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How truly important are your essays?

blews7blews7 Registered User Posts: 25 Junior Member
edited January 13 in College Essays
I am someone who spent months perfecting their personal statement. However, I always imagined admission officials reading it in 2-3 mins and checking a box if it was good. I know most top 50 schools stress that they take a holistic approach and also say that your essays might be the most important part of you application. But in reality, with the amount of applications each college gets, I really doubt adcoms thouroughly read each personal statement. You also have to consider that most colleges have supplement essays to look at as well.

All in all, I'm trying to see what College confidential users have got to say. How important are your college essays?
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Replies to: How truly important are your essays?

  • ab2002ab2002 Registered User Posts: 529 Member
    edited January 13
    Well considering everything else about you is pretty much numbers, I don't know where you got the "they don't read it thouroughly" from. HYP have tons of qualified applicants, thousands with perfect GPAs and SAT scores. So you should ask yourself this, why do they only accept about 2,000 of those? A lot of these students don't have either of those, so what do you think they base of off? The applicants character, which comes from the essays. So in essense, yes, they're extremely important. I'm assuming you're asking this because you just applied and your essays are possibly mediocre?
  • blews7blews7 Registered User Posts: 25 Junior Member
    To answer your final question, I spent a lot time (weeks and months) on my essays and did the best I possibly could have. However, as writing has always been my weakest subject, I do think mine are probably mediocre. @ab2002
  • itsintheprocessitsintheprocess Registered User Posts: 224 Junior Member
    I can only speak from experience so none of this is fact but the vibe I got from my state schools was that my essay wasn't as important as my GPA/ SAT. My states school application were due much sooner than the OOS schools I had applied too, so the essay I wrote for in in state schools was good but my common app essay for OOS schools was MUCH better because I had more time. For in state schools I knew that both my test scores and GPA were far above the average (not trying to sound boastful...if you only knew how insecure I was during senior year) and they probably played a much larger role in my acceptance whereas my essay was like the cherry on top, so to speak.

    My essay that I sent to my top choice school as well as other selective schools played a rather large role in my acceptances. I was still above average in those schools however it was more slightly above average, and many other applicants GPA/Test scores could have outshined me if (in my opinion) it wasn't for my essay. For the OOS I had more time to write and edit my essay and I felt like I had written about a topic that was much my personal and couldn't really be applied to anyone but just ME. I remember reading this analogy somewhere last year (probably on CC) that GPA/Test scores get you through the door (ie if your scores/GPA are way below the schools range they won't even bother), but your essays, LOR, EC etc are what get you job in the end. I feel like that is a very fair assessment of the admissions process.

    In short your essays are VERY important for selective schools (if not all schools). It may not seem that way for schools that offer automatic acceptance for a certain GPA, but for selective and highly selective schools they can make or break you.
  • LilyNguyenLilyNguyen Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    The admission process is holistic they will take your gpa activities recommendation letters....but the essay is highly important i mean it is when you can show yourself and also the admission committee want to know the real you not just look at your grades etc. they want to know what you think, how you are going to contribute to the campus., your writing skill if you can satisfy the academic requirements etc. So I advise you to pay attention to the essay and make it as polished as possible. I actually got admitted by the writing skill not my GPA
  • Studious99Studious99 Registered User Posts: 911 Member
    I felt like essays didn’t have an especially big role in my acceptances (all to large schools with lots of applicants). However, my essays may have hurt me for some of my rejections. Looking back 18 months after they were written, I didn’t seem particularly mature in some of them.
  • rickle1rickle1 Registered User Posts: 748 Member
    Much more important to highly selective, smaller schools than large state universities (they still matter there too). The smaller schools have more time and resources to really read. I recall an admissions officer commenting on my son's common app essay during his interview and steering part of the conversation to the essay topic.
  • bjkmombjkmom Registered User Posts: 6,295 Senior Member
    I think it varies from one case to the next. I think a killer essay can make a difference for a kid on the cusp. For a kid who's either a shoe in or on the "not getting in"pile, not so much.
  • Southern5062Southern5062 Registered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    edited February 12
    @blews7 I agree with other comments that they are a significant part of your overall application at the more selective schools, as well as most private schools. And I truly do believe they do their best to read them all the way through. That is why it also helps to have a clearly written essay, so they can really see from start to finish what your story / theme is, without having to stop and re-read it.

