Isn’t the essay on the Common Application just a formality?
Admissions officers can’t possibly read the essay on every application, can they?
The new “Test Optional” criteria recently enacted by many colleges, even the most selective, changes the factors in college admissions and places much greater emphasis on the Comm App Essay.
Many students and their parents believe the most important criteria for admission to college are grades and SAT or ACT test scores. But with the “test optional” change instituted by many colleges as a result of the pandemic, the Comm App essay and supplemental essays, if any, carry even more importance than previously.
The essay a student writes can grab the attention of a college admissions officer and make the critical difference in this new admissions environment.
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.
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 as 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 who choose not to submit SAT or ACT 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 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.