Like many other institutions, the university utilizes the “Why X School?” prompt. Similarly, the real reason why schools like SMU use this prompt is because they want to separate applicants that are truly passionate about attending their school. In general, there aren’t many ways to mess up these types of essays, barring major grammatical errors and saying offensive things; however, one thing that distinguishes a mediocre essay from an exceptional essay is specificity. The more specific your response, the more compelling it will be.
Generic statements like “I heard the business program is strong” and “the location is nice” are too broad and could apply to hundreds of universities all over the U.S.
Be specific. Instead of listing a generic statement such as “The business school is strong,” write something specific to SMU that led you to apply there.
For example, you could write:
To be considered for the Hunt Leadership Scholarship would allow me to surround myself with fellow goal-oriented individuals that would prepare me to become an executive of my own business.
In these types of essays, it is important to weave in details about yourself that highlight your unique qualities and ultimate viability as a candidate. In the example above, mentioning the Hunt Leadership scholarship shows that you have researched and taken interest in a particular aspect of the university, as well as indicating that you have leadership experience.
However, it is better to further elaborate on the essay by including specific personal information about yourself that places you in the best light possible. Show, rather than tell, the admissions officers specific things about yourself that highlight traits that would make you a good fit for the college. Be careful when you write that you actually deepen your points. A deceptively weak example of this could be: “The kids I have babysat convinced me that SMU is the best school in the U.S. — I’ve spent many late nights talking about SMU and UT football and hearing about their parents’ experience with the school as well.”
Although this example does show some interest in the school and college admissions process, it could be applied to any school. In this particular example, you should focus on what the kids could have said to convince you that the school was the best school in the U.S., or whatever reason else attracts you to SMU. It’s important here to use strong, descriptive language.
Here is a stronger example that uses a similar concept:
Listening to the children I babysat rave about their parents’ experiencing Boulevarding on game day 30 years later with their freshman roommate, and hearing the parents themselves talk about their jealousy that students would have the chance to debate on economic theory with Professor Santanu Roy, made me excited to attend a school where pride, spirit, and intellectual curiosity run deep.
This example describes specifically what experiences SMU would provide — Boulevarding with your roommates on game day — as well as demonstrate that you are excited to attend the university specifically by mentioning the economics professor, Santanu Roy. Regardless of the school you apply to, you need to add information specific to that school, and in this example, talking about a certain football tradition or economics professor indicates that you are thoroughly interested in the university.
An example like this demonstrates genuine interest and shows why you would be a good fit for the school, while also showing your enthusiasm to attend.
The prompt explicitly says to describe “specific” factors that led you to apply to SMU, so follow directions! Is it family ties? The opportunity to move from your busy city life on the East Coast to a smaller setting in Texas? The more specific you are, the better.