Writing an Effective “Why Am I in College” Essay

Carolina Jacobs

Oct 1, 2021

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As you fill out your college applications, you become more familiar with yourself through the reflective essays you submit. After writing so many, you may start to tune them out, but you should give each essay your full attention in case you need to recall their principles in the future. One essay you may encounter as a freshman is the “Why am I in college” essay.

More than 19 million people are currently enrolled in either a public or private college. During your four or so years in your undergraduate program, you’ll have plenty to think about and goals to set. Understanding why you chose to go to college and why you remain there can help you continue to anticipate the future.

How Do You Start an Essay About Yourself?

Perhaps one of the most challenging tasks in academic writing is writing something about yourself. Many papers in college require you to remove yourself from the narrative, but personal essays are just the opposite. You’re the subject, so you must make it all about you.

1. Find Your Passion

Everyone attends college for a reason. Aspiring toward a better life for yourself is one of the great reasons to continue your education beyond high school. Around 75% of college freshmen say that they attend college to make more money in their field. While this answer is understandable and admirable already, this essay is your chance to look a little deeper.

What do you hope to gain from your college experience? How are you going to make the most of your years in school? Being away from home for the first time, immersed in an environment of learning, can change who you are. Once you have answers to these questions, you’ll feel better equipped to write an essay on the next four years and beyond.

2. Identify Life-Changing Events

Was college always the plan for you, or did something make you change your mind? Maybe you’re a non-traditional student who spent time in the working world before wanting to continue your education. Did you persevere through struggles that aren’t too common? Whatever your story, if you search hard enough, there will be a reason you chose to attend school.

By identifying these events that changed your mind or shaped you as a person, you can better see how it had an impact on you selecting the school and major you did. 

3. Self-Reflect

Similar to how you have a reason for going to school, you have a reason for selecting this specific college. Outlining the selection process in your “why am I in college” essay can help your professors understand more about you as a person and which values are important enough to sway your decision of where to get an education.

What about your school stood out to you? Did you fall in love with it on a tour? Do you know someone from your high school who attends the same school? It’s okay to explain what you love about your college. Chances are, you’ll only find more reasons to love it as the years go on.

4. Start With a Hook

If you begin your essay with a boring introduction, it won’t grab the reader’s attention. By starting in the middle of the action or with a hook that snatches them from the start, you’ll have their full attention. Starting with a question or quote relevant to the topic is an excellent idea, and including an anecdote from your life is another good choice for a longer introduction.

5. Be Honest

Your professors want to know the true, authentic you. They want to know why you planned to attend this college and what you’ll be doing with your time there. You have nothing to lose by telling your professors the truth about who you are and why you think this school will be an excellent fit for you. 

Being authentic in your writing can help you seem more trustworthy to others. By getting to know you better, your professors will be able to discern whether you’re struggling with the material or if you need some extra help with your studies.

5 Essay-Writing Tips to Change Your Game

The “why am I in college” essay may be the first of many essays you’ll write over the course of your time in college. Take care to write this essay, just as you’ll strive to do your best in every academic paper that comes your way in the future.

1. Include Personal Experiences

Future papers may urge you to keep personal pronouns and experiences out of your writing. A personal essay is different because it’s all about you. If you don’t relate what you’re saying back to yourself, it means you likely didn’t follow the guidelines of the assignment. 

2. Be Specific

Don’t write an essay that could be copied and pasted and look like any student at any school wrote it. Focus on the details of the school you attend. Mention your favorite parts of campus or classes in your essay to give it a tailor-made feel and show that you chose your university for a reason.

3. Stay on Target

Don’t lose sight of the essay you outlined in your introduction. The problem with anecdotes is that they might take too long to tell and enable you to stray from the path you started on. Make sure that your essay remains relevant and that everything you add to it backs up the main point: the reason why you’re in college. 

4. Finish Strong

Make sure your conclusion wraps up every thought you talked about in the body of your essay. Your conclusion should be the strong finish to an equally strong beginning and middle. Be sure to stay on topic and answer any questions your reader may have while reading through your essay. Give them a satisfying conclusion if you walked them through the story of your life and choices. 

5. Always Proofread

Especially when you’re just starting your college career, you want to make an excellent impression on anyone who might read your essay. Be sure to proofread it. For the best results, you should leave your essay for a couple of days then come back to it with fresh eyes. You may catch an error, misspelling, or another mistake while you’re reading over it again. 

Proofreading is meant to ensure that everything you’ve written about is cohesive and free of errors. If you have someone else proofread for you, don’t make changes that relate to editing out your voice. Your voice is powerful, and in a personal essay, your voice is what makes you stand out from the crowd.

Writing an Essay That Will Wow Readers

While entertaining your reader and ensuring that you get an excellent grade can be wonderful, you should also look at personal essays as a time to reflect on yourself and your choices. Picking a college is one of the most important decisions you make in life, and your decision deserves to shine. Do your best to reflect on yourself in your writing, and you’ll have a clearer vision of your goals for the future.

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