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How important are college essays?

With many schools this year choosing not to consider the SAT or SAT II test because of COVID, the rest of the college application will be getting more attention. But what about the essay in particular? The answer is based on the types of schools you are applying to. Broadly speaking, there are three ways that college application essays can benefit an applicant:

1. As a supplemental to grades and test scores

For larger public universities with massive numbers of applicants, essays will be considered as part of the application, but high marks will likely get you farther. However, in these circumstances, essays can be used to explain your grades and let the admissions committee know why they may not be as high as you would like. The essay is also an opportunity to show that you have done your research on the school and would be a good fit for their community - something that can raise you out of the rest of the pack.

2. As a main part of a holistically-considered application

Smaller, typically liberal arts colleges, do have the time to look at an application more holistically. These schools still take grades and test scores under consideration, however, they have the ability to consider a student’s whole application, including the essay, more carefully. A college essay that emphasizes different themes than the rest of the application, or is simply a weaker essay, will drag an application down. In this case, a really strong essay could compensate for weaker academic performance.

3. As a “tiebreaker” at fiercely competitive universities and programs

Top schools or programs (like business or pre-med at certain schools) consider all of the application. However, their situation is unique because they select from students whose grades and test scores are at the very top of the national student body. As a result, students who are in consideration for these spots tend to be uniformly accomplished. That’s where the essays can really make or break your application. Admissions officers looking to decide between two applicants with nearly identical records will use the college application essay, in combination with the reported activities list, to break the tie. That’s why college application essays for these kinds of schools need to show something new and interesting - standing out by showing leadership, deep thinking, or something distinct about your application can be the difference between rejection and acceptance.

We have two College Essay Boot Camp Classes available for students to choose from right now. One begins on Monday, August 3rd. It’s a 5-day (10 hours) course that walks students through the process of creating a strong college application essay. Another begins on Friday, August 14 and is a 5-day (25 hours) course. Our instructors give individualized feedback on each student’s essay and work to craft writing that showcases the strengths of each student’s application while keeping readers interested and engaged. At the end of the course, each student will have created college-ready application essays that they can use for their Common App profile or for individual schools. If you’re interested in joining us, check out the courses on our website below!

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