    When I toured UVA last year, the counselor that gave our info session (who was one of their senior admissions directors) was asked how long she spends on each application and she said 'roughly 15 minutes'. She said with a clearly written essay, that should be enough time to view your transcript, look at depth of coursework, look at your school profile, and read your essays - even the supplements.(UVA has quite a few supplements, although not too lengthy.) Also, she said at UVA they still physically print out each application. They don't just quickly scroll through on their computer screen. She also said that at UVA, every appllcation is printed and read, and there is not a 'cutoff' on SAT's or GPA's where they don't bother to even print / read the application. Granted, if you are way below average for that school, something better jump off the page pretty quickly or you probably are not going to make the cut. But in terms of them really taking the time to read the essays, ever thing that I've heard and read is that they really 'do' want to try to get to know you better through the essays so they do give them a thorough read-through. I believe this is true of most of the selective and private colleges.
  • EmpireappleEmpireapple Registered User Posts: 725 Member
    JMHO, but I think the smaller the school, the more important the essay. Large schools...not so much.
  • AmyRu99AmyRu99 Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    College Essays basically introduce yourself. It gives them an idea of who you are and it gives them an impression of what you do. Yes, some essays are pointless but it's also to test your writing skills.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 2,417 Senior Member
    @AmyRu99: Agree with the above post. Would like to add that essays not only reveal writing skills, but also, albeit a subtle difference, one's communication skills as well.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 2,417 Senior Member
    Essays are important. Standout essays do NOT focus on accomplishments--as these should be on one's resume--but, rather, focus on what is not evident typically from the rest of the application.

    Essays should reveal the inner you.
  • AroundHereAroundHere Registered User Posts: 3,533 Senior Member
    The lower the acceptance rate, the more all the numbers start to look the same and the more important the intangibles like essays and letters matter.
  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU Posts: 9,989 Forum Champion
    You want colleges to see you as an individual...SAT/GPAs /ECs dont' necessarily do that.

    But if a college reads another "The clock was at 00:02. While i was waiting for the inbound pass, I heard the roar of the crowd. My opponent was next to me with a hand in my face. This was for the championship. I was so nervous. Would I get the pass and be the hero? or miss and be the goat?" then they may see you as not a great writer and indistinguishable.
  • OTTO_thefriendlyponyOTTO_thefriendlypony Registered User Posts: 38 Junior Member
    Good question that I think is best answered by current college students, after all, they just went through the college application process. Here are what some college students have to say about the essays. PM me if you want to ask them specific questions.

    “In my grade of 55 people, 12 people applied to Harvard early action. Several of them were people who had higher grades and higher standardized test scores. I remembered feeling insecure because I knew that, while my grades and test scores were high, they were not the highest. Ultimately, however, Harvard ended up accepting 3 of us. We all had high, but not perfect, grades and test scores. More importantly, we all had interesting and unique passions—one was a dedicated athlete who led her teams to victory, another was an avid volunteer who was passionate about conserving the environment, and I was the talented writer and editor-in-chief who had a love of Latin and ancient Greek. After watching everyone in my grade go through the college application process, I slowly began to realize that the singularly most important thing is passion—a passion for something, absolutely anything, as long as it is so strong and so genuine that it shines through every facet of your application. “

    Nian H., studying Government @ Harvard College, John Harvard Scholar, 2018

    "The most difficult part of the application process for me was writing and revising the essays,
    especially the ones focused on why I was interested in that school specifically. My problem was not that
    I didn’t have reasons for wanting to go to those particular schools, but more that I chose schools for
    similar reasons, and thus these essays felt very similar. Additionally, I found it challenging to find schools
    with programs specifically for what I wanted to do in the arts that also had rigorous academics, so I
    became well-versed with various college search engines."

    Deb K., studying Arts @ The University of Chicago, 2021

    "The most challenging part of the application process was figuring out my most important story. The point of the college essay is to demonstrate to the university not only that you could be at the school, but that you belong at the school. The applicant is tasked with displaying which qualities they possess that the incoming class would be incomplete without. You must be interesting, but not off-putting, and not just accomplished, but distinctive. The essay is persuasive in nature, an opportunity to tell the school why your matriculation would be mutually beneficial. For me, that meant reflecting on and dissecting moments of my life to find their hidden meaning and weaving together a story that was both appealing and original."

    Leesa Q., studying Psychology and Government @ Harvard College, 2018

    "The most challenging part of my application process was not settling. It’s hard to center yourself and remind yourself just how crucial those ‘4-5 months’ of the application period are. It is much easier to just submit your first draft and presume for it to be ‘good enough’. Additionally, I found that sending my essays around for revisions was hard. As the amount of criticism I was getting on work I was proud of, was hurtful. Yet in hindsight without having been pushed in the ways that I was I would not have reached the heights that I have. Thus, I would say the most challenging aspect of my college-apps were 1. not selling myself short, and 2. dealing with the fact that I had so much growth ahead of me."

    Sara A., studying Philosophy @ UCLA, 2018

    "The most challenging part of the college application process was finding the time to make sure each and every application was as perfect as it could be. I wanted to make sure my essays shed light on my personality while also fitting with the values of the schools I was applying to. I wanted to make sure I chose the best people to be my recommenders who could really write about my character well. I wanted to make sure that I was giving myself time to take breaks from the application process in order to clear my thoughts; this way, I could come back with a fresh mind and more put together ideas. Unfortunately, there was never enough time to do all of this. Because this was so, I chose one school I wanted to go to the most, and spent a majority of my time putting all the effort I could into that school , which was Duke."

    Nurah K., studying Chemistry and Neuroscience on a Pre-Med track @ Duke University, 2021
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