At 150 words, this is a shorter version of the typical “Why us?” essay.  

Because this essay is so short, the key will be finding 2-3 reasons that set Rice apart from all the other schools you’re applying to.

Here’s the “Why us?” essay guide—in this case, the Cornell example is probably the best one to check out, since it focuses on reasons that set Cornell apart. In that guide we talk a bit about how to tackle the shorter version of this essay, and the Tufts example is a great one. 

As you write, try to avoid these common mistakes: 

Six Common Mistakes Students Make on “Why Us?” Essays

Mistake #1: Writing about the school’s size, location, reputation, weather, or ranking

Mistake #2: Simply using emotional language to demonstrate fit

Mistake #3: Screwing up the mascot, stadium, team colors or names of any important people or places on campus

Mistake #4: Parroting the brochures or website language

Mistake #5: Describing traditions the school is well-known for

Mistake #6: Thinking of this as only a “Why them” essay

Here’s a great sample essay for this prompt: 

Rice University Essay Example 3:

Last year I attended California Girls State. Like myself, many delegates were pursuing careers in STEM, and we helped each other understand the importance of having a supportive community of intelligent, empowered young women. So when I found Women LEAD at Rice, I was excited to apply. Women LEAD will further expose me to views on leadership from a woman’s perspective while networking with other bright, talented women so I too can become a leader and inspire others. 

I love that Rice is one of the only schools I’m applying to that directly focuses on student well-being and community through things like President and Dean’s Study Breaks, helping students find balance before finals.

Additionally, I want to work with the Rice Student Volunteer Program, helping build community in Houston, and with Baylor College of Medicine Patient Discharge Initiative to help underserved patient populations, as I’ve loved volunteering at Saddleback Memorial. 

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Tips + Analysis

  1. The “us” in “Why us” means you + Rice. In other words, connect your “why me” to your “why Rice.” This student does that right from the start, sharing a leadership experience that inspired her (STEM-focused delegates at California Girls State) and connecting it to a relevant opportunity that’s attracted her to Rice (Women LEAD). Try to do that as often as you can throughout the essay, as doing so shows, in dating parlance, why you and Rice are perfect for each other.

  2. Be specific. We’re talking about courses, professors, programs, opportunities, clubs, etc., that are unique to Rice—like this student’s mention of Women LEAD, President and Dean’s Study Breaks, and the Student Volunteer Program. And make sure to spell them correctly! 

  3. Make it clear that Rice is unique, and say how. Admission officials don’t just want to know how you’d take advantage of their school’s offerings; they also want to know “why Rice” over other schools you may have applied to. So in addition to academic and extracurricular specifics, try to find one or two examples of an opportunity that you can’t find anywhere else, or in this student’s case (in the school’s support for student well-being), at only a few other schools. 

  4. Show a range of interests. The broad scope of this prompt (“what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you”) is intentional. It’s not just asking about your chosen major or your academic interests; it’s probing for details about the breadth of your interests. Of course, with just 150 words, you don’t have a ton of space for the whole laundry list, so you’ll need to be judicious in choosing your range of reasons “why.” This student does a nice job of that in the short space allotted, pivoting from leadership opportunities (Women LEAD) to campus community (study breaks) to volunteer programs (Rice Student Volunteer Program and Saddleback Memorial) to an academic example (Baylor Patient Discharge Initiative).

Here are two more strong examples for Rice’s “Why us?” prompt:

Rice University Essay Example 4:

At heart, I am a collaborator. From working with my Science Olympiad team for hundreds of hours each year to playing in numerous extracurricular orchestral ensembles, I’ve learned that the best work I do is with and for those around me. I want to study in the Rice Department of Bioengineering because of the large emphasis placed on collaboration. With its focus on multidisciplinary work and experiential learning, I know that I will be able to excel in Rice’s team-based environment, taking advantage of its small classes in order to forge tight bonds with my peers around me.

Rice has more than 250 student organizations, and with access to the Texas Medical Center, a facility abounding with opportunities, and cutting edge research and technology on campus I know that at Rice, I will be able to fully pursue my interests both academically and collaboratively.

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Rice University Essay Example 5:

Just like the Owl camouflages to integrate into its environment, I’ll strive to become one with the Rice community by taking advantage of its numerous opportunities.

While Basmati Beats will give me the platform to indulge my Indian roots in a collaborative form of dancing, I can continue imparting knowledge to others with Nano Owls. The opportunity to teach nanoscience to students in Houston will empower the vision I had with the D-STEM Society in my Dehli community.

I’m looking forward to 3 days of absolute entertainment at OwlCon. With its 750 annual participants, I hope to share my passion for gaming with like-minded individuals.

While The Rice Memorial Center will be my temporary home for 36 hours as I work on complex algorithms at the annual HackRice, The Hoot will always keep me company during exhausting all-nighters. 

I hope to spread my wings and explore the night at Rice University.

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