Advisors are replete with warnings not to underestimate the importance of your college application essays. But few offer specifics about how a great college application essay can increase your chance of admission. While it can be tempting to view your admissions essay as less important than other achievements that you worked very hard for, such as awards or high test scores, a great college application essay can help you stand apart from the crowd and gain admission to your ‘reach’ schools.
This is where your college application essays will make the biggest difference. Ideally, you have chosen a couple of ‘safety’ schools, 2-3 schools that have great appeal to you but you are relatively confident you can secure admission to, and then 1-2 schools that you would love to get into, but may not have the test scores or grades of the school’s average applicant. For these schools, your college application essay has to bridge this gap and show that you can perform well and achieve significant growth in their program.
College Application Essays are Where Quality Counts Most
College admissions officers know that excellent students have a diverse range of experiences, skill sets, and goals. For this reason, they will often select anywhere from a handful to a significant minority of students who have less than average test scores or otherwise do not meet the minimum requirements of the school. The reason for this is that the applicant’s college application essay demonstrated the passion, sense of purpose, and quality of experience and character that the school is seeking in its student body.
While competition is fierce for the toughest programs, universities really are seeking to help students. They want people to attend their college who will get the most from the program while also being able to contribute to a greater whole and give definition to the school. Just as you are seeking to distinguish yourself in your college application essays, schools are looking to distinguish themselves among other universities. Applicants who clearly demonstrate their potential, regardless of test scores or resumes, have a good opportunity to receive an acceptance letter.
However, even for schools that you are relatively confident will select you, submitting an outstanding college application essay is still valuable. It can result in offers for scholarships or entrance into special programs that will broaden your network and expand your opportunities, thus enhancing your overall experience in the program.