25 Genius "Why This Major" Essay Examples for Top-20 Colleges
Here's the secret to writing your "Why This Major?" essays:
They're not really asking "Why this major?" but "Why you and this major?"
Just like with your Why This College essays, you need to show that you're a perfect match for the program you're applying to through specific examples , ideas , and connections to the school's offerings .
Even if you're applying undecided or undeclared , which is common for students to do, admissions officers ask this question because they want to know these 3 things:
- Do you have an idea about what you want your future to look like (what you want to study, possible career, etc.), and will our school help you fulfill that vision?
- Do you have what it takes to be a successful student within your desired major or program?
- How genuinely interested are you in this area of study? Or are you choosing it for superficial reasons (like money)?
What if you're undecided?
Even if you're undecided, you should have some idea about possible fields you're interested in.
It's impossible for you to have lived 17 or 18 years and not picked up some sort of interest that you could study in college.
After all, why are you applying to colleges in the first place? Probably to pursue a more in-depth education in a particular area.
So if you're applying undecided, you'll need to still talk about potential areas you're interested in, even if you aren't totally committed to them yet.
What makes a great "Why This Major?" essay?
The best "Why this major" answers show a deep level of interest and knowledge about the field.
Admissions officers want to know that you're serious about what you want to study.
Tip #1. Avoid superficial or cliché reasons
I often see students write generic remarks like...
- "Math is the language of the universe"
- "Studying communications will help me learn how to collaborate with others better."
- "Computer science is about problem solving"
These are OK starting points, but you need to delve deeper.
How do you go deeper? Try writing about specifics of the field.
Use some geeky or technical language . Instead of saying "biology," you could write about "molecular biology and its impact on genetic engineering."
Be specific and vivid in your writing, and show your interest in the field using specific anecdotes and moments that you haven't yet written about.
Tip #2. Ask yourself questions at the heart of the area of study.
If you're writing about math, some simple but deep question to ask yourself are things like:
- Is math discovered or created?
- What are the unsolved mysteries of math?
- How do the different branches of math (e.g. algebra, geometry, etc.) relate to each other?
These types of questions will get you thinking about what the major represents, rather than just what it literally is.
Focus on ideas , which are always most interesting.
Tip #3. Think about what the most common answer would be, and then say something different.
For computer science, I see a lot of students write about things like "automation", "artificial intelligence", or "problem solving."
For engineering, I see a lot of students write things about Legos or other "building" toys that they played with growing up.
For medicine, I see students write about "wanting to help people."
These are fine starting points for reflecting, but on their own it'll come off as cliché.
Tip #4. What will this school in particular offer to help you study this field better than other schools?
All colleges offer pretty much the same selection of majors and programs, so what is unique about this school's approach?
Again, you'll need to do some thinking and research.
Tip #5. Show how you've already explored the field.
Think about your classes, but more importantly, think about the ways you've gone beyond the classroom.
Those reasons are the most compelling for why you're a great fit for the major.
How to structure your "Why This Major?" essay
Here's formula you can use to write this essay if you're struggling to get started:
- I am passionate about subject X and here's why (offer a short story or anecdote)
- Here's is what I want to do with that passion in the future
- This is what this school has to offer or will do in order to help me achieve my goals and how (specific and unique reasons)
Now, let's look at some examples of students who wrote successful "Why This Major?" essays.
I've gathered 25 "Why Major?" essays from students who got into top-20 schools like Brown, Georgetown, MIT, and more.
This huge list covers a variety of majors and programs—from Computer Science to English to Bioinformatics—so you'll be able to find one that's similar to yours.
Let's dive right into it.
25 "Why This Major" Essay Examples
1. "why bioinformatics" georgetown essay example.
Prompt: Please relate your interest in studying at Georgetown University to your goals. How do these thoughts relate to your chosen course of study? (If you are applying to major in the FLL or in a Science, please specifically address those interests.) (500 words max)
Why This Essay Works:
Having specific details is key to making your essays more engaging. Whenever possible, substitute broader terms for more specific ones. In this essay, the student does this well, for example by writing "recombinant DNA into Escherichia coli" instead of saying "molecular biology."
Digging into why you're passionate about certain things is important for "Why Major" type of essays like this one. Admissions wants to know how and why that interest started. This student does a great job of telling a family story that inspired their interest in French and an academic experience that sparked their biology interest.
What They Might Improve:
This essay doesn't mention much of what Georgetown would offer them. Whenever possible, it's beneficial to reference specific aspects about the school you're applying to. This demonstrates genuine interest and makes it more convincing that your studies would flourish at the school. Although this isn't a "Why Georgetown" essay, these details can and should be incorporated, as the prompt asks you to relate your chosen area(s) of study to the school.
2. "Why Linguistics?" Brown University Essay Example
Prompt: Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about any academic interests that excite you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue them while also embracing topics with which you are unfamiliar. (200-250 words)
My primary interest is in languages and linguistics, specifically Spanish, Portuguese and the descent of these languages from Latin which I explored in my IB Extended Essay. Thus, something that excites me about the complete freedom of the Brown curriculum is the opportunity to learn about Hispanic and Lusophone culture, literature and language in an intersectional way through a concentration in Latin American studies combined with classes and undergraduate research in Linguistics. I intend to supplement my language acquisition with practical application through study abroad opportunities at PUC-Rio, Brazil and in Santiago, Chile, perhaps through the Engaged Scholars Program which will allow me to forge deeper connections with the communities and cultures I am studying. I am also attracted by the possibility of a 5-year BA/MA course in Linguistics which will permit me to conduct meaningful and extensive research on a topic I am truly passionate about.
However, I also have an interest in Biochemistry and Molecular biology. The Open Curriculum will enable me to pursue this avenue of study and research without detracting from my principal focus on languages. Therefore, perhaps what I am most excited for is interdisciplinary study at Brown and the possibility of forging unforeseen connections between disparate academic areas and weaving them together into a program of study that will engage, thrill, and inspire me towards a lifelong path of academic inquiry. For example, I am interested to explore how languages and sociolinguistics can be used to promote medical research and provision in Latin America.
Naming things unique to the school shows you have genuine interest. Listing specific programs, courses, or majors shows you've done your research.
The author's reasons for "Why Brown?" fit into their background and identity. This makes their reasons seem genuine and compelling.
The essay is divided into two parts with distinct answers. Showing how those reasons relate could make the essay more cohesive.
Ending with a sentence "For example..." leaves more to be desired and explained.
3. "Why Medicine and Surgery?" Pomona College Essay Example
Prompt: Most Pomona students enter the College undecided about a major, or they change their minds about their prospective major by the time they graduate. Certainly we aren’t going to hold you to any of the choices you’ve made above. But, in no more than 250 words, please tell us why you’ve chosen the academic programs (or undecided!) that you have listed. (250 words max)
I’m sitting backstage at my first international piano competition, anxiously awaiting my turn to perform. Unconsciously, I massage my right wrist, still recovering from a recent injury. The young man beside me feels my nervousness and starts a conversation.
As we whisper, I notice him rub his hands together uncomfortably. “What’s wrong?” I ask, quickly leaving my own wrist alone. He suppresses a nervous laugh, then quietly details the long and unsuccessful surgery that shattered his dream of becoming a professional musician. His hands were permanently damaged.
“Alessandra Fang,” the judges call. I stand up, walk to the main stage and look back to see him encourage me with a stiff, crooked thumbs-up. As my fingers dance on the keys, I observe the fragile muscles and ligaments under my skin.
I realize in that moment that it is not in a massive concert hall where I wanted to change people’s lives, but on a smaller stage: an operating room. As an artist who has had her share of painful, music-related injuries, my goal is to become a musician’s physician, and blend my greatest two passions so that I might bring relief to those around me, while understanding their musical and anatomical plight.
I wish to pursue both Biology and Music programs at Pomona College. I want to become a hand surgeon while still developing my artistry on the piano. After all, surgery also has its own cadence, complexity and composition.
4. "Why Education/Teaching?" University of Michigan Essay Example
Prompt: Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests? (100-550 words)
Growing up, I always pictured myself as a great teacher as an adult. With the second best secondary education program in the country and an emphasis on the liberal arts and undergraduate education, I am confident that U-M will shape me into the great educator I’ve dreamed of becoming since I was a kid.
Hallmarks of a liberal arts education include teamwork, problem-solving, clear writing, and effective communication. These are also skills that any exceptional teacher needs. U-M offers an unparalleled curriculum that prepares students to successfully run classrooms and obtain Provisional Teacher Certifications upon graduation, exposing students to diverse classes and people in Ann Arbor, and providing them with an invaluable liberal arts education along the way.
Being an effective teacher means connecting with and stimulating all students at its core. The liberal arts foundation I will receive in the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts (LSA), married with the experiential education and training the School of Education (SoE) will provide, will mold me into that great teacher—a mentor and role model for any student, regardless of creed—I’ve always aspired to become.
The Teacher Education Preferred Admission (TEPA) for incoming freshmen piqued my interest because the program is the crossroad between the liberal arts and teacher education; two components I was looking for in a college. TEPA will allow me to build a strong liberal arts base in LSA my first two years on campus before entering SoE, while also gaining beneficial experiences in the education field early on.
The education-oriented programs WE READ and Students Empowering Education specifically appealed to me because they will bridge my liberal arts education with my anticipated career as a high school English teacher. Similarly, my Spanish classes will have a practical application in the Ann Arbor Language Partnership, a program that immediately interested me as a potential Spanish minor.
During my first two years as a pre-admit, I'll be supported by my TEPA peers and staff, specifically from my SoE personal adviser. TEPA will take the large campus and make it feel smaller, allowing me to form organic connections with like-minded people and groups that can cultivate my interest in education before entering SoE junior year.
I need a meaningful education to be a meaningful educator. Truthfully, I could go to almost any college to become a teacher, but only schools that synthesize in- and out-of-classroom learning like SoE produce great ones. U-M ranking sixth in the country for undergraduate teaching bolstered my interest in the university and confirmed what I already knew: I will receive an education in LSA and SoE that will change who I am as a person and not just a student, and prepare me to provide the same for others as a teacher.
The great educator I’ve always envisioned myself becoming is one that can inspire without bounds. From my time as a student, I’ve come to realize that a truly influential teacher can work with students who have little in common with themselves and still be impactful. LSA's purposeful and broad curriculum, paired with SoE's hands-on courses and fieldwork, and the additional opportunities available through TEPA, will shape me into that life-changing teacher, for any student who walks through my classroom door.
5. "Why Business?" University of Michigan Essay Example
Growing up in a community that bleeds maize and blue, the community represented by the University of Michigan has always been one that I could see myself representing as both a student and alumni. From football games at the big house to classes at Ross, each and every opportunity available at U of M represents a piece of my life that I hope to continue to incorporate into my life for the rest of my life.
The opportunity to take courses that allow for enriched experiences in developing a real business is one that I intend to be involved in as soon as possible. I will use this type of class as a way to test my skills and learn where I need to become stronger as a leader and student. Watching others equally driven as me, their tactics that are successful and not successful will imprint on how I attack problems in the future and shape my overall leadership style.
By being involved in the Multidisciplinary Action Projects down the road as a graduate student, I hope to learn firsthand what it takes to run and be involved with real businesses. Firsthand exposure is the best way to learn how to solve problems- especially surrounded by peers who are equally as driven and dedicated as I am.
Filled with students striving for nothing but the best they are capable of is a community that I am certain I will enrich and fit into. By sharing ideas and collaborating together instead of against each other, each and every one of us will contribute to the business world as leaders and innovators.
The University of Michigan is a place I can see myself learning and growing as a leader for the next four years as I intend to use all of the tools at my disposal to become a top business person. The opportunities within the school I will be involved in and the peers that I will work beside only enrich the values of what being a Wolverine mean to me.
6. "Why Math and Accounting?" University of Southern California (USC) Essay Example
Prompt: Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests and why you want to explore them at USC specifically. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections. (250 words max)
All throughout my life, I always loved doing math no matter what the concept. My love for math led to me taking advanced math classes for my grade. I even had to take a bus to a high school when I was in middle school to take an advanced math class. I always knew that I would want to pursue a career dealing with mathematics, but I was not really sure until my junior year. I had not decided what I wanted to be in the future, so my uncle suggested being a CPA, and I looked into it. When I did my research, it interested me as they made a decent amount of money and they worked with numbers.
At USC, I would like to major in accounting and gain the opportunity to possibly receive an internship at one of the big accounting firms in Los Angeles through the networking of USC. If I were able to get an internship, I would be able to gain experience for when I graduate and search for a job. I would also consider going for a Masters of Business Administration as I know that USC has one of the best business programs in the country.
7. "Why Computer Science?" Columbia University Essay Example
Prompt: Describe two or three of your current intellectual interests and why they are exciting to you. Why will Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences be the right environment in which to pursue your interests? (650 words max)
8. "Why Engineering and Law?" University of Michigan Essay Example
The University of Michigan’s College of Engineering has a proactive approach to career path discovery and job search. While I do hope to aspire to a corporate attorney, an engineering degree from the University of Michigan would provide me the advantage of readiness.
U.S News and World Report published an article about challenges law school applicants with STEM degrees face. Number one was the lack of research skills. Michigan Undergraduate Engineering has research opportunities for all undergraduate students. I hope to even take advantage of The College of Engineering (CoE) International Internship Program. The chance to see the world and contribute to the world-class studies conducted by Michigan Engineering students is a unique quality. The article also reported that STEM applicants often lack job experience. Michigan Engineering hosts internship fairs, which even freshman can participate in. By utilizing the opportunity to work in a professional setting, I will be more adapt to presenting myself in a mature and respectable manor in a corporate setting.
Many people are puzzled by my aspirations to become a corporate lawyer with an engineering degree. While I enjoy learning about many areas of study, math and science have always peaked my interest. Like my attraction to law, I am drawn to the definitiveness of engineering specifically. While there is a right and wrong in methods and procedures, there is a chance to be creative; for the end goal is functionality. Law requires critical thinking, problem solving, and the questioning of presented facts and figures. These skills are also encompassed in Michigan Engineering. With a technical understanding of industry and engineering, I will be able to more accurately represent a corporation. Like the professors at Michigan Engineering, I hope to be an expert in my field. At Michigan Engineering, I will be educated by the best of the best. Professors that have been exposed to their fields in every aspect; allowing them to provide the best guidance to students. Instead of just presenting facts and figures in a courtroom, I will be able to understand and explain them.
9. "Why Psychology?" Carnegie Mellon Essay Example
Prompt: Most students choose their intended major or area of study based on a passion or inspiration that’s developed over time – what passion or inspiration led you to choose this area of study? (300 words max)
When I was younger, I faced a lot of negative emotions including anxiety and low self-esteem. For a long time, I felt alone and as if no one understood how I felt. My self confidence was at an all-time low when I started taking psychology. All of a sudden the negative emotions I was feeling started making sense. I was suddenly able to understand how people were wired and why others treated me a certain way. I in fact was able to feel empathy for my aggressors after understanding that those who treated me negatively often faced struggles of their own. Most importantly, I felt as though something out there finally understood me. Because psychology offered insight into my own behavior and helped me to understand others, I was eventually able to overcome my insecurities.
In the future, I would like to help others do the same. No matter where I end up, understanding why people behave a certain way and being more considerate and empathetic for others will only help me thrive. Mental health is a growing issue in our society. The world we live in is a confusing place filled with pain, but psychology provides a way to determine the cause of this suffering and how to change it. I never want anyone to feel the isolation and sorrow I felt when I was younger. I want to help others become compassionate and unconditionally loving not just toward others, but to themselves. Even if I only make a small change in the world and affect just one person’s life, I would like to pursue that.
