Isn’t the essay on the Comm App just a formality?
Admissions officers can’t possibly read the essay on every application, can they?
Many students and their parents believe that the most important criteria for admission to college are grades and standardized test scores, SAT or ACT. These are still the most important factors considered by a college admissions office, but more and more students have high grades and strong test scores, the latter thanks to standardized test prep services offered by high schools and private services. What distinguishes one good student from another? Extracurricular activities? True. But perhaps more importantly, the essay a student writes can grab the attention of a college admissions officer and make the critical difference.
I wrote an earlier article about capturing the authentic voice in a college admissions essay: Finding the”Authentic” Voice in a College Admissions Essay. In that article I quoted an external admissions reader for the University of California at Berkley who wrote about being told to find essays that “express a sense of self and character.”
When a selective college receives applications from many equally qualified students, what will tip the scale for admission? If you come from a rural community in a less populated state, you may be more appealing to a college seeking geographical “diversity” in its student body. However, given several good students from a concentrated pool in the same geographical location, an admissions officer will try to find mature, committed students who can succeed in the college experience.
Admissions officers do read the essay on each Common Application, as well as the supplemental essays their school may require, especially when a student has good grades and scores.
How else will they be able to make a decision between the many qualified students who apply to a select number of well-rated schools? The personal “voice” in the student’s application essay can be the tipping point for admission — as well as financial aid.
The more similar a student’s profile compared to others in the same geographical area, the more important the Common Application essay and supplements become in the selection process.
For students who may not have the best grades across all subjects or slightly lower standardized test scores, the essays can become the critical factor to draw attention to their personal history, obstacles they may have faced in their lives, as well as their other talents. Convincing an admissions reader that you can succeed at college and become an asset to their institution may hinge on the “authentic” essay you write.
Far from being a mere formality, a well-crafted, authentic essay can become the key to admission.
Check back soon for more articles on writing, executive function skills, effective speaking and speech pathology.