Writing the “Why Us” Essay, Part 1—What NOT to do.
A common concern we’ve been hearing a lot is, “What on Earth am I supposed to say when a college asks me to write the ‘why are you applying to blah blah” essay? Is there anything I can say that will sound original and stick out?”
Fear not, applicants. While there’s a lot of ways to go wrong with this essay, it’s surprisingly easy to go right if you just avoid some common mistakes. We’re going to go ahead and post two essays today: One where we tried to do everything right, and one, as you can probably guess, where we didn’t.
The “Why Us Essay?” Bad Edition
DEAR BEAST UNIVERSITY,
"Ever since I was born, I have wanted to go to Beast University, founded in 1877 by John. D. Beasterton. Beast University is the most wonderful place in the entire universe. It is the culmination of all my hopes and dreams. Beast University has incredible, state of the art facilities such as halls and windows. I have been told even the toilets at Beast University smell like magic and dreams coming true. Everyone at Beast University is really, really, ridiculously good looking. If
Yale University UC Berkeley Beast University, does not let me in, I may throw myself off a building.”
What Went Wrong:
- Throwing in gratuitous facts: Don’t do it. The admissions committee has seen the Wikipedia article on their school too.
- Being over-the-top about the school: They get it, you want to go there. And they’re thrilled that you do. But there’s a fine line between showing enthusiasm and sound like your emotional stability rides entirely on this school.
- Mentioning things that could apply to any other school: It should always look like you didn’t just copy and paste this essay from your other applications. It should also look like you took some time to learn about the school—guessing that it has “halls and windows” isn’t much of a reach.
- Actually naming another school: This should go without saying, but the words “Yale University” do not belong anywhere near your application to Beast University—-a slip up like this is a huge no-no
- Mentioning the Toilets: You should probably just avoid this all together.
Now, (hopefully) none of you will be writing an essay this off the mark. However, we do understand that it’s a lot easier to understand what you shouldn’t do than to actually write a creative, striking essay that will really shine. Stay tuned for part 2, where we discuss how to write a good essay.