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How NOT to write your university admission essay
Gayathri Gopakumar

Meet Gayathri - a Content Editor at Hotcourses India- an IDP company. A once-international student herself- she loves to research & give insights into the world of global education through her writing. When she isn’t working, you'll find her playing, travelling or binge-watching just about anything.

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13 Jun 2019 272 Book icon 4 mins Share

How NOT to write your university admission essay!

No university application is complete without an admission essay on why you chose this university. Here’s a list of DON’Ts to pen your essay.

13 Jun 2019 272 Book icon 4 mins Share
How NOT to write your university admission essay

If you’re planning to study abroad – be it for undergraduate or postgraduate programmes – your application process will require to you to talk about why you want to study in this university as part of your Statement of Purpose or an admission essay. After reading plenty of good and bad ones in the lot, we’ve collated a list of what you shouldn’t be writing on the admission essay.

Depending on the country you’re applying to, you’ll face the same question essentially in different forms. For example, in most countries, you’ll be asked to write a Statement of Purpose, in which you’ll have to elaborate why you choose this particular university. In Australia, you’ll be asked to write something similar as an essay after your admission. However if you’re applying to any of the US universities, you’ll be given three essay questions in the common application, of which you need to write on one. And “why this university” is among the most popular admission essay questions.

So might as well be prepared with what not to write there right? Here are the DON’Ts to keep in mind:

1. Don’t: Explain about the university’s reputation, size, campus, location or the weather.

You’ll be surprised how often people use these. In fact, half of the US is quote these reasons. These features are extensively used – so much so that Emory University went on to mention in the question:

“Many students decide to apply to Emory University based on our size, location, reputation, and yes, the weather. Besides these valid reasons as a possible college choice, why is Emory University a particularly good match for you?"

Why do you think a university had to mention it? I think it’s about time we take a cue from these obvious hints that universities are quite frankly fed up of reading about those things. But hey, here’s way to ensure you don’t do that:

Once you’re worked on your first draft, go through it again. This time, underline everything that seems like it could have featured in the essay of another student. Then, simply delete it.   

2. DON'T: Make your case using vague emotional language

What a university expects when they ask “Why this university” is an explanation of how, in your opinion, the university and you are a perfect match for each other. They don’t want to hear your emotional stand on why you want to be in the university.

Here’s an example of how NOT to write the admission essay:

“I really really wish to study in Northwestern because I have this strong feeling that it's the right place for me" – this is the last thing the university wants to read – trust us. Such statements don’t reveal anything about how qualified you are or how much of a good match are you for the university. It doesn’t say anything substantial about you either.

3. DON'T: Goof up the team colours or stadiums or names of any key places or people in the university

It’s okay if you want to throw in some details about the university – such as how fond you are of a particular team of the university. But don’t screw up the name or detail. This is a huge give away that shows the university just how much of a poor researcher you are.

For example, let’s say you write something along the lines of - "I can see myself rooting for the Wildcats at MetLife Stadium on Sundays." Your application is most likely to be tossed out. Why? Because the Wildcats don’t play at MetLife Stadium nor do they play on Sundays.

Not to mention other clichés that go with this topic in a “Why this university” admission essay – “I can see myself in gold and maroon or white or purple”. But if you simply cannot resist throwing in some details about how excited you are about them, it’s fine. Just make sure you get the names and colours right. We’ve heard several admission officers opine that a goof-up like that can instantly disqualify a candidate.  Not that it definitely will, but the best you can do is not give them a chance to put your application in the ‘no’ pile.

The most ideal way to go about this problem is by researching extensively and getting your facts right.

4. DON'T: Look at this as a "Why this university" essay

The problem with this sort of approach is that you’ll tend to highlight the facilities and services provided by the university. For example – talking about how good the university’s bus system is. The admission essay officer’s response would be something in the lines of - "I know we have a good bus system, I take it every day!" says Director of Recruitment at University of Michigan, Erica Sanders. 

Another probable outcome of looking at it as a ‘why this university’ essay that you’d want to avoid at all costs is – parroting the university’s student guide or website or the brochures. Let aside the possibility of their brochure/website writer evaluating your copy-pasted content, most admission officers are aware of the university facilities and don’t need to be reminded of that in your admission essay. 

Take for instance, once again, the Emory University’s “why this university” admission essay question:

"Undergraduates at Emory and Oxford Colleges are offered countless opportunities to engage with the student body, the faculty, and your academic programmes of choice--from hands-on research opportunities to student organizations to volunteering. What are some of the programs and/or activities you would plan to get involved with on either campus, and what unique qualities will you bring to them?"

It is pretty evident here that the university doesn’t want you to talk about their many student bodies or academic programmes. What they do want to know is how you plan to get involved in that or what distinct qualities you’ll contribute to it.

So guys, now that you know what NOT to write in an admission essay on “why this university”, check out how exactly to ace a successful admission essay!

Also, it’s time to accelerate your admission process. All you have to do is sign up in our ‘call back’ form and you can avail subject-specific advice and career guidance from our expert counsellors. Right from helping you narrow down the suitable universities to sorting out your application process – we’ll help you at every step on your journey to study abroad!

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