10. "Why Biology and Environmental Science?" University of Pennsylvania Essay Example
Prompt: Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania? For students applying to the coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer these questions in regard to your single-degree school choice; your interest in the coordinated dual-degree or specialized program may be addressed through the program-specific essay. (300-450 words)
As a child the world fascinated me. From questioning the makeup of the dirt I played in, to doubting the existence of gravity as I flew a kite, I was always thinking. Time passed, and my consciousness opened to more, like atoms, the Big Bang Theory, the psychology behind dreams, and the list goes on. Everything fascinated me; curiosity quickly became a part of my character. Some say ignorance is bliss, but I have to disagree. Ignorance is what fuels my curiosity; ignorance is what drives me to discover, learn, and initiate change. Living in a small rural town with my grandmother and disabled father, I have been limited by geography and socioeconomics. A perfect blend of humanities and factualities, the College of Arts and Sciences is an exploratory lab for all I do not know. At Penn, courses from Neurobiology of Learning and Memory to The Sociology of Gender allow me to rid my ignorance one class at a time. The unique and specialized curriculum provides a place to explore whatever I wonder and answer whatever I question. While my grandmother did not have the money for me to attend science camps, to visit museums, or to travel more than a few hours from my home, living in the country always provided me with endless exploration. My interest in trees in particular led me to specialize in the forestry portion of our Envirothon team for four years of high school. The passion I have for biology is second to my interest in helping others. Rural areas of Pennsylvania are in desperate need for physicians, especially in the field of women’s health. My goal is to return to my community and fill that need. As a low income, first-generation student, I have had limited opportunities, but I have seized any that I could and where there were none, I created some. As a seventh grader, I pioneered the colorguard of our newly formed high school marching band. Last year, as captain of 14 twirlers, I took my first plane ride to Disney World where my band performed. This experience taught more than I could ever learn in a classroom. Similarly, there are endless opportunities at Penn, both intra- and extra-curricular, and I plan to take advantage of all that I can to feed my fire.
11. "Why Finance and Political Science?" University of Pennsylvania Essay Example
This essay does a great job of conveying a thoughtful and candid applicant. Their phrasing, although verbose in some places, comes across genuine because the author walks you through how they learned about the school, what they're looking for in a school, and why the school would offer those specific things. Phrases like "I didn't know if I could honestly see myself studying that" are conversational and natural-sounding, which help create a sincere tone.
By referencing specific programs, like "Penn in Washington" as well as various minors and concentrations, it is clear this student has done their research about the school. One of the most important aspects for a "Why Us" essay is to find specific and unique opportunities and name them in your essay. These could be things like specific professors and their work, campus and its location, interesting classes, unique internship/study-abroad/job programs, special events, and many more. The key is referencing things that are entirely unique to the school and not many other schools too. Avoid broad terms like "renowned faculty" or "interdisciplinary studies" because virtually all colleges offer things like this, and these are some of the most over-used and artificial reasons used in "Why Us" essays.
This essay has many moments of repetition that are unnecessary. In general, avoid repeating your ideas and when editing, ask yourself of each sentence: does this add something distinctly new and important to my essay? There are two common mistakes that often create repetition: prefacing your ideas and summarizing your ideas. Unlike academic writing, you don't need to "prepare" the reader for what you're going to say, and you don't need to conclude it with a summary. By doing so, you only create unnecessary repetition and take up words which could otherwise be used to include new specific details or ideas.
This essay spends nearly half of its words explaining the "interdisciplinary" opportunities at UPenn. However, this reason is quite superficial and not at all unique to Penn, as almost all colleges offer some sort of interdisciplinary study (i.e. combining your interests or studying multiple fields). Talking about "interdisciplinary study" is one of the most common reasons students use in their "Why Us" essay, and it often comes across as generic and unoriginal. Instead, look for offerings that no other (or very few other) schools provide. Narrow down your reasons "why" to make them more specific to the school, even if they are smaller scale. You can mention things like "interdisciplinary studies" or "diverse student body" briefly as a reason why, but don't make them one of your primary reasons why, unless you have something particularly unique about it.
12. "Why Engineering?" Duke University Essay Example
Prompt: If you are applying to the Pratt School of Engineering as a first-year applicant, please discuss why you want to study engineering and why you would like to study at Duke. (150 words max)
At Duke I was equally entranced by the articulate movements of 3D printers in the Co-Lab and the stunning Gothic architecture. Instead of forming a dichotomy, these aspects of Duke blended to symbolize its emphasis on interdisciplinary education, which will offer me a nuanced perspective of the world integral to becoming a leader in engineering.
I will join the Academy for Model Aeronautics and share my passion for designing drones, while taking fascinating courses such as “Taboo Markets” and “Banality of Evil”, while simultaneously working on an engineering project that improves real people’s lives in “Engineering Design”. By joining the Duke Robotics Club, I can expand upon my love for robotics, and I hope to write for the Duke Engineering magazine, as well as join the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. By drawing from this diverse range of educational experiences, I can become a leader in creating a better future.
13. "Why Neuroscience?" University of Southern California (USC) Essay Example
I had never considered traveling across the country to pursue an education. In fact, living in Pittsburgh all of my life and growing up with people who are so adamant about staying put, forced me to believe that I too had to box myself into this small, yet evolving city. However, now I can confidently tell my friends and family that I want to travel to California for college (and ignore their odd looks).
What strikes me most about USC is its ability to maintain uniformity despite its diverse student body--in interests, ethnicity, and opinion. There are not many schools where I could be best friends with filmmakers, artists, photographers, chemists, potential CEOs, and writers. Although all of these people are spread across different schools, they still seem to maintain a cultural unity. Being surrounded by such a distinct trojan pride combined with the ambitious atmosphere would be both inspiring and propulsive.
At USC, I would not have to confine to merely one of my interests. I have always had aspirations of becoming a doctor and pursuing neuroscience, but have never felt comfortable ignoring the humanities. As a Trojan, I could pursue research at the Dana and David Dornsife Cognitive Neuroscience Imaging Center or even take part in PIBBS, while also honing my writing skills through the intricate Writing Program.
Much like the students, my interests could somehow be molded into a diverse uniformity, and I could prove my fellow Pittsburghers that perhaps they need to move around more.
14. "Why Journalism?" Ithaca College Essay Example
Prompt: Please tell us why you selected this specific academic program and what other academic programs interest you. (10-200 words)
Recording devices have been banned from the courtroom of the Supreme Court Building since 1946. Therefore, when the Court makes a landmark decision, interns must hand-deliver paper copies of the ruling to news organizations.
The interns often pair running shoes with their business attire, for the quarter-mile sprint from the Court building to the area where networks await.
When I first saw photographs of “The Running of the Interns”, I wanted nothing more than to be one of those people. I wanted to feel my running shoes beating against the sidewalks, to feel sweat staining my suit.
Why did this tradition attract me to journalism? Because it reminded me that the news is a race, a constantly-changing collection of stories shaping social and political development.
The opportunity to contribute to that collection is why, beyond Ithaca’s journalism program, I’m also interested in the College’s minors in Politics and Writing.
I think all of this desire to be part of a story defines what it means to be a journalist, a writer: When I become a journalism major at Ithaca College, and, later, perhaps a running intern, I get to be a contender in the race to change the world.
15. "Why Economics and Political Science?" University of Michigan Essay Example
In my junior year microeconomics class, my teacher extensively explored the ways in which people from different socioeconomic classes were affected by our economic system. I was frustrated by the ways our country forces those living in poverty to spend the little money they have on taxable goods. I began to empathize with them. How can people pull themselves out of poverty if their government seems to be working against them? More than anything, I was frustrated that I felt powerless to help them in any way.
Those lessons inspired and motivated me. I had always looked at economics as nothing more than an analysis of business models and resource allocation. I began to see it as a way to fix fundamental problems in our society, from examining the effects of healthcare expansion on crime and poverty rates to studying how shifts in our political climate affect how our country’s financial process will change. I now see economics as a way to help those in need in my country and throughout the world.
I volunteered after school for Representative Dingell and had the opportunity to attend numerous events hosted by the Ford School. Again and again, I was impressed by the extent of the Ford School’s student involvement in critical issues. Through my work with the Congresswoman, I was able to gain a greater understanding of how different groups of people were affected by shifts in political and economic priorities. My goal is to become a civil rights attorney or study economics as a way to promote sustainable growth in developing nations.
I want to begin my studies at the University of Michigan in LSA to gain a foundation in economics and political science-related courses. After my first year, I hope to gain admission to the Ford School. The connections that LSA and Ford have to Poverty Solutions solidified by interest in the University of Michigan. If I attended these schools as an undergraduate student, I would be able to assist with research on the causes and ramifications of poverty. Professor Michael Barr’s research on policy initiatives and our financial system is fascinating from the perspective of a prospective economics major. At the University of Michigan, I would be able to join teams of renowned researchers working toward the betterment of our society and our world.
The range of schools working in connection with Poverty Solutions is evidence of the University’s devotion to civic engagement. I would be able to participate in groundbreaking research regarding issues I am interested in; I would have the ability to study poverty and ways to stunt or alleviate its effects in other countries. As someone hoping to pursue a career in public service, it is truly incredible to have the opportunity to join a research community specifically geared toward solving problems I am passionate about solving.
I want to join the University of Michigan’s legacy of innovators. I want to be part of the LSA community, studying economics and political science. I want to attend the Ford School and understand how policy in America and abroad has an effect on global poverty. I want to be involved with the Poverty Solutions Initiative, conducting groundbreaking research on the ways we can reform our financial system to better serve the lower and middle classes.
16. "Why English Major?" Rice University Essay Example
Prompt: Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected above. (150 words max)
It's an understatement to label me as an English geek; I am that kid who squeals in excitement in English class when given a new essay assignment while others may groan in exasperation. I understand why some may be a bit anxious when preparing to turn in an essay for evaluation; you could bring an essay to two different English teachers and receive two different grades on it. This subjectivity is why some folks may prefer subjects such as mathematics in which the right answer is not debatable. However, its subjectivity is exactly what captivates me. I enjoy reasoning my opinions of arguments and the intentions of authors.
I was really happy when I learned I didn't have to major in Criminal Justice or Political Science to be a civil rights lawyer because I want to become a professional author as well. So, majoring in English is perfect for me.
17. "Why Political Science?" University of Michigan Essay Example
Riding the elevator to the seventh floor of Haven Hall, my heart was practically leaping out of my chest. I was meeting with Dr. Jenna Bednar of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Department of Political Science, and as I recalled her credentials- B.A. in Political Science from Michigan, M.A. and PhD in Political Science from Stanford- I felt increasingly out of place. As a junior in high school with limited political experience, I am grateful that she agreed to take time out of her day to meet with me and answer my numerous questions about LSA, Michigan, and political theory.
Upon entering her office, my eyes were drawn to bookshelves full of political literature, from the classics like De Tocqueville and Locke (which I read in a summer college program in 2017), to her own recently published work, The Robust Federation. Encouraged by her broad smile and having just completed an official campus tour, I launched into my questions. Dr. Bednar described the connections she and her students have made at Michigan, through LSA and in general.
This revealed to me that the faculty would take a personal interest in my academic career. We discussed the average class size in LSA and the Department of Political Science, her academic background, and how to survive Michigan winters. Dr. Bednar then brought my attention to the benefits that LSA Political Science gives its students.
For example, as head of the Michigan in Washington program, Dr. Bednar's passion for both political science and education was evident as she introduced me to one of Michigan's most influential academic programs. Although I hail from two miles outside the D.C. border, I aspire to participate in the Michigan in Washington program, to build on my internship of the past year with my delegate to the Maryland General Assembly.
Under his guidance, I conducted nationwide policy research, attended civic association meetings and development forums, and traveled to our state capitol to watch the legislative process unfold. Consequently, an internship at the federal level is my logical next step toward building the foundations of a political career.
Dr. Bednar, upon hearing about my internship with my delegate, suggested that I think about the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. I believe that this research program offers a unique means of building my understanding of political science. I am eager to apply to the UROP program in hopes of furthering my research skills within the complex political landscape of today. Furthermore, the variety of courses that I can explore as a political science major is remarkable: from "Sports, Politics, and Society", to "Nations and Nationalism," the scope of topics will keep me engaged.
When I sat down with Dr. Bednar, I expected a five-minute chat; I received forty-five minutes of helpful advice, political theorizing, and well wishes. Leaving her office, I felt energized and ready to dive into LSA Political Science right there. Her demeanor helped to build my confidence to boldly seek connections in my search for knowledge. I saw the Michigan difference firsthand, from various undergraduate opportunities for political science, to a universal love for the school from students and faculty alike.
18. "Why Chemistry and Biology?" MIT Essay Example
Prompt: Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why? (100 words max)
I remember boiling down cabbage with my dad to make titration indicators. When I first read about the process of translation, of rendering mRNA into proteins, my eyes filled with tears; this is what I would do, apply the chemistry that had defined my childhood to my love of biology. In the past few months alone, MIT researchers have visualized a critical growth kinase and decoded the kavalactone gene. To major in both the chemistry and biology departments at MIT would be an unequaled opportunity to explore the molecular basis of life and apply that knowledge to real-world innovation.
19. "Why Neuroscience?" University of Michigan Essay Example
My favorite class in high school was also my hardest. It was World Culture/World Literature, an hour and a half each day of seeing history, art, and literature not as separate entities but as intricately connected, one incomplete without the other. I learned to see humanism in Greek sculpture, religious propaganda in the chiaroscuro of Baroque paintings, disillusionment in modern art. Although seemingly unrelated to my STEM-leaning interests, the analytical skills I learned there would prove invaluable in neuroscience research. Connecting electroencephalography results to mechanisms for chronic pain relief wasn’t all too different from drawing links between historical movements and paintings; both required an intimate knowledge of background information and a willingness to take risks, to see new relationships and forge unprecedented connections.
LSA embodies precisely this mentality, fostering interdisciplinary learning and problem-solving. With classes like “Health, Biology, and Society: What is Cancer?”, bridging humanistic and biological approaches to disease, and graduation requirements ranging from Natural Sciences to Race and Ethnicity, LSA prepares students for the real world, where problems necessitate not just single-minded expertise but also a diverse understanding of other factors involved. My internship experience only confirmed the practicality of this perspective; we used mindfulness meditation alongside spinal cord stimulation technologies to treat chronic pain.
This mindset is not confined to learning inside the classroom. The LSA Opportunity Hub is robust, connecting students to internships at Nike, Forbes, and the US Department of Education, among other places. To intern as a research assistant at Mayo Clinic, to use mathematical models to predict brain tumor growth like current Michigan junior Tatum Doyle would be an unequalled opportunity. Her work in incorporating mathematical concepts in medical research personifies the LSA culture, where problems are best solved holistically. LSA’s interdisciplinary approach does not detract from fostering specialization and excellence in specific fields, but adds; its Biochemistry program promotes innovation and independence in its students and is ranked top in the nation.
I remember boiling down cabbage with my dad to make acid/base indicators. In elementary school, my teacher wrote that I had been spending too much time reading animal books and too little time playing with other kids. I loved (and still love) all things living, often marvelling at the complexity of the animal kingdom, the human body, the organs, and the cells that were the foundation for everything else. The first time I read about the process of translation, of rendering mRNA into proteins, my eyes filled with tears; this is what I wanted to do, to apply the chemistry that had defined my childhood to my love of biology.
LSA shares that passion, dedicating a plethora of resources, both intellectual and material, to its Biochemistry department. With equipment like atomic absorption spectrophotometers, classes in Endocrinology, and distinguished professors, the University of Michigan has everything any biochemistry undergraduate student would need, and much more. To research under a PI like Dr. Kopelman, winner of the J. William Fulbright Research Award, would be a dream fulfilled. His work in employing 5-dimensional chemical imaging to visualize and treat tumors does what LSA does best; it uses an interdisciplinary approach to make academic discoveries both relevant and essential in the real world. It is a culture I would be honored to take part in, should I be accepted.
20. "Why Undeclared?" University of Michigan Essay Example
Sweat drips down my face onto homework in front of me.
