Help Your Students Respond to the Why College X? Essay Prompt

The first early deadlines for most schools have passed. Now your students are busily working on apps for other schools with November, December and January deadlines.

There’s lots of work to be done to help those students get their apps wrapped up. And we don’t want the essays to ruin your Thanksgiving or winter breaks. We can help.

We’ve parsed hundreds of prompts for our students. Let’s look at four “Why College X?” prompts from the 2017-18 applications of some highly selective colleges:

  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    What about your background, or what perspective, belief, or experience, will help you contribute to the education of your classmates at UNC?
  • University of Michigan
    Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?
  • Georgia Tech
    Georgia Tech is always looking for innovative undergraduates. Have you had any experience as an entrepreneur? What would you like Georgia Tech to provide to further your entrepreneurial interests?
  • Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business
    The McDonough School of Business is a national and global leader in providing graduates with essential ethical, analytical, financial and global perspectives. Please discuss your motivations for studying business at Georgetown.

No matter what version of this prompt, you can help your students answer address three important areas:

  • The School:  Ask your students: What attracts you to this college or program?
  • The Student: Ask them: What do you want readers to know about you?
  • The Stories: Ask: How does what you know about the program mesh with what you want readers to know about you? How can you illustrate this intersection

We wrote the go to guide for parents and counselors who want to help students write meaningful college application essays. We even wrote an entire chapter on the prompts, with more tips to help students answer them. It’s $9.99 on; we’d like to gift one to each of you. E-mail me to get a copy at

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a leading expert on the college application essay. Kim is a former journalist who has made it her mission to know everything about college admissions. She speaks with senior admissions officers from the nation’s most selective colleges almost every day. Wow works directly with students, and trains school counselors, English teachers and independent educational consultants who want to improve their essay-coaching skills.