best janis biz 2009.jpg

When applying to college or interviewing for employment, it’s important to express how much and why you are interested in a college or company. Hiring personnel and interviewers both want to surmise that you will graciously accept an offer, which may require research on your part. According to a recent survey conducted by a group of senior managers, interviewers were most frustrated with candidates that have little or no knowledge of a company.

Many colleges feel the same way. Since a lot of application deadlines are in January, let’s focus on the colleges’ viewpoint. One theory is that the colleges are interested in what is called their yield, the percentage of students a given university accepts who decide to actually attend that university. For example, if Harvard accepts 6 percent of its applicants, the university wants all to attend. Then, its yield will be 100 percent, which would look very good in the ratings media. However, even Harvard won’t get 100 percent. It’s likely its yield will be around 95 percent because some accepted will opt out to attend other Ivy League schools or Stanford. Colleges, though, want the highest yield they can get.

Your chance to show your level of interest is in the supplements within the application. Almost every competitive college has one that asks, “Why are you interested in us?” For students weary of the whole application process by December, this additional writing is often unwelcome. It may be tempting to be a tad redundant and general, simply writing one answer and plugging it into each application. As in: “I like the campus. You have good academics and a high rating. …” That, however, is uninspired and dull – something colleges see through within seconds. It would be better to say, “I am attracted to Duke for the Pratt School of Engineering, where Professor X is exploring Y.” Or, “The University of Michigan has such a vibrant feel academically and culturally. The Ross School of Business offers Z, plus football in the Big House!” Even if you are applying to several colleges, it’s important to take time to write different answers for each college. Who knows, studiously delving into the why may help you ultimately decide where you truly want to go.

When all else is equal, many say the college will likely choose the student who explains best why he or she is likely to choose it! So those of you still writing, hang in there, even though you’re likely tired, especially with the distractions of the upcoming holiday season! Research your answers to supplements, and remember, the end of the work is near. Do it well. You may be very glad you did!

Janis Murray is president of Murray Prep LLC, providing communication training for individuals seeking college admission and career advancement. She works with students and professionals, creating successful strategies, résumés, cover letters, essays, and image and interview/presentation performances. Contact her at jmurray@murrayprep.com.

Janis Murray is president and owner of Murray Prep LLC, providing communication training for students and professionals seeking success since 1999. Based in St. Louis, she currently works with clients in nine states, Europe and Asia.

More Columns articles.