Guide to "Why This School" Essays
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About this livestream
Learn how to write an essay responding to "Why This School" prompts. Hale Jaeger will walk through how to write college-specific essays, covering what admissions officers are looking for in this essay, techniques to research unique info about a school, and the biggest turnoffs in a "Why This School" essay.
He'll also open up the floor for a Q&A session where he'll answer any and all questions about "Why This School" essays.
Just a little context about who I am if you haven't been on any of my streams before, I'm currently a super senior at Yale University studying neuroscience. This is my fifth year working with CollegeVine now. And today, I'm going to be walking through writing the why school essay, it's a pretty common essay type that you'll run into as you're preparing your applications. So I want to give a nice thorough walkthrough of what that looks like, and where you might want to take it. But if you have specific questions, please throw those in the chat box. Throughout. I will have a q&a at the end. But I want to try to answer your questions throughout if I can. If it's not going to work out right away, I'll just save it for the Q&A. But I'll try to be checking your questions as we go through.
So without further ado, I just want to show you guys what exactly we're going to be covering today. And so we have a couple of different bullet points here. One, what does a why school question look like? What are colleges looking for in response, how to think about the why school problem, then what you all came here for how to start writing the wise or essay. And I've actually given this presentation a few times, which I say, just so that you guys know that this is being recorded, and it will be entering the archive is pretty much within hours or minutes of me finishing the presentation. So if you missed the beginning, you can always go back. And you can watch it again over and over if you want a home. But this is going to be recorded and available on the CollegeVine website in the future.
So jumping right in starting with what this question looks like, you've probably already seen it probably know what you expect it to look like. But that's why I want to go through a couple different examples. So the first one I have here is really straightforward. What is it about Yale that has led you to apply 125 words or fewer? Short and sweet, right to the point? It says Why do you want to go here and say it in 125 words, not that much. Not really, you know, too difficult to wrap your head around.
The second one here is the University of Michigan prompt and it's a little different. It says describe the unique qualities that attracted to a specific undergraduate college or school including preferred admissions and dual degree programs to which you're applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests? 500 words. So this is different in a couple ways from the Yale prompt. It asks you to select a specific undergraduate college so that might be for you, the College of Letters, sciences, and the arts, may be the College of Engineering, it could be their business school, when you're really focusing in on I mean, University of Michigan as a whole institution, but rather just that one, one college within it. And that includes if there's a special program you're applying for, or if you're trying to do more than one of the colleges, you want to talk about that in specific. In addition, you're focusing in specifically on the curriculum and how the curriculum is going to support your interests. And so you actually have a lot more space as compared to the year one, it's about four times as long. And so you have a lot more space to get into the details of your interest in the University of Michigan and the programs that you're applying to.
Similarly, if you look down at the NYU question, it says "We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. What motivated you to apply to NYU? Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college program or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please also tell us why you're interested in these additional areas of study or campuses, we want to understand why NYU? 400 words." So this one, like the Michigan one is asking for a little more from you, they want to know about the specific college, if you want it to be in a specific place. They want to know about that. And they also want to know like your area of study. So you're interested in what you actually want to be doing when you're there. from an academic standpoint. Of course, that doesn't bar you from spending a little time talking about things that are outside of or exogamous from your academics. But that is should definitely be a focus, especially since you have so interspace 400 words for this one.
Then the last example I've pulled here is from Tufts. It says "Which aspects of the Tufts undergraduate experience prompt your applicant. In short, why Tufts? 150 words." This one is very similar to the Yale essay, they just want to know what is making you apply here. And you don't have a lot of room to go into it.
We'll go through some examples of these questions have answers to these questions later on. But first, I just want to sort of summarize what these questions look like. Because we've seen a lot of differences here. There are the straightforward ones like Yale and Tufts just say, "Why do you want to go here?" Then there are the ones that are more like NYU or Michigan that say, "Why do you want to go here? And also why are you choosing this major? Or this campus? Or this department, etc?" So that asks for a slightly more nuanced or detailed answer to the question.
And then there are some others some other types of approaches to this question that colleges might take. That exam might be "Why do you want to go here? And how have you familiarized yourself with the college? What have you done to understand what it's like to be here?" Oh, excuse me. Friday evenings, am I right? They might also ask you about the mission of the school, they might say "This is our mission statement. How does this align with you? How does this reflect who you are?" Then they might ask something similar: "What why is it important to have X religion at the heart of your education?" and that's obviously going to come from a religious school, a Catholic school or a Baptist school, something that actually puts religion at the core of the education. A secular school is not going to ask you why is it important to have a secular education?
And the last one I've given here, as an example is "How will you explore your interests here?" So this is asking you to name some specific resources, and talk about how you're going to take advantage of the opportunities that are available on campus.
Obviously, this list this slide is by no means comprehensive, there are still questions that could take you by surprise that fall into the "Why school?" category, but this is a pretty good way to start thinking about recognizing these prompts.
And so before I move forward I want see, okay, Are you guys having trouble hearing me? Can you put a message in the chat, if you can hear me, I'm getting a little bit of feedback here that says there isn't audio, I just want to make sure that you are all able to hear me? Before I keep going, obviously. And if you can't, I will check in with my team and see what's going on. Okay, I'm seeing a bunch of likes. So I'm going to assume the issue resolved itself. Thank you guys for giving me that sort of validation here. I appreciate I am so sorry about the yawns. By the way, I don't know where they're coming from. But I will do my best to control them. I am excited to be here enthusiastic to be here, I promise.
