THE BLOG
09/15/2016 11:48 am ET Updated Sep 16, 2017

'Why This School?' Should Be The First Admissions Essay You Write

It is time to write your college admissions essays. You have spent some time thinking about your main essay, the one that will tell an admissions team your story and give them a sense of your character and interests. But then you realize there is more than just one essay. You find that most schools like to ask for an explanation of why you are interested in attending their school. Were you thinking about that essay when you began narrowing down your list of schools to which you were going to apply? You should have been if you want to improve your chances of admission.

There is not a one-size-fits-all model for selecting the best and brightest students for college admission. Some schools value certain factors more highly than others. For example, some schools put stock in a student's volunteer work, while others more strictly focus on a student's GPA. (We have given a breakdown of the weight of these college admission factors to different colleges and universities on our website at http://www.synocate.com/profiles.)

When trying to choose which schools to apply to, first think about what activities are most meaningful to you. Do you like to perform in the school play? Do you enjoy leading community service activities in your school? Do you enjoy competing in robotics competitions? This does not necessarily mean thinking about the activities that you spend the most time conducting. You could be a great athlete, but you find performing in the church choir a more rewarding opportunity. In that case, you may be better off looking at schools that value a student's religious commitment. Sometimes what you find most meaningful might also be what a college weighs more heavily among admissions factors.

While some of the college admissions factors are straightforward, such as your GPA and standardized test scores, other factors are more subjective and may be considered more significant to certain schools. Those might include volunteer work, work experience, or talent. This sort of approach does not work for all types of activities, but for some types, they are considered separate admissions factors. If you find community service to be one of your more meaningful pursuits, you may want to consider applying to colleges that also value volunteer work more heavily in the admissions process. (For more on volunteer work, you can read one of our previous blog posts here: http://www.synocate.com/blog/does-volunteer-work-matter-for-college-admissions) If you have found that your work experience has taught you something about what you want to pursue in your studies during college, you might want to look at applying to schools that value an applicant's work history. If your gift for playing the violin is also your passion, you might want to scroll through colleges that prioritize talent and ability in an applicant's profile.

These considerations could help you narrow down your list of potential applications, on top of giving you a head start on that "Why are you interested in this school?" question that can be tough to be original in response.