College Application Essays are read by members of the admissions committee, usually called admissions officers. Who are the admissions officers? They’re usually staff, professors, and students who have been selected to choose the individuals from a sea of applicants who have the greatest potential to both contribute to the school and receive the greatest benefit from the school’s programs.
And yes, they will be judging you. But not nearly as harshly as you might think. Admissions officers are people, too. And they wouldn’t choose a job where they read tens of essays every day and perhaps hundreds (or even over 1000) college application essays across a season if they did not have a real interest in the individual applicants who are applying to their programs.
Test scores, transcripts, and lists of accomplishments can be boring and bland. After a while, one just blends into another. However, the college application essay is where the admissions officers get to meet you. And they are as eager to do this as you are. They are working to craft a group of students who are not just the best qualified, but the ones that have the greatest potential to distinguish themselves at the university. For this reason, your college application essay is the aspect of your application that is most helpful to admissions officers.
In the past, there were only a handful of prestigious universities. However, over the past 20 years, smaller schools have been working to build great programs and, in turn, their reputations. And they’ve done this by shaping their image through inviting professors and students who have certain qualities to their programs. For this reason, your college application essay must reflect this to catch the eye of the admissions officers.
Even as more and more schools are using centralized application systems, you can reflect this in your college application essays. Are you looking for a bigger program that has numerous opportunities in a large city? Do you prefer an insular, ‘college town’ environment so that you’re focused on your studies? Don’t be shy about stating directly what you want.
And this is a mistake that many applicants make in the hope that some program – any program – will pick them. That’s a style of thinking that is your surest path to receiving a stack full of letters stating, “Thank you for your application.” In this new era, there is more work to do in selecting the right school for you. However, it is also a time of great opportunity to have a college experience that is tailored to you as an individual and will give you the experiences and skills that you need to be successful in the real world.
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