So moving on you, we're going to talk about what colleges are actually looking for when they ask these types of questions. And so there are three main components here that I want to talk about a passion for attending, the reasons that you want to attend, and whether or not you're a good match. So they want to see that you care about going. They want to understand why you care about going that's probably the most straightforward aspect of it. And then the last one, the sort of secret question here is, why are you and the school a good match for one another. So let's get into a little more detail on this.
The passion about attending is going to come from giving really specific answers showing that you've done your research that you care. You care enough to spend the time on it. So they want to see that you're talking about things that are specific to them. And not just generic could be any college in America, any college in a specific place.
You want to make sure that you are personalizing this essay. And in addition, the familiarity it's kind of same as the other side of the same coin. Have you done your due diligence? Have you made the effort to understand what the school is like and know what's going on there? Then the thinking about the reasons that you're giving, which we'll get into in just a moment. Are they authentic? Are they genuine? Are they just things that come across as superficial? And I'll talk a little more about what that means in a moment. But this is sort of a check to see that you actually do want to attend. And then lastly depth. Are you doing more than just saying look, I did the research here. Some people here are some places here are some opportunities that this campus has? Or are you going into a little more detail? Are you telling us how those opportunities are going to apply to you why they're exciting to you, and not just cool things for a school to have?
To get a little deeper into those reasons that authenticity that I was mentioning? What are your authentic reasons here, your genuine reasons, and they can be academic, or they can be non academic, but they should be authentic, like I said. So some things that do count as authentic reasons that will really resonate with a reader are, you know, having a sense of community, with the people who are on campus, the students, the professor's, etc. Maybe there are specific programs that they have that other places don't have, that are really exciting to you, that you want to take advantage of. And that can be again, academic or non academic. And then that last bullet point is interesting and important, and how are you going to use your education at this school to achieve the goals that you've set for yourself? Now, what are your goals? And how will your education at x school help you achieve them?
In contrast, there are a couple less authentic reasons. ones that don't fly, don't go over so well to an admissions reader. And those are things that are going to be more superficial, like clout or prestige, or your post graduation salary. Colleges really see themselves as more than a stepping stone more than a rung on a ladder, they see themselves as an experience. And, honestly, they are at experience, it's four or more years of your life that you're spending that you're building relationships and growing. And so thinking ahead mean towards the future is fine. But just thinking about it in terms of getting a good job, or getting a job that pays well isn't really going to cut it if they're looking for a reason that is going to resonate with a school and their admissions committee.
And then the last thing I wanted to touch on here is whether you're a good match for the school or not. So it's not enough to just say, these are the good resources that you have. This is what makes you a good school. This is very interesting to all people. It's not about to say I should go to this school because of all these cool achievements I have, you have to really focus on the overlap that you have. With the school, you know why these resources will help you, why you're a good match for the school, not just why it is a good school. And that's a place where a lot of people get tripped up. So think about it, as if you are putting yourself into almost every sentence, if not every sentence, make sure that this essay is really about you as much as it is about the school.
So moving on to how to think about these things and how to conceive of the essay and the question. This is a lot like every other essay that you will write for any school. And that is to help you stand out to help you matter in the eye and make make you really seem really cool in the eyes of the admissions readers. Because they have so many applications to get through. They have so many qualified people, if you just look at statistics, so they want to know what makes you you. And so this should reveal something about you. And it should tell us something about who you are and what you are going to achieve.
So you want to consider yourself going to consider you know who you are and what you want and what you want from your college. And that will really help you guide the direction of this essay. Again, as I just said in the last slides, don't write essays that are just about you, and how good you are, how cool you are. You're trying to convey who you are not what you've done. So you want to write well. You want to show what your key personality traits are. And you want to show where you're going to fit within the community at this school.
Oh, so you're trying to make sure you are giving them the grounds to understand a couple things, whether you fit with the school and that means academics it means social culture, it means the values of the institution. Again, that passion showing if you are willing to do the research that you care abotu. They are also obviously always looking for writing ability. If your essay is riddled with typos, that's not going to go over so well. And it's going to be a pretty easy way to weed something out.
And you also want to demonstrate your interest and the department, the major the program, the college, the school, whatever it is that you're writing this essay about, you want to show that you actually are interested. And then finally, whether you're going to be a positive contributor, once you're on campus are you going to bring something to the school that you know is going to make it a better place is going to help your peers grow. That's what they're really hoping to find out. And so the ways to get that information to know how to talk about this and to get that good research done, are, you know, here, we have lots and lots of resources that you can go through, to try to find answers to your questions to understand what being a student out of school is like.
So some of the resources that I recommend you look through are listed here on the left, and missions websites are, you know, my number one go to, it's a great place to start. It's not shouldn't be where you end, but it should definitely be where you start. Because admissions websites are where they collect a lot of information that they think is going to be important to applicants to prospective students. So it's a good jumping off point to find things that are worth researching more. From there, you'll probably investigate the school website a little bit, I have the departmental websites open so you can see what their academic programs look like. And then a little more detail.
