A few thoughts (or more like continued thoughts).
To me, “good enough” is definitionally good enough, but I think what might be good enough for a given applicant to one college might not be so good for either a different applicant to that same college, or for the same applicant to a different college.
Basically, if the rest of the application has the applicant clearly on track to be admitted by the admissions committee at that college, an essay may not need to stand out notably from the other essays such applicants normally submit in order for that applicant to actually get the necessary committee votes.
But if the applicant is qualified but nonetheless not yet quite on track to be admitted, say because the college has too many applicants in that range of qualifications and only some can get admitted . . . an essay that stood out might well make the difference. Or not, but I think essays (and recommendations) are one of the main sources of information for colleges needing to make decisions in cases like that.
But second, I agree these kids setting out to write a “good essay” is often counter-productive. As discussed a bit in the other thread, many nervous people worried about impressing in an communication task will end up doing self-defeating things. In this case, I think they are at high risk of writing some variation on a “bad” essay, or at least a “not good” essay, as discussed in the prior thread.
The problem as I see it is they may have forgotten that good communication is always about understanding your audience and what they really want. And usually what this audience wants is not a high school kid’s best guess as to what an impressive essay looks like. What they really want is a clear window into who that kid truly is as a person, particularly in some interesting way that they can’t derive from the rest of the application.
And these kids are all interesting kids! It is just that in their nervous efforts to write a “good essay”, they don’t end up showing something truly interesting about themselves.
And again, in many contexts, that could still be fine, meaning they will still get admitted to a great college and have a great experience. But, I do believe sometimes if a kid was not trying so hard to look impressive in their essay, and instead really revealed something interesting about themselves, that might have gotten them admitted to a college where they were otherwise qualified but didn’t end up standing out enough.
But to come full circle–that isn’t “hard” in the sense you need to be an outstanding creative writer for a high school student. It is “hard” more in the sense that you need a certain sort of courage to tune out all the peers talking about “good essays”, indeed tune out the self-critical part of your brain that has similar “advice”, and truly embrace the idea of just opening up a part of yourself to these colleges.
And yet that is something I truly believe any of these kids have the capability to do, if they just let themselves.