Think of this as a short “Why us?” essay, with an emphasis on speaking to how you envision your college experience—and life after college—to be influenced by SCU’s Jesuit-minded values of “competence, conscience, and compassion.”
Because this essay will be maxed at 200 words, try to find 5-7 reasons that set Santa Clara apart from the other schools you’re applying to.
. The Cornell example is a great one (since the reasons are so particular to the school), but the Tufts one also shows how to pack a variety of reasons into a short “Why us?” essay.
Here’s the short version of how to write a “Why us?” essay:
Spend 1 hr+ researching 10+ reasons why Santa Clara might be a great fit for you (ideally 3-5 of the reasons will be unique to Santa Clara and connect back to you).
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!
As you write, try to avoid these common mistakes:
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.
Here’s an example, written for last year’s prompts, that could still work for this prompt, with perhaps a little more emphasis on how you envision life after SCU.
My interest was piqued last year when a friend applied only to Santa Clara. When I started researching, I was astonished by how I resonated with the school’s values, specifically your dedication to the search for truth, goodness, and beauty. Going to a school that devotes itself to the “mysteries of life” really speaks to me.
As a potential Communication and Psychology major, I was excited to see the research opportunities available. I plan to focus on children, so I hope to apply to Lisa Whitfield’s Childhood Cognitive Development lab where I can advance my passion for youth counseling. I feel I also need to understand how media consumption affects children’s lives, so I look forward to the Comm class Media and Youth. I want to be at a university that develops exceptional scholars, and exceptional people who live by truth and goodness. I hope to become one of them.
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Tips + Analysis
Balance your values with specific examples. The author here mentions her curiosity about Santa Clara and the way in which she gravitated toward their guiding values of truth, goodness, and beauty. She also quotes part of the school’s mission statement about the “mysteries of life.” This gives us a sense of why she sees herself at home in Santa Clara’s unique environment. We see whatand also that she’s done her research to learn more about what the university stands for. What makes the essay stand out is the second half, where she specifies what she’s interested in majoring in and then connects her interests to classes, professors, and labs at the school (solid “Why us?” specifics). With this additional information, we see how her more abstract values connect to specific resources at Santa Clara.
Speak to how your SCU education would influence life after graduation. After reading this essay, we know what this student’s first impressions of the university were, how Santa Clara as a whole lines up with her core values, and what particular resources she’d take advantage of should she be accepted. Had she written the essay for this version of the prompt, she may have focused a bit more of her word count on how her Jesuit-influenced education at SCU would shape her future after college—though she does touch on that briefly by saying she hopes to become one of “the exceptional scholars, and exceptional people who live by truth and goodness,” Santa Clara is known to produce. Since the prompt specifically asks you to envision life “beyond” college, make sure to address that with some clarity in your response.
Make it personal. Although this is a prompt about the university and what makes it special, it’s important to reference how you would make the most out of what Santa Clara offers. Don’t spend the whole essay talking about how beautiful the campus is and how much you like Silicon Valley. That doesn’t tell the reader anything about whom they’d be admitting into their student body. Place yourself at the center of your answer.
Highlight a variety of resources. This author is a multi-faceted applicant with more than one interest. She makes sure to highlight that by choosing a diverse array of campus activities and classes—joining a specific professor’s child cognitive development lab, for example, and her broader interest in media consumption patterns and youth counseling. Consider doing this too by showcasing the breadth of your interests, both in and outside the classroom.
Here’s a bonus example, also written for last year’s version of the prompt, that does a nice job (without being prompted) of looking forward to life after college, when the student envisions growing into a social entrepreneur and changemaker. That’s still a bit vague, given the updated prompt, so imagine yourself being more specific to address this year’s version.
When I moved to the US from Vietnam, I knew that I wanted to use my privilege and education to one day find solutions to poverty and other social problems in my home country. The Leavey School of Business will cultivate me into a successful social entrepreneur.
I want to major in Management and minor in Global Business, because I hope to one day solve social problems on a global scale. Through taking courses such as Social Entrepreneurship, International Management, and Food, Hunger, Poverty, Environment Immersion, I hope to develop entrepreneurial, analytical, and problem solving skills. I want to gain essential skills to address poverty, and give back to the community by participating in the Jean Donovan Fellowship and Global Fellow Internship. I am also excited to expand my perspective studying in Paris or London, and gain real-world knowledge interning at companies in Silicon Valley. Likewise, I am eager to build connections at SCU, because the first thing I noticed during the virtual tour was how friendly the students and staff are.
Santa Clara is where I belong, and it is a place that can nurture me into who I want to be ― an impactful entrepreneur and changemaker.
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