If they wanted to, the best universities could simply rank students according to their test scores and achievements and send acceptance letters to those who had the highest qualifications. However, universities do not actually do this. They look to your college admission essay to help them choose an ideal student body. Why?
Ultimately, human beings attend college, not test scores, transcripts, or resumes. Admissions officers know that the highest qualified students often hail from very similar backgrounds. Moreover, they understand that, while not just any student belongs in their program, the students who do belong in their program can come from anywhere.
Perhaps finances or other things restricted your ability to have the kinds of accomplishments that other students have. If you lived in a rural or lower-income urban area, there simply may not have been as many opportunities available for you to have a string of club memberships to submit in your application.
However, the most common scenario is that you have scores, grades, and a resume that are, well, average. Maybe above or even at the top of national averages, but among the applicant pool, the more ‘technical’ aspects of your application can seem rather bland. Yet, admissions committees are looking for the ‘best’. And this is why college admissions essays are more important than ever.
Despite the mountain of college admission essay advice available, the vast majority of applicants still make the same mistakes: turning the essay into a resume in literary format, citing irrelevant anecdotes, lacking a coherent theme, having an essay that starts strong and ends weak, and submitting a college admission essay that has errors in grammar, punctuation, and word choice.
For this reason, creating an essay that gets the ‘fundamentals’ right will help you stand head and shoulders above the crowd. Although it can seem counterintuitive after spending so much time trying to show yourself to be a ‘well-rounded individual’, college admissions essays should focus on only one or two of your most significant accomplishments.
Additionally, make sure that the information that you are including is important for the admissions committee to know for a potential applicant, not the information that would be important for someone to know about you if you were making a personal friend. If your essay has a theme, weave that theme throughout the essay. It is better for college admissions essays to be straightforward without literary flourishes than to include them, but poorly. Finally, do not underestimate the importance of proofreading. These errors are glaring and distract the reader from the message that you are conveying in your college admissions essays.
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