I just got home from a soccer game; I’m not stressed. This is until I realize I still have a plethora of edits to make on my lab report as well as emails to write for an upcoming NHS event. AND I have three tests the next day.
Although stressful, I enjoy every minute of juggling a variety of academics and extracurriculars. I appreciate all the opportunities my high school offers to me and I take advantage of as many as I can handle. Thanks to my involved years of high school, I have received a great education as well as many experiences I would never trade away.
Entering my senior year and researching universities I may want to attend, there is one question which continuously presents itself. What do I want to major in when I get to college? It is a scary question and I have never known the answer. Despite participating in many extracurriculars such as National Honor Society, Science Olympiad, Math Honor Society, and Future Business Leaders of America, I still have no idea what I want to do with my life.
As a student at LSA, I would be able to use the abundance of resources to explore possibilities for life after college. Since I am one of the many college applicants who has not decided upon a major, a large, liberal arts college like LSA is the perfect place for me to discover more about myself, pursue interests, and find my purpose. I have considered medicine, business, economics, and law. The two courses I have enjoyed the most are biomedical sciences and US History. I am truly all over the map!
With so much variety at LSA, I would be able to change majors or take a diverse group of classes so that I could find what I want to study. LSA is unique from its University of Michigan counterparts because it offers a broader range of departments, majors, and courses. The flexibility at LSA would help me discover what I want my life to be like while supporting me through my journey.
Additionally, LSA provides students with multiple opportunities not found anywhere else at University of Michigan. One program that caught my eye was Michigan Learning Communities. This program appeals to me because having the resources of this large university, yet finding a niche in the community to challenge myself and others, can help me grow as a student and a person. Similarly, the Opportunity Hub at LSA jumped out at me as I researched the University and toured the school. I would take full advantage of the great connections the Opportunity Hub provides, as it could help me find an internship or job offer when the perfect time comes. MLCs, the Opportunity Hub, and the many other programs which LSA offers are the main reasons why LSA would be the best college fit for me.
I was initially drawn to the University of Michigan by the beautiful campus, great athletics programs, unmatched prestige, and massive alumni network. However, as I dove deeper, I discovered LSA, a school that can help me realize my purpose and passions while providing a focused learning environment to lead me to a bright future.
21. "Why Computer Science?" Cornell Essay Example
22. "why kinesiology" university of michigan essay example, 23. "why mathematics" cornell essay example.
Prompt: Cornell Engineering celebrates innovative problem solving that helps people, communities…the world. Consider your ideas and aspirations and describe how a Cornell Engineering education would allow you to leverage technological problem-solving to improve the world we live in. (250-650 words)
For "Why Us?" college essays, one of the most important parts is to show ways you imagine being involved on campus. This student does a great job of showing that they've done their research about Cornell, by connecting their passion for studying heart disease to specific initiatives already taking place on campus. Try researching what events, research, or programs are being conducted. By referencing those specifics, you can create convincing reasons of why this school is fit for you.
When discussing your intended area of study, one effective strategy is to identify a problem that you see. This problem can be in the field itself, your community, or the world. Then, you can connect this problem to yourself by showing how you'd want to help solve it. Don't try to tackle it entirely yourself, but show how you'd "take bites" out of this larger problem. It is also important that you identify potential solutions to the problem. You definitely don't (and shouldn't) have all the answers, but what do you see as potential steps for combatting the issue?
Using technical language, such as referencing "semi-elliptical curves" and "modular form" in this essay, will help show your in-depth knowledge and passion. Don't be afraid to use technical jargon like this, and don't worry if admissions officers may not know all the terms. As long as they have context and knowing the terminology isn't critical to understanding your point, including "nerdy" language will make your essay more engaging and demonstrate your intelligence.
If you have personal connections to the school you're applying to (such as legacy, family members who work there, students or faculty you're close with), it can be a good idea to reference those connections. Showing personal connections to the school makes admissions think, "They're already practically one of us!" Just make sure that these connections aren't contrived: only write about them if you have a clear purpose within your essay for introducing them. In this essay, the student references their brother who attended Cornell, but does so in a way that naturally ties into the rest of their reasons for "why Cornell."
24. "Why Computer Science?" Brown University Essay Example
Prompt: Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated? (150 words max)
There was a time when I was low and afraid to be with myself. That’s when I dived into programming. I always sat with my laptop. But unlike others on Instagram or Snapchat, I was coding. I always kept myself occupied so I wouldn’t think about hardships. But as I was solving those little Instantiation and StackOverflow errors, I realized that any problem in my life had a solution. I could either modify the code and right the wrong, or just keep compiling them, producing no output. So, life is not all that different. That is why I want to pursue Computer Science. I know I can work to keep myself happy. Inevitably, what makes me happy is Computer Science, which is what I want to pursue.
25. "Why Journalism?" Emerson College Essay Example
Prompt: As you know, the academic programs at Emerson College are focused on communication and the arts. Please tell us what influenced you to select your major. If you're undecided about your major, what attracted you to Emerson's programs? Please be brief. (100-200 words)
Recording devices have been banned from the courtroom of the United States Supreme Court Building since 1946. Therefore, when the Court makes a landmark decision, interns must hand-deliver paper copies of the ruling to news organizations.
The quarter-mile sprint from the Court building to the area where networks await is no easy feat. But the interns dress with this mind, often pairing running shoes with their business attire.
When I first saw photographs of “The Running of the Interns”, I knew that I wanted nothing more than to be one of those people. I wanted to feel my running shoes beating against the limestone sidewalks, to feel sweat staining my suit.
Why did a tradition centered around dashing through D.C. attract me to journalism? Because it reminded me that the news is a race, a constantly-changing collection of stories shaping social and political development.
This, I think, defines both what it means to be a journalist and why I want to be a journalist: When I become a journalism major at Emerson, and, later, a part of the press--perhaps a running intern--I get to be a contender in the race to change the world.
What You Can Learn From These "Why This Major" Essay Examples
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Why Major Essay Examples
At many schools, the why major essay forms a crucial part of the college application process. In addition to your Common App essay , many schools require supplemental essays. One of the most popular supplemental essay prompts is the why major essay.
The why major essay allows colleges to learn more about you and your interests. This guide will give you some why major essay examples from popular colleges. It will also offer some tips on how to write a why major essay.
This guide includes why major essay examples from the following colleges: The University of Texas at Austin , The University of Southern California , Cornell , Georgia Tech , and Pomona College . These college essay examples can act as a great source of inspiration for your why major essay. By looking at these college essays that worked, you can learn more about how to approach various supplemental essay prompts.
What are examples of why major essay prompts?
The why major essay examples in this guide have varying prompts. Here are the why major essay prompts from our college essay examples:
“Why major” essay requirements
As you can see, most why major essay examples will have between 250-300 words. However, some college essay examples will have more. Additionally, some why major essay examples will focus on college-specific information. In general, these essays ask why you’ve picked your intended major , so try to be as specific as possible. These why major essay examples are a great place to start if you need help with your why major essay.
The college essay examples in this guide also reflect the level of research needed for a why major essay. As you research colleges, look for a class you want to take or a research opportunity that interests you. Then, be sure to include that in your why major essay for that school. If a prompt mentions the college’s name or asks why you’re interested in their school, focus on school specifics. The college essay examples we’ve included in this guide can help you jumpstart the writing process.
Who has a why major essay?
Many schools have a why major essay, as these essays help colleges understand you and your academic passions. The why major essay examples in this guide come from UT Austin, USC, Cornell, Georgia Tech, and Pomona College.
In addition to these schools, many other colleges also have a why major essay. Some of these include Yale University , University of Pennsylvania , Emory University , University of Michigan , and Rice University.
Beyond the why major essay, many colleges will also have a why this college essay. This essay asks why you’re interested in that specific college. Some schools may combine the why this college essay and the why major essay. It can be helpful to compare colleges to help you decide which schools you prefer. In these essays, try to mention specific courses and professors. Some of the why major essay examples in this guide also function as why this college essay samples. You can find more college essay examples here.
Choosing your major
It’s okay if you don’t have a designated major in mind yet. While many schools will allow you to apply as an undecided student, some schools will require you to pick a major as part of your application. However, this choice often is not binding.
Reading why major essay examples can help as you choose your major and prepare to apply. If you’re not sure about your major, you can read our guide on How to Choose a Major.
In our why major essay examples, you’ll see how your personal interests and passions can help you choose a major. Our why major essay examples demonstrate how helpful it can be for colleges to know why you’re interested in your intended major. Where do you see yourself working? What’s your favorite subject in school? Thinking through these kinds of questions (and reading college essay examples) can help you navigate the different majors available.
Why This Major Essay Example
We’ve included five different why major essay examples below. Pay attention to how these why this major essay examples include specifics about each college. These why major college essay examples can help you understand what colleges look for in a Why Major essay. Overall, by reading college essays that worked, you can learn more about how to brainstorm and structure your own essays.
Now, let’s look at some why major college essay examples.
UT Austin Essay Examples
Please describe your interest in your intended major and how your interest in the field developed. (250 Words)
Ut austin essay example.
Some of you may wonder ‘When will I ever use derivatives in real life?’ Welcome to when.” My physics teacher, Mr. Welsh, described engineering as the “when” math and physics were applied to real problems. That is what is so attractive about engineering; it gives me the ability to apply intriguing concepts to fascinating projects. I love how engineering combines creative freedom with mathematical certainty to create projects that can impact and change the world.
During the Chain Reaction Contraption competition, a local competition, my team and I created a Rube Goldberg machine to complete a certain task. I found a love for the hands-on, creative portion of mechanical engineering and design. Other engineering activities also provided important experiences that contributed to my desire to pursue engineering. In my engineering design class, I enjoyed using computer programs like Solidworks and AutoCAD to create designs and visualizations of ideas. In FTC Robotics, I discovered that in addition to building the robot, I also loved the programming aspect behind mechanical design.
Reflecting on these experiences with engineering, particularly mechanical engineering, I am certain that engineering is the best path for me. I hope to apply my Mechanical Engineering degree to the Aerospace field. My dad is a pilot, so I have grown up hearing about and being around airplanes. As a child, I watched war plane documentaries with my dad and have had a passion for Aeronautics since then.
Why this essay worked
This why this major essay example works because it utilizes a personal story. By using a specific experience, this essay reflects on why this student is interested in mechanical engineering. Starting with a personal anecdote is a great way to introduce your essay. By including any experience you have with a club or extracurricular, you can help the reader understand your experience within the field.
Reading UT Austin essay examples can help you start writing your why major essay. Read through the UT Austin Degree Programs and pick the major that best aligns with your interests. Try to think about what experiences, both inside and outside of school, have piqued your interest—this can be a great way to start your why major essay. Use the UT Austin essay examples to help guide your writing process. As you draft, these why major essay examples can be a great source of inspiration.
USC Why Major Essay
Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests and why you want to explore them at USC specifically. Please feel free to address your first-and second-choice major selections. (300 Words)
The perks of being an English major is that you have a lot of opportunities, which I fully plan on partaking in during my time at USC. First and foremost, I hope to form close connections with my professors and to take advantage of the world-class education I’d be receiving. There is also a study abroad program specifically entwined with English that I hope to be able to participate in during my time at USC. I intend to participate and eventually help with the events that USC’s English department puts on as well.
As a sophomore, I hope to be a research assistant to a professor, hopefully someone who specializes in Romanticism or the niche field of ‘Law and Literature.’ I plan on starting research to write my own thesis during my junior year and hope to publish by my senior year. I plan on being a research assistant first because it would give me insight on the mechanics of research in the humanities and would help me formulate some ideas for my thesis early on. Since I am on the pre-law track, I hope to take advantage of USC’s resources by starting an internship.
While I have yet to declare a minor, I would like to capitalize on my love for languages by minoring in a language, and since Los Angeles and the campus of USC itself is a multicultural hub, I could immerse myself into the cultural aspects that come with learning a “new tongue.”
Why this essay worked
This why this major essay example works because it focuses primarily on how this student will utilize the resources at USC to pursue their intended major. In this, the essay fully answers the prompt set by the USC Admissions Office.
This USC Why Major essay mentions the specific study abroad program and the research opportunities available. In doing so, it shows how familiar this student is with the English program at USC. This USC essay also helps demonstrate the student’s excitement for the opportunities available at USC. Detailing a rough plan for each year in college is a great way to show the USC Admissions Office what you know about their school’s programs.
This USC Why Major essay is a great example of combining a Why This Major essay example and a Why This College essay sample. Compared to the other Why Major essay examples you may read (including the one above), this USC essay is specific. Other Why Major college essay examples may be used for more than one school—often, you’ll include similar information in your supplemental essays for different schools. However, the USC Why Major essay can only be used for USC. The USC Admissions wants you to detail exactly what about USC you find appealing, and this USC essay does this very well.
Cornell Arts and Sciences supplement essay example
Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into multifaceted academic interests, embodying in 21st century terms Ezra Cornell’s “any person … any study” founding vision. Tell us about the areas of study you are excited to explore, and specifically why you wish to pursue them in our College. (650 Words)
Cornell arts and sciences supplement essay example.
When 6:35 AM alarm rings, I find myself considering the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility–if I hit the snooze button, will my eight minutes of fragmented slumber garner more utility than a fresh-brewed cup of coffee? The trend continues throughout the day: with the release of the newest Yeezys, I contemplate bounded rationality. Though the sneakers scarcely justify the price tag of $550, the rapidly-depleting supply almost overwhelms my rational decision-making capabilities: textbook behavioral economics. As soon as I realized that my daily decisions could be explained by economics, I was determined to learn more.
To many, the subject conjures images of stockbrokers painstakingly laboring over Excel spreadsheets; it’s easy to forget it governs our everyday lives. Half a century ago, the creation of the unassuming mortgage-backed security set the stage for the global 2008 Recession. Simultaneously, the power of economics can be awe-inspiring: Muhammad Yunus’ work with microfinance pioneered new ways to address global poverty. Studying AP Economics, participating in countless rounds of debate both in and outside the United States, self-studying courses like Professor Chetty’s Using Big Data to Solve Economic and Social Problems, and managing the budget of our schools debate team taught me that market principles govern our world; through my education, I hope to learn how to harness them for good.
After a summer working for Congressman DeSaulnier, I realized that economics and politics are intertwined. One of my most memorable projects was preparing a brief on H.R. 4674 (the College Affordability Act)–for two weeks, I scrutinized the social, political, and economic effects of the legislation, and concluded with a half-hour presentation on my findings to the Congressman. In the process, I realized that even seemingly minor pieces of legislation affect all of society; by helping disenfranchised communities gain access to education, the bill addresses cyclical poverty at the root. When the Congressman announced he would become a co-author, it was a personal victory–it cemented my desire to intertwine my passion in economics with our political process, and learn how to craft innovative legislation designed to benefit millions.
The College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell is the ideal environment for me to pursue those passions. As an aspiring Economics major, I’m incredibly excited to learn from world-renowned economists like Professor Basu. Beyond fascinating courses like Game Theory and Strategic Economics, which synthesize economics, business, politics, and diplomacy, it would be a privilege just to attend his office hours and learn from his experience as former Chief Economist at the World Bank and President of the International Economic Association. In addition to my classes, I’d love to get involved in the Hatsfield Undergraduate Research program and further my understanding of how economics can be applied. Papers like Professor Battaglini’s “The Political Economy of Weak Treaties” are fascinating to read, and it would be a phenomenal experience to receive mentorship from veterans in the field while aiding them in their work.
I’d also love to minor in Public Policy, which seems almost tailor-made for my own career goals; the synthesis of an unparalleled education in the fundamentals of economics with courses designed to help students craft tangible policy would literally be a dream come true. Programs like Cornell in Washington promise the opportunity to get hands-on experience from Capitol Hill itself. I’d be more than happy to use my education in a Congressional Committee and get an insider perspective on the steps that go into developing, amending, and passing legislation.
