“Why do you want to go to this school?”: How to Answer This Tricky College Application Question

The question is deceptively simple: “why do you want to go to this school?” It seems easy enough to answer, right? After all, you may have been dreaming about attending this college or university for as long as you can remember. You can name a long list of reasons why you want to attend on the spot. However, the question is really asking you to dig deeper. Recruiters want to know how accepting you as a student would be mutually beneficial to both you and the college, and ultimately, why you’d be a better pick than another candidate. Let’s explore the reasons behind the question, and the best ways to approach answering it.

Why Ask Why?

When determining how to answer this common question, it’s important to understand the reason it’s being asked. Colleges and universities are ranked on many factors, one of which is referred to as their “yield rate,”—the percentage of accepted students who enroll to attend the school. The higher the school’s yield rate, the more prestige it earns, so admissions officers want to accept students they believe will enroll. Therefore, they seek to understand your motives for applying to gauge the likeliness that you’ll end up attending if admitted.

Colleges and universities want to accept students who will thrive in their environment, achieve their goals, and ultimately make the school look good by providing you with a top-notch education and experience. You’ll need to explain what it is the school offers that appeal most to you, and how that relates to your specific goals. So, how do you prove this to them?

What Not to Do

First, let’s go over what you absolutely shouldn’t do when answering this question. Don’t use this an opportunity to for personal anecdotes about how much you’ve been hoping to attend the school from a young age. While it may mean something to you, recruiters hear stories like this all the time, and they can’t admit every prospective student who has a deep affinity for the school. If you want to be admitted, you need to stand out from the crowd and prove that you’re the best choice for the school. Additionally, don’t divulge your inner excitement for the off-campus parties or the school’s close proximity to the beach. Focusing on the party aspect of a school in your college application is a good way to get rejected.

Do Your Research

Research is crucial if you want to answer this question to the best of your ability. Review the school’s website and take notes on anything that seems particularly important. For example, does the school’s homepage mention a strong emphasis on environmental issues or community service? Try to pick out specific qualities the school prides itself on, then elaborate on what those aspects mean to you and why they are relevant.

Focus on Academics

There’s a whole lot more to the college experience than just academics, of course. But when it comes to answering the question of “why” successfully, the focus should mainly be on the educational offerings that appeal to you. This isn’t the time to talk about the fun stuff like sports or clubs; those things excite pretty much everyone. To craft a great answer, write down the specific academic offerings that pique your interest most, and explain why they appeal to you. Maybe the school offers a major in a unique field that you’re hoping to pursue, or they have small class sizes that you’re looking for. Find a few main points and discuss why they’re important to you regarding your goals and future plans.

While the question of “why do you want to attend this school” may not be as straightforward as it seems, don’t let it stress you out. All it takes is a little research and planning, and you’ll be able to craft an effective answer. Overall, make sure to state specific reasons as to how you and the school are a perfect match. If you focus on academics and include any aspects the school prides itself on, you’ll likely stand out from the competition and “wow” the admissions officer. For help with other common college application questions, check out Presenting Perfection’s tips.