I decided to use football for my example; whether you follow the sport or not, if you live in Texas it is familiar to you. Let’s say that each of the starting quarterbacks in a district with seven high schools is heading a training camp for seventh grade students. The limit per camp is 11 and the junior high students can apply to any of the seven camps but must communicate why they chose that specific camp. Coaches and quarterbacks evaluate the applications but the quarterbacks make the final decision about who can attend. Got it? OK.
The quarterbacks and coaches reading the applications realize right away that it will be difficult to select a group of 11 students that they can serve well. The responses to the “why” statements are too general and could apply to any of the seven camps. Across the seven highs schools, the offenses range from the spread, run and shoot, air raid and pro-style. They also mix in numerous formations – even blending in the occasional straight-T and wishbone.
The typical responses to the why question: I want to learn how to throw the ball a long way, I want to know how you decide to pitch the ball or keep it on an option play, I want to play quarterback in high school so this camp sounded like a good idea. But, about one in ten responses stood out. Those responses sounded something like this; when I watched the games last season, everyone in the pro-style offense you run seemed to know where they were supposed to be. Even when a play broke down, the quarterback made quick decisions to finish with a positive play. I want to learn how to do those kinds of things.
Now, graduating seniors are very different from seventh grade students and no one has to write a why statement to attend a football camp. But, for you keenly astute readers, I hope you can see the parallel with the essays colleges receive when they ask why our college is the right institution for you. If your response could be used at more than one college, it is not good enough. If you have not done enough homework on a college to explain why you want to go there – beyond the popularity of the school, then it should not be on your list. Do yourself and the admissions committees a favor, do your homework.