The College of Arts and Sciences combines that with a robust undergraduate community, which offers unique opportunities to collaborate with a large student body and start developing a professional network–whether I’m catching a game of ice hockey or participating in Dragon Day, I know there’ll never be a dull moment. All in all, Cornell promises four truly life-changing years–I can’t wait to become a member of the Big Red community.
Reading through Cornell Arts and Sciences supplement essay examples, like the one above, can serve as an excellent case of how to combine a Why Major essay and a Why This College essay.
Out of all the college essay examples we’ve included here, the Cornell Arts and Sciences supplement essay examples contain the most detail. This why this major essay example showcases how important it is to have exact details available about the college or program you are applying to. This student highlights several different professors at Cornell, as well as their specific work and research. The Cornell Admissions Office appreciates the time and effort put into these essays, so it’s crucial to do your research!
This why this major essay example also uses the longer word count well. In particular, it offers personal anecdotes while showcasing the writer’s knowledge of economics. The reader gets to know the student better, and the Cornell Admissions team can see that the writer is serious about studying at Cornell.
As you can see in these why major essay examples, the more specific details you can include about the college, the better. Reading multiple Cornell supplemental essay examples can help you explore the different programs students look forward to joining. Be sure to explore the Cornell Admissions website to review their offered fields of study . If you’re undecided on a major, you can read through our guide on Cornell Majors here for some inspiration. You can also read more Cornell supplemental essay examples here .
Georgia Tech Essay Examples
Next, let’s look at some essay examples from Georgia Tech. Here’s the prompt:
Why do you want to study your chosen major at Georgia Tech, and what opportunities at Georgia Tech will prepare you in that field after graduation? (300 Words)
Georgia tech essay example.
March 29, 2019. 11 AM EST. GT Shadow Day. I remember it all so clearly: Descending the red-brick steps of the Old Civil Engineering Building. My friend and I, chatting up a storm, our minds blown by our newfound perspectives.
We had just walked out of ECON-4060: Money & Capital Markets, taught by Dr. Belton. To say that it changed my life would be no exaggeration; within an hour, Dr. Belton had upended my perception of society and defined my future aspirations.
We had been asked to consider a popular commodity, diamonds. Hardly rare, fast-decaying, and intrinsically worthless. So why do we buy them? Dr. Belton had then illuminated the factors in our economic behavior that cause us to gift a ring in marriage rather than something with real value, say a treasury bond. These realizations were enough to rock me back on my heels, for I had never before noticed the large degree to which our everyday economic decision-making is irrational.
Craving more than that one splendid hour, I knew where and what I wanted to study for the next four years. I saw myself strolling through Bobby Dodd Way, bumping into old friends as I made my way to Midtown Atlanta. Then, I imagined myself exploring the realm of economics, probing questions ranging from price formation to income disparity. I saw myself at a place that felt familiar enough to call “home,” learning in a way that felt genuine enough to call “discovery.”
Educating myself on the mechanics of economics is just a glimpse of my great desires. Through the senior research project, I seek the one-on-one guidance of faculty in yielding a publishable journal paper. Someday, with the support of the program’s alumni network, I plan to pursue career and internship opportunities in the great company headquarters of Atlanta.
Like many of the why major essay examples we’ve highlighted, this why major essay starts with a personal anecdote. Our Georgia Tech essay examples can be used as a why this college essay sample as well.
The student’s personal story is tied to Georgia Tech. This makes it a great addition to a Georgia Tech application. Our Georgia Tech essay examples also drive home the importance of bringing specific details about a college into your why major essay. The Georgia Tech supplemental essays examples can help spark your inspiration on what details to include. This why this major essay example does a great job of building on a personal experience with Georgia Tech. It also highlights what prompted the student’s interest in economics.
Learning from Georgia Tech essay examples
Reading through Georgia Tech supplemental essays examples like the one above can teach you a lot. As you approach your essays, make sure you showcase how important it can be to reference specific classes or professors offered by a college. Use Georgia Tech essay examples to get some inspiration for your research and writing.
If you are interested in submitting a Georgia Tech application, be sure to familiarize yourself with the offered majors. These can be found here . The Georgia Tech supplemental essay examples can be a great research tool as well if you are unsure about picking a major.
For more help on a Georgia Tech application, be sure to read through our guide on Georgia Tech Admissions as well. Reading through more Georgia Tech essay examples can help if you’re feeling stuck on your why major essay—it can be helpful to target your search for the major you’re interested in. The Georgia Tech supplemental essays examples illustrate the importance of building connections between your interests and what each college offers.
Pomona College Essay Examples
What gets you excited about your academic interest selection(s) above? (300 Words)
Pomona college essay example.
I’m a cis-gender gay man. I came out to my family during my sophomore year and to my entire school in an assembly my junior year.
My queer identity has inspired my involvement at Tony’s Place, my research on LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness, and my involvement in changing my school’s LGBTQ+ policies. Being gay has become a primary lens through which I view the world.
The Gender & Women’s Studies Program would provide me with a critical lens to further understand my own experiences and ways I can become a better activist.
The LGBTQ+ community is distinct from other marginalized groups because it is an umbrella of different experiences, and it takes a high level of literacy to understand these differences. The Gender & Women’s Studies Program’s emphasis on including diverse perspectives in the curriculum is crucial in my understanding of other perspectives and ways I can support others.
For my Modern Middle East final, I wrote a forty-five page paper on LGBTQ+ movements in Middle Eastern countries. Writing this paper made me think about LGBTQ+ rights from an international perspective. Pomona’s Decolonizing Gender and Sexuality in Asian/America can advance my understanding of the cultural implications of Western colonization. In doing so, I’ll discover ways the United States can assist an LGBTQ+ social movement in other nations without imposing an imperialist definition of pride.
While researching alongside a University of Houston professor, I had to consider the relationship between disabilities and LGBTQ+ homeless youth’s mental health outcomes. Taking The Disability Studies: Foundations, Intersections, & Future class will help me better empathize with the different communities represented in my future research endeavors.
By linking queer theory to disciplines such as economics, media studies, and politics, The Gender & Women’s Studies Program will prepare me for a lifetime of activism.
This why this major essay example does a great job of connecting this student’s personal identity and experiences to their intended major. This Pomona essay gives the reader insight into who the student is. It also highlights how their identity has informed their academic passions.
Out of all the Pomona majors, this student describes a specific program that spoke to their long-term goals. Reading through the Pomona College essay examples can help you structure your Pomona essay. This why this major essay example also has a great structure. It opens with a personal anecdote and segues into specific details about Pomona naturally. As such, this why this major essay example feels cohesive and clear.
When reading through college essay examples, pay attention to how closely they follow the exact prompt directions. The Pomona College essay examples highlight how important it is to answer the prompt. Your Pomona essay should explain why your intended major excites you. Make sure you read through the offered Pomona majors, found here. The Pomona College essay examples can also help you narrow down your options from the many Pomona majors offered. The reader can feel how excited this student is to pursue their major at Pomona, making it a great why this college essay sample as well!
How to write a Why Major Essay
After reading through the why major college essay examples, you may still feel stuck on how to write a why major essay. The first step to writing a why major essay is to pick your major.
While this may seem obvious, this can be a difficult step for a lot of students. There are many great guides on picking a college major, including our own guide . There are also guides from U.S. News , Research.com , and Coursera . Additionally, you can review the data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics on the most popular college majors. Reading about different majors (and reading different why did you choose this major essay examples) can help you decide which path of study is best for you.
You can also read a number of college essays that worked from Johns Hopkins University here . These can help you explore different areas of study and see how other students have described their experiences. Additionally, you can read our guides on college search , building a college list , and how to compare colleges .
Beginning your writing process
Once you know what major to pick, the fun part starts. Read some why did you choose this major essay examples and think of your own experience. Was there a class you took that sparked your interest or a club that inspired a new academic passion? What subjects or topics within this major speaks to you the most? Start reading why major essay examples for your intended major—they may help you focus your interest.
Let’s think through how a student may tackle a why major essay. Imagine a student named Isla who plans to study biology in college. When sitting down to write her why major essay, she might research each school’s biology programs in depth. Then, she might pick one or two classes for each school and look up what research projects the professors design.
She’ll also think about why she wants to study biology. She can still remember how captivated she was during her biology classes and how excited she was to learn more—this can be a great start to her essay. Isla can build her why major essay around her personal interests and the research she’s done. The Why Major essay gives Isla a great opportunity to explain her passions and to show schools she is serious about her goals.
Why engineering essay
If you’re interested in applying to engineering programs, your why engineering essay should detail what subjects within engineering you find compelling. Some schools will have you write a why engineering essay as part of their application process. Some of these include Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering and the California Institute of Technology .
When writing your why engineering essay, it can be helpful to include the specific field you’re interested in, such as mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, or computer engineering. Research the programs you’re applying to. Then, try to include any recent projects or news in your why engineering essay. Overall, a why engineering essay should explain your interest, include relevant information about each school and showcase your knowledge in engineering.
In addition to the UT Austin why this major essay example included in this guide, research other college essays that worked specifically to engineering. Reading why major essay examples for engineering programs can teach you more about the programs that interest you. If you’re feeling stuck, read more why did you choose this major essay examples for some inspiration!
Why business major essay
As the most popular major for undergraduate students, writing a why business major essay can be intimidating. Since business is such a popular major, many why major essay examples will focus on business. Some schools will have you write a specific why business major essay. For example, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan Ross School of Business require them. You can also refer to the Cornell why this major essay example included in this guide.
Try to include specific details about your experiences to ground your why business major essay. Think about your future career goals—do you have a dream company you’d like to work for? Look into each business program as well. Do they have any exciting internship programs, or connections with local businesses? Breaking down your goals and detailing what makes you excited about the specific program can help you write your why business major essay.
Reading college essay examples specific to business programs can help as well. You may find more essays geared towards graduate degrees, but researching why did you choose this major essay examples for business can help target your search. Reading why major essay examples for business programs can also help you see what specific schools look for.
Why nursing essay
Nursing is quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States. Writing a why nursing essay can be a core component of applying to nursing programs. This includes applying to programs at the University of Virginia and the University of California, Los Angeles . So, reading a why this major essay example for nursing can help jumpstart your writing process.
Your why nursing essay should explain your passion for the field. In your why nursing essay, be sure to include any personal stories you may have regarding nursing and the health field. Many why major essay examples for nursing include personal stories to help explain the student’s interest in healthcare.
Your why nursing essay should also be as specific as possible. Is there a specialization you’re interested in? Be sure to reflect on caretaking and share any personal experience you may have. These can elevate your why nursing essay. Additionally, if you’ve volunteered in a healthcare facility or have any experience with the profession, include these details in your essay. Overall, your why nursing essay should explain to the reader why you’re passionate about such an important field. It should also outline your future career goals within healthcare.
Other CollegeAdvisor Resources on College Majors
If you’re still feeling stuck on picking a major for your why major essay, CollegeAdvisor is here to help. In addition to these why major essay examples, you can review our guide on college majors here . This guide includes college-specific resources, but we also have a guide on listing a college major . Beyond that, we have guides for business majors and computer science majors. Additionally, we have guides on college enrollment , study abroad , and test scores .
Reading these different guides, alongside these why major essay examples, can help you navigate the wide array of majors. Once you find a major you’re interested in, reading why major essay examples for your specific major can help you start writing your why major essay.
Why This Major Essay Examples – Final Thoughts
Applying to college may feel overwhelming, but researching schools and majors is a crucial first step. Reading college essays that worked can help you understand what goes into a great why major essay.
Even if you’re not sure about your intended major, reading through why did you choose this major essay examples can help in the decision-making process. Arming yourself with information about each program will help, too. Reading why major college essay examples can provide specific inspiration for the programs you’re interested in. Focus on what excites you about each school’s program, and you’ll have a great starting point for your why major essay!
This essay guide was written by senior advisor, Jess Klein . Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile. We will help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.
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How to Write the Why This Major Essay + Example
April 26, 2023
Writing the supplemental “Why this major” essay sounds like a cakewalk for approximately 4% of high school seniors—those lucky few who’ve known their purpose since kindergarten. For most, it feels more like a desperate stab at fortune-telling. How should anyone know what major they’ll choose at a school they haven’t yet been invited to attend? (Let alone what career they’d choose after graduating from said unknown institution.) In fact, if these students could flash forward two years, they’d see that a large number of sophomores will still be considering the question a week before they must pick their major.
The reality is, choosing a major often involves a lot more on-site research: visiting the offices of professors, talking to college advisors, testing out intro classes, etc. The “Why this major essay”, on the other hand, is rarely a commitment to a particular major. Rather, it’s a way for admissions officers to determine a) what subject(s) the student is interested in, b) how they’ve pursued this interest already, and c) how they would take advantage of the college’s resources while further developing in their field. Like the why this college essay, the why this major essay ultimately shows admissions officers if the student will be a good fit at their college. Yet here the scope of the essay is more focused. This makes the essay easier to tackle, so long as the student has done their research.
Researching the Why This Major Essay
Whether or not the student has already picked their intended major, it’s essential to do some preliminary research. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised to hear how many students dash off a why this major essay without ever visiting the college website. Most college websites will be neatly laid out, with an “Academics” page linking to the various majors and minors on offer.
For undecided students, this list of majors will spark ideas. Often, subjects not offered at the high school level simply aren’t on a high schooler’s radar. Less typical liberal arts majors might include Food Studies, Fashion, and Neuroscience. A larger university may have a whole school dedicated to Engineering, with engineering majors ranging from Biomedical Engineering to Civil Engineering. (Students applying to a particular school like this will want to read up on additional guides, such as Preparing for a Top Engineering College .)
Furthermore, students may find that a particular college combines several of their interests into one major. A major in Sustainable Development will require courses on environmental science, economics, and architecture. Some colleges even offer an independent study option, allowing students to combine several disciplines of their choice as they work on a specific senior project.
Once the student has narrowed down their interests to around 1 – 3 majors, they should take notes on any aspects of the programs that appeal to them. These can include the curriculum and courses offered, research taking place in the department, study abroad options, labs, etc. Department websites also provide insight into current and previous students’ thesis work. These notes will make drafting the why this major essay a lot easier, and will provide real evidence that the student is genuinely interested in the program.
Structuring the Why This Major Essay, Part A
Structurally, the “Why this major?” essay hinges on two complementary parts. These two halves don’t need to be equally weighted in words. Yet, they are equally valuable in forming a cohesive argument.
In part A, students describe their history with the specific subject they’ve chosen. Anecdotes provide an easy way in. A why this major engineering essay may begin with a student describing the time they fixed the science class aquarium by restructuring valves connecting to the water tank.
Next, the student should show how this interest turned into a full-fledged passion. Examples here could include specific units in high school classes, books they’ve read, internships, etc. Try to choose moments and details that together shape a journey.
Structuring the Why This Major Essay, Part B
This second part of the “Why this major?” essay is all about the future. The student must link their developed interest to their chosen major. Then, returning to their research notes, the student will show why the school they’re applying to will be unique in providing a relevant and resourceful education in that arena. Though most aspects of a program are worth mentioning, it’s best to avoid naming specific professors. Faculty can vary annually, and even tenured professors go on sabbatical.
A natural final step in Part B involves describing how the chosen major will lead to the student’s desired career. It’s normal for students to feel a bit baffled here. But remember, this essay is not a promise. Rather, talking about potential career paths will demonstrate that the student has some awareness and practical knowledge of the field, as well as some idealism about what they might accomplish in it. Look again at the department website for articles and links to alumni news for inspiration.
Make it personal, and passionate. No matter what major a student chooses, admissions officers will be impressed by a student who has taken their education into their own hands in order to pursue their interest to its fullest.
Focus in on specificity. Admissions officers will remember a student interested in mutations in indigenous tropical plants, though they may forget a student who’s simply interested in botany. Detail will also make the essay more articulate.
