All in all, my point is, make even the "Why College X" statement yours, and personalize!!

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