The Inevitable College Essay Question: "Why Are You A Good Match?" appears on just about every college application. What are some things to keep in mind while answering this question?
Some of you will be making plans to visit colleges. Many of you will be doing web research on colleges and just about anyone applying to college will need to eventually answer an inevitable college essay question, "Why are you a good match?" 'Why are you a match' college essay questions generally have a limited word or character count and must be concise, clear and give admission officers insight about the applicant.
Here are a few tips to help:
1. Know the academic departments in which you are interested. These vary and set each college apart from one another. Find the uniqueness in faculty, course offerings and available resources. Understand what appeals to you and why you are applying. Why is a specific academic department a good fit for you, how can you reach your goals and be an asset? Do not answer the "WHY" question telling the readers what they already know about their college. Show them why you are a good match!
Be An Asset
2. Be clear about how you can contribute in meaningful ways. Perhaps you want to continue a project you worked on in high school or at a previous college. How will you integrate life on campus with events in the surrounding community? Admission officers like students who will contribute to life on campus and enrich their community.
3. The mission statement of each college is a unique statement that explains the basic philosophy of that school. Demonstrate an understanding of it and how it ties in with your beliefs. If you are a match for that college, it is important that you communicate that point.
Show Your Passion
4. Your sincerity and desire to attend that university must come through in your writing. If you plan on attending if admitted, say so, Demonstrate excitement about specifics about that college that appeal to you. Remember not to be vague and just mention generalities about reputation, faculty or yearly events. Your detail will show admission officers that you have carefully researched their college and are sincere about your intent to be part of their school. Use specific examples that demonstrate you understand what makes that college unique and why you are a good match. If you have visited, state that and don't tell them things they already know like that they have a great faculty or a beautiful campus.
5. Try to stay current and read the campus newspaper. Students are writing about hot topics and it's a great way to learn about the current events on campus. You should demonstrate your knowledge about what is going on outside the classroom as well as inside. Write about how you would like to be active on campus through clubs, organizations and internships. Your spirit should shine through so those reading your application will know you will add value to their college. Be explicit, sincere and detail oriented in your response and your essay will be more impressive
Following these essay tips will distinguish you from other applicants and help make you a strong candidate for the colleges where you choose to apply.
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Question: I have to write several essays explaining why I have chosen particular colleges on my list. I haven’t been able to visit any of these schools or attend fairs or meet college reps, and I can’t think of anything to say that would sound genuine and show that I clearly have a believable reason for my attraction. Even after thinking long and hard, I haven’t been able to come up with any decent reason for wanting to go to specific colleges. I don’t want my essays to sound as if they came straight from the website or brochure. I really hate writing these essays and need some suggestions on how to approach them.
I hate those “Why This College?” assignments, too. I’ve seen students write the same essay for totally disparate schools, plugging in new adjectives, as needed, almost as if they were doing a “Mad Lib.” For instance, “I’ve always wanted to attend a LARGE UNIVERSITY” quickly turns into, “I’ve always wanted to attend a SMALL COLLEGE.” Or “I prefer a COLD climate” is transformed into “I prefer a WARM climate.”
In a perfect world, I think colleges should make this essay optional. The prompt should say something like this: If you have a truly compelling reason for selecting our institution, please explain. However 99% of our applicants should not respond to this question, and if you write a bunch of B.S., it will be held against you 🙂
Of course, it’s hard enough to compose these essays when you do know why you’re interested in your target schools, and harder still if your reasons for applying are as vague as yours are.
Here are some suggestions of ways to personalize the process of writing these nasty things. Hopefully, at the same time this little exercise will force you to look more closely at the choices you’ve made and see if they’re really the right ones for you.
1) Check out the comments about your target colleges on College Confidential. Feel free to quote CC members in your “Why This College Essay.” For instance, “Penn caught my eye when I spotted a comment on the College Confidential discussion forum by a member who called himself, ‘Ilovebagels.’ I love bagels, too (but that’s probably not a wise reason to choose a college!) and also I was interested when he said, ‘I’ve found Penn to be a remarkably centrist institution. Which as a right-of-center person, I felt put it ahead of the other Ivies with their legions of hippies.’ This made me think that Penn might be a good fit for me, so I started to dig deeper …”
2) Make e-mail contact with a “real” student. Many admission Web sites have links that allow you to connect with a current student. You can also do this though a friend or acquaintance who attends your target schools, by using college Web site directories to find students who share common interests (e.g., the president of the outing club or captain of the squash team), or by writing to the admission office and asking if they might be able to refer you to a Classics major or pre-med student or anyone who shares your interests, your home state or country, etc. Then, after corresponding with this student penpal, you can cite his or her words of wisdom in your essay.
3) Comb through college catalogs–either hard copies, if you have them, or online–to find classes/programs/activities that seem special and appealing then discuss your findings in your essays. Obviously, these offerings should be pretty unusual. Admission committees won’t be impressed if you say, “I want to go to Princeton because I found that I can take classes in Shakespeare and organic chemistry.” If you peruse entire catalogs and can’t find something that excites you, you really should be rethinking your college choices.
Finally, check out this thread on “Why This College Essays” on CC if you haven’t already to get some additional tips on those ornery essays. There is some great advice there from “Shrinkrap.”
I’m not sure why you haven’t been able to go on visits, attend fairs, meet with college reps, etc. Perhaps it’s geography and/or finances. But, if at all possible, in the months ahead, I do urge you to take a closer look at the schools that interest you, if possible, and even some that don’t, just so you’ll have options to compare.
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