Should colleges abandon essays?

This thread is about essays, so let’s please stay on topic.

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You can make an argument for and against the essay. Personally I think it’s an important item for the kid to show differentiation and a deeper look into their personality / interests. Can it be gamed? Sure. No different than test scores (tutoring, coaches, cost of multiple tests) and grades for that matter. Is an “A” at a lesser quality HS the same as an “A” at a rigorous HS? What about the folks that spend a ton on tutoring to make sure their kids take and pass all the AP classes?

We need to get past the idea that life is fare. Everyone has their own circumstances and needs to play the cards they are dealt. Is it wrong for a parent with resources to use those resources to help (not take over or do, just help)? What’s the point of having resources if you can’t help?


Yes and no. If you want to write an instruction manual, I think that AI may be able to do so. However, it will likely take many many years to create a “voice” which could produce a convincing narrative, if ever.

What AI may be able to do is write an essay for a kid who has already written 30 or 40 essays, based on those essays. However, it is a lot easier for a kid to write one college essay than it is to write 30-40 so the computer can “learn” ow to produce another one.

And if somebody wants to take 30 or 40 successful college essays as the basis? That Frankenstein’s monster of an essay will not help anybody get into college…

What AI does is go through very large numbers of data, and pick up the similarities and recreate something based on those similarities. However, thinks like college essays are successful for a myriad of different reasons, since they are selected by different sets of people id different years.

The only way that AI could write successful college essays is if colleges started having computers use AI to rank college essays.


Some colleges may adopt an AI-based program to do just that even sooner…

I say let the essay stay. It an important part of the admission process and can highlight a student in positive ways. Not hard to figure out which ones are getting extensive help.

But as with anything in life those with money will do whatever to help their kids achieve. Our kids wrote their own. A friend that is a college counselor read them and made some slight suggestions. Which any English teacher can do. I have no problem helping my kids succeed.

So if someone with money can get tutors for Act /Sat for their kids to rise to their full potential then great. Doesn’t really concern me. Kids that don’t have that luxury can use Khan Academy or library resources. There is always going to be a wealth divide, doesn’t mean I can’t do for my child if they need it.

Which really impresses me here on CC, the kids that do everything themselves and still get in to great schools. If I was a reader I might be inclined to actually give them an edge. It shows how hard they will work to succeed and that is just a great trait.

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Some of the worst essays I have read have had the “influence” of paid professionals. Not to be outdone, I have been lulled to sleep by essays that received tweaks from a caring yet heavy-handed English teacher.

The choice to receive assistance offers students and parents a false sense of security IMO. Most pros can’t write a good college essay. They just can’t.


There is free help here on CC for essay writers. There are other options for free help in some schools and communities. I think the problem is, as @michaeluwill says, that too many adults suggest edits and revisions that change the essay too much.

Helping with essays always raises ethical questions, or should. If I help a student on CC, I try to keep the discussion non-directive and my main priority is not to ruin the kid’s “voice.”

On CC many of the students needing help do not have parents who can help, for whatever reason, sometimes language barriers. They are on their own and nervous. They need help clarifying their goal in writing the essay and most of all, affirmation.

If everyone had appropriate help, even a sounding board, and if all helpers kept that help appropriate and didn’t mess with the student’s essay too much, then I think essays would be an important and valuable part of applications.

I think essays are helpful. I also agree you can easily spot the essays that were over “helped.”

I didn’t read my D’s essays until after they were submitted. She had her peers edit and her AP language teacher did a final look over but he didn’t change content or voice, just looked over for errors.

That said, I had friends kids’ reach out to me to review essays and so many are just a rehash or repackaging of activities and awards. Or, about someone else in their circle and not themselves. Those kids weren’t too successful at even pre-covid match schools.

The essays are part of the application. Yes, a subjective part, but I’d argue the best look into an applicant’s personality.

When there are no essays and no test scores, the parents will be able to focus all of their time on arguing grades with the high school teachers. When a 4.0 just won’t cut it, schools will be coerced into creating measurement systems that can deliver above a 4.0.

Wait…we have those? Make grades higher.

If you want fair, pull names out of a hat.

Essays provide an insight into a students focus and interests. Their maturity, and their priorities. While it is entirely possible to improve an essay with help, most of the people “helping” students who are applying to competitive colleges are of little use. They are often very average writers, and the editing process can quickly spiral into mixed messages and the loss of any flow. After painfully reducing the word count to 500, and having read the remaining words a few dozen times, the human mind stops processing the words and reduces the effort it expends on editing…tricking the writer/reading into believing they are expressing thoughts in a way that often doesn’t come across to a first-time reader.

Until the entire process changes, essays provide insights not available in grades and EC’s.


That’s an interesting insight, something I hadn’t though of.