I have been reading many posts dealing with admissions factors into top tier schools and what really matters in their admissions proccess. I know how tons of applicants are fully qualified to be great material for those school, but are rejected because there are simply too many quality students. Many people go back and forth saying (besides luck), either having out-of-this-world extracurriculars and awards, or writing a stellar essay that really grabs the admissions officer is the key to tipping the scales in thier direction. (Or both) But, assuming an applicant would only have one, which would be better? Like say someone had some good (but not shining with greatness) extracurriculars, like a sport, a good volunteer group, and show some respectable leadership positions but have an amazing essay, versus someone who won national science competitions, or was a huge nationally recognized athlete/scholar, who wrote a decent essay but didnt really show their "voice" and who they are? (I personally am actually a few years away from the whole application process, i was just wondering because I have seen people say back and forth "awards and amazing extracurricualrs are the best tip factor" or "essay are what count in the end".) And for the best-of-the-best schools, do you pretty much have to have both to make it in?