By the time you sit down to write the essays for the schools you are applying to, you have likely already visited many of the campuses, read through their websites and course offerings, compared stories of students and alumni online and those who you know in social circles, and conclude that you have a pretty good idea of why you might be happy at X or Y school.
However, the purpose of the "Why this School" essay (a staple supplemental essay for many US colleges) is to convince the admissions officers at your dream school that it really is your dream school and you belong there! They need to know it wasn't just your counselor who added their school to your list, and you have actually REALLY done your research and know beyond a doubt you and the school are a match made in heaven.
At a fundamental level, schools are looking for two buckets of qualities in applicants they are likely to accept:
1. Applicants who are high-achieving and very likely to be successful at their school
2. Applicants who will enroll in their school and are a good fit! This increases their yield (enrolled students / accepted students)
So if you make a very convincing argument that you are VERY likely to enroll if accepted, you will check off that box for them.
How to do it?
In order to prepare a stellar "Why X School" essay, you must dig deep into your arsenal of personal self-descriptions and self-understanding and match this to the in-depth research on the school, and match YOU with the SCHOOL. What can you imagine yourself actually doing at the school? Take it down to a granular level- what professors will you study with? Which courses are you interested in taking? What activities will you likely participate in? The more specific, the better. This is where deep understanding of the school cannot be overstated, and mixing up schools' activities (like saying you hope to join intramural swim team and they don't have a pool, or you want to continue on the debate team and they don't have a debate team) will potentially kill your application in the water. Double check your information, twice! A campus visit and interacting with professors, students, and whoever you can talk to will provide the most authentic and credible account of your interest and understanding of the school and your match with it. Don't take this essay lightly, as it is the school's way of ensuring you are not being forced to apply, and your interest in them is specific and personal. Everyone wants to be liked, so this is your chance to show why you want to be at this school more than any other for the next four years!
Note: It is perfectly okay to reuse a template version of this essay for multiple schools. There are likely overlapping reasons you are interested in different schools. However, you MUST make sure to change every time the school's name is mentioned. In no way do you want to say Pepperdine University and actually submit it to Brandeis University. This essay should be fully personalized to the school, including the name.