College Essays: How to Answer the “Why Our School?” Question

College Essays

Carmel Valley San Diego | College Student | College EssaysLast month, I shared with the community some general strategies for choosing college essays & topics for your college application. As a student in the Carmel Valley San Diego community, this is important, particularly on the Common App, which lets you pick whatever topic you please. Some schools, however, also require a supplementary response to the snore-inducing “Why our school?” question. So, let’s get specific. How do you approach this question?

First we need to understand why it is asked. Bland as it seems, asking “Why us?” serves two important purposes for college essays. First, the admissions committee wants students who, if admitted, will actually attend. A high matriculation rate helps their rankings. Second, they want to test whether you are creative and thoughtful. Superficially, this is an uninspiring question, but there are few limits on your answer. They want to see if you can bring your own inspiration to the game. Where should you run with such an open-ended prompt? The avenues are limitless – use it to showcase another facet of your sparkling self! Virgil told us that ‘fortune favors the bold’ – don’t write a boring response just because you are given a boring prompt!

How, you ask? Link your own past to the school’s unique offerings. You’ll need to do your research on the school. Be thorough. On what does the school pride itself? What programs make it special? These do not have to be the central feature of the school. On the contrary: you can often make a more compelling case by choosing a small but unique feature that interests you, rather than focusing on the same things as every other applicant.

After you do your homework on the school, choose one or two things that relate to your background and interests, and talk about why these make you such a good fit. What clubs will you join, and what new experiences and energy will you contribute to them. Perhaps you want to write for the award-winning newspaper, or join the ballroom dance team. Perhaps your experience at a huge Carmel Valley San Diego community school like Torrey Pines or Canyon Crest, has made you excited about the famously close interactions students enjoy with professors. Make sure that whatever you pick is strongly connected to you and your past. Make this a story about YOU and how you fit perfectly with the school.

As always, if you have any other questions about college or the application process, feel
free to comment below or email me at

Dana Kittrelle | Community Contributor | The Carmel Valley Life

Dana Kittrelle | College Editor

After graduating from Torrey Pines High School, Dana Kittrelle attended Pomona College in Claremont, CA. After graduating with a major in Economics and a minor in Biology, she joined the financial management firm Payden & Rygel as an economist to get professional experience before graduate school. A life-long Carmel Valley resident, she is currently tutoring and helping local students refine their college applications to get into their top choice school. To contact Dana, please comment below this article or email her at


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