From Generic to Genius: Personalizing Your 'Why This' College Essay with Examples

Published on
July 10, 2024

Did you know that colleges can tell when an essay is recycled? Avoid this common mistake and learn how to personalize your 'Why Us'/'Why This'essay for each application

You're probably juggling applications, transcripts, and maybe even standardized tests. It's tempting to write a generic "Why Us" essay and copy-paste it for every school.

Colleges want to understand why YOU want to be there, not why a college is good.

BAD: "XYZ College is renowned for its cutting-edge research facilities and diverse student body."

GOOD: "At XYZ College, I'm drawn to the opportunity to collaborate with Professor Smith, whose work on sustainable energy aligns perfectly with my career goal of advancing renewable technologies."

A why us essay has to contain specific details about the college. 

Here are the steps to follow for an essay that will help move the needle:

Step 1: Research and scrape specifics about the college:

Understand what makes the college unique and how it aligns with your goals. This can be:

Academic: Programs, courses, and faculty that interest you.

Example: "X College, which puts a premium on history, law, and international relations, offers exactly the academic environment I'm looking for."

Extracurriculars: Clubs, organizations, and activities that you want to be a part of.

Example: "I look forward to taking part in Professor Anthony Pescatore’s aquarium club and joining field trips to the John D. Pickering Aquarium downtown."

Campus Community: The culture, values, and traditions of the college you connect with.

Example: "I am eager to immerse myself in the hands-on experiences and collaborative learning culture of Wonderful College’s marine biology community."

Step 2: Connect your goals with university resources:

Overall Goals: Think about what you want to achieve personally and professionally.

Example: "I am certain Wonderful College is the optimal place to continue expanding my knowledge in the field of marine biology and ichthyology."

Academic Interests: Highlight how specific courses and programs align with your academic interests.

Example: "I will enthusiastically register for Wonderful College’s classes 'Brackish Water Species' and 'Rescuing Our Coral Reefs,' as these align perfectly with my passion for maintaining aquariums."

Detail Specific Courses and Programs: Mention courses, professors, or programs by name.

Example: "I have already read Professor Anthony Pescatore’s book, The Fish Hobbyist’s Bible, and am excited to learn from him directly."

Explain How You'll Contribute:

Example: "My years as a tropical fish hobbyist have taught me the importance of perseverance and meticulous care. I believe I can bring this dedication to Wonderful College’s aquarium club and contribute to its vibrant community."

Step 3: Draft Your Essay

Create a first draft that combines your research and reflections into a cohesive narrative.
Start with a Hook: Start with a hook that captures your interest in the college.
Example Hook: "In the tense moments of the 'It’s Academic' tournament finals, I discovered that my passion for quick thinking and teamwork wasn’t just a game—it was my future."
Body Paragraphs: Develop your main points, making clear connections between the college's offerings and your goals.
Conclusion: Reinforce your enthusiasm for the college and summarize how you will benefit from and contribute to the community.

"Why This/Why Us" College Essay Examples

Example 1:

It was down to the last question in the finals of the “It’s Academic” televised tournament. Our family members sat sweating in the studio audience. When the announcer read, “Name the only two landlocked countries in South America,” I immediately pressed the button, even though I was sure of only one of the answers. “Bolivia, right?” I whispered to my teammates, and they nodded. “And Paraguay, for sure,” said my teammate Lauren, just as I knew she would. “Bolivia and Paraguay!” our team captain, Aaron, sang out. We won the championship.
I love the adrenaline rush that comes with tapping into knowledge under pressure, and I love it even more when it’s part of working with a team. One day I hope to put these skills and passions to use as a courtroom lawyer or an international negotiator. That is why I’m so enthusiastic about Wonderful College, which puts a premium on history, law and international relations. I’ll register for the freshman seminar, “The International Criminal Court: History and Effectiveness.” I’ll take a history course from Professor John Doe, who is the author of one of my favorite books, Trivia-Lover’s Trivia. I’m also thrilled that you offer both mock trial and debate team: my biggest challenge will be deciding if I can juggle both!
I am convinced that there is no better place for me to expand my knowledge of politics and law, develop my rhetorical skills and build deep friendships while working side by side with fellow students
GradGPT Score: 86/100

🎓 GradGPT Score: 86/100 🌟

Score: 86 out of 100.
Overall, this is a good essay with room for improvement in substance (more evidence for the claims) and writing style.