And once you've found a program that you're really interested in, you might check out the course catalogs which are often available online. And that'll help you find specific classes. So you can see exactly how they're supporting each major how they're teaching. And if it's going to be in a style that resonates with how you learn. Also, a campus tour is a usually a pretty good way to do some research on a school to get to know it a little better. It also gives you direct interaction with a college student.
Obviously, most places aren't doing tours right now. But a lot of places do have virtual tours, or some kind of replacement, whether it's on their social media, which is another resource down below. Or if they're doing forums and panels and events that allow you to have that same kind of interaction with current students. Which leads me right to the next one, which is reaching out to current students a lot of the time if you email and admissions office, they'll be able to forward your question to a student who can answer if a student isn't already the one working at the desk, or that emails coming through.
Which leads me to the next point admissions offices, you can talk to the admissions office, don't be afraid to call, send an email, whatever it is to get your questions answered, they might put you on the line with an admissions officer or a student, like I said, that'll help to give you a sense of what that school is like and give you specific answers to the questions that you have.
After that, I recommend checking out some blogs, some social media, often admissions pages will link you over to student blogs, and the official social media accounts. And those can actually keep you astride abreast of what's going on on campus. And that's a really good way to see what's going on what events are happening, how this campus is staying engaged, even, and especially now.
And then the last one that's listed here as an online forum, these I don't necessarily recommend being the your top choice for doing some research, there's very little way to verify where the information is coming from. And so it's not all good. It's not all helpful or truthful. But if you're just looking for something and you can't find it anywhere else, you can feel free to check out those places like college confidential. One thing that isn't on this slide, here are the CollegeVine College fair panels that we did last week. If you missed it last week, we had a whole long series of events that were just panels and fireside chats with current students at schools all over the country of all different kinds. With moderators, just asking questions live to get the answers that people were looking for about the student experience. And we recorded all of those, and we put them back in our archives on our website. So if you're looking for information, really in depth about a certain school, absolutely. Take a look at those. I think they'll be really helpful.
While you're doing all this research, it's not quite enough to just take it all in and just listen or read it. It's going to be important for you to ask note Ask questions and take notes. You know, find the things that are interesting to you. And not just the generic things, write down the specific programs, the environment, what the curriculum looks like, what the course requirements are, so you know what you're getting into that you can keep those thoughts straight. And when you have questions that don't seem to be answered by the websites, feel free to ask them reach out to the admissions office to current students to offer admissions officers, your tour guides, staff, faculty, anybody who's on campus, or has been on campus recently, is going to be more than happy to answer your questions.
One caveat to all this research is that if you do too much of it all at once, schools will start to blend together, you'll get really tired, and you're going to not like the schools that you are tired for as much as the schools that you're fresh for. So if you're feeling fatigued, give yourself a break, take a step away. And just come back to it with fresh eyes. And another time. And something that this research can really help with is writing the why school essay, but it's also important to figure out if you want to go to school at all. And a lot of people don't look at it that way because they think it's just they've come up with a list of schools, and then they just say, I'm going to apply to all these no matter what. But if you're doing the research, and you find that there aren't really things about the school that you would enjoy, then it's totally fine to modify your list based on this kind of research.
You do want to make sure you're maximizing that research, though. And that's why you take notes, ask questions. But you also should go in with, you know, some ideas of the type of information that you are trying to get out of this research. So you want to be thinking, what academic programs and opportunities do they have? Or the things that I'm interested in? Where is this college? Is it close to home? Is it far away? Is it in a big city? Is it in the middle of nowhere? If it is in the city? Is it you know, really integrated with the city? Or does it have its own separate distinct campus? Now? Is it a big school or a small school, people can feel lost in big schools and they can feel trapped in small schools is all about knowing what's right for you.
You'll also want to check out if they have anything that's unique or different, like a new residential system, or some traditions that really stand out. And so that can be something that you latch on to. And then this other thing here that I wrote, what is the college proud of? That's something that what are they advertising, what do they think are their greatest hits their coolest programs and achievements? Because that's the kind of thing that they're excited about, and that they're going to be funneling a lot of energy into. And is it something that, you know, resonates with you, I say resonate a lot for this presentation, because it's honestly, a really important word for what you're looking for that connection that resonating between you and the college and one has to offer.
Some things to avoid when you're doing this research, you can get easy to be sucked in to the statistics of it, the rankings. These are generally not helpful pieces of information, especially for writing the essays, because statistics and rankings don't actually tell you very much about the school and a specific way. Just saying that, Oh, this is the number one school doesn't really mean, it's going to be the right place for you. And in addition, those rankings take into account so many different pieces of information, including how many smoke alarms there are on campus. So you want to make sure that you are finding good specific information that isn't going to change year to year and actually shows us what your relationship to the school would be like.
And as I said before, you want to maximize what the information that you're getting is giving to you, you know, especially the questions that you ask of students. And so you want to think when they give their answers, how does their insight How did their answers reflect upon what's interesting to you? Hmm. So if they have some things that are their favorite aspects of their school or their program, are those things that also excite you, and vice versa, if they have things that they really dislike, are those things that are going to be deal breakers for you? Are they things that you might actually enjoy? So if someone says Yeah, I like this program, I thought it was going to love it. But then it turned out to be really hands on and I prefer theoretical learning. I like to sit in class and just think, but you're somebody who's really hands on and loves to do application based learning and their negatives or your positives.
