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The college application process is riddled with questions. Whether you’re contemplating a potential major or discussing past community service involvement, the answers you provide to these countless questions are extremely important.

Just think: one solid answer to an essay prompt (in addition to your academic record and other materials, of course) can catch an admissions counselor’s eye, and put your application above the rest. One such prompt will arise on almost every college application: Why do you want to go here?

Admittedly, the question will probably be more eloquently worded, including a tidbit about the particular university and its motto. Its gist, though, is universal. Why are you applying to this school? What about it piqued your interest, and why would you consider attending should you be admitted? These questions seem vague and can be difficult to answer–especially for safety schools. If you are applying to a school that you’re not wholeheartedly passionate about, then it can certainly be harder to seem that way. Here’s a few do and don’t pointers on this ever-elusive answer. If properly tackled, this question will be a no-brainer!

DO: Take notes after your campus tours

Post-college visit, it truly is helpful to jot down notes–even a pro/con list–about a particular school. That way, you may find that there are obvious benefits to discuss on college applications. Certain universities have attributes that are unique. These can range from a particular academic program to an extracurricular activity that you enjoyed learning about on a campus tour, and are perfect examples to draw upon when writing about what drew you to that school. Studential recommends asking yourself the following two questions: What aspects appeal to you most? How is it different from the other universities you’ve seen? Refer to these notes to more easily respond (try bringing a notepad with you, or writing a note on your phone as soon as you finish the visit, so that the information is fresh in your memory).

DON’T: Mention nightlife

The last thing that a college’s admissions staff wants to hear is that you would like to be admitted because you enjoyed your visit–and heard that the bars in the area are top-notch. On the same token, that the fraternity and sorority life has drawn you in. These are inevitable aspects of every college student’s life at one point or another; however, making them discussion points in your college application essay is probably not the best idea. Use common sense here, people. This should be pretty self-explanatory.

DO: Think about your prospective major

Some students know what they wish to study in college even before they’ve been admitted. As I mentioned before, some institutions may offer specialized academic programs that set them apart from the rest. In a science like Biology, for example, perhaps a certain school runs a lab that caught your eye. If you’re looking to study Theatre, maybe some schools offer extensive acting workshops and offer student-run productions. Thinking of these academic offerings and amenities can bolster your response. If there are notable faculty at a particular school that you’ve heard are experts in your desired field, mention that you would enjoy working with them. Showing this type of knowledge signals to admissions counselors that you a) care about that school and b) have researched it. Also mention, if applicable, why you wish to study a subject. If anything, this provides more insight to you as an individual.

DON’T: Focus solely on your financial situation

Similar to the (hopefully) obvious “don’t” of mentioning nightlife is mentioning that you only applied to a school because it was cheap. Of course, your financial situation is something to consider when applying to any school–it’s not to be discounted. However, in an essay describing your choice to apply to a university in particular, it is best not to play that card. Unless you are applying for a presidential scholarship program or another type of aid package that involves academic merit, then simply attributing your choice to apply with less future debt is not too wise. Instead, focus on the aforementioned aspects of the school’s academics, faculty, and student life. These subjects contain more substance and are more likely to form a comprehensive, successful answer.

DO: Talk about your career aspirations

It’s important to show that you may be putting advanced thought into a future career or lifestyle. Your essay can stand out if you make a link between this future that you’re envisioning and how going to a particular university can start you off on that path. A creative essay could focus on a possible acceptance as the first, crucial stepping stone to the future that you desire. Knowing that you may be around students and peers that share the same interests can be an interesting topic to introduce, too. The support system that can be built around peers who look to enter into the same profession can be invaluable.

DON’T: Reveal your “safety” school 

The people reading your application will, if anything, be disheartened to hear that the only reason your work is sitting in front of them is because you feel that you’re a shoe-in candidate. Remember: nothing is guaranteed. Even if you think, with every fiber of your being, that you will be accepted, don’t hinge on this fact in your essay. Again, common sense applies here. Make the same reasoned, detailed argument for why you deserve to be accepted to your safety schools just as you would to your target and reach schools. This ensures that you’ve put your best foot forward and done all you can to impress what could be your future college.

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  1. Pingback: How to answer the “why do you want to go here?” essay prompt | The Monty Sponge 21 Jun, 2015

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