Cheat Sheet - Why Major X

Essay Prompt
Sample Essay

Coach wants you to produce an outstanding Why Major X essay and it doesn't have to be that hard. It all starts with content.


You want your Why Major X essay to contain content that is compelling and memorable to an admissions officer. Here are Coach’s three guidelines for figuring out what content to include in your essay.

  • Pick at least one major, EVEN IF you are unsure whether or not this will actually be your major in college. Your essay will be much more compelling and memorable if you choose at least one major at the college that interests you right now.  Why? Because undecided doesn’t mean uninterested. Undecided is fine, uninterested is not. Admissions officers have access to lots of studies about what makes for successful college students and several of those studies show that students who are motivated to attend college because of their desire to learn about a specific topic of interest are generally more successful. So, reveal your interests!
  • Explain what motivates your interest in a particular major.  A little insight into what motivates your interest in a particular major goes a long way to making your answer memorable. It might be classes you taken in or out of school, books, films, lectures, podcasts, etc. you’ve read/seen/heard on the topic, projects you’ve done (in or out of school) that relate to the major or some completely whimsical curiosity. There is no RIGHT answer to what motivates you, so don’t worry about that. Just focus on conveying your answer to the “why” – Coach promises you that your why will be unique to you and that will make it stand out and be memorable.
  • Connect your interests to the specifics of the program at the college. Take some time to research the degree requirements, courses, faculty, and opportunities beyond the classroom available at the college. Then connect your interests to them. Maybe you’re excited that you can start taking upper level courses in your major on day one of college or maybe you’re excited that there are study abroad programs for your major or maybe you’re excited to learn from a professor who is a world-renowned expert in the field. What excites you will be personal to you. But the best answers to the Why Major X essay always show that you’ve done your homework and know more than the basics about the major at the college.


Once you’ve developed your content, there are three things you can do that will take a Why Major X from good to great.

  • Use the right vocabulary.  Every college has its own vocabulary, its insider lingo. If you want to attend that college, you need to show that you’re paying attention and learning its vocabulary. When it comes to Why Major X essays, you need to know what the college calls the “major” – most call it a major, but some call it a concentration or an area of study or something else. Also, you need to know the “name” of the major. Is it Political Science or Government? Biology or Human Biology? German Studies or German Languages and Literature? You get the idea.
  • Be specific. Generic answers read like “blah, blah, blah” and bore admissions officers. Specific answers capture the admissions officer’s positive attention. So be specific. Don’t just say the courses in International Affairs interest you. Instead, name a specific course and share “why” it interests you.
  • Show your enthusiasm and passion. Your tone in this essay should convey your excitement for learning. College is first and foremost an academic enterprise and admissions officers are looking for students who want to learn. Pay close attention to the verbs and adverbs you use – they are the words that can really dial up the tone.

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