So it's really about understanding how their information and their attitudes apply to what you're looking for. And that brings us obviously to the last bit of what I wanted to talk about today, which is how to start writing the essays. Now that we know how to think about them, so I'm just going to dive right in, because this is the bulkiest medius part of it. And I want to make sure that we are getting to cover that kind of information. So again, you definitely want to be focusing in on authentic reasons, genuine reasons, reasons that align with you and the school. And so some good examples are, you know, really having a connection to that place. If it's something that you've built over time, for example, a sense of community, if you really vibe with the people on campus, that's important to note, are there any specific programs, academic or non academic, that you really want to take advantage of? And then how are you going to use your education to achieve the goals that you've set for yourself?
Then again, the things to avoid, like prestige and rankings and post graduation salary. I've already talked about why that's not, you know, really an acceptable way to go about it things on the no fly list here. But then, something we haven't yet talked about, are generic reasons and superficial reasons. Generic reasons are things that don't apply to just that college don't apply to that school in specific. So location is a good example of one that people think often that they're writing a very specific essay, because they're writing about how excited they are to be in New York City, or in California, or wherever they're planning to be. In general, there are as you think about it, and there are hundreds of colleges and in around New York City, there are hundreds and thousands of colleges in the country, and their locations are not that different from one another. So it's not actually quite helpful.
Especially think of if you're thinking about a place like Yale, for example, a lot of people say I love that I'm really close to, I'm really in New Haven that's close to New York City, it's close to Boston, I can take the Amtrak either way, if I wanted to, I could take the Amtrak all the way down to Washington, DC. Sure. But that's certainly not special. There are several other colleges in New Haven, there are tons of colleges in Connecticut, and between Boston and New York, there's not a lot about being here that sets apart Yale from other college.
And similarly superficial elements don't really tell you much about what your love for a certain school. So if the buildings are really pretty like they are here, that's great. But what we're more interested in is what you're doing with them what you're doing inside of them, rather than just the aesthetic beauty. So you know, you can want to talk more about the resources than how they look. And that'll be really helpful for you, if you are struggling to think of authentic reasons, definitely avoid how pretty the architecture is, you could talk about the ways the architecture is functional and supports learning but if you only have about 100 or 125 words, you might want to economize on space, talking about a stronger reason.
And then, as I've said a couple times in this presentation already, this essay is about how you and the school match up where you guys Connect, and what ties you together. So going around this little circle here, you know, what are your specific goals? And how will you achieve them using the college's resources? How will you take advantage of the opportunities that they present you? What are you going to do about what you have in front of you? And then what do you personally feel a connection to at this school? You know, why are you tied here? And what makes a college not just a good place to study not even just the best perfect place to study. But why is it perfect for you? What is that connection? And a good rule of thumb for this is are you and the college mentioned in you know, every sentence or every other sentence.
So you'd rather write an essay that says cut x college does this really well. And that is exciting to me because this rather than writing a paragraph about why it's a good school, another paragraph about why you're good, like those resources and why you're a good student, weave it together. It's going to be a lot more effective that way. And so now we're going to go through a couple of Example essays, I'm going to read them aloud. And then I'm going to go into how they take these points and apply them. The first one is that tufts essay that we talked about all the way back at the beginning, which aspects of the tough undergraduate experience, prompt your application, in short, why tops 100 to 100 keywords. Like I said, I'm going to start by reading this response.
So it reads, someday, I hope to conduct medical research in developing countries, I'm attracted to tufts because of the wide array of majors offered and support for undergraduate research. To understand the human brain, I intend on studying biology, neuroscience, and psychology. In addition, in addition to outstanding faculty in each of these areas, Tufts organizes initiatives like the international research program, through this program, I would work with other students and professors on an international project related to brain diseases, this arbitrary, will offer a taste of my future career and help me narrow the scope of my future studies.
So that's a mouthful, but there are actually a lot of really important elements in it. So they start right off with this is my goal, this is the goal I want to achieve. And this is how Tufts is going to help me do that helped me achieve that. I said, I want to do medical research in developing countries. And then they say, top supports that because they have lots of good undergraduate research. They have strong faculty for biology, neuroscience, and psychology, which will help me in my very specific interest in brain studies, and brain disease. And then it goes on to name a specific program, the International Research Program, and how they're going to use it. So they're not just going to do research internationally, they're going to do an international project on brain disease with other students and professors. So they're engaging the community at Tufts. And they're also pursuing an academic intellectual passion through a specific resource.
And then the last sentence here, this opportunity will offer a taste of my future career and help me narrow the scope of my future studies. AI is nice, because it tells us again, where we're going in the future, how we're going to get there, and why it's important that tufts is providing this opportunity. This is a pretty good way to have, you know, a lot of strong ideas, make an appearance and trust 100 150 words. This essay, by the way, is taken directly from the CollegeVine blog. So if you are looking to read it again later, and see what makes it strong, definitely feel free to check out the blog post that this presentation, this livestream is based off of wanting to do another case study, this time of a slightly longer essay on this one is for why Penn, and it's not one we talked about, we didn't see this prompt earlier. So I'm going to read it out loud.