Common Mistakes and Lingering Questions
As mentioned above, not doing the research before writing a “Why this major?” essay can lead to serious mistakes. Imagine submitting an essay about why you intend to major in International Politics, only to learn that the college’s major is called Global Politics and Economics. Here are some other common mistakes:
1) Not committing fully to any idea. Students who shy away from definitively selecting a major may do so out of a sense of honesty. Perhaps they don’t feel it’s right to wax on about Medieval Studies when they’re also interested in Historical Preservation. While trying to give both subjects a fair chance, the student can come across as only lukewarm for both. Colleges may pass over an applicant they see as apathetic. (Plus, colleges see students’ evolution as being in their best interest, and won’t hold it against you if you change your mind.) So, throw yourself fully into one major, or both, just make sure the excitement comes through. And, consider mentioning how your second or third interest may become your minor.
2) Parroting the website. Admissions officers know what their website says. That’s their job. Students who find themselves copying or paraphrasing the website can adapt this information to themselves by answering the question, how would I take advantage of this particular feature?
3) Picking the wrong major. Students may feel pressured to pick a major that is perceived to be lucrative, or one that is less popular because they believe it gives them a statistically higher chance of getting accepted. While an applicant’s desired field of study is weighed in the admission process , attempting to “game the system” very rarely ends in success. Ultimately, choosing a major that genuinely aligns with one’s interests and accomplishments is almost always the way to go. (For more on this question, check out Should I Declare a Major on My College Application ?)
Sample Why This Major Essay Prompts
While the Common App Prompts ask for fairly lengthy responses, the why this major essay works to complement the main essay, and can be pretty short. Short essays around 100 words will require a cursory nod to each eventful moment in the student’s life that has led them to choose their major. Medium-sized essays (250-400 words) will allow the student to sharpen each experience with more detail.
Let’s take a look at several examples:
Purdue University asks students to “Respond in 100 words or fewer. Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the major you have selected.” The brevity of the prompt invites the writer to be straightforward and concise in kind.
Students applying to Princeton as B.S.E. degree applicants will find that the “why this major” engineering prompt is equally straightforward. However, it asks for more specificity. It reads: “Please describe why you are interested in studying engineering at Princeton. Include any of your experiences in or exposure to engineering, and how you think the programs offered at the University suit your particular interests. (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)”
Why This Major Essay Example
Lastly, let’s see how one engineering student answered both Purdue and Princeton’s why this major essay/why this major essay engineering prompts. You’ll notice that the student recycled various information, but condensed and adapted the essay the second time around.
Why This Major Essay Engineering: Princeton
I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig while learning to drive. Afterward, I hoped my mom’s Volvo would break down so I could put the engine back together, as I had with a lawn mower. I love rebuilding things to understand each part. In Electronics, I wrote code to make a robot move, yet was left dissatisfied.
I’d begun to see how our climate crisis is caused by greenhouse gases, a byproduct of technology. I felt deceived by misconceived notions of “progress,” by cars and engines. Only when building an Arduino-based automated watering system to measure moisture in our school garden did I realize how technology might fix our mistakes. A complex watering system might reforest our planet, though it would be an immense undertaking. As Pirsig wrote: “Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not.”
I wish to major in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Princeton University to develop the skills necessary to design technologies that will restore our planet’s balance. I’m inspired by the recent laser-based sensing drone developed by Princeton researchers, which can pinpoint greenhouse gas leaks. With a concentration in Energy and the Environment, I would learn about remote methane sensors using chirped laser dispersion spectroscopy. I plan to develop an independent project on vapor isotope analyzers. After obtaining my B.S.E., I hope to improve the water cycles in urban environments.
Why This Major Essay Engineering: Purdue
While building an Arduino-based automated watering system for my school garden to measure moisture, I realized that human technology does not only destroy environments, but can work to reverse the effects of climate change. Majoring in Multidisciplinary Engineering with a Humanitarian Engineering Concentration at Purdue University would enable me to explore and combine various engineering disciplines in order to design technology that engenders sustainable living solutions for our species while supporting biodiversity on the planet. I plan to construct my own vapor isotope analyzer as my thesis to study and ultimately improve the water cycle of urban environments.
Why this Major Essay – Additional Resources
Looking for advice on other aspects of the college essay writing process? You may also find the following blogs to be of interest:
- How to Write the Overcoming Challenges Essay
- 2023-24 Common App Essay Prompts
- Check out over 50 school-specific supplemental prompts and tips
- College Essay
With a BA in Literary Studies from Middlebury College, an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, and a Master’s in Translation from Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, Kaylen has been working with students on their writing for over five years. Previously, Kaylen taught a fiction course for high school students as part of Columbia Artists/Teachers, and served as an English Language Assistant for the French National Department of Education. Kaylen is an experienced writer/translator whose work has been featured in Los Angeles Review, Hybrid, San Francisco Bay Guardian, France Today, and Honolulu Weekly, among others.
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Blog > Essay Advice , Supplementals > How to Write a Why This Major Supplemental Essay (with Examples)
How to Write a Why This Major Supplemental Essay (with Examples)
Admissions officer reviewed by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University
Written by Alex McNeil, MA Admissions Consultant
Great Why This Major essays convince the reader that you really know why you want to study something in particular. They blend stories about experiences with a more reflective tone about what a subject means to the writer.
This post is one in a series of posts about the supplemental essays. You can read our core “how-to” supplemental post here .
What is a Why this Major supplemental essay?
The "Why this Major" college essay is one of the most common types of supplemental essays you'll encounter while applying to college.
It asks you to talk about your academic interests and to comment on the major or majors that you're considering at the school in question. Here's an example of a Why this Major prompt:
Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests and why you want to explore them at USC specifically. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections.
The Why this Major is similar but not the same as a more general "academic interest" essay. This essay requires you to focus on the major and its specific offerings. So writing about the broader academic climate of a particular school will not suffice.
In this post we're going to talk about how to approach a Why this Major essay strategically. We'll look at how to do school-specific research for this type of essay and go into some great examples from this genre of college essay.
Why this Major Essay Strategy
Like with other genres of supplemental essays, the best place to start is usually figuring out what admissions officers are really looking for by assigning this essay.
A college experience involves a lot of things outside of the classroom, but universities are first and foremost places of academic learning. And your learning experience will likely be defined by the major you end up pursuing. Why this Major essays ask you to consider your learning trajectory through the lens of a major.
This may seem obvious, but the focus on major has implications for your school research (which we'll get to in a moment) and on your goals for the essay.
When admissions officers read these essays, they're looking for evidence of three things:
1) Academic Fit
Any essay focusing on academics, whether a Why Major essay or a more general academic interest essay, is a tool for admissions officers to gauge your academic fit with the school.
As we've discussed more deeply in other posts, academic fit ( or school fit) is one of the biggest criteria that admissions officers use to evaluate candidates. At most highly selective schools, applicants are assigned a numeric score that measures their "fit" with the institution and its offerings. These scores are built directly into the calculus schools use to determine who gets in and who doesn't.
One of the main reasons schools require supplemental essays is to gauge school fit. And Why Major essays, out of all supplemental essays, are one of the best ways for an admissions officer to get a sense of whether you fit with their school's offerings.
That being the case, your Why Major essay needs to make a case for school fit. It needs to show that you're educated about the specific academic opportunities offered by the school and that you have a gameplan for taking advantage of those resources if you were admitted.
In other words, the Why Major essay is your chance to show that you would be an effective member of the school's academic community.
2) A sense that you've researched what a given major offers you in particular
Why Major essays, as I've mentioned, are importantly different from more general "academic interest" essays. For one thing, they ask you to talk specifically about majors.
This distinction matters a lot. Being able to talk coherently about a major requires you to have done some research. You need to have a sense of what kind of courses are offered (or required) in the program, what concentrations might be offered within the major, and any other major-specific resources and details might be relevant.
What's the difference between a molecular biology major and a biology major? Well, if you're writing a Why Major essay for a school that offers both, you should probably have the answer to that question on deck.
Again, admissions officers reading your Why Major essay want to get a sense that you've thought about what it would mean to study something particular. Maybe the major you're looking at has a senior capstone where you're able to go into the field and do research. Amazing, write about that!
3) Intellectual curiosity
On a more general level, the Why Major essay is an opportunity to showcase intellectual curiosity and a willingness to explore. It can be an essential part of your application narrative .
Even though majors are somewhat specific, there's still plenty of room for interdisciplinary study and exploration. Why Major essays are a great place to talk about the questions you don't have answers to, but that you'd love to explore through a particular major or intersection of majors.
In a Why Major essay, much of these three goals will be accomplished through school-specific research. We’ll talk about how to do that in a moment.
One thing to mention before we move on: because Why Major essays are tied to specific academic programs, you’ll want to avoid spending too much time (any time?) talking about the larger culture of the university. That might be appropriate in a more general “why us” essay, but not here.
How to do Why this Major Essay school research
When you're doing a Why Us essay, you might start your school research by looking at the school's "about us" section or their mission statement.
Why Major essays will require you to start your research at a more focused level, likely on the homepage of the major or department that you're writing about.
So let's start there. If you aren't sure which major you want to write about (totally normal) your first stop might be to poke around the different academic offerings at the school.
Once you find a major that you're interested in writing about, go deep into the homepage for the major. Your goal should be to find information about the major that you can use to build your "case" for school fit. Ideally, the details you pull out will relate in some shape or form to past experiences, internships, research experiences, etc., that are part of your resume.
Some places to start the search:
- Faculty : I usually suggest that students take a peek at the faculty page for the major and spend some time reading through faculty bios. Most bios will give you a clear sense of the professor's research interests. Your goal should be to find someone who has a research interest/focus that aligns with something you'd be interested in studying. You don't need to have done related work in the past for this to be effective. What matters is that you can create a plausible case for working with that professor to study an area of common interest.
- Coursework : Another necessary stopping point as you do your major interest is the coursework page for the major or department. This can be tricky to find at some schools. You can usually find it by googling "School name major name courses." Once you find the course page, look for a course or two that, again, fits your research or academic interests. You don't have to have a clear research interest in mind. It's always OK to lead with curiosity and with questions. When referencing a course in your Why Major essay, for example, you can talk about the kind of questions that course X would help you explore. This is an honest way to demonstrate fit and interest without having to pretend that you have things more figured out than you do. Take note of a course or two that appeals to you. These are great points of reference for these essays.
- Learning objectives : Another invaluable piece of information for a Why Major essay is the department learning objectives page. Usually, majors and departments will spell out the kind of skills they hope their students will have gained by the time they finish their major. These objects are like mini mission statements, but particular to each major. Taking time to digest the learning objectives, and reflecting on them in your essay, is a great way to show you've done your research and that you align with what the school or program is looking for.
- Lecture Series : Another good way to authentically demonstrate research and fit with a major is to look at the events that the program has hosted recently. Most majors / departments will host some form of lecture series, inviting speakers to share research or thoughts about interesting topics. Scroll through recent events until you find one that sounds interesting, then bring it up in your Why Major essay. P.S., it doesn't really matter how long ago the event was. Even if the lecture was held in 2015, it's still fair game to say that "you'd love to be involved in talks like..."
- Internships : Finally, you could look at the opportunities that the major / department sets up for its students outside of the classroom. Some academic programs focus heavily on getting their students into the workplace by facilitating internship placements.
Overall, your goal should be to find authentic, relevant pieces of information that build a case for your fit with the major. If you have major-relevant experiences on your resume, and you can find particular professors, courses, or opportunities that synergize with your experiences — even better.
Remember, though, that your Why Major essay shouldn't just be a list of references to the department. While you should probably check out professors, courses, and all of the above for all of your Why Major essays, you probably SHOULDN'T include all of those categories in any one essay. Be strategic and sparing — drop references that are truly relevant to you and get at areas of authentic curiosity and interest.
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How to write a Why this Major supplemental essay
OK, we've talked about strategy and research — but how do you actually structure a Why Major essay?
I usually recommend finding a universal hook that relates to your academic interest. A hook is one of the most useful and versatile tools you can build for yourself while writing college essays. Here's an example of a good one:
Hooks do two things. First, they get the essay off to an engaging start by providing a touch of action. Second, hooks create a narrative bridge to an academic subject, embedding an intellectual topic in the real context of your life.
A hook doesn't need to be long — in fact, it shouldn't be. Why Major essays are NOT about telling a story: they're about answering the prompt and showing that you've done your research.
Once you have your hook, your next step might be to reflect a bit about the major area you've chosen to write about. You can talk about when and why you became interested in the subject. This might mean giving a brief recap about an experience you've had that relates to the major area. This section shouldn't be too long, just enough to give some background about your relationship to the field of study.
Next, you're going to transition into the bulk of the essay, where you talk about the major in question. This section is where you'll talk about the things that interest you most about the major and what you'd hope to accomplish studying it.
This is likely where you'll be introducing the research you did. You can talk openly about the courses you'd want to take, the professors you'd learn from, and the opportunities the department / major would offer you. If you've had past experiences relevant to the major, you should frame your research as an opportunity to build on or go deeper into those experiences.
This is a great time to bring up questions that you'd hope to explore as a student in the major. What are you curious about? What could you see yourself researching? It's OK to not have all the answers, and to say this in your essay, but do your best to suggest a possible area of exploration that would occupy your focus in the major.
Finally, you might want to focus on how the opportunities offered by the major will support your vision for who you want to become after graduation. Maybe you want to have a career in sports psychology, or go on to study medicine in graduate school. Don't be afraid to talk about how the major will set you up to explore these pathways and figure out what's right for you.
Talking about future-you can be a great way to give admissions officers a sense of your fit with the major. If your goal is to go into the medical field, and you know that a particular liberal arts college's biology program sends 87% of graduates on to graduate school, you should definitely bring that up as a reason for applying. It shows maturity, a sense of clarity about what you want for your future, and it'll give a reader the sense that you've done your homework.
Connecting your interest in the major with your vision for your future is always a good look. It shows that you're connecting the dots between the academic pathway right in front of you and your longer-term goals.
Why this Major Supplemental Essay Example
Example essay: gen-z votes.
That((In this paragraph, the writer shows clear knowledge of their field of interest.)) was the number of voters aged 18-29 who voted in the 2022 midterm elections. That number was actually up about 7 percentage points from 2018, which saw the highest voter turnout in a midterm election in 100 years.
Gen Z is showing up. And I believe my generation will save our country.
My peers and I are the most diverse and progressive generation the world has ever seen. We are ready to combat climate change and mass shootings, protect healthcare and promote mental health, and fight global warming. And, unlike previous generations, our youngest voters are showing up at record numbers – but it is still too low.
That’s why I started my organization, Gen-Z Votes. What started as a class project morphed into a multi-high school movement, then a statewide campaign, and now leads me to apply to the political science major at Michigan((The writer explicitly connects their accomplishment with the reason they want to major in political science at Michigan.)) . I am also excited to explore the liberal arts curriculum in LSA and learn more about philosophy, economics, and communication.
When recruiting peers to help lead Gen-Z Votes, I quickly learned two things: different members had different political priorities and also brought different strengths to the table. When we needed someone to meet with the superintendent to inform them of our plan to organize a walk out to protest gun violence, Brian’s ease in communication made him the man for the job. When we designed posters for a voter registration drive, Julia put her graphic design skills to work.
Similarly, I find that the global issues we care about cannot be addressed by one perspective((Clear strengths: initiative and collaboration)) . If we want to combat climate change we need scientists but we also need to recruit philosophers, musicians, and writers to the cause. I am excited to explore the broad curriculum at Michigan, join the UMICH Votes organization, and bring my breadth of experience to politics after Michigan.
Want to see even more supplemental essay examples? Check out our college essay examples post .
Liked that? Try this next.
