4 years ago
Admissions Advice

Is it good or bad to name drop specific teachers and researchers when answering the " why this college " prompt?

I have gotten mixed advise on this and I am hoping to get a clearer answer. Some say it is good and will show admissions officers that you took time to research the college and others advise against it. Why is it good or bad to namedrop?

Heres my situation. I have had laboratory experience through getting an internship in a research lab. One of the main reasons I want to attend a certain school was because their research program and opportunities are unparalleled. So, in one of my supplementals, I mentioned a certain researcher that I would be more than eager to work with. I talked about her research work and how it paralleled with my specific experience in her area of research . So in a sense no, I am not trying to " name drop" just to name drop, but I was wondering if this way of naming specific people i am eager to work with, would reflect badly .

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3 answers

4 years ago[edited]

As a general rule in life, it's better not to name drop anyone. In this case, you are an anonymous applicant applying to an anonymous application officer. You don't know very much about the politics with regards to admissions and you don't know whether they think you are clever to know so much about the campus and staff or just name-dropping. Seriously, anyone can look up department heads and figure out whos doing what and that doesn't give you a leg up on someone who the college is looking for to fill a particular spot.

While there are many applicants who think the "Why Us" prompt is a platform for them to talk about how great the school will be for their academic and future professional goals, I would rather express that it's a two-way prompt and the college really uses the information to figure out if you are a good fit for their needs, goals, and aspirations to build the best Freshman Class possible. If you just talk about yourself, it's not going to be very helpful to them since everyone who applies has a reason for wanting a spot there.

Therefore, you have to try to answer for yourself and the college without behaving obsequiously, especially for one's own advantage. If you put yourself in their position, you will know that they only have X spots and perhaps 10X or 20X applicants, so regardless of a particular attribute, they are looking for someone that fits their culture, values and can make them look good.

This is maybe not the answer you are looking for but I'm only here to be helpful.

4 years ago

The way you are saying it—and I’ve essay reviewed many “Why Us?” Essays—absolutely don’t “namedrop”. To clarify, when someone says you are “namedropping”, this means you are like “listing” a professors name without giving any significant insight onto how this certain somebody can impact your educational journey at the institution. The same goes for Course/Classes and Clubs/EC’s, don’t just name them, but add detail about how they will benefit you.

My example from WHY US? Essay to Duke: “...For further guidance, I’ll Flunch with Professor Charles Gersbach to discuss his Nature Biotechnology publication on the “CRISPR Toolkit” and my proposals for further experimentation exploring the technology’s precision for gene edits....”

Here, it is easy to note the professor I inputted in the essay—Charles Gersbach—along with how I have previously associated with him (I didn’t, but his Nature Biotechnology paper fascinated me), and finally, how this professor can guide me through my educational journey. Through Flunching (which is unique to Duke meaning “Faculty+Lunch”), I can be guided by my professor.

Now, here’s a bad example that can be considered “namedropping”: “...I’ll Flunch with Professor Charles Gersbach to discuss his Nature Biotechnology publication on the “CRISPR Toolkit”....” This alone, without the addition of how “You” come into play, is namedropping. While this shows that you did your research, it does not show how you plan to apply a specific faculty member or a class to your advantage as a student at the institution.

The comparison: The first example initially states “for guidance” and goes on to name my plans, which were the “experimentation [research] exploring [the CRIPSR system’s] precision for gene edits.” Meanwhile, the use of the professor is something that connect my interest to the university. On the other hand, the second example is not so good. It expresses no direction as to what I plan to do but is rather like stating a fact, something they already know. Yes this professor holds a patent and has his name published in Nature Journal, but what does this mean to you?!?

Hope this provides insight through an example—Good Luck!!

4 years ago

I think that if it's true it could be a good idea. If you are just namedropping for the sake of namedropping then there is a good chance that the admission person will be able to see through that, and then it would probably not work out in your favor.

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