The Do’s and Don’ts of the Why Paragraph

The Do’s and Don’ts of the Why Paragraph

I have written extensively about the ins and outs of the Why Paragraph.  Here’s a quick list of Dos and Don’ts that you can print off and keep next to you as you approach this important essay.


  •    DO get specific.
  •    DO use the schools’ terminology in referring to majors and departments.
  •    DO convey your understanding of and commitment to the school’s philosophy or mission.
  •    DO make the connection between the college’s academics and facilities and your career goal.
  •    DO demonstrate how you will take advantage of the academic and extra-curricular opportunities that are presented to you.
  •    DO explain how you will engage in the campus community by discussing specific clubs and activities and why they appeal to you.
  •    DO show how you will contribute back to the school.
  •    DO state confidently that the school is the best place to pursue your education.


  •     DON’T make general statements such as “it’s a beautiful campus.”
  •     DON’T refer to your excitement to work with a specific faculty member who doesn’t teach undergrads or, worse, is no longer alive.
  •     DON’T refer to rankings as a reason to attend “I want to go to Harvard because it’s #1.”
  •     DON’T state your interest in joining clubs or in taking classes that the school doesn’t offer.
  •     DON’T write your essay as though it is a brochure (ie. XX College has over 100 majors and 300 clubs and activities). Remember, admissions likely wrote the college  brochure.
  •     DON’T forget that this essay should reveal something about YOU.

To learn more about how to approach the Why Paragraph, and your college application in its entirety, please review The Complete Candidate: A Comprehensive Guide to Solving the College Admissions Puzzle.