How do I show the admissions committee that I’m interested specifically in their college?

By Maxine Seya

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"Dear Socrates, I’m stumped on how to write my college supplemental essays. Every college I’m applying to wants me to explain why I want to attend that particular institution. I know I want to go to college, but how do I show the admissions committee that I’m interested specifically in them?"

- Twelfth grader from Oregon applying to ten colleges

Essay admissions insiders insights

Admissions directors and officers oftentimes tell me about their frustrations reading generic “Why College X?” essays. This essay should demonstrate your thorough understanding of and excitement for that particular college. It should articulate how and why an individual like you would best take advantage of and contribute to that college’s environment. Unfortunately, most applicants just describe why they want to study their chosen major and why they want to go to college in general. That won’t get you in.

Bryan Enochs, the Director of Admissions at the University of Michigan College of Engineering, told SocratesPost how terrible some application essays are. When you can change out “University of Michigan” for the name of any other school in your essay, you won’t convince anyone you’re a good fit for that college.

So, how do we convince the admissions committee we know why we want to go to our chosen school? We need to know the campus, its culture, its quirks, and even its history -- like an insider. The more unique details you learn, understand, and express in your essay about your desired college, the more likely the reader will think you are unique too. Let’s investigate a college the way an investigative reporter would.

  1. Deep website search. Go on the department website and read the professor bios. Review the research articles or journals they have published. Highlight the most interesting studies, think about why they are interested, and how these publications pertain to your background and goals.
    • Action item: Start by answering the following questions and incorporating your responses in your essay.
      1. What is that academic department’s history?

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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.