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Before you can write about a school, you'll need to know specific things that make it stand out and appeal to you and your interests. So where do you look for these?

And how do you find the detail that will speak to you? Here are some ways you can learn more about a school. Bring a notepad and write down the following: If you visit a class, note which class it is and who teaches it.

See whether you can briefly chat up a student e. Don't forget to write down the answer! You can also connect with students without visiting the campus in person. Many admissions websites list contact information for currently enrolled students you can email to ask one or two questions about what their experience of the school has been like.

As always, take notes! Colleges publish lots and lots of different kinds of things—and all of these will be useful for your research. Here are some suggestions for what you can use. You should be able to find all of the following resources online. Read the mission statement of the school—does its educational philosophy align with yours? You should also read through its catalogs. These interesting features you find should be unusual in some way or different from what other schools offer.

Are any professors highlighted? Does their research speak to you or connect with a project you did in high school or for an extracurricular? Does the construction of a new engineering school relate to your intended major? What stands out about their experiences? Students write about the hot issues of the day, which means that the articles will be about the best and worst things on campus.

Your target school is most likely on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram , and other social media. Follow the school to see what it's posting about. Any exciting new campus developments? Professors in the news? Interesting events, clubs, or activities? I also recommend looking for forums on College Confidential that specifically deal with the school you're researching.

Another option is to search on Google for interesting phrases, such as "What students really think about [School Name]" or "[School Name] student forum. So what should you do now that you've completed a bunch of research? These connections will be the skeleton of your "why this college" essay. Focus on what makes us unique and why that interests you.

Do your research, and articulate a multi-dimensional connection to the specific college or university. We do not want broad statements the brick pathways and historic buildings are beautiful or a rehash of the information on our website College X offers a strong liberal arts curriculum.

All institutions have similarities. We want you to talk about our differences. Time to find that diamond, amethyst, opal, tourmaline, or amber in the rough. This something should be seen from your own perspective. For example, if you focus on academics such as courses, instructors, opportunities, or educational philosophy , find a way to link them either to your previous work or to your future aspirations. Want to live in a city? Every city has more than one college in it. Find a way to explain why this specific college in this specific city calls to you.

Many schools are beautiful, so dwell on why this particular place feels unlike any other. Like good weather, beach, skiing, or some other geographical attribute? There are many schools located near these places, and they know that people enjoy sunbathing. Either build a deeper connection or skip these as reasons.

Every "why this college" essay is going to answer both the "why us" and the "why you" parts of the back-and-forth equation. But depending on which way your target school has worded its prompt, you'll lean more heavily on that part. Of course, since they are both sides of the same coin, you can always easily flip each of these ideas around in order to have it work well for the other type of prompt.

In short, Northwestern is my dream school because it embodies everything I value: You may find this essay posted on Parke Muth 's blog. While not an accurate representation of what all NYU students think, the NYU Secrets Facebook page constantly posts the thoughts of NYU students resenting the bittersweet independence of such a large, non-traditional school, but at the same time falling in love with the knowledgeable and nurturing faculty and classes.

No walls insulate NYU from the sprawling labyrinth of NYC, which is ideal for a unique and exciting college experience. Her response could have been used for nearly any large or mid-sized urban university. Do I, an admissions officer, believe that this student has chosen my unique university with care? Student 1 speaks in generalities: Boston University is prestigious, located in a historic city, provides access to concerts and museums, and has an international relations major.

She lists facts that the admission staff already knows — facts that are not even unique to BU. Boston University receives some 50, undergraduate applications every year. If you read hundreds like this every cycle, would you be compelled to admit any of the students who wrote them?

Student 1 talked only about her own life and not what drew her to the school. Colleges attempt to distinguish themselves through their locations — mountainous backdrops, subway stops, — but talking too much about this stuff can lead you astray.

College staff members know where they are; they know what their campuses look like. These are more personal, and ultimately more effective, than reciting statistics from brochures. Believe it or not, a student who is happy at one top-tier institution may be totally unhappy at another. Doing research before answering this question is crucial.