"How did you discover your intellectual and academic interests? And how will you explore them at the University of Pennsylvania? Please respond considering the undergraduate school you have selected." This one gives you 300 to 450 words. So it's very similar to the NYU essay, for example. And it's asking you about your intellectual and academic passions and interests. So that's definitely the central focus. And they want to know how you were going to use your specific undergraduate college, you know, engineering, arts and sciences, Wharton, or nursing to achieve those goals, and exploring those passions. So this person, I only posted an excerpt from their essay, this is not the whole thing. But it's what fits neatly on a slide and it's enough to get the point across so I'm going to read it out loud and talk about why this is a strong response and also maybe a ways in which you could grow and start starts off.
"Sister Simone Roche, a theorist of nursing ethics once said, caring is the human mode of being. I have long been inspired by SR roaches, five C's of caring, commitment, conscience, competence, compassion, and confidence. Pen both embraces and fosters these values through a rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum and unmatched access to service and volunteer opportunities. commitment. reading through the activities to which Penn Quakers devote their time in addition to academics felt like drinking water from a firehose in the best possible way. As a prospective nursing student with interests outside of my major, I value this level of flexibility I plan to leverage Penn's liberal arts curriculum to gain an in depth understanding of the challenges faced by the LGBT community, especially regarding health care access. Through courses like inter interactional processes with LGBT individuals and volunteering at the Missouri Center for Research, I have to learn how to better support the Penn LGBT community as well as my family and friends, including my cousin who came out as trans last year."
So this essay takes a pretty interesting approach as this nice little introductory paragraph, where it sets up a value system that they identify with, they say these are my values. And then they say pattern shares these values. And its curriculum, as well as its service and volunteer opportunities are the best ways to demonstrate that. So it says, look, pet and I have the same values, we have the same mission. And this is how Penn goes about it. One thing I generally am not a fan of, in writing essays like this, and in general, is using a quotation, you only have 300 to 450 words here to make your case, you should definitely use your own words and not somebody else's. Find ways to paraphrase or apply this information without directly quoting and losing some of your own voice for somebody else's.
But then, once they've introduced what their topic is going to be, this person takes a really cool tack. And each of the following paragraph starts with one of these five C's of caring. So the first one obviously, is commitment. But then there's another paragraph each for conscious conscience, competence, compassion and confidence, as well as a conclusion. This one again, is on the CollegeVine blog if you want to read the whole thing. But this format is cool, because it stands out, it's definitely a little different. And it also partitions the essay really nicely. It's very easy to read and logical bytes. And so the person who wrote this essay gives some more specifics throughout the body.
So commitment, they talk about how they're planning to use the liberal arts curriculum, in particular, to balance out a lot of different aspects of an education that will help them approach the health care access challenges faced by the LGBT community. So you're saying, this is a specific course i'm going to use showing they've done their research. And they're saying going to save this is how I'm going to use it, I'm going to be volunteering with this pen specific center. And I'm going to be learning how to support these people, this group of people in ways that are meaningful. And then they draw a personal connection at the end of the paragraph by saying that their cousin has recently come out as trans. And that is a big part of the impetus for them to take advantage of all of the different types of education that Penn has to offer.
So moving forward, it sounds a lot like there are lots of different schools asking lots of different questions, and you have to write a brand new essay for every single one. And to a degree that is true. As I said, it definitely needs to still be specific, it needs to be school oriented, tailored for the program to which you're applying. But there are some things that won't change. So the main thing to remember here is that this is an essay about a school and about you so the school part will change. But the U part is probably going to be pretty similar from essay to essay from school to school, you are still interested in pursuing the same departments, the same topics, the same methods. And you still have the same set of values. And you still are looking for a specific college experience and having life goals that are beyond college.
So those things are all constant, that's going to be the core of what your essay is building from. Of course, this doesn't mean you can just write an essay and then swap out landmarks and program names and school names. First of all, it's super dangerous, because you might not change something and then you'll be submitting to Harvard with it. Gail, so written in your essay, and that's going to be a pretty, pretty rough it's not going to reflect well on your passion or your proofreading.
Definitely you do have to write a new essay for each school but you haven't you can also think about these things as good starting points for what you want to talk about because you are presumably the same person throughout the entire public. process. As you saw, we have some short prompts like the yellow one, and some longer ones like Penn, Michigan and my U. And so the short ones, maybe you can cover everything pretty short and sweet, not too difficult, the longer ones you might struggle with a little in terms of filling the space. And I'm not saying that you have to write every single word that they allow you to write. If they say 500 words, you don't have to write 500 words. But if you if they say 500 words, and you submit a 125 word essay, it's going to be pretty obvious why that is.
And that's going to be that you didn't try or didn't adapt an essay from one school to the other, you borrowed something you already had written for elsewhere. And so you definitely want to fill in up to about 90% of the space that you're given. And to do that, you might want to include more details about you or about the school. Really, what you'll see as I continue talking is that they are intertwined as they should be. So if you're looking to focus more on you and yourself, give us more about what your worldview is like, what are your values, what is your perspective on the world around you. Or if you've had specific experiences, like anecdotes that you can share about how you've come to find the goals, or tried to achieve your goals in your past.