How A Selective Admissions Office Reads 50k Applications In A Season
How to Write Supplemental Essays that Will Impress Admissions Officers
20 College Essay Examples (Graded by Former Admissions Officers)
The Incredible Power of a Cohesive College Application
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Writing the “Why This Major” Supplemental Essay
Many selective colleges use supplemental essay prompts as an opportunity to learn more about your specific areas of academic interest. Here are a few examples:
Example 1: University of Pennsylvania
How did you discover your intellectual and academic interests, and how will you explore them at the University of Pennsylvania? Please respond considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected. (300-450 words)
Example 2: Carnegie Mellon University
Most students choose their intended major or area of study based on a passion or an inspiration that’s developed over time—what passion or inspiration led you to choose this area of study? (300 words)
Example 3: University of Southern California
Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests at USC. Please feel free to address your first and second choice major selections. (250 words)
Example 4: Tufts University
It’s cool to love learning. What excites your intellectual curiosity? (150-200 words.)
While each prompt is slightly different, they share a similar focus. What are your intellectual interests? What specific college major interests you most and why? How did this interest develop?
In some cases, colleges are factoring your choice of major into an admissions decision. In other cases, they may just be using this question as an avenue to learn more about you.
Consider these two brief examples:
Option A: “I’ve always known that I wanted to help people, so my goal is to major in elementary education. I’ve selected this major because I hope to become a first-grade teacher.”
Option B: “ It was at the age of seven that I discovered my true calling in life when I invented a one-person game, which I lovingly named ‘School.’ In this game, I would line up my dolls and stuffed animals and teach them lessons, going so far as to attend to behavior modifications and provide individual academic support; after all, they were the students, and I was the teacher. Although I’m quite sure that my dolls grew tired of this childish game, my desire to lead a classroom has never wavered in the years that have elapsed since. It is for this reason that elementary education is my first choice of major.”
Which writing gives you more insight into the applicant? Which is more memorable? Option A doesn’t tell us much about the reader, while Option B shares a vivid personal story and connects that directly with an area of academic interest.
Here’s a little brainstorming strategy:
Before you begin writing the “Why This Major” essay, briefly jot down words, ideas, or phrases in response to the following questions:
What are your strongest academic interests? (List as many as feel applicable.)
How did these interests develop? (So, you want to major in psychology? What is the origin of this interest? This origin story might be a rather ordinary series of life events or a major “aha” moment. Interests develop in all sorts of ways!)
How would this specific university contribute to your academic interests? If you want to major in marketing, that’s a great start, but there are hundreds of colleges that offer a marketing degree. Why study marketing at the University of Southern California? Do your research. Jot down the names of specific courses that are unique to the institution and not offered elsewhere. Learn more about the professors, their research, and any publications they’ve recently contributed to. Learn more about student-led organizations that correlate with your academic interests, such as the Consulting Club or Marketing Student Ambassadors.
What are your career interests and professional goals? How would this major help you work toward your goals? News flash: it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life! College is a great place to figure that out. However, if you do have career aspirations or other professional goals that link to your intended major, this is a great place to share them.
Let’s look at an example of a “Why This Major” essay, from a student who was accepted to Tufts University:
Music inspires my interest in engineering. Whenever I play with an ensemble, our common purpose is to decipher the complex emotions that underlie a piece of music, recreate those emotions with our instruments, and transfer them to the audience. This process of collective interpretation fills me with joy, but it also renders me desperately curious as to why music is so profoundly stirring.
The answer is simple: the laws of nature. To understand music theory is to understand acoustics, resonance, material science, and fluid dynamics. Engineering explains how various natural phenomena combine to create beauty. The interdisciplinary approach to education provided at the Tufts School of Engineering mirrors my personal approach to understanding the world.
Jumbo engineers enjoy a balanced education that emphasizes research while providing extraordinary liberal arts instruction. As such, Tufts alumni are better equipped to compete and lead in the modern global community. The flexibility of the engineering program will leave me ample time to explore my other passions, so I can pursue a BS in engineering in tandem with another major or minor in another area of interest. The School of Engineering also offers ABET-Accredited BS degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, should I choose to narrow my focus.
As a founding member and four-year president of the Edgemont Robotics Club, I would feel at home in the collaborative and competitive atmosphere of the Tufts Robotics Club. I hope to help bring home the fifth consecutive win at the Trinity College Fire Fighting Robot Contest!
Why did this essay work?
· The writer gives us insight into who they are as an individual, drawing a unique connection between musical talents and intellectual interest in engineering.
· The writer helps us understand how their academic interests developed.
· The writer shows us specifically how Tufts can contribute to their academic interests.
This all sounds great, but I have no idea what I want to major in! How should I respond to this prompt?
Feeling undecided about your intended major is normal. Many colleges allow students to enter as an “undecided major,” and many students who declare a major during the application process end up changing along the way. The important aspect of this writing supplement is not actually that you’re certain about your future major, but rather that you have academic interests and can articulate them. If you are unable to convey any interest in learning, college admissions officers may wonder why you’re applying to college in the first place.
The “Why This Major” supplemental essay is the perfect opportunity to showcase your intellectual interests while adding a narrative about your personal journey that may be missing in other aspects of your application.
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Topher began working at Stanford University’s Career Planning & Placement Center in 1998. His career spans 30 years. At Santa Clara University, he managed Bay Area, Los Angeles and Texas territories where he recruited, evaluated, and admitted athletes, freshman, and transfer applicants. At Ohlone College in Fremont, he served as Interim Director of Admission and Records. Since 2011, he has worked in test prep and college consulting, providing guidance to families preparing their children for college.
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Writing the “Why Us” Supplemental Essay
Writing on the topic of identity, diversity, belonging, & community.
Why This College Essay Guide + Examples
The purpose of the “Why us?” or “Why this college” essay is to demonstrate—through specific details and examples—why you’re a great match for a particular school. In some cases, the “Why us?” essay is an important way to demonstrate interest in a particular college.
The “Why this college?” essay, and variations of this prompt, also happens to be one of the most popular supplemental essay questions asked of students on the college application.
Here are just a few schools that have (or recently required) this prompt:
New York University (NYU)
University of Michigan
University of Pennsylvania
University of Southern California
And there are dozens of other colleges that ask this question as well.
This guide will provide a step-by-step strategy and tons of “Why this college?” (sometimes called “Why us?”) essay examples to help you stand out on your essay and even help you decide what kind of school you want to go to .
We'll start by covering what NOT to do, what kinds of details you SHOULD include in your essay, and where to find the best resources for researching your “Why this college?” essay.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Step 1: How to Find All the Resources You Need to Learn about a Particular School
The Top Secret Three-Word Trick to Finding Specific Info for Your “Why this College” Essay
- Step 2: Organize Your Research
- Step 3: Decide on Your Approach: Approach #1: The Basic, Solid "Why this College" Essay That Includes a Bunch of Reasons Approach #2: The “3-5 Unique Reasons” Strategy Approach #3: The “One Value” Strategy
Six Common Mistakes Students Make on the “Why this College” Essay
Mistake #1: Writing about the school's size, location, reputation, weather, or ranking.
Why shouldn’t you do this? Because that's what many other students are writing about and you don’t want to blend in. Take a hint from Emory University, whose “Why us?” prompt used to read:
Many students decide to apply to Emory University based on our size, location, reputation, and yes, the weather. Besides these valid reasons as a possible college choice, why is Emory University a particularly good match for you?
Or check out Georgia Tech’s old prompt:
Beyond rankings, location, and athletics, why are you interested in attending Georgia Tech?
Clearly their admissions readers are tired of reading about those things.
Mistake #2: Simply using emotional language to demonstrate fit.
Telling the school that you walked onto campus and “it just felt right” is a) something else a lot of students say and b) doesn’t the reader understand how are a good match for the school. And, for that matter, neither does the statement, “I can see myself rooting for the Wildcats at MetLife Stadium on Sundays.”
Mistake #3: Screwing up the mascot, stadium, team colors or names of any important people or places on campus
Why avoid this? It's the quickest way to show you're a sloppy researcher. In the example above, the Wildcats play neither at MetLife Stadium nor on Sundays. Also, the “I can see myself in [insert school colors here]” is a cliché of the "Why this College" essay. Avoid it too.
Mistake #4: Parroting the brochures or website language .
It could be that the person reading your essay and evaluating your application actually wrote the words you’re copying and pasting.
“On the one hand, it shows that a student has actually researched us and I appreciate that,” says Brian Liechti of Warren Wilson College. “On the other, as one of those people who wrote the words you’re copying, I’d rather see evidence of how what I wrote resonated with you—do we share values? What stood out or spoke to you in that brochure or on that web page? That's what I really want to see.”
Mistake #5: Describing traditions the school is well-known for.
In fact, find out the school's common traditions (like throwing toast on the field at Penn, for example, or painting the rock at Northwestern) and then don't write about those things. Why? Everyone and their brother already has. How do you learn these? Google the name of the school and the word “traditions.”
Mistake #6: Thinking of this as only a "Why them" essay.
The school knows it’s awesome. “You probably don’t need to tell us about the beautiful Nott Memorial,” says Nicole Buenzli of Union College. “I pass the Nott every day, it's on every brochure we create, and we all know it has 16 sides!”
Instead, think of this as a "Why we are perfect for each other" essay.
In fact, imagine you're on a date and the person sitting across from you leans in to ask, "So, why do you like me?" Don’t just say, "Because you're hot," or “My auntie says a relationship with you will improve my job prospects.” When it comes to the “us” in “Why us?” think of it this way:
“Us” ≠ the college you’re applying to
“Us” = the school + you
In order to prove you and the school are destined to be together, make connections between the two of you.
How to Write A “Why this College” Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide
Step #1: Do your research.
How? Like this:
How to Find All the Resources You Need to Learn about a Particular School
“Click deep” on the school’s website. Spend serious time on the school’s online catalogue/course schedule and look for not only majors and minors , but also specific programs, courses, activities, and opportunities that set this school apart from all the others you’re applying to.
Read reviews from experts. Here are some good ones:
The Fiske Guide to Colleges (Edward B. Fiske)
Colleges That Change Lives (Loren Pope)
The Best 376 Colleges (Princeton Review)
Read student reviews . Students sometimes say things that experts don’t or won’t say. Both Niche.com and Unigo.com have real student reviews. Read a bunch so you can get a sense of the campus vibe and aren’t skewed by just 1-2 opinions.
I particularly like the Unigo question, “What’s the stereotype of the students at your school?” and “Is the stereotype true?” Note that if the “stereotype” comments contradict one another (one student says “hippie school,” another says “nerdy,” and another says “jocks and frat boys,” that could be a sign it’s actually a pretty diverse school).
Take real and virtual tours. It’s hard to really know a campus without seeing it. And if you can, do it. But if you can’t visit in person, check out:
Tours on individual school websites
TIP: Take at least five online tours so you can compare schools.
Contact the admissions office and, if possible, talk to your local rep.
Most colleges have particular representatives for particular regions of the country (and the world). You can talk to them. And they're really nice! A few reasons why this is a good idea:
It’s a fantastic way to find out about a school . In fact, there are people who get paid to answer your questions. (My best friend was one of them.) Don’t be afraid. They won’t be mad at you; they’ll be happy you asked.
Your conversation may help you write your essay . If you learn something meaningful on the call, you may be able to write in your essay, “When I spoke to so-and-so in the Admissions Office, she told me…”
At some schools, the person you speak to on the phone may be the one who reads your application. And how cool will it be when they’re reading your app and they think, “Oh, I remember this student! They were so nice.”
Pro Tip: Definitely have a few specific questions in mind before you call and try not to ask about anything you could Google in five minutes.
Don't ask, for example, if the school has a Biology major (spoiler: it does!) Ask instead how easy it is for non-majors to take advanced musical theater classes or what sets their Engineering program apart from other schools’ (assuming you've already Googled these things and can’t find the answers).
Don't be afraid to make a connection and simply be a curious human. It’s a great way to engage with the world. Even if you’re doing something as specific as researching an essay about why you chose this college.
Get in touch with a current student.
Try putting the word out on social media: “Anyone know a current or former student at Purdue?” Ask that person for 15 minutes of their time. Then ask a short set of questions that you’ve prepared beforehand. Ideally these are questions that will help you write your “Why this College” essay and will be interesting, specific, and open-ended.
Don’t just ask, “So, what’s it like there?” (too general) or “Did you like it?” (close-ended question). Ask open-ended questions that will be fun for them to answer like: “What was the most mind-blowing class you took and why? What surprised you about [this particular] college? What do most people not know about [insert school]?”
The more interesting your questions are, the more interesting the answers will be, and the more you’ll show why you are interested in this college.
Find a syllabus.
That’s it. Research high and low, search the deepest depths of Google (or better yet: ask someone who attends the school) and find a syllabus for a class you may take at that school.
Why does this help? Imagine you’re trying to articulate why you’d take a certain class. What better way than to peruse the language the professor is using in the part of the syllabus that says “What I hope you will learn from this class”?
Take this course description, for example, excerpted from a syllabus by (and quoted with permission from) Dr. Frank Anderson at the University of Michigan:
This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the field of reproductive health, both in the United States and from a global perspective. The course will introduce students to cross-cutting themes including 1) historical discourses on reproductive health; 2) the social ecology of reproductive risks (e.g., gender, race, sexuality); 3) the relevance of physical anatomy to reproductive risks; 4) life course perspectives; 5) human rights frameworks; and 6) application to health behavior and health education assessments and interventions. Additional (more specific) topics in reproductive health will be addressed including maternal morbidity, contraceptive use, pregnancy, STI care, HIV, abortion care, and violence against women. Through a comparative look at reproductive health needs in a range of diverse social settings, we will critically examine the logic and impact of current domestic and international standards for reproductive health policy and practice.
You can show off your research skills by mentioning in your essay you found a syllabus:
“When I read Professor [X]’s syllabus for her Class in [Y], I was intrigued by the possibility of exploring [Z], in particular…”
College Essay Guy’s “Why us?” Essay Research Chart 2.0
Here’s a viewable version of this chart for you to copy/download and edit on your own.
What you’re looking for as you research: Specific reasons that connect the school (i.e. “them”) AND your own interests and needs (i.e. “you”). Here’s a simple formula:
A (school-related detail) + B (how this connects back to you) = a great “Why us?” sentence
Pro Tip: Remember the “Why this College” essay is another opportunity to share a few more of your skills/talents/interests/passions. So look back at your “ Everything I Want Colleges to Know About Me” List and ask yourself: are all these values/qualities somewhere else in my application? If not, where could I weave them into my “Why this College” essay?
Step #3: Decide on your approach to the essay.
Important: There is no “best” approach and students are accepted to wonderful schools each year with each of these strategies.
Here are a few options:
Approach #1: The Basic, Solid ‘Why this College’ Essay That Includes a Bunch of Reasons
How it works: Research a bunch of opportunities at the school and connect each one back to you in an organized way.
How many is “a bunch?” Try to find 10-15 reasons. While you may not ultimately name all the reasons in your final version, research this many will give you plenty to choose from when you start your draft.
What do I mean by “organized” way?
Here’s an outline for a basic, solid “Why this College” essay:
Clear thesis that names the academic area(s) you want to pursue and maybe charts the path of the essay
Main reason #1 and 3-4 specific details
Main reason #2 and 3-4 specific details
Main reason #3 and 3-4 specific details
An ending that maybe discusses what you’ll give back
Here’s an example of a basic, solid “Why this College” Essay that includes a bunch of reasons:
The Why Michigan “Why this College” Essay Example
Prompt: Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests? (500 word limit)
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. (466 words)
Four Things I Love About the “Why Michigan” Essay
The short hook. Many students spend way too long on their opening when a short one will do. This essay’s hook is just 40 words long and works well. Does your “Why this College” essay even need a hook? Nope. If you use this first approach, get to the main argument as fast as you can.
The clear thesis that provides a path for the essay . This will probably take you back to AP English class essays where you’re asked to make your argument explicit at the start and then provide evidence to support it. That’s what you’re doing in a “Why this College” essay and your argument is that you and the school are a perfect match.
