Why Write a “Why X” Essay?

Hang on—what is this thing?

A “why school X” essay explains why you want to go to a particular school.

Why is it important?

U.S. News & World Report uses acceptance rates as one of its metrics in ranking law schools. (They give acceptance rates a weight of 2.5%, if you’re curious.) To calculate a school’s acceptance rate, you divide the number of students it admits by the number of students who apply. If it admits 50 out of 500 applicants, its acceptance rate is 10%.

Ideally, every student a school admits would matriculate, and the school would only have to admit the number of spots in the class. But some admits will go elsewhere, so the school has to admit more people.

For example, if a school admits Ghost (👻) and Cowboy (🤠) out of 6 applicants, their rate is about 33% (2/6). But if Ghost ghosts them, they’ve got to admit someone else off the waitlist, and their rate shoots up to 50% (3/6). That’s bad.

Schools use “why school X” essays to gauge your interest. Ostensibly, you’re supposed to explain why the school is special, or why they alone can provide what you seek (e.g., a professor you want to work with). But admissions officers aren’t naive; they know that the reasons you cite are probably bogus, and they’ll judge your essay by the effort it demonstrates.

What’s the bottom line?

Write a “why school X” essay if it’s an option. Find a way to tell your top-choice school that you love them—maybe by adding a tailored “why you” paragraph to the end of your personal statement, and maybe by sending them a letter of continuing interest (covered later).

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