College Scoops connected with Jaclyn Corley, Founder of The College Essay Captain to provide students with helpful tips when visiting colleges and writing their college essays. Jaclyn helps teens overcome their fears and limiting beliefs around writing college application essays, so they are free to authentically share their stories with the admissions teams.
If you’re applying to college this year, it’s likely you’re going to visit a few schools. Here’s an application hack: pay attention to detail on your campus visit–it may save you time later on when you begin to write your college-specific application essays.
Highly selective universities often ask applicants to respond to a supplemental essay prompt that boils down to the question: “Why Us?” In my experience, applicants who write the best responses to this type of prompt have spent time on the specific campus and envisioned their lives unfolding there. Last year, a client of mine creatively captured his desire to attend the University Of Michigan by including detailed aspects of his college visit in his essay. It worked! He’s currently living on the campus he imagined himself at just a year ago.
Here’s how you can use your visit to write a “Why Us” supplemental essay that truly stands out:
1) Pay attention to details. When you first step foot on campus, take a look around and notice how you feel. Throughout your trip, whether you’re venturing off on your own or utilizing a guided tour, spend a few minutes to write down your experience. Can you imagine yourself at this school? Can you visualize yourself learning in one of the lecture halls? What vibe did you get from the current students? What surprised you about the campus? What did you like the most?
2) Do your research. While on campus, find out more about which classes you’d like to take and the clubs you’d join. Learn as much as you can about the school’s history, offerings, and requirements.
3) Put thought into how you’ll fit in. Does this school offer your favorite sport, a major and minor you’d love to take, and professors you’d love to learn from? Talk to current students about their experience. Lastly, ask yourself your “why?” What is it about this school that makes you think you’d like to go here?
4) Tell a story. Often, the best “Why Us?” essays are stories. Applicants have written their essays as a dream, talked about it from the future, or wrote about a day-in-their-life as a student. Use the details of your visit to tell the admissions officer a story that places you on their campus.
5) Get specific. “Columbia University is awesome because it’s in New York City, it’s diverse, it has a lot of club options and internship opportunities!” is something ANY applicant can write. To make your essay stand out, focus on why you think this school is a good match for you based on your experience there. Is diversity something you didn’t get to experience in high school? Are you excited to navigate a big city by yourself and gain your independence? Why are you intrigued by the astronomy elective?
Above all, use your campus visit to explore, to experience, and to imagine; it may just help you get in!
This blog was written by Jaclyn Corley, Founder of The College Essay Captain and digital course creator of College Essay Playbook.