@Colleges: Stop making us write ‘why this school’ supplements

October 5, 2021 — by Apurva Chakravarthy

“In ___ words or less, please explain why ____ University is the right fit for you.”

Every time I open my Common App and see that a school that I’m applying to requires a “why this school” supplement, I groan; this essay is yet another repeat of my “why this school” template with a failing attempt to adjust it to a particular school. These supplements do nothing to actually explain to the school of choice why they are the right fit for any particular student; rather, the student just boosts the school’s ego by attempting to write what they think the school wants to hear.

When I started the college application process, I wanted to pick around 30 schools that had a strong department for the two majors I am considering, economics and political science.

I quickly found out that economics and political science are not niche majors, and practically every school in the country has well-funded programs for these departments. 

After choosing my 30 schools, I then went on to do deeper research about their class sizes, diversity, average test scores, location, student life, etc. But despite unique class sizes and locations, every school sounded exactly the same to me. After all, every college is a group of 18- to 22-year-olds trying to get a degree and complaining about the amount of work they have to do. 

So, how did I actually narrow my college list? 

There’s a simple answer: vibes. 

When it came down to it, I wondered if I could see myself wearing their merch, going to their coffee shops and living in that certain place for four years. 

But vibes are not something that you can put on your “why this college” supplements. The main reason that the University of Michigan might be the place for me —  well-ranked dining halls, a good distance from home, fabulous school colors — isn’t easy to express in 550 words or less.

At the end of the day, all I’m looking for is a college that is good for what I want to study and has a good school-life balance. Sitting down and trying to figure out what is so special about one college is excruciating because I genuinely cannot figure it out.

You might ask, how do these colleges know that I am actually interested in going to them? The simple answer is that I’m applying. By writing their other supplemental essays and spending $70 on the application fee, they can be pretty certain that I want to go there, or would strongly consider it.

I still believe that there are some crucial supplements for schools to read carefully. Instead of “why this school” supplements, “why this major” essays are much more helpful, both to the college and to the student. Figuring out why any student chose to study computer science, for example, among the 100 other majors a school offers, is extremely important to determining a student’s fit for a particular program. 

These essays allow admissions officers to see the passion and drive of a student. They can actually picture what the student would bring to the college, rather than reading an essay that just spits out useless characteristics of a school.

So please, for the sake of my sanity, take out “why this college” supplements. 

They’re useless, tiring and a waste of everyone’s time.