Amherst Admissions and Essay Importance

By Ryan Hickey + updated on March 30th, 2011

I spend a lot of time emphasizing the importance of the admissions essay on this blog because it’s something that we firmly believe in here at EssayEdge. I’ve shared articles, anecdotes, and advice that all point to your essay as being a critical application component that is only increasing in significance.

A few days ago, I ran across a news story that really hit home on this point. I want to share it with our readers because it provides a remarkable glimpse inside the admissions process itself at a competitive, elite institution: Amherst College. In this NPR story, you actually hear from admissions officers themselves as they evaluate applicants and make accept/reject decisions.

You can listen to this story or read the transcript at

Again, this story provides an extremely interesting look at application evaluation from the inside. You hear how competitive the applicant pool is, how difficult the decision-making process is, and how little things can make a big difference.

Most importantly, though, you hear firsthand how absolutely vital the application essays are. For one unfortunate applicant, a single sentence in a single essay is all it takes to push the admissions committee toward a rejection. For another, a passage from an essay elicits laughter from the entire room and bolsters his candidacy.

This comes straight from the admissions committee at a top U.S. college. It’s not based on opinions or even statistics; instead, it’s based on the actual process used by admissions decision makers.

Listen to the report when you have a chance. Share it with friends, family, or students who will be applying in coming years. Above all, share it with anyone who says that an admissions essay can’t possibly be that important. In today’s applications, nothing could be further from the truth.

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Ryan Hickey

Ryan Hickey is Managing Editor of Peterson's & EssayEdge and an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants. He enjoys sharing his knowledge to aid others in achieving their educational goals and, when he gets a break, loves hiking and fly fishing with his wife and two border-collie mixes.

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