How the “Why Us?” Essay Can Make You A Part Of Columbia’s 6%

May 31, 2016

Every high school student has to go through the tough process of filling out college applications. The stressful standardized tests, AP exams, personal statement and supplemental essays required make admissions really hard to get through. And there’s always one question that students find is the hardest: “Why us?” We asked some students from Columbia to tell us their best strategies for that difficult question:


Class of 2019

List your favorite professor. Be insanely specific. Show passion and interest. List why being in the city is beneficial to you specifically. What sets you apart from the other 40,000 applicants?


Class of 2017

Do not try to fool the admissions officers! They can see right through you if you are not being sincere. The best essays come from the heart, and while I initially was freaking out about what would impress the admissions office the most, I ended up just writing about something I am super passionate about and how a very specific major at Columbia caters to my goals perfectly. This passion showed through in my writing, without having to be fabricated. If you still are not sure about what you want to do in the future, do not be afraid to admit this. Just be sure to show that you have been open to different experiences and are a driven individual, regardless of whether you know what you want your final destination to be.


Class of 2017

Definitely try to differentiate Columbia from other Ivy Leagues. Talking about why you want to be in NY is great, but they also get that response a lot, so make it unique. You could think of a unique reason you want to be in the city. For example, being able to have a certain internship you want during the school year that wouldn’t be accessible to you elsewhere. 


Class of 2017

I have a pretty good formula for that. First, talk about what you like about the community (small college, large university, city college, rural college, etc.) and how you feel that will benefit you. Second, talk about your possible major/academic interests and how you feel the college will cater to that and how they will help you with your endeavors at the school. It’s important to do your research and to look on the website for specific majors, classes, study abroad program.

Finally, talk about what you have to offer the college! This is so important! This is what makes a good “Why Us?” essay. Half of it is talking about what parts of the university you enjoy, but also talk about how the university is the ideal place for you to add to the community. Do you have unique perspectives that you can express in certain clubs or organizations? Are there certain talents that you have that you feel are unique that will add novelty to the community? Set yourself apart! Show colleges why they should accept YOU and not some other person with similar GPA and SAT scores. Be creative and be honest. And most importantly, be sincere about what makes the college appealing.


Class of 2019

Be specific, show that you’ve researched the school, show that you know how you’ll impact the school. Columbia is filled with people who do several things at once, so try to find several activities and organizations that interest you, and write about them. Research the courses in your intended major, or if you’re undecided, find a course that interests you.

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About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.


Browse Successful Application Files


Accepted to Columbia, Cornell, Macaulay Honors, Colgate, Bryn Mawr, Holyoke, Union, Fordham, Stony Brook, Adelphi, Hofstra, Baruch, Brooklyn College, CUNY City, Hunter, Queens

I just recently graduated high school and will be a freshman at Columbia University. I am a proud Muslim and have a passion for science. If you have procrastinated for the college process, not to worry. I am happy to help and answer any questions!

Accepted to Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, UC Berkeley, JHU, Vanderbilt, Rice, UMich, UCLA, UNC, UT Austin, Washington, Ohio State, UCSD

Midwestern kid who loves molecular biology and electronic dance music. Let me help you edit your essays!

Accepted to Columbia, UPenn, Williams, Brandeis, Vassar, Colgate, Rochester, Hamilton, Fordham, Hunter, Brooklyn College

A recent graduate from Columbia University with a major in Psychology and a minor in Sociology

Accepted to Columbia, Northeastern, BU, Miami, UMass, UVM

Music-Loving Pre-Med studying Neuroscience

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