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USA Today: How much do college admissions essays matter?

Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley Founder Posts: 106,392 Senior Member
edited August 2008 in College Essays
From an AP article by Carole Feldman published at USAToday.com:
"It's an urban myth that a student who has goofed off his whole academic career can get in with a come-from-behind epic struggle in which the essay serves as the primary tool."

How much do college admissions essays matter? - USATODAY.com
Post edited by Roger_Dooley on

Replies to: USA Today: How much do college admissions essays matter?

  • LumineLumine Registered User Posts: 669 Member
    This quote from the article seems to sum up a lot:

    "By the time high school seniors start filling out their college applications, much of what admissions officers will use to give a thumbs up or down is set. No wonder there's such angst over the college admissions essay."
  • Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley Founder Posts: 106,392 Senior Member
    That's a key point, Lumine. Since it's one of the few controllable elements in the application, there's a tendency to invest it with more importance than it deserves.
  • TheIndividualTheIndividual Registered User Posts: 336 Member
    with the exception of UChicago, lol.

    I remember when I went to Chicago's Open House, the Admissions Officer gave an order of importance ranking:
    1. Academic Rigor/GPA
    2. Essays
    3. ECs
    4. Standardized Tests (Unusually, but hey, it's UChicago)
  • olgitaolgita Registered User Posts: 505 Member
    "I remember when I went to Chicago's Open House, the Admissions Officer gave an order of importance ranking:"

    I interpreted this differently. Basically, they look at standardized test scores first to determine if you're in the ballpark, then they look at everything else without any consideration given to the test scores (if you're in their range). If you aren't, they look for things to redeem your low scores, but yes, they look at them in that order.
  • piccolojuniorpiccolojunior - Posts: 2,629 Senior Member
    Well if you're applying to HYPSM and have all the stats, the tiebreakers are the essays and, to a considerably lesser extent, the interviews.
  • broken_symlinkbroken_symlink Registered User Posts: 690 Member
    I don't know how much my actual essay helped me, but I submitted a lot of supplemental essays about my electrical engineering projects. I think those helped a lot more for my reach schools than my match schools. My real essay was about yoyoing.
  • helloworld0987helloworld0987 Registered User Posts: 72 Junior Member
    Well if you're applying to HYPSM and have all the stats, the tiebreakers are the essays

    Exactly. With so many 2400 SAT, 5.0 GPA, 293843 leadership position kids applying to HYPSM etc, the essay is really the only thing that will make an applicant stand out. It gives adcoms a much more personal look into the applicant's life.
  • friedricefriedrice Registered User Posts: 1,280 Senior Member
    It can heal the sick, but not raise the dead.
  • aquamarineeaquamarinee Registered User Posts: 3,028 Senior Member
    ^ I heard the same thing from a Harvard admissions officer. Quite true.
    If you're borderline, that's almost the only time it makes a significant impact on your application.
  • piccolojuniorpiccolojunior - Posts: 2,629 Senior Member
    ^and the typical CCer fits that description, especially for those top 10 schools.
  • momreadsmomreads Registered User Posts: 3,232 Senior Member
    Friedrice, you are right. I have students who say, "I'll write a killer essay, and that will get me into (school of choice.)" It will not make up for a 2.4 GPA and 860 on the SAT with most schools. But I do believe it can make a difference if you are on the borderline. So, you should hope you get a set of excellent English teachers who can shape your writing into the quality that the school of choice seeks.
  • MondoMondo Registered User Posts: 985 Member
    I think a really bad essay can get someone rejected a lot of the places for showing a lack of commitment.
  • sherlock1016sherlock1016 Registered User Posts: 321 Member
    My friend was a typical amazing scores/ECs/grades/everything, but he was also an incredible writer. He was editor of the newspaper, won multiple awards for writing, submitted an award winning short story of his as a supplement and wrote one hell of an essay. The Tufts admissions officer actually wrote him a personal letter saying that his essay was the only one that made him laugh out loud and spit out his coffee.

    He applied to Harvard, and I'm completely sure that between his writing supplement, his incredible essay, and a great interview (he is very personable, and the interviewer was a playwright as well!), they could really see who he was and put him in the accepted pile.

    He already had the credentials for Harvard, but those personifying aspects like the essay really helped push him over the fence
  • neuron39neuron39 Registered User Posts: 455 Member
    Many of the comments here have summed it up nicely. The more competitive the school, the more important the ESSAYS (plural!). Beyond the CommonApp, schools with supplements, as well as schools with "uncommon" applications like UChicago, will ask for multiple short and longer essays. They're ALL important, and should be treated as the best way to describe aspects of yourself not otherwise evident in your lists of awards, extracurriculars, accomplishments, etc.; i.e. don't use the essays just to list achievements again.
  • PatsygirlPatsygirl Registered User Posts: 170 Junior Member
    I applied to a few smaller LACs, and my first accepance was by Elmira. My counselor called me on the phone to tell me, and to say that I had been awarded a substantial scholarship. Then he told me how wonderful the admissions committee thought my essay was (I wrote about my very difficult decision to quit Irish dancing, something that had been a large part of my life for years). Although i ultimately did not wind up going to that school, the comment definitely left a good impression. Schools, especially small ones, do notice the essays. It may not be the make-or-break-it part of the application, but it it definitely something to help you stand out of the crowd (and maybe earn some extra merit scholarship) :)
This discussion has been closed.