Three main reasons and 3-4 bits of supporting evidence per paragraph . I recommend identifying three main reasons because a) it keeps your essay organized, b) it’s easy to adapt for different length “Why this College” essays, and c) it provides “buckets” for your research. (“Buckets” = the themed paragraphs you need to “fill” with research.)
The way he sprinkles “salt” into his essay. Remember above where the author notes that he “look[s] forward to exploring [law at Michigan, as it] wasn’t offered in [his] high school education”? I call this sprinkling “salt” into your “Why us?” essay. Why? Consider this analogy: salt makes one thirsty and, by mentioning opportunities you haven’t had access to, you let the reader know that you’re thirsty for something the school has to offer. And the reader may know of opportunities for quenching that thirst that you don’t—including the “salt” may inspire them to think of those ways.
A Slightly More Advanced Example of This Approach
Here’s another example that follows the basic structure of the “Why Michigan” essay, but it’s a bit more advanced because the details are a bit more specific. As a result, we learn a bit more about both the school and the author. Read it first, then take a look at the outline below to see how it’s constructed.
The Why Penn “Why this College” Essay Example
Note: I’m bolding the school-specific reasons in his essay so you can spot them more easily, but you shouldn’t do this in your final draft.
Prompt: How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying. (Word limit: 650)
I want to be a catalyst when I grow up, someone who sparks growth while also trying to sustain the environment through improved efficiency. At UPenn, I look forward to pursuing a major in Mechanical Engineering and exploring interdisciplinary programs, as I believe that sustainability can be a viable solution to preserve earth’s resources. At the GRASP laboratory , I hope to work at the Haptics Lab under Professor Katherine Kuchenbecker to devise an integrated haptic-responsive camera trap. I believe that the use of teleoperation (in camera traps) in wildlife censuses and studies can be a potential gamechanger in a geologically diverse country like India. I also feel that haptics interfaces can catalyze the process of discovering and studying unexplored biodiversity hotspots like the Western Ghats and the high-rising Himalayas. Besides this, I would also really get a chance to perfect my butterfly stroke through stroke rehabilitation at the Haptics Lab! In addition, hands-on project courses like Machine Design and Manufacturing and Product Design will help me in developing, testing and prototyping product permutations, and through ISAC Program 2018, I would love to advocate for a course called Environmentally Sustainable Product Design, as I feel that a product’s longevity in a market is directly related to its environmental sustainability. I believe that little sparks of innovation can turn into developed businesses if given the right acceleration and, having already negotiated a deal with the software company Everlution Software Ltd. for my eco-friendly innovation ‘Water Wave’, I look forward to using the opportunities at IGEL to turn my innovations into sustainable technological ventures. After accompanying my father to joint-venture meetings across Europe, I have picked upon certain technical aspects of negotiations such as the influence of ‘EBITDA’, the use of inter-cultural body language to change mindsets and the long-drawn-out process of Due Diligence. Courses like Engineering Negotiations will advance my skills in the subtle art of negotiation and develop my thinking in high-pressure situations. I look forward to contributing in unconventional ways: through Penn’s policy of Climate Action 2.0 , I’d love to help increase the efficiency of alternative energy machinery through responsive auto-sensors and I would also contribute to the establishing of wildlife corridors at UPenn by conducting case studies at the Morris Arboretum with the help of the Penn Green Fund . I also look forward to engaging in bird photography and ornithology by being an active member of the Penn Birding Club and potentially conducting fall bird censuses to illuminate for students the birdlife that nestles in the university. I hope to photograph and document each and every one of the 104 species ( Morris Arboretum Checklist ) of birds at UPenn. Furthermore, courses like Documentary Strategies and Photographic Thinking will help me better integrate critical thought into my photos and construct out-of-the-box documentaries to put into perspective environmental sustainability at UPenn. Also, contributing photo essays to the Penn Sustainability Review will allow me to depict the need for a change, beyond words. UPenn will also help me pursue a multitude of activities at its various clubs such as Penn Cricket Club , PennNaatak , where I hope to spark my flair for Marathi Drama , and men’s club basketball (I was all state for three years!). As I move with a redefined pace towards the goal of global sustainability, I am reminded of the UPenn ideology of addressing the most challenging questions and problems of our time by integrating and combining different disciplines and perspectives. Through my stay at UPenn, I hope to do just that.
Here’s the outline for the “Why UPenn” essay (which you can adapt for your own essay):
Intro/Thesis (say what you want to study and why)
Really specific academic offering at the school that is in your intended major/concentration (this should connect to you in a really specific way)
A second really specific academic offering that is also in your intended major/concentration (and that also connects back to you)
Something academic that’s not in your intended major/concentration (this keeps the focus on academics, but also brings in some variety)
Best/most important extracurricular offering (that connects to you in a really specific way)
Miscellaneous extracurriculars paragraph (2-3 things to demonstrate social/non-academic fit)
Closing (this can be short and, in shorter “Why this College” essays, is unnecessary)
Note that the content in the two essays above are roughly 50% about the school and 50% about the student, which is a nice balance. Below is an example essay that uses a similar structure (thesis followed by main reasons), but is more like 75% about the school and 25% about the student. This isn’t not “wrong,” it’s just a slightly different approach.
The Why Tufts “Why this College” Essay Example
Prompt: Which aspects of Tufts’ curriculum or undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short: “Why Tufts?” (200 word limit)
In addition to providing a strong foundation in economics, Tufts provides me the opportunity to further explore global health care policy through an International Relations Program that leverages the strengths of 18 related departments and programs. I’m also keen to continue my study of the Chinese language through Tufts’ Chinese Department, studying with Professor Mingquan Wang and perhaps study abroad at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, to receive the full immersion experience. Tufts’ Experimental College intrigues me as I can take unconventional courses such as Game Strategy (EXP-0029-S) and Rising Tide: Climate Change, Vulnerability, and Adaptation (EXP-0021-F). Further, Tufts’ urban backdrop provides me the opportunity to play league cricket year round to train for my bid to become the first Jumbo on the US National Cricket Team, while studying abroad at Oxford would provide me with not only global economic perspectives, but also the opportunity to continue my pursuit of cricket in its birthplace. Visiting Tufts, my mother’s alma mater, I felt I was at home in Singapore. Its strengths in Chinese, Econ and International Relations, combined with its beautiful suburban campus, academic rigor, and global reach have confirmed that Tufts is the place for me. (196 words)
I call this the “firehose” approach because it packs 14 reasons into 196 words. The author offers the reader a sense that he has clearly done his research and knows how he might make use of the school’s offerings, which is the goal of the solid, basic “Why this College” essay.
Did you notice how easy it would be to adapt the “Why Tufts” essay for another school? Switch out “18” in “18 related departments and programs,” change the names of the Chinese professor and University, name two different interesting courses and cut the “mother’s alma mater” line and voila—suddenly this is an essay for another school.
But how do you make the school feel really special? Like this:
Approach #2: The “3-5 Unique Reasons” Strategy
How it works: find 3-5 opportunities that are particular to the school (i.e. available at no other school or no other school you’re applying to) and connect each one back to you.
This is my favorite approach, as focusing on fewer reasons allows you the chance to share more about yourself and your interests (i.e., “why you”). But it can be more difficult to write because, frankly, it can be hard to find specifics that truly set a school apart from other schools. It is possible to find these unique offerings, however, and I believe it’s worth trying, especially for your top-choice school(s).
Pro Tip: Ask admission reps what sets their school (or the department you’re applying to) apart from other schools.
As an example, notice how the author below names four unique offerings that connect him to Cornell (I’ve labeled them below). Plus, we learn a little more about the author’s interests than we do from the essays above.
The Why Cornell “Why this College” Essay Example
Prompt: Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into their academic interests, discover new realms of intellectual inquiry, and chart their own path through the College. Tell us why the depth, breadth, and flexibility of our curriculum are ideally suited to exploring the areas of study that excite you. (Word limit: 650)
Whenever I have time on my hands, I hook myself up to my EEG and analyze my brain waves. Or if I am feeling slightly less adventurous, I am reading about the latest neuroscience trends in ScienceDirect or NCBI PubMed. I want to spend my life studying, understanding, and helping to fix the human brain. I bought my EEG online two years ago for about $150 and have used it to compare the beneficial effects of both circadian and non-circadian sleep on the brain by analyzing the number of clear peaks in a 3-minute interval of a theta wave. But just counting the peaks is not the best way to measure the benefits. I look forward to gaining a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of neurophysiology (as well as working with better equipment) in courses like Principles of Neurophysiology. As someone who has long been passionate about neurotechnology, the fact that Cornell is unique in offering classes devoted specifically to the field is very important to me. I would also like to be able to contribute my experiences with neurotechnology to support the cutting edge research in Cornell’s brand new NeuroNex Hub. I would love to work with Dr. Chris Xu in expanding the current three-photon microscope to be applied on various animal models. I also look forward to helping Dr. Chris Schaffer, whose research on deep neural activity is not being done anywhere else in the world. I freak out at the possibility of helping him develop a tool to look at multiple brain areas at the same time. Though I have long aspired to study at Cornell, when I visited and sat in on Neurobiology and Behavior II, it made me all the more determined. I found Professor Christiane Linster’s presentation on synaptic plasticity absolutely riveting. Her animations of neurotransmitters crossing a synapse and new synapses forming in neuron clusters kept her students engaged in a way I have not seen in any other classrooms. I want to go to Cornell because of teachers like her. During my visit I also enjoyed talking with Kacey about her experiences in the college scholars program. I loved that she had studied the effects of circus and gymnastic performances, like Cirque Du Soleil, on therapy for children with neurological disabilities. I am very excited by the idea of combining neuroscience with something like the effects of learning a classical language on developing brains. Many studies have shown the plethora of positive effects of being bilingual, but not much research has been done on classical languages. I have been studying Latin for over seven years, and I have experienced firsthand the positive effects. I spend hours every day breaking down complex sentences such as those in Vergil’s Aeneid, and so have extended this approach to problem-solving to other aspects of my life, like my neuroscience research. This is the program I would create for my college scholars project. Cornell is also the only university I am interested in that offers a speaking course in Latin: Conversational Latin. For the past six years, I have rarely had to translate more than a few sentences at a time from English to Latin, never truly experiencing the unique grammatical features of Latin, such as intricate word play by Catullus in his Odes, that drew me so much to this language. I would love to supplement my knowledge by being able to formulate my thoughts in Latin and actively immerse myself in the language. I am really excited about learning the language as it was meant to be learned, as well as the new perspective it will provide me on Latin rhetorical artifacts. As a kid who loves inventing, enjoys interactive learning, and wants to speak a dead language, I know Cornell is where I want to be. I wonder if my roommate will mind if I bring my EEG?
How this essay is similar to the first approach:
He begins with a short intro and solid thesis; both work well.
He weaves back and forth between what he wants and what the school offers.
What sets this essay apart: The four examples that name how the school is unique give us a really clear sense of how Cornell is a great fit for this student. Also, we know this essay was written specifically for the school because it would be much more difficult (than the “Why Tufts” essay, for example) to switch out the variables and use this for another school. Finally, while the “Why Michigan” and “Why UPenn” examples go for breadth, discussing many different reasons; the “Why Cornell” example discusses fewer reasons but with more depth.
STILL DEBATING on which COLLEGE MAJORS to choose?
Approach #3: the “one value” strategy.
How it works: identify one core value that links you to the school and tell a story.
This approach might be good for:
Schools that a) have shorter “Why this College” essays and b) seem to be asking for this type of response
Students who feel approaches #1 and #2 might blend in too much, and are willing to take a risk
Why is this a risky approach?
You’re foregoing listing 5-15 reasons that connect you to the school (and, frankly, that some admission officers like to see)
This approach hinges on a particular story, value, or insight. And if:
your reader is skimming (as many are), or
your story isn’t well-told, or
the central theme or value isn’t clear, or
the insight doesn’t make the reader feel something… the essay may not work.
That’s a lot of ifs! Having said that, here’s an example essay that, I think, does work:
The Why Bowdoin “Why this College” Essay Example
Prompt: Bowdoin students and alumni often cite world-class faculty and opportunities for intellectual engagement, the College’s commitment to the Common Good, and the special quality of life on the coast of Maine as important aspects of the Bowdoin experience. (Word limit: 250)
Reflecting on your own interests and experiences, please comment on one of the following:
1. Intellectual engagement
2. The Common Good
3. Connection to place
On the first dawn of the summer, I found myself in a familiar place: sitting awkwardly in the back of a crowded bus full of rowdy twelve year olds. But this time around, I wasn’t the shy, new kid at school, a position I knew all too well. I was the teacher, implementing a middle school aquatic ecology curriculum I’d developed the year before. As New Jersey’s Passaic River appeared on the horizon, I tightened the red laces on my Merrell hiking boots and checked my bag: clipboards, lesson plans, and a new water testing kit. For the entire day, I watched as twenty-five young minds tested the Passaic River’s water. Using the river as a natural learning laboratory, I taught them about pollution and industrialization, urban design and remediation strategies. That summer, through my work in environmental education, I discovered the power of place. I realized that in a changing world, places really are the best storytellers. By tracking the Passaic’s pollution levels, we toured the tales of its waters, beginning with its use by the Lenape Native Americans, to its unjust usurpation by European hegemons, to the Vietnam War, during which tons of Agent Orange were dumped recklessly. At Bowdoin, I’ll encounter this again. I find myself doing the very thing I was teaching: investigating the rich stories behind a place. As part of my major in Earth and Oceanographic Science, I blissfully get lost on Orr’s Island, researching everything from the historical ecology to the changing geography of the Maine coastline. And I can’t wait.
Why does this essay work?
This author checks a few “Why us?” boxes by focusing on specifics, showing us he’s done his research, and clearly answering the prompt. But want to know the main thing that sets this essay apart?
The author found a deep connection between one of the school’s core values and one of his own.
I know this flies in the face of the “provide a whole bunch of specific reasons” for your essay that I mentioned in Approach #1. Instead, the author found one really good reason: Both he and Bowdoin are deeply committed to investigating place . This focus was particularly apropos for this student, as he planned to major in Environmental Science. And, as you read this essay you sense that it couldn’t have been written for another prompt.
Because he used a value as the central theme, this essay is primarily about the author. Check out that word count: the essay is 258 words long, but he doesn’t even mention the school until word 202.
This works because he stays connected to the central themes, which are nature and storytelling. In fact, if in your essay we don’t get a sense of the central themes in the first 200 words, we might wonder, “Where is this going?”
Instead, though, we feel as we read this essay that the author is taking us somewhere. He’s a guide we trust. So we relax.
How can you write an essay like this?
1. Find a way in which you and the school are deeply aligned.
Hint: It’s probably a value.
It’ll take some research. And it may be easier to do this with a smaller liberal arts school (like Bowdoin) that has a particular character. Reed College, for example, is proud to call its students “Reedies”—even going so far as to call them a particular species—so, for Reed, you might figure out what being a “Reedie” means to you, then demonstrate why you are without a doubt one of them.
2. Take your time crafting the essay.
What do I mean? I believe a great “Why this College” essay is similar to a great personal statement in that it should demonstrate:
Core values (which this essay does)
Insight (aka important and interesting connections, aka “so what” moments)
Craft (it should be obvious, in other words, that the author has revised the essay over several drafts and knows the purpose of each paragraph, sentence, and word)
And because the Bowdoin essay above essentially focuses on just one important and interesting connection (connection to place), I believe that craft becomes a LOT more important. In other words: this essay would be much less awesome if it were much less beautiful.
What do I mean by beautiful? Read it aloud. Note phrases like, “Using the river as a natural learning laboratory” and “places really are the best storytellers.” The writer even makes water testing kits sound like exciting tools of a real-life adventurer, as essential to the author as an explorer’s compass (and when I read this essay I’m convinced they are)!
How do you get to this point? I think you have to really love the thing you’re writing about. I also think (if I’m being honest) that you have to love to write, or at least to convince yourself you do.
