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How much weight is placed on essays?

brementbrement 12 replies25 threads Junior Member
I don't believe that I have the best, most competitive, stats: 3.55UW, 3.86W, 1490 SAT. Despite that, my counselor has said that I wrote some of the best supplementals that she has ever seen. For these schools, what do you think the weight placed on essays truly is?
USC, CMU, CMC, UVA, NYU, GA Tech, BU, Vanderbilt.
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Replies to: How much weight is placed on essays?

  • happy1happy1 23324 replies2309 threads Senior Member
    There is no one answer that is correct for every college. A good essay will always be a positive in an application. FWIW most every admission officer I have heard speak said that that the transcript (including GPA, course rigor) is the most important piece of information.

    As I tell everyone be sure you have a well considered college application list that includes reach, match, and safety schools that appear affordable (run net price calculators) and that you would be excited to attend.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 1857 replies31 threads Senior Member
    Yes, it varies by school. There are various surveys around that list whether schools consider various application components “very important”, “important”, etc.

    From the data I’ve seen, essays are at best in the second tier. Grades, course rigor, and standardized testing are almost always at the top. More elite schools weight essays, ECs, more heavily than mid-tier large public schools, from my observations.

    The schools you list probably are in that category where they are “important”, but behind grades/rigor/testing. 3.55 is going to be a challenge at any of those schools and essays/ECs help but won’t “offset” or “make up for” (words typically used on CC) the top factors.

    You have another list of match/safety schools? I would say these are all reaches.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9873 replies536 threads Senior Member


    Colleges look at your UW GPA and convert for their needs. Your GPA is going to be problematic at all the schools you’ve mentioned, except for maybe if you are instate for UVA. Unless you are hooked, I suspect those colleges are all going to be reaches. You need match and safety schools. Maybe CMC (Claremont McKenna?) will place more importance on your essays, especially if you offer some geographic diversity.

    I listened to a podcast yesterday in which an AO from Dartmouth said, in her opinion, the essay is extremely important. Her rationale was that virtually all applicants had high grades and test scores and the essay was the only insight into the applicant’s personality. However, essays are very unlikely to compensate for grades that aren’t in the right range. Again, unless you are hooked, I’m sorry to say that those colleges are all unlikely.
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  • MWolfMWolf 2037 replies14 threads Senior Member
    I would go further and say that they all are extremely high reaches. The chances of somebody being accepted to GTech, CMU, CMC, UVA, Vanderbilt, or BU with an UW GPA of 3.55 are pretty low. It is possible that a student could be accepted for a BFA at NYU or USC with that GPA, but with a killer portfolio/audition.

    The thing is that you will be competing with students who have SATs that are that high or higher, UW GPAs of 3.8-4.0, AND amazing essays.

    Only 6% of the students who were accepted to GTech last year had GPAs below 3.75. For CMU, it was 23%, but more than half of these were also in the top 10% or top 25% of their classes (since only 12% were not in the top 10% of their classes, and only 3.7% were not in the top 25%). The others are the same.

    So it will be a real challenge for you to be accepted to any of those colleges, unless you are in the top 25% or top 10% of your class, in which case they are still reaches, but you are far more competitive.

    Good luck, though, whatever you decide.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1559 replies35 threads Senior Member
    Essays are clearly important for very selective colleges, but they won't sufficiently compensate for the deficiencies in the other components of your applications that are outside the ranges for those colleges. Besides, how much an essay will contribute to your application depends on the reader as some degree of subjectivity is unavoidable.
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  • SJ2727SJ2727 2256 replies8 threads Senior Member
    My daughter got into NYU last year with stats slightly below yours, so I’d think essays -and recommendations - do count. She did get an ED boost though. So - possible, but definitely harder RD. Good luck.
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  • vonlostvonlost 18974 replies15409 threads Super Moderator
    For essay importance, have a look at each school's Common Data Set section C7.
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