Why The Why Paragraph Is So Important

The Why Paragraph - College Admission Essays

A “Why” paragraph states, specifically, why you believe a particular school is a great fit for you and why you are a great fit for it.  It can include any number of attributes including academics, social activities, religious affiliation, teaching philosophy, geography, history, athletics, etc.  An effective Why Paragraph shows schools that:

  • You know yourself and what you are looking for in a college experience
  • You are interested enough in the school to spend the time and effort doing research beyond the headlines and rankings
  • You are thinking actively about how you will take advantage of the opportunities the school offers and how you will contribute back to the school community

Here are just a few of the colleges and universities that ask the supplemental “Why Us” question:

Columbia: Please tell us what you find most appealing about Columbia and why. (300 words or less)

Duke: If you are applying to Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, please discuss why you consider Duke a good match for you. Is there something particular about Duke that attracts you? (Please limit your response to no more than 150 words.)

Haverford: Please tell us briefly (up to 100 words) why you are applying to Haverford.

Northwestern:  What are the unique qualities of Northwestern—and of the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying—that make you want to attend the University? In what ways do you hope to take advantage of the qualities you have identified?

Rhodes College: Why Rhodes?

Rice University: With the understanding that the choice of academic school you indicated is not binding, explain why you are applying to that particular school of study. (150 word limit)

Southern Methodist University: SMU appeals to students for a variety of reasons.  Briefly describe why you are interested in attending SMU and what specific factors have led you to apply. (250-word limit)

University of Pennsylvania:  The Admissions Committee would like to learn why you are a good fit for your undergraduate school choice (College of Arts and Sciences, School of Nursing, The Wharton School, or Penn Engineering). Please tell us about specific academic, service, and/or research opportunities at the University of Pennsylvania that resonate with your background, interests, and goals. (400-650 words)

Those more you can convey that this college is the perfect college for you, the more that admissions officer will be convinced that, if offered a spot, you will accept it.  So, make sure you know why you want to attend that college.  If you can’t explain why, maybe you shouldn’t apply.

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