And then finally, how you'll be a positive contributor to campus, what are you going to bring, and that's going to make you a special addition to campus. On the other hand, you can talk about the college a little bit more, do they have programs or research that are really exciting for you? Do they have organizations, groups, interest programs, things that are going to be very specific, and to this school and help you to differentiate yourself here. And then finally, how you'll use the resources available to you this should be pretty standard, you can't just name a resource, you have to see what you're going to with it.
So as you can see, even though I artificially split these up into things that are about you and things that are about the school, there's a lot of overlap between the two categories of things you can talk about to extend a long a longer prompt. So to summarize, everything we've talked about, this does bring me to the end of the presentation. There are some really great ideas to focus on when you're trying to write a white school essay. And there are some things to steer clear of. One is that you want to avoid is copy pasting, forgetting to change the details. Like I said, don't apply to Harvard with a Yale essay, it's not gonna fly.
Now, you also want to make sure you are fact checking all your work, don't talk about programs that don't exist. Don't talk about majors that don't exist, or things that used to exist, but no longer, make sure you are getting up to date information to include. And then avoid talking about why the school is great and avoid and not saying anything about you and avoid saying things that are all about how great you are. And I'm not talking about the school at all, you would rather be talking about things that align you with the school that make you a good match. And that also means avoiding generic aspects of the school, don't talk about location, don't talk about how pretty the buildings are, or how good the food is, those aren't gonna be helpful for understanding why the school is the right place for you. And then something I just mentioned was not using the full word count, like I said, you should get within about 90% and 10% on either side is usually my go to if they even allow you to write more than the maximum word out.
So you know, make sure you're using the space provided even if you don't use every single letter that you have.
And the last thing to avoid here is value misalignment. I touched super briefly on this earlier, but basically what I mean by value alignment is understand what the school is like. And right to that. And for example, most schools most higher institutions of learning have a fairly leftward leaning bent politically. And that's not to say there aren't conservative students on campus or conservative organizations or that conservative people are silenced or oppressed in any way. But it is definitely something that might rub our reader the wrong way if you don't talk about it with incredible grace. And so we they want people to have things in common with them. You know, this is an opportunity for you to share something that is a connection between you and a school, rather than something that would divide you or something that you have to overcome.
So definitely make sure you're not saying anything racist or homophobic or bigoted in any way that's not going to work for any school you're applying to. So make sure you're just hitting the values that are going to To endear you to the school, rather than the ones that are estranging. And I always try to end on some positives here things to actually remember and focus on. Use this as an opportunity to tell them more about who you are, what you want out of life, and how the schools education is going to help you achieve those goals. Make sure you're settling in on authentic and personal reasons for wanting to attend. And make sure you are as specific as possible. You should always be writing these with the specific school in mind, not just writing in general template essay that you can copy paste all over the town.
So those are the lessons I want to leave you with. But now I want to move into answering the questions that you have the things that are going on in your mind, I've done a lot of talking. And so it's going to be really, really helpful for you guys to have the interaction with me. And I'll try to get to everything. But if I can't answer your questions, by the time we sort of run out, that's totally where we are. I want to I someone asked what is the blog post that I'm referencing, so let me just take a moment to find it and send you guys the link.
See, let's see.
Here we go. I think this is where I've been before, and want to make sure you guys have access to that. So I'm going to send that to everyone. So you should be able to see the blog post that I'm talking about. And that can be that's one of many, many prompts that we cover on our blog. So if you want to just read about some of the possible responses that you can give and how to approach all different types of essays and school specific ones, I'd definitely give that a look.
But for now, I would love to answer the questions that you have. So please do drop those in the box. Yeah. Okay. So I'm also getting a request for the link for the Save videos for later access. So let me give that to you as well. That's pretty straightforward. If you just go to collegevine.com, slash live streams, there's a button there that shows you the recorded ones, but I'll drop it in the chat as well.
And that should give you access to everything that we've ever recorded, ever done. But you can also just go through our live streams page. And that'll also categorize them. So if you go to our live regular live streams, page collegevine.com slash live streams, you can scroll down and it'll have some playlists recommended for you. So Q&A's with current students, ideas about college essays. There's one just for college admissions as a general topic, there's also one a playlist for pre-meds. And so there are lots and lots of really good presentations by all of these great CollegeVine people. So please, please give those a look if you are interested in hearing more about some of these other things.
What other questions do you have, though, maybe about this essay type about college admissions in general. I want to make sure that we're tackling everything that is going on in your minds. all at the same time. I guess I'll ask you guys a couple questions. I have some polls for you to answer here. So I'll send a couple your way while I am waiting for your questions to roll into me. And it would be really helpful to get some of your feedback. So I have a question here is it common to write about professors. Um, and so this is something that you can definitely touch on. If there's a professor who's doing really incredible work or with whom you have a personal connection, it's totally fine to mention them. But you should also take the opportunity to explain that your job, don't just say I'd love to work with their lab. And this professors approach to something is really interesting. And I'd love to explore that further ask them questions and get involved with some research of my own. And so it might not work so well.
