“Why Did You Choose This School?” How to Answer the Challenging Question

‘Why did you choose this school or university?” isn’t just a question you’re going to hear from family members and teachers. It’s a question that could be a big part of your college application. Knowing how to answer it on either your paper application or during your college interview could just get you that coveted acceptance letter to your dream school.

We’ve put together a list of tips and sample answers to the question “Why did you choose this school?” to help you craft your own thoughtful reply.

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Tips for Answering the Question, “Why Do You Want to Attend This School?”

1. Consider How the Question is Being Asked

Not all schools will ask “Why did you choose this school?” verbatim. They may have their own variation on the question. Some common ones include:

  • Why do you want to attend this school?
  • What is it about our college that is most appealing to you?
  • Why do you think our university is a good fit for you?
  • What will you bring to the table?

Although the questions are similar, they are not the exact same. If college A on your list is asking “Why did you choose this school?” and college B asks “What qualities will you bring?” you can’t simply use the same reply and change out the colleges’ names. You are going to have to craft a unique reply to each question to be sure you’re actually answering what they’re asking.

This is your chance to really shine above other students who are applying. The last thing you want is a generic answer that makes you sound like thousands of others.

2. Do your Research

It’s true for a job interview, too – understanding who you’re talking to and what’s important to them will give you an edge. Do your research to help answer these types of questions. Since you want a tailored response to the particular college, you should understand the college and what’s important to the school as a whole.

For example, what does the college pride itself on? How is it different from other schools? What is it about this school that interests you compared to colleges you didn’t apply to? What did they have to offer that those other schools didn’t?

By researching your custom answer to “why did you choose this school?” you can avoid giving a canned answer and really give one that speaks to you and the college.


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3. Emphasize your Academic Interest

College authorities want to know more about your academic interests and commitments. Talk about the specific educational, research, and other academic opportunities offered by the college that appeal to you. Expand on this idea by talking about how these opportunities help support your future goals.

Whether you are applying to a fine arts program, a physics program, or a business management program, talk about specific opportunities that excite you most and why. Knowing your major is a great way to show that you are interested in the program.

4. Get Specific and Tell a Story that Explains “Why Did You Choose This School?”

While there may be a lot to talk about what drew you to a school, it also helps to get specific and stick to one or two things. These tips can help you decide what to talk about and how to frame it:

  • Think about the crowning moment about what made you want to apply to this college.
  • How does what your college offers relate directly to your goals?
  • Think about points that haven’t already been talked about in your application or essay.
  • Consider what makes you or your goals unique.

5. Show Honesty – Don’t Make Things Up

Sometimes, it can be tough to understand what exactly drew you to the school or what you want to do with your college experience. While you definitely don’t want to answer the question “Why did you choose this school?” with “I don’t know!”, you want to be able to craft an honest response. If you find yourself in this boat, give a broader answer. Think about how this particular college will help you make the important decisions and the other factors that drew you to it.

6. Answer “Why Do You Want to Attend This School? Seriously

Like other parts of your application or college interview, this isn’t a question you should just consider as a throwaway. For example, you don’t want to go to an interview at Harvard and answer “Why did you choose this school” simply by saying, “It’s a top-rated school!” While that’s true, that’s really not really showcasing why they should accept you.

With this question, colleges are looking for students who are passionate not only about the school itself but about their education, their future, and their goals – and how that relates to the college in question.

Some other examples of what you don’t want to say to “Why did you choose this school?” include:

  • I haven’t thought about it and just decided to apply randomly.
  • My friend/boyfriend/girlfriend is going to this school and I want to go with them.
  • My favorite celebrity went here.
  • I love the party atmosphere.
  • I don’t particularly care about the school, but I love the surrounding area/state/city.

These answers and similar ones will earn you a rejection right away. Instead show professionalism, stay positive, and demonstrate your true interest in the college.

7. Brainstorm and Practice

Whether “Why did you choose this school?” is being asked on your college application or during an interview, your approach to the question should be roughly the same.

For your college application, take time to think about your answer. Brainstorm different angles to come up with a good story to tell. List out all the reasons you want to attend the school and focus on the ones you believe the school will care about the most as well as the ones you think help you stand out among the crowd.

If you believe this question is going to pop up in an interview, that doesn’t mean you have to think of the answer on the spot. Practicing ahead of time can get you better prepared! Ask a friend or relative to help you with a mock interview. You can think of your answer ahead of time and practice how you word it and what you talk about so you have it down pat when it comes to the real deal.

5 Sample Answers to “Why Did You Choose This School?”

We’ve put together 5 sample answers that can help give you insight into how you can write your own answer to the question “Why did you choose this school?”

1. Sample Answer– Small Liberal Arts College/Private School:

I chose [insert liberal arts college] because I thrive on close relationships and a well-rounded education. I’m confident that with the smaller class sizes, I’ll have the chance to build stronger relationships with my professors and classmates. I think this college fosters an engaging and collaborative environment and builds well-rounded students. The smaller campus and tight-knit alumni network will help me to reach my career goals.

2. Sample Answer – Large University:

I chose [insert your large university] because I value diversity. This campus embodies diversity and inclusion in its programs, clubs, extracurriculars, and, most importantly, in its people. I think it’s a valuable aspect when it comes to learning and by being exposed to this wide range of different experiences and perspectives, I hope to become a well-rounded person and future [insert profession if you know it]. In addition, I’m excited about the opportunities that [insert your large university]’s alumni network offers.

3. Sample Answer – Specialized/Focused Degree Program:

I chose this college because of your highly rated [area of study program]. I’ve had a passion for this field for a long time and I’m excited to learn from the faculty that make up the outstanding program. I think my skills and learning style will be a great fit, too. I’ve participated in [related experience] and I believe the unique skill set I developed from that experience can translate well in the classroom.

4. Sample Answer – Trade School:

I chose [insert trade school name] because I have always been very passionate about this type of work. I’m excited to gain knowledge and experience from highly specialized teachers and professionals. Along with the highly focused training his school provides a wide range of internship and job opportunities that will set me up for success in this field.

5. Sample Answer – Community College:

I chose [insert community college name] because flexibility and cost savings are extremely important to me as I continue my education. Spending time gaining valuable knowledge at this school while still being able to work part-time as I pursue my degree is a huge benefit for me. It’s a belief of mine that working and learning is a value skill in balance. I’m also excited to learn through your flexible online and in-person courses.

No matter where you run into the question “Why do you want to attend this school?”, it helps to be prepared. By knowing the best ways to approach the question and our provided sample answers, you should be fully equipped to answer it in your own unique way!

Part of acing your reply to “Why do you want to attend this school?” as well as your college application and interview is picking the right school for you. If you haven’t found that perfect college yet, we can help. Our College Match tool matches you with the best colleges and universities that fit your needs, wants, goals, achievements, and more. Start today for FREE.

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