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Essay Tips to Consider

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Replies to: Essay Tips to Consider

  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 35,370 Senior Member
    @maxmayer I don’t know if I’d say they are unprofessional. Admissions officers have standards by which they judge applicants, and I believe all their readers are trained in those standards. Also, most selective schools have 2 independent readers per application, so it isn’t just one person reading. This isn’t like grading factual papers — it is looking for info on the applicant’s personality.

    I always think of it as a reader reviews at least 100 essays a day. If a school has a reasonably high admission rate, a serviceable essay will probably be fine. But if they are admitting a very low number of applicants, then something had better spark their interest and stand out in your essay. There isn’t room for typos, grammar issues, poor word choice, or a boring essay. I judge essays for a national scholarship contest, and I can tell you - consistently only about 5 out of 100 are really strong, another 5 are at least worth considering, and 90 are dutifully read and not really contenders. You can’t get into a selective college on your essay alone if you don’t have other qualifications, but you can give yourself a boost over other equally qualified candidates if you can catch their attention. I think it is far more common that applicants (and their parents) misunderstand the essay purpose than it is that the readers are unprofessional.
  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 8,375 Senior Member
    @intparent would you say that essays apart from the personal statement (scholarships, supplemental, etc...) should follow these essay guidelines too?
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 35,370 Senior Member
    Well, you always need to understand the goal of the essay. In some sense, this advice is pretty specific to the Common App essay. In other ways, you can apply it more broadly. Like I think a Why College X essay has different purpose than the Common App essay. So a more straightforward approach showing fit on both sides is best.
  • 24daffodils24daffodils Registered User Posts: 136 Junior Member
    What about the use of contractions? I.e., is it ok to say ‘isn’t’, ‘I’ve’, etc - or is it better to be a bit more formal and say ‘is not’, ‘I have’? I have one student who is over word count, so is wondering if contractions can be used to save a few words.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 35,370 Senior Member
    I think they are fine to use.
  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU Posts: 11,979 Forum Champion
    Google "Hacking the College Essay 2017" and read it.

    Write the Essay No One Else Could Write

    "It boils down to this: the essay that gets you in is the essay that no other applicant could write.
    Is this a trick? The rest of this guide gives you the best strategies to accomplish this single
    most important thing: write the essay no one else could write.
    If someone reading your essay gets the feeling some other applicant could have written it,
    then you’re in trouble.
    Why is this so important? Because most essays sound like they could have been written by
    anyone. Remember that most essays fail to do what they should: replace numbers (SAT/GPA) with the real you.
    Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions officer. She’s got limited time and a stack of
    applications. Each application is mostly numbers and other stuff that looks the same. Then she picks
    up your essay. Sixty seconds later, what is her impression of you? Will she know something specifically
    about you? Or will you still be indistinguishable from the hundreds of other applicants she has been
    reading about?"
  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 Registered User Posts: 733 Member
    The million dollar question for me is “Did the essay really work or did the applicant get accepted in spite of the essay or even if the essay was indifferent?”

    You go to some websites that says “college essays that worked” or something similar but we really don’t know if the essay was the controlling factor that got Suzy into a selective college unless we talk to the adcom directly about this specific student’s entire application.

    It’s a complex and interesting question but I have a feeling that most accepted students have essays that are very average but the rest of their “body of work”, choice of major, and LOR are what got them in. The essay was not the controlling factor.

    Occasionally you have a very compelling story like the applicant who was homeless who lived in her car during high school and was ultimately accepted to Harvard.

    IMO, for most colleges, the essay is just another data point and not as important as we might think. I remember talking with a UCSB college rep and she said that the essay was 50% of the decision and very important. In reality, GPA, course rigor, and test scores are likely 90% on whether or not they accept you.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 30,040 Senior Member
    May I please repeat that it's not "the essay only you could write?" It's not picking it up off the floor and saying, wow, Johnny's college personal statement. If only you would write about something your dog did or some lower school experience or how you hide in the attic or hate your little brother...none of those are what they look for. They aren't relevant, won't edge you along. Despite being "you."

    For very top colleges, most kids write so-so essays. And most kids do not get an admit.
  • BeCheap4me2BeCheap4me2 Registered User Posts: 21 Junior Member
    I had this struggle with my son too. I agree with you
  • HerpzlordHerpzlord Registered User Posts: 22 Junior Member
    Anyone recommend any college that considers essays more important than anything else?
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 35,370 Senior Member
    @Herpzlord This might be best handled in a new thread to get specific lists. But in general:
    - Some colleges pride themselves on unusual questions (check out UChicago). They are very interested in the essay. But they also expect the “full package”. A great essay won’t overcome bad stats there.
    - You can bump your chances a little with a great essay at any college that says they have holistic admissions. It can give you an edge over other similar applicants. But it won’t vault you into a new tier of consideration. #1 question a college has is: “Can you succeed academically there?” You still need to pass that hurdle. You need to apply to colleges that match your stats.
    - Be sure to complete any optional or supplemental essays.
  • HerpzlordHerpzlord Registered User Posts: 22 Junior Member
    @intparent Thank you so much for your advice.
  • Sue22Sue22 Registered User Posts: 5,663 Senior Member
    @Herpzlord, Bard has an alternative application that's entirely essay based.
    http://www.bard.edu/bardexam/
  • HerpzlordHerpzlord Registered User Posts: 22 Junior Member
    @Sue22 Wow thank you for the information
  • omgmarie108omgmarie108 Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    I agree
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