And those shorter essays, those 125 word essays, because just because there's not a lot of room to do something like that, but in the longer ones, you can definitely use that as an opportunity. Don't just list a ton of professors say I want to work with this person, and that person, and this person seems really cool and interesting. But it can be something if you have a genuine interest in the work that that professor is doing. It can be worthwhile to put a little effort into that. And talk more about school values. What are some school values I've seen? Where can we find them? What are value differences among the ivy schools, um, so school values, General ones that most schools will abide by tolerance, diversity, accommodation, encouragement, something that I think has been really special here at Yale is a culture of collaboration, and everybody is working together and trying to build each other up, everyone is driven but not competitive. So it's a very rewarding place to be for that reason.
And I think that sets it apart from some other schools of its caliber, that it is really truly a place where people are building each other up and create and helping each other in an environment that is healthy. And I love that. schools will often have a mission statement or a VAT vision statement. And those will encapture encapsulate some of the values and make an explicit way to make sure that you're not going against them. But mostly, it's fairly straightforward, you just have to put a little thought into am I writing something that is going to go against a school's mission here, for example, if you're planning to apply to a Catholic school, I might not recommend writing about, you know, your views on a woman's right to an abortion. And that's, you know, maybe something just to navigate away from in this particular context, definitely a conversation worth having. But maybe not in the why school essay here? How can we show not tell in these essays?
That's a great question, because it can be somewhat difficult to do it really quickly. If you have any anecdotes to share, about an experience at a school or an experience that has led you to believe the school is the right place for you that can be really meaningful and very show not totally. For example, when I applied to Yale, they asked a similar version of that question. It was a while ago, so it has changed a little. But I wrote about a specific campus tradition, or that I could really imagine myself taking part in and how that connected me to the sense of place that is really distinctive here. So anecdotes are always a good way to see to do a litmus test on whether you're showing not telling.
Should you end your essay with excited to walk by x to walk to x library and go to why building as a yearly, I mean, you absolutely can do something like that, I'm not going to tell you what you should or shouldn't do in such a specific way. But if you have something that's meaningful in that way, go for it. I mean, if I think that there are lots and lots of ways to do it, so I'm not going to tell you that you shouldn't send this way. But you can definitely work this kind of information into the essay earlier, you say, you know, I can read envision myself, you know what, I'm excited to go to this library and participate in this activity, as a gala and join a community, you know, that is really passionate about this, you know, so I don't think that's necessarily like a standard way to end this essay. But you can take it in any direction that you see fit.
I'm talking about paraphrasing the school's mission statement and applying it to how you are as a person, you can absolutely do that. I mean, it's something that I probably can't see myself doing is not the way I will approach these kinds of problems or essays. Because of the thing that I mentioned earlier, which is that I don't think you should be spending time using other people's words, I think you should spend as much time thinking about your own thoughts, feelings, ideas, and beliefs. And that'll be the basis of your essay, rather than just what they already have to say.
In addition, I think mission statements, especially for these shorter essays can be kind of narrow, and keep you from talking about the academics, the opportunities on campus, the resources that they have available that you want to take advantage of. And it can get kind of nebulous, while still keeping you away from the specifics that you definitely want to get into. So I would not necessarily recommend paraphrasing the mission statement, and then using that as the framework for your essay. But if it's something that really resonates with you, and is really what drives you're interested in the school, feel free to take that approach. But definitely make sure you're demonstrating that that is like the true passion of yours.
Um, please keep the questions coming. And in the meantime, I'm going to give you another poll to answer just so we can continue to collect a little bit of information on what you guys are getting out of this.
What did I discuss in my why Yale essay, like I said, I talked about a campus tradition that was really exciting for me that I could really see myself doing, and how I could envision myself in various places on campus and what that meant for the sense of community, the sense of place. Those sort of about the magic of the environment here at Yale, that I really loved. And it didn't necessarily talk about any specific programs, or academics, it was a very short essay, obviously. And it really narrowed in on this one tradition, and how it spoke to me. So that was where I took this essay. But for other ones, I wrote a lot about my worldview, like, for example, for my university of michigan prompt, I wrote about the like, just for my overarching perspective on life, and how I would make that manifest at the University of Michigan through the programs that were available.
I don't remember it super well, it was five years ago. Um, but that is the kind of tack I took for those longer form essays. What else do we have? What else are we? What else? Are we thinking people? I want to make sure I'm getting all the questions that you have answered. And the less you give me, the more I have to give to you. I'll miss polls. So I'm just going to keep sending them your way. Thank you for your feedback. Absolutely. But um, please give me some more. Give me some more questions to answer.
You know, I'm always going to pull out my failsafe trick, my foolproof trick for getting you guys to ask questions. And that's telling you guys that I'm about to wrap up. Since it doesn't look like there aren't any other questions to be answered. Every time I say the magic words, wrap up three more questions appear in the box. So I am going to There we go. Here it is. How would you approach a 650 word why college essay.
Again, this sort of goes back to that one slide that I had up previously approaching these longer prompts. You can talk more about your worldview and how you're going to bring that to campus. And how campus manifests that already. You can talk about anecdotes that you've had that are have led to the goals that you're trying to achieve through your college education. You can go into more detail about the opportunities and the research and the organizations, whether they're academic or non academic, anything that they have on campus that you're looking to take advantage of. So you just give it a little more detail should just try to keep yourself from being redundant is my best advice. Because that's the danger. Don't talk about the same thing over and over again.
Because that will get kind of boring. And also you have there if you think about it, there are plenty of reasons to go to a school to go to any given school. You just have to put them together into the essay. So That's what I recommend for those longer essay types.
