This prompt is what we call the “Why us?” essay. We recommend checking out thisand paying particular attention to the “Why Cornell” and “Why Penn” examples, which are our favorites.
Here’s the short version of how to write the “Why us?” essay for Howard:
Spend 1 hr+ researching 10+ reasons why Howard might be a great fit for you (ideally 3-5 of the reasons will be unique to Howard and connect back to you and your core values and interests).
Make a copy ofto map out your college research.
Create an outline for your essays based on either Approach 1, 2 (recommended), or 3 in the full guide above.
Write a first draft! Then revise. And revise …
As you write, try to avoid these common mistakes:
Six Common Mistakes Students Make on “Why Us?” Essays
Mistake #1: Writing about the school’s size, location, reputation, weather, or ranking
Mistake #2: Simply using emotional language to demonstrate fit
Mistake #3: Screwing up the mascot, stadium, team colors, or names of any important people or places on campus
Mistake #4: Parroting the brochures or website language
Mistake #5: Describing traditions the school is well-known for
Mistake #6: Thinking of this as only a “why them” essay
*One thing to note is that the 750-word budget makes for a pretty long “Why us?” essay. So organization and structure will be key to staying focused, writing with clarity, and keeping the reader’s attention. We find that outlining before you write really helps. So …
Here’s a sample outline for longer “Why us?” essays (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’s in your intended major/concentration (this should connect to you in a really specific way)
A second really specific academic offering that’s 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, and that ideally connects to either “what interests you in the Arts or Sciences,” and/or “how studying at Howard University will help you achieve your overall goals.”
Miscellaneous extracurriculars paragraph (2-3 things to demonstrate social/non-academic fit)
Closing (this can be short and, in shorter “Why us? essays, can be a single line)
Here’s a great sample essay for this Howard prompt:
I was my mom’s shadow. Starting from age three, I would accompany her to work every day at a local nonprofit group home. I would follow closely behind as she went to check on her patients. This served as my first introduction to the healthcare industry. The nonprofit was dedicated to helping and supporting individuals with developmental disabilities. It was from there I learned how to be gentle with others and interact with a wide array of individuals, aware of their disabilities but never treating them any differently. The lessons I learned stuck with me, and I understood them more as I matured.
One of the most important takeaways I got from the experience is that healthcare is a complex, ever-evolving system, standing at the center of human life. The industry needs professionals who are imaginative architects for the further development of care for diverse populations and who look beyond the traditional scope of health into its social origins and implications. Healthcare providers must be innovators with the goal of health equity and justice.
As innovation becomes the forefront of the healthcare industry, studying Health Sciences Management at Howard will prepare me to become a leader in a field where minorities are both underrepresented and underserved. The program will provide me with a cross-pollination of knowledge regarding the intersection of Healthcare and Management. Courses such as HLMN 405: Health Care Finance will teach me effective health care financial management, budgeting, and strategic planning, which is instrumental in ensuring that quality care is given and can serve many people. Other courses such as HLMN 402: Health Management Internship will allow me to go into a community and put my classroom skills to the test, learning how health organizations are run and teaching me how to interact with other healthcare workers and patients effectively. Ultimately, courses like this will teach me how to build and manage healthy communities to attract investment into those that are underserved.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman.” During COVID-19, I have seen how health care systems suffer when politics and mismanagement obstruct their goals, resulting in care that is less than optimal, and leading to countless deaths. My personal goal is to bridge the gap between health management and public health by putting public health analysis to action. Courses such as HLMN 406: Epidemiology and Public Health will help me understand the applicability of demographics, assessment techniques, and health indicators useful for health systems designs.
Complex issues require complex, interdisciplinary solutions. Opportunities that the College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences offers beyond the classroom will allow me to network and create partnerships with others across various disciplines, both within and outside the Howard community. The college’s council would provide me with a plethora of leadership and community service opportunities. Through the health connect program, I would have a chance to serve as a teaching assistant at a local high school, reinforcing my leadership skills and confidence within my area of study. The program would also allow me to learn from other students in the mentoring program.
Other programs, such as GlobeMed will connect me to grassroots health organizations around the globe. I’ll learn how to mobilize resources for global health and have the opportunity to participate in discussions about social justice, access to health care, and more. I could also travel abroad on an internship to work on community development programs.
Being in the capital of the nation, where significant decisions related to change and policies that impact human life are made, I’ll be able to learn how such instrumental changes are implemented with internship opportunities at the American Public Health Association where I can participate in health equity hearings, and meetings, as well as interact with senior leaders within the health field. A Public Health Policy internship would allow me to see how science, policy, and health intersect.
With the goal of breaking barriers within the healthcare industry, I believe there’s no place better to do so than at the cultural mecca that is Howard University. I would be surrounded by students who are like me in terms of values and goals, but unlike me in terms of approaches and ideas. This would allow us to both learn and expand on each other’s knowledge. Thus leading to groundbreaking discoveries and limitless possibilities in the field of Health.
— — —
Tips + Analysis
Add personality. The opening anecdote of this essay tells of early moments in the author’s life that show when the seed for her academic interests and professional goals was planted. From those specific experiences emerge a budding medical professional who has thought deeply and critically about the impact she’d like to make in the healthcare field and why Howard will be the best place to help her develop the skills needed to make that impact. Just because the prompt here is relatively generic doesn’t mean your answer should be. Invest some time thinking about how you can stand out, both at Howard and in this essay, and try to inject some of that personality into your answer.
Make connections between Howard’s values and yours. Mistake #6 above (Thinking of this as only a “why them” essay) is maybe the biggest of the 6: Instead, be sure to approach this essay as Why You + Them. In other words, use the “Why us?” essay to demonstrate how you and Howard make a great match, as this student does, as opposed to focusing solely on how much Howard has to offer her. Notice that she continually connects her own values and experiences to specific information about Howard, demonstrating why she and the school belong together, while also showing how Howard will propel her to success.
Be specific. Speaking of specificity, clearly, this applicant has done her research. She references specific programs, clubs, and classes she’d like to explore if she were admitted. If you’re a Howard admission reader, the specificity of those references makes you feel certain the student values the school. When she includes academic courses, she explains exactly what those courses will do in helping her on her professional journey. She also goes beyond the classroom and explores how the community will be of support, much like her mother’s work at the local nonprofit group home. She even includes information about Howard’s location in DC as a center of policymaking. Note, though, that she doesn’t overly focus on the location alone (Mistake #1 on our things-to-avoid list above), but instead integrates it firmly into her interests. Think about your core values or what resources you absolutely need in a college setting, then try to find places to explore and engage those values at Howard. Doing that research ahead of time pays off in the long run in a detail-rich essay.
Take the reader on a journey. While you’re under no obligation to use all 750 words, Howard is offering applicants an opportunity to go deep in this supplemental essay. In this response, there’s a clear trajectory that the author sees herself taking, and she makes a convincing case that Howard is the ideal institution for her to continue on that path. We see her starting the essay in the shadows and concluding as an innovator who plans to break barriers within the healthcare industry by providing access for all.