Example 2:

I did everything I was supposed to do. I planted long, sinewy aquarium plants. I obsessively checked the temperature and the pH of the water. I created small refuges by piling rocks in the corner of the tank so that crevices formed. Yet, for three years, I was left disappointed. Now, just this week, my hard work paid off: my pair of firemouth cichlids produced fry, filling my aquarium with dozens of tiny slivers darting here and there. This, my first successful attempt at creating the conditions necessary for spawning, marks the highlight of my years as a tropical fish hobbyist.
When I read that Wonderful College’s marine biology program includes an aquarium management minor, I jumped up from my desk with excitement. My interest in ichthyology extends from the theoretical and research components to the practical: I love maintaining aquariums. I will enthusiastically register for Wonderful College’s classes “Brackish Water Species” and “Rescuing Our Coral Reefs.” I have already read Professor Anthony Pescatore’s book, The Fish Hobbyist’s Bible, and I look forward to taking part in his aquarium club. I’m also excited about field trips to the John D. Pickering Aquarium downtown.
In addition, I hope to take advantage of the marine biology study abroad program to Sumatra where I can observe unique species found nowhere else. For these reasons and many others, I’m certain Wonderful College is the optimal place to continue expanding my knowledge in the field of marine biology and ichthyology.

🎓 GradGPT Score: 88/100 🌟

Score: 88 out of 100.
Overall, this is a good essay with room for improvement in readability

Readability is captured by Hemingway score.
GradGPT essay score of 88.

Example 3:

Mark Twain was a steamboat pilot. Agatha Christie was a nurse. Robert Frost was a light bulb filament changer. The best writers do not only write beautifully, but also integrate their personal experiences and knowledge outside the world of literature. By combining the study of literature, media and perhaps law, I believe the University of Michigan will provide the education necessary for me to evolve as a journalist. A journalist cannot reach the peak of his craft if his knowledge of literature and critical thinking skills are weak, which is why I’m excited to explore what the Department of English has to offer. I look forward to courses such as Academic Argumentation and Professional Writing, as I believe these will provide me with a firm basis in journalistic writing technique and improve my abilities to write analytically and develop well-supported arguments. Furthermore, the Professional Writing course will teach me how to write in a concise, straightforward style, a skill vital to a journalist. At The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, I will be able to apply the skills learned in class with media studies in and beyond the classroom. The Honors Program provides an opportunity for independent research into the field of mass media, which will allow for intensive group studies and in-depth research opportunities, and the superb networking opportunity provides the chance to meet and engage with prominent figures in media-related studies, which will provide a deeper insight and knowledge into the field. Outside the classroom, I can see myself writing scripts for the student-run television station WOLV-TV, or composing headlines for The Michigan Daily. And although journalism is the path I’m currently on, I want to remain open to other opportunities I may encounter at UM. The Pre-Law Advising Program is interesting because I want to explore the intricacies of law and policies that govern this world. I believe that the judicial role of a lawyer is closely related to the expository skills of a writer, and I look forward to exploring this new field of study that wasn’t offered in my high school education. But all these are what UM has to offer me. I realize that, as a member of the UM community, I’ll want to give back as well. The various volunteer programs offered by Volunteers Involved Every Week appeals to me, as does the possibility of volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Michigan, as I have previous experience with elementary school teaching. And as an international student, I know the pains of learning English as a second language. I believe I can contribute to the ESL teaching program either at UM or abroad, and see this as an opportunity to have an impact not only at UM, but in Washtenaw County and beyond.
This essay needs improvement

GradGPT Report Card:

Score: 74 out of 100.
The essay
needs improvement on it's content and writing

Essay Coach Identifies Content as Key Weakness in Student Writing
Specificity is the most crucial aspect of a "Why This" essay.

A killer "Why Us" essay shows why you're a perfect match for your dream college. Be specific, personal, and enthusiastic. Highlight unique programs, facilities, and opportunities that excite you. Share how your goals align with the college's mission and values. Show your passion and how you'll contribute to the campus community.
Admissions officers want to see that you've done your homework and that you're genuinely excited about the possibility of being part of their institution. Make it clear that this college isn't just one of many on your list – it's your top choice. Your enthusiasm and connection to the college will make your essay stand out.