College asked why major what why area of interest? How to Avoid restating activities, but still communicate a passion. So with this question of why major, I this is not necessarily asking you to restate all your activities. But think about what actually draws you to this. So is it you know, you just love a specific sub subheading of it. So not just biology, but you're interested in genetics, you're interested in genomics, you're interested in these, like very small areas of it?
I'll talk about that. Or is there a particular methodology that you're really interested in?
You know, do you really love working with your hands? And that's why engineering is right for you? Or do you really love connecting different fields? And that's why a philosophy or is for you, you know, so what? What is it exactly that draws you to that major? That's going to be really helpful, or communicating a passion without being redundant?
Can you give specific links for the examples used in a slide show? That should be they should be somewhere and the blog post that I typed that I gave you? If not there, it'll be a similar one. They'll just be in the bottom there.
Why school as a college fine. I googled, um, here it is writing a stellar why this college essay, plus examples? Here we go. This is this is another good link for you guys to follow.
There we go. Oops, did did that go to everybody? Yes. Okay. Great. Um, let's see, what is the most important part of the why essay? The most important part of the why essay is showing that you are a good match for the school that you guys go together, it's not just how good they are, or how good you are, but that you are going to be great together. That is the most important part, of course, doing that authentically. And doing it with specificity. That is, if I had to summarize this entire presentation into like, three seconds, that's exactly what I would say.
Um, would you mind sharing what you wrote about for your Common App essay, so Okay, my Common App essay was a little bit cheesy, and that's okay. That's something that I try to tell everybody. Being cheesy is okay, as long as you avoid being cliche. And so it was a series of four anecdotes, followed by a conclusion paragraph. So it's five paragraphs, and each one told a different story. Each story revolved around a different time that I fell over in my life, once when I was three, once when I was seven. And so I was 13, or 14, and ones when I was 17. So some of them were really light hearted and fun.
Others of them were more mature and serious, especially the last one, where I was trying to show that I had grown. And then in my conclusion, paragraph, I tied the stories together, I said, this is, you know, what I've learned from these experiences, this is who they've made me. And even though I keep falling down, I recognize that that's just a part of growth. And I'm not afraid to fall. I am excited to stand back up and keep growing and in college and beyond.
So that was the general thrust of my essay for the CommonApp. Like I said, a kind of a cheesy topic, you know, very, very straightforward metaphor falling down getting back up. But it was something that allowed me to show a lot about what mattered to me and who I was and what experiences had made me the way I am. So it was very personal in that way.
Yeah, do you read essays if we email them to you? Unfortunately, I cannot do that. That's not a service that CollegeVine offers where you just send me your essays and I read them and give feedback, something we do have, we have two resources that I do want to bring your attention to one is a peer feedback tool, where you can put your essay out there for other applicants to read. And you can read other applicants and give feedback and help each other, which is really cool. And it helps you guys fresh set of eyes on it. And we also do live essay reviews. So they're live streams like this, where we'll go through an essay that we get from you guys, and talk about its strengths, and its ways it can grow. And so you'll see some of those under our live streams page as well, if you take a look at that page, there's a whole folder, a playlist that's just live essay reviews, so you can take a look at that.
Yeah, um, one of the questions you guys have now that we have had some more time together?
Um, what does that look like?
All right, I'm gonna give you my last poll, then. I'm just, you know, question about how many colleges you guys are applying to be really cool to get some feedback on that. And I know that we are, you know, at the tail end here. So there we go. Can you give a sample anecdote, um, I, I could give some anecdotes from my life. But the whole point of an anecdote is that is a personal story that has happened to you that maybe you learn something from or that it really exemplifies your way of thinking.
So for example, one of the anecdotes I wrote about in my Common App essay, one of the times I fell down, was the first time and only time that I went ice skating, I grew up in New Jersey playing of ice skating, playing hockey is just something that my family never did until I was approaching High School. And then I was really embarrassed because all my friends and more importantly, my girlfriend at the time, were avid skaters, my girlfriend's whole family loved hockey. And I had never been on the ice before. And I fell over about a million times. And I was so embarrassed, because you know, when you're 14, you are really insecure about that kind of thing. So I spend a lot of time, you know, trying to look busy, like I was in control, and it was very difficult, and I was really stressed about it.
And I know that that was, you know, just a time that I felt really afraid to fall, and something that I had to learn from. So that's one of the anecdotes I used personally. But they should be really personal to you different. It can be literally about anything that taught you a lesson or exemplified a lesson, for example.
Any other questions before we close out the night? Well, in that case, I want to remind you guys that this is, again, a recorded session, so you can find it again in the future if you wanted to. And there are plenty of live streams going on all the time.
So we have plenty coming up this week. And in next couple weeks, so definitely give us some time to cover some more topics that are interesting to you. But since I'm not seeing to any more questions, I'm going to call it a night on this one. And I hope to see you guys next time. Thank you guys so much for all of your excellent questions and for being really participatory here. We're really excited to be able to help you and we hope that way you can do even better in the future.
Undergrad College: Yale University '21
Work Experience: I am a senior at Yale and excited to begin my fifth admissions cycle working with CollegeVine. After four years of working directly with students, I can't wait to engage with the people and the process in new and innovative ways online.