Visit the school, talk to current students, go to prospective-student programs, and dig into websites. Each entry should have two columns: One column should lay out something factual about the school, while the other should connect this quality with your personal application.

This includes facilities, scenery, the strength of a particular department, location, size, and course offerings. Ask yourself why these objective qualities are meaningful to you. Is this college like or different from your high school?

Why are these similarities or differences important to you? We want to be able to brag about you to the committee and the more we know, the more we can brag. So how boastful should you be? Showing a little humility can help you be an effective ambassador for yourself. This is one of the most important prompts of all, and if asked, you need to answer it with care. Do your research, decide what is most important to you, and put together a list of schools at which you will be both happy and successful," counsels Brinker.

Such careful preparation "will empower you to craft applications which will appeal to the particular character of each college," he says. A student should take some time to reflect on why they want to attend a certain school: Was it how they felt on a tour, or something they read in a publication that resonated?

We want to know why they're excited to think about life as a student on our campus. Be as specific as possible, adds GMU's Friesner. If you're pre-med, provide a list of courses that specifically interest you: What class or professor you would like to learn from? Abbott says there's "no magic answer," to this prompt. So do what you can to make it more personal, go to a deeper level as to why you feel you are a good match, above and beyond the expectation you would have as a tourist.

It's not compelling to us when a student talks about visiting Time Square. Flattery, meanwhile, will only get you so far. We look for clues in the application and personal statement that tells us you didn't just pick us off the Top," says UC Berkeley's Jarich. The worst answer, everyone agrees, is to say "I want to study here because you have a great major in X," or because, "you are in the Top," say. We don't want to be perceived as just a pit-stop on your way to your career.

Berkeley's Jarich notes that, "Most young people have little real drama to write about. The average suburban kid might ask, 'What's so special about me?

When something happens, write down how it makes you feel, turn it into a very personal, powerful story, one that lets you tell what you believe in, what you stand for. These things happen to us throughout the day, every day, and I think they happen more often when you are in high school. One of the most "meaningful" essays Jarich ever read came from "one of those students who felt they didn't have any drama or anything to stand out to make me tear up.

She showed me the park through the eyes of a giant cartoon character, and did it so powerfully and so well. That summer taught her that, when a child gives you a hug, you let them decide when it's time to let go," she says. It brought tears to my eyes, and it didn't have a story of high drama, just her experience and compassion and understanding. What college isn't going to say, 'We like that, we need that'? We have the expectation that students spent time thinking and completing their essay.

I see all kinds of errors of spelling, text type, even a lower-case 'i' and 'lol. That fatal mistake happens more than you'd think. Many students hire coaches to help with their essays, but it is illegal and unethical to have them do anything more than advise and provide suggested edits for you to consider. This is your chance to shine: Of course, don't be the only one to read your essay. Cheating, plagiarism, or hiring someone to write the essay will likely be detected.

We suspect students who produce samples that are too polished but got a C in AP English. Berkeley's Jarich advises applicants "to read their work aloud and edit it when given feedback, but do not edit it to the point that your voice is lost. While some may wonder how we could know if it is their voice, a veteran application reader will tell you that there are enough clues in the application to know when the essay has been re-engineered to the point of losing the connection to the student.

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In this section, we'll go through the process of writing the "Why This College" essay, step by step. First, I'll talk about the prep work you'll need to do. Next, we'll go through how to brainstorm good topics (and touch on what topics to avoid).

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Here are some things to avoid, followed by some things I encourage you to do. Don’ts. Don’t mention a college’s reputation or rank. In my opinion — unless you’ve got a very strategic reason for doing so — this will only occupy valuable space. Don’t mention the college’s founder. I could go on. To know what kinds of questions to ask yourself about what you do want in college, you might want to check out our article about the first steps in selecting a college that suits you. 2. Research the college. This means real research, not looking at pictures in pamphlets or online.

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The essays hold your application together and truly show the adcom the one thing they want to know: WHO YOU ARE. It is for this reason that your graduate school admissions essays need to be authentic and exceptional. See an example of a college application essay, with a point-by-point critique.