When you’re working on the most common supplemental prompt in college applications, remember that you’re building a case in three parts:
What you bring to the table;
What the college has to offer;
Why and how you’ll make the best use of those opportunities — so that everyone wins.
Because college is and should be about academics first, that’s what I encourage students to focus on through the majority of their why us? responses.
A student that I've been working with attended her school's info session for my alma mater, Northwestern University. Erica came back thrilled about NU, specifically about the cognitive science program and the cross-disciplinary nature of studies at the university.
She had already developed a template for tackling these supplements with her goals for college, but wasn't entirely sure where to go next with her research. So we dug into the Northwestern website together.
Here are some tips for students trying to sharpen their understanding of how a college might meet their academic interests:
1. Start with an overview of the curriculum of a program or two of interest, which you can usually find on the department's main page from the "Academics" tab from the school's landing page. Look at how the courses progress from foundational classes to more focused subject matter. The program may even divide into different concentrations. That's where the good stuff is: the courses that you’ll get to customize your studies with.
2. Look for course descriptions. Generally the best place to find them is in the course catalog, although some colleges’ catalogs are anything but user-friendly. If you run into trouble, go back to Google and search your course name.
This part was a little slippery for Erica because the Cog Sci department is by nature interdisciplinary, and so we had to go digging in other departments. But there were a few.
3. See what the faculty are up to. There was a link to the CS faculty page, and from there, Erica was able to click through links to some of the professors' landing pages. Faculty web content can be very hit or miss -- often too jargon-y, sparse, or outdated, or the link is broken altogether. Again, sometimes it’s better to go back to good ol' Google to look for news or articles about faculty elsewhere.
But we turned up a few interesting things that she can reference in her NU supplement. Erica came away from the process with a better idea of how far-ranging the field of Cognitive Sciences is, and with loads of questions she can reach out to the faculty with (by way of the admissions office). If NU continues to track student interest in the way that they say they do, then it will be all over her record by the time Erica applies!