How to write essays that ask "why this school?"

Almost any school you apply to is going to ask why you want to go to their particular school. It’s crucial to get this essay right, because schools aren’t looking for applicants who have simply copied and pasted their responses from one school over to another.

Here are some examples of the “Why us?” question:

Harvard Kennedy School:

MPP and MPA2 Essay 2:

There are many pathways one can pursue in order to make a difference in the world. Why is the MPP Program at HKS an appropriate pathway to achieving your goals? (500 word limit).

MPA/MC Essay 1:

Essay 1: Submit a statement that discusses your career goals, as well as the factors that led you to select the Mid-Career MPA program as a means of furthering your personal and professional goals. Be as specific as possible in describing how your expected course of study will enable you to build on your prior professional experience and achieve these goals (750 word limit).

Columbia SIPA:

MIA/MPA Question 1: (400 words maximum): Why are you interested in pursuing your MIA or MPA degree at SIPA? How will a degree (and intended concentration/specialization) from SIPA enable you to achieve your career goals? Describe your academic and research interests and career objectives. Be sure to include details regarding the features of SIPA that you believe are integral to helping you in your career pursuits.

Tips for writing essays that ask “Why this school?”

  • Don’t spend a lot of of your word count on vague statements about how great the school is. Specificity is what matters in this essay.
  • Write about 2-3 classes you want to take. Name the specific class and what you hope to learn. How will what you learn in this class help you move forward in your career?
  • Share what and how you plan on contributing in class. What role will you play in classroom discussions? What perspective, experiences, and insights do you bring to the class discussion?
  • Share what and how you plan on contributing to the extracurricular community. Name 1-3 clubs you look forward to joining. What do you hope to learn, experience, and contribute in each of these clubs? What role do you hope to play in the extracurricular activities? You don’t have to start a new club or be the president; being an active member is good enough.
  • Make sure you use the right name for the school. It’s very damaging to your candidacy to accidentally write about how excited you are to go to Princeton in an essay you are sending to Georgetown. I see this mistake every season when people come to me as clients, and it makes me shake my head every time. This is not a mistake you want to make.

I hope you found this helpful as you write your essays for your dream schools!


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