Essays just a way for colleges to manipulate

@Mwfan1921 @Catcherinthetoast @mtmind Male applicants do get a break at schools where the number of female students significantly exceeds that of male students. But that’s only because these schools are trying to have a more gender-balanced student body. The reverse is true at schools and/or departments where there’re significantly more male students.


So Colleges are admitting students based on their perceived institutional needs/missions? And a rejected student might have somewhat better grades/scores/essays than an accepted student? Who would have thunk it?


Wow 4 years at Vassar and I never picked up on that, thanks for the insight!


It’s the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ at work


Let’s focus on the original question of essays. If male students are found to write less well generally than female students, for whatever reason, should AOs use different standards to evaluate their essays? Or should essays play a lesser role in admitting male applicants?

Female applicants and enrollees outnumber male at most colleges. Proportion female enrolled in college is around 60%, and there were more female than male applicants last year…57.5% in 2021-22. Source here:

There’s quite a bit of research that shows female HS avg GPA is higher than male average GPA. So at colleges that are just trying to match the gender application ratio, they have to give males consideration on GPA, and those schools that try to get to 50/50 gender ratio have to give even more GPA consideration.

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Get back to topic please and move the role of gender in admissions to it own thread, if necessary.

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As very few schools admit strictly on a published set of minimum numbers, isn’t every other part of an application the same - something a person will look at and make a subjective judgement?

This would make the entire college application process a manipulative ploy to take who they want.

But isn’t a college taking who they want pretty much the accepted outcome of college admissions?

While we are going through our first time of college apps with D23 and I am absolutely no expert, this seems intuitively right.

From what I can tell, there seems to be very little to separate the 4.0+ GPA (with a rigorous schedule) and 1500+ SAT (or the ACT equiv). As I understand it, there are so many applicants with those numbers.

However, LoRs, excellent ECs that show passion, and essays have to be the differentiator. From my uninitiated view, it would be absolutely nuts to discount the essays.

How else is a college going to know if the student is a good fit?


However, some of those schools are very large (e.g. Arizona State University).

Also, some schools use a non-holistic formula without subjective evaluation of individual applications but determine the admission threshold competitively each year (e.g. California State Universities).

There may be other schools with similar admission methods, but choose not to publish them.

This comment makes no sense, I’m sorry.

Hiring temp essay readers who will then walk off into the sunset, means that the essay readers do not care whether the kids being accepted are alumni, are wealthy, or are influential. They get paid by the number of essays that they read and grade, regardless of who the essay writer happens to be.

The AOs will decide what to do with the grades that the readers provided, however, that “manipulation” happens later, and has little to nothing to do with the fact that the readers are temp workers.

Finally - private colleges ALWAYs accept whoever they want. That is the point of private colleges. Public colleges are required to provide education to students from their states, and the criteria they use are subject to the oversight of the state. Private colleges decide on their mission, and then use criteria which help them fulfill that mission. While that mission may not always match the stated mission, it is there.

While I think that the salary that the colleges are offering are indeed ridiculous, that is only because it means that the colleges who hire these readers will likely not be able to get the best people for the job. They would do better hiring English teachers or English grad students for more money per hour, but these would almost certainly make up the extra cost by checking far more essays per hour.

Cornell’s CoE is offering $18 an hour, and offering no more than 25 hours a week, and that is a temporary job. I also guess that the colleges have failed to notice that it’s no longer 2012, and there are no longer droves of new colleges graduates who are willing to work for any wages and any hours.

Minimum wage in the State of New York is $15.00 an hour. A full-time employee will be making $600 a week, without overtime, versus the $400 a week offered by Cornell’s CoE, and as a temporary employee with zero benefits.

This is the kind of “overwriting” kids are apparently being taught today. Harvard obviously overlooked writing weaknesses and immaturity in favor of assessing character and goals:

I gulped. Increasingly powerful palpitations throbbed in my heart as my eyes darted around the classroom

He arched his flummoxed brows as he began to open his mouth.

I agree, it looks like this was not coached and is genuine.

(Maybe word counts should be reduced! This type of content can be omitted!)


Colleges are looking for alum, former admissions people, retired teachers/profs to take these jobs as temp admissions readers. It is competitive to get these jobs. I assume there’s plenty of retirees or stay at home parents who take them, maybe some looking to get a full time job at the school, but that step seems unnecessary at least in today’s market. A UCLA rep said they have the same people (mostly alum) return year in and year out to work as app readers, they hire more than 250 per cycle.

Not sure how much faster people can read apps. I did a counselor session this week with two highly rejective institutions, one Ivy, one NESCAC. They said the average time to read an app is about 6-10 minutes. Of course there’s some variability in that and the two schools varied in the way they approach the reading of apps. The most interesting fact coming from that session was that both schools read the common app first, before they look at grades and test scores. Both AOs stated how important the essays were.


And the point being?
You’ve discovered how colleges have shifted from selecting and educating the smart elites to becoming diploma mills generating billions a year.

The landscape has also changed.
From a kid writing his own essays to hired guns prepping and packaging your application for $10k+.

Schools have gone from picking from a small number of honestly interested applications to 100,000 applications put out shotgun style without thought.

Here was a time when a small number of honestly interested applications were sent out, and the essays were genuine:

The reasons that I have for wishing to go to Harvard are several. I feel that Harvard can give me a better background and a better liberal education than any other university. I have always wanted to go there, as I have felt that it is not just another college, but is a university with something definite to offer. Then too, I would like to go to the same college as my father. To be a “Harvard man” is an enviable distinction, and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain.

after writing this for Princeton previously:

"My desire to come to Princeton is prompted by a number of reasons. I feel that it can give me a better background and training than any other university, and can give me a true liberal education. Ever since I entered school, I have had the ambition to enter Princeton, and I sincerely hope I can reach my goal. Then too, I feel the environment of Princeton is second to none, and cannot but help having a good effect on me. To be a “Princeton Man” is indeed an enviable distinction.

By the way, that was JFK


Moral of the story: if you have the right connections then essays don’t matter much. Plus the “L” bump at Harvard :laughing:

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