This approach takes time. But it’s worth it. Why? I believe this is the type of essay that, particularly at a small liberal arts college, can truly make a difference. I have only anecdotal evidence—stories from a few admissions officers—to prove it, but in some cases I believe essays like this have tipped the scales in favor of a particular student.
3. Find a way to be vulnerable.
This part is perhaps the most difficult, but most crucial. Let me explain:
I mentioned above that a great “Why us?” essay should demonstrate a) important and interesting questions and b) craft. But there’s a third quality that I think a great personal statement should have, and that a “Why us?” essay can, in rare instances, demonstrate. That quality is vulnerability.
How does the Bowdoin essay above show vulnerability? He lets his geekiness show. (My definition of “geek,” by the way, is someone with a lot of knowledge in a particular area, particularly an area that is not conventionally popular.) He does this by writing about what he loves without apology.
Why is this vulnerable? Because, in doing so, he risks public ridicule. (I mean, water testing? Come on ...) But he pulls it off because he doesn’t go too far or include too much jargon. Why is this important? He draws us in rather than push us away. And we’ve all met both kinds of geeks: the kind that draw us in and the kind that alienate us. Be the draw-us-in kind.
Another thing that makes this essay vulnerable: he lists very few (almost no) Bowdoin specifics. And that’s a risk! Did it work? You decide.
Could I create a hybrid approach by focusing on a central theme, but still listing a few reasons?
The Hybrid Approach: Use a Central Theme + Include Several Specific Reasons That Connect Back to You
The Why Swarthmore “Why this College Essay Example
The human body’s greatest asset is its ears. They come pimpled, freckled, mushed, bent, rounded, and pointed. But, despite their differences, they share a single purpose: to listen. Swarthmore is all about ears. It not only understands the importance of empathetic and open dialogue, but also the ways in which listening can be the first step towards bridging deeply entrenched ideological divides. Whether I’m learning from guest lecturers at the Center for Innovation and Leadership, engaging in dialogue at the Global Health Forum, or exploring my sexuality through the Intercultural Center, I know I’d be at a place that values collaboration, honest discourse, ethical leadership, and creativity invested in the public good. Everything at Swarthmore is about putting those cartilage appendages on the sides of your head to good use. As a person drawn to audio and visual storytelling, my life has been defined by listening. At Swarthmore, I would continue to foster the quality relationships I’ve created and the love I’ve spread by inviting people to share their stories on my podcasts. Majoring in Film & Media Studies or English Literature, broadcasting at WSRN, and writing for The Review is the next chapter in my life of listening. I would creatively explore how narratives have been told in the past and can be redefined digitally for a new generation of ears. Swarthmore knows that global change starts with an honest conversation. I want to be pioneering new networks of connection. I want to be starting those conversations. (247 words)
Ethan’s note: If you go with this approach, ideally you would find offerings unique to the school (as in the “Why Cornell” essay). But if you can’t, just find reasons that are as specific as possible and connect them back to you (as in the “Why Michigan” and “Why UPenn” essays).
How to Write a “Why this College” Essay If You Don’t Know What You Want to Study
Good news: you can still write a great “Why this College” even if you have no idea what you want to be when you grow up. Some tips:
1. Consider including a thesis that either names your 2-3 areas of interest or states that you’re unsure what you want to study. In that thesis, consider saying what you do want, and including the name of the school (Example: “I’m interested in X, Y, and Z, and I believe there’s no other place for me to explore these areas than the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”)
2. You can also begin with a nice hook to not only show your creativity but also perhaps distract from the fact that you have no idea what you want to be when you grow up (and oh by the way it’s totally fine to not know).
Here’s a great example to illustrate these points:
The Why Johns Hopkins “Why this College” Essay Example
Prompt: Johns Hopkins University was founded in 1876 on a spirit of exploration and discovery. As a result, students can pursue a multi-dimensional undergraduate experience both in and outside of the classroom. Given the opportunities at Hopkins, please discuss your current interests (academic, extracurricular, personal passions, summer experiences, etc.) and how you will build upon them here. (500 words)
Dear 2016 Ariana, It’s 2026. I have just returned from the G20 summit after delivering the annual-report on demographic transition and population stability. Throughout your seventeen years of life, you have been barraged with choices: Which airline seat to choose? Is the answer B or C? Is “the dress” blue/black or white/gold? But, you will soon make a choice that will allow you to harness your knowledge and apply it to reality. The choice to go to Johns Hopkins. By now, you have lived in India, the UK, and the USA: multicultural exposure that shaped your worldview. You are confused as to what you want exactly, but deep down you strive for a synergy of ideas and fields. That can and will be found at Hopkins. Particularly, the JHU Humanities Center will provide you with a flexible approach toward interdisciplinary study: important, as you value the need to explore before settling on a choice. You will find this at Homewood , but also globally; through study at the Sciences Po campus , Paris , which outlines the interconnectedness between areas such as law, finance, and urban policy. In Model United Nations, you built skills in collaboration, working with students across the country to embody pluralism and reach consensus. At Hopkins, you will enhance these skills and your knowledge of international relations in Professors Moss and Hanchards’s class, Diaspora, Nation, Race, & Politics . The discussions, which range from political sociology and human rights to the fall of late nineteenth century empires, will give you greater insight into how history determines our understanding of today’s geopolitical challenges. And although you stuck your toe in the ocean of government and politics through your internship in Senator Glazer’s office, JHU provides an immersive dive into this field through their International Studies Program , with opportunities at the Nanjing Center, China and the Nitze School in Washington D.C . On a local level, you will be able to extend your political service when you run for JHU Student Government Association , where you will continue to represent diverse viewpoints and provide a forum for recognition and discussion. You will also have the opportunity to continue your work with the Red Cross , giving back to the Baltimore community by joining the JHU and the Chesapeake Regional chapters . And by joining the Public Health Student Forum , you will gain access to speakers who have worked in these fields all their life, like Former Director of the Peace Corps, Dr. Jody Olsen, and Dr. Richard Benjamin, Chief Medical Officer of the Red Cross . All your life experiences, from building community to understanding behavior in order to enact decisions, have stemmed from One. Single. Choice. Without Johns Hopkins, you would not have become an expert on global policy change, speaking at events like the G20 emporium. Yes, the world has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. But Hopkins recognizes this fluidity, and paired with you, Ariana, will propel the importance of integrative study. Love, Future Ariana PS: The dress is white/gold.
Final note from me: Do you notice how in the end this approach isn’t all that different from Approaches 1 and 2? The main difference is her thesis, which, instead of naming a major, simply states that she’s unsure what she wants to study. We’re cool with it, though, especially because she still includes lots of reasons and connects each back to herself.
Three Ways to Make Sure Your “Why this College” Essay Is Doing Its Job
1. Scan your essay for capital letters. Why? Because, chances are, capital letters means you’ve included something specific that the school offers. In fact...
2. Highlight in bold your reasons for wanting to attend. I’ve done this in the “Why Johns Hopkins” essay above. Notice after doing this if you have just 1-3 items highlighted in bold. If so, you can probably trim in some places to make room for more reasons. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but if you’re going for the first or second approach I’ve described, then 1-3 reasons per paragraph is a good rule of thumb, whereas if you’re going for the third approach you can kind of do whatever: you might choose to go in-depth on one really great reason. But either way…
3. Make sure that each time you mention something about the school you connect it back to yourself. How do you know? Simply check each mention of the school and see if you’ve explained why this is important—not just in general, but to you.
Finally, just so you can see how a personal statement and “Why this College” essay can work together, here is:
The Laptop Sticker “Why this College” Essay Example
If I could pursue only one goal for the rest of my life, it would be taking measurable action towards gender equality. Since the age of six, I have observed the difference in how I am treated because of my gender—when playing sports, during mealtimes, or at social gatherings. I have tried to counter the effects of gender bias through social entrepreneurship, and now I would like to gain insight into the societal constructs that underlie these issues. At UPenn, I hope to study Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a concentration in Feminist Studies and Global Gender and Sexuality Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. Through Professor Kathleen Brown’s “Gender & Society” class, I will learn how complex social identities such as race and gender impact economic exchange and demarcate opportunities available to minorities. I hope to further explore the consequences of electoral quotas and their effect on women’s mobilization transnationally with Dawn Teele in her class, “Sex and Power.” Such classes will help me ensure that I am not working for one cause at the expense of another, and will arm me with the skills necessary to analyze social, economic and political dynamics in the real world. Last summer, I spent a month at UPenn, living in Harnwell College House and incubating my social impact startup, Straw’d, through the LaunchX program held at the Pennovation Center. At the program, MEAM Professor Jenna Shanis spoke about her work designing soda machines with Coca Cola. Presenting us with a simple task (“design a way for humans to enjoy flowers”), she showed us that the first solution is usually never the best solution, and that innovation is most effective when it is iteratively brainstormed and cross-fertilized. Material Science and Engineering Professor Vanessa Chan, inventor of the tangle-free headphones ‘Loopit,’ inspired me to take on the challenge of creating a consumer good instead of a company in the service industry. These two professors, along with others who spoke, have given me a new perspective on integrating theory into practice, critical thinking into activism. Given my interest in building new social enterprises, I would like to join the Penn Social Entrepreneurship Movement to learn more about empowering women economically in different countries. Through events like ‘Social Impact Talk Series’ held by PennSEM, I will learn about the multi-faceted industry of social entrepreneurship and gain exposure to issues such as food innovation and food policymaking. Additionally, planning TEDxYouth@Austin events has been an integral part of my four years of high school, and I will continue this passion through TEDxPenn by finding women speakers from underrepresented industries and helping to elevate their voices. I’ve been an artist longer than I have been an activist. Through classes such as “Photographic Thinking- a Benjamin Franklin Seminar” and “Art, Design, and Digital Culture”, I will learn to use design as a vehicle to fight for gender equality in the future, as digital art is currently heavily influencing the way social movements develop momentum through media. While at UPenn, I noticed that many youth from surrounding neighborhoods grow up with difficult socioeconomic circumstances, and I hope to empower women of color from these neighborhoods as I study how race and gender impact economic opportunity. I will join the Community School Student Partnerships to lead social impact and entrepreneurship workshops at the after-school programs in high schools. I've experienced firsthand how entrepreneurship training can empower individuals, and by training girls from underrepresented communities, I hope to help them solve the problems they experience. Joining CSSP would give me the opportunity to give back to the Philadelphia and Penn communities while continuing my passion for empowering young females. The GSWS program at UPenn is a perfect fit for me. Its interdisciplinary training and intersectional approach would provide me with the knowledge, mentorship, and resources I need to continue growing as a social justice advocate and champion of equality.
And there you have it. Three approaches to tackle your ‘Why this college” essay, and some important context before you dive in. Hopefully these tips have you off and running.
Have a tip or question? Have a totally different approach to this essay? Let me know in the comments.
Happy “Why us?”-ing.
more “why us?” essay writing resources:
“ Why this College” Essay Example #1: annotated essay for the University of Michigan.
“ Why this College” Essay Example #2: annotated essay for Tufts.
Guide: Writing a "Why us?" Essay for a Safety School
More DOs and DON'Ts for Your "Why Us?" Statement
Personal Statement Examples
Extracurricular Activity Examples
- Counseling Services Overview
- Online Courses
- For media inquiries
How To Write The "Why Major" Essay (Updated)
“Why do you want to study your chosen major?" is one of the most common supplemental essay prompts. It's a fair question and one that you should be able to answer in an authentic and engaging essay.
Seemingly straightforward, this question can take many different forms.
Examples of "Why Major" Essay Prompts
Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about an academic interest (or interests) that excites you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue it. (250 words)
Please explain your interest in your first-choice major/undecided status and your second-choice major, should you opt to list one. (250 words)
Carnegie Mellon University
Most students choose their intended major or area of study based on a passion or inspiration that’s developed over time – what passion or inspiration led you to choose this area of study? (300 words)
Tell us about a topic or idea that excites you and is related to one or more academic areas you selected above. Why are you drawn to it? (200 words)
What should you aim to accomplish with your essay? You should:
- Describe how you developed your academic interest(s). How did you get to where you are now? What were your motivations?
- Tie your background and/or experiences to your current interests and pursuits.
- Explain how that particular college will help you delve deeper into your academic interest and prepare you for the future.
- Explain how you will contribute to that particular institution’s community while enrolled and after graduating.
How to Write the “Why Major” Essay
1. identify stories that illustrate how you developed an interest in the academic discipline..
Anecdotes are an important part of any essay you write for your college applications (and really any personal essay). They serve to draw your reader in, helping them get to know you through your experiences, and bring color to your narrative. In the case of the “why major” essay, anecdotes allow you to create an arc. You’ll show the reader how you first became interested in a discipline and bring them to the present day, building your interest with stories that offer insight into your passion for the subject.
For example, if you’re an aspiring software engineer and plan on majoring in computer science in college, you might describe your first time using a computer and what that interaction was like, or a challenge you encountered and overcame while designing an app from scratch. You should also offer a look into your experiences along the way — potentially when you realized you could not only use a machine but change the way it communicates with you and others through coding.
2. Explore how these incidents helped you develop a passion for the subject and lock onto an impactful mission you'd like to accomplish.
Connect these stories to the why of your narrative — how did these individual experiences become integral to your story and lead you to where you are today? In other words, articulate that “aha” moment. There doesn’t have to be a singular experience that made you realize this was what you wanted to do with your life; instead, you can paint a picture of how these moments together lead you to this point. In the example above, for instance, you might tie your first experience with a computer to your development in the courses you chose to take and then impetus behind your recent coding project.
In addition, connect your experience to your ultimate mission - why are you going to college? Who will you be able to positively impact with the knowledge and experience your education will give you? For example, if one of your experiences was as a coding tutor, and during that you realized that not all children have access to computer science tutors, your mission might be to create an app that provides simple and accessible lessons to children who have limited access to the internet, perhaps in a format they can download and then use offline to conserve the cost of data.
3. Explain how attending X school will help you delve even deeper into the topic.
Finally, explain what it is about the school that will help you explore your academic passion. While this is a “why major” and not a “why us” essay, you still need to weave in your excitement about this school in particular. Every admissions committee wants a student who believes that their institution is the way to achieve their goals. In order to do that, you might discuss how the program that interests you is particularly unique to that school, a faculty member you’d like to study with, a course that excites you, or something else you can’t easily find at another college.
What Not to Say 1. Don’t write about a major or class the school doesn’t offer to undergraduates.
This is a no-brainer: if the school doesn’t offer, say, journalism, don’t talk about how excited you are to pursue that major. Instead, you might discuss how their English program will prepare you for a career in journalism. Similarly, don’t mention graduate-level course offerings as there may not be an opportunity for you to actually take the course as an undergraduate.
2. Don’t regurgitate your resume.
While it’s fine to mention activities that are related to your chosen major, you should focus on how they helped shape your journey rather than describing the activities themselves. This is what the activities section is for. Your essay should be the behind the scenes story.
3. Avoid mentioning superficial reasons.
For instance, don’t say you want to be a doctor because it’s a prestigious job or that you want a high-earning potential. Your reasons need to go deeper than that (and deeper than I want to help people)!
What If You’re Undecided?
You don’t have to have a major chosen in order to write this essay. Most colleges accept students who are undecided, unless they’re applying to a specific school or program that requires you to declare your major before matriculating.
If you’re undecided, there are a couple of ways to approach this essay. It’s a good idea to use a mix of these strategies.
- Mention 2-3 of your top interests and correlating experiences, connecting them to one another if possible.
- Describe how you expect X school to help you hone your areas of interest further and why this is the best place to do it.
- Explain why you’re undecided.
- Write about a few different courses that inspire you and explain why.
- Reflect back to your ultimate mission and how there may be many possible routes to get there and that you’d like to explore the options before deciding.
Now that you have a better understanding of the "Why Major" essay, read the 5 Steps to ACE your Personal Statement. Already did that? Learn more about the self-paced Write Your Way Into College course.
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