How important is the essay?

Application Process

Our counselors answered:

How important is the essay?

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

A strong essay could be a deal-breaker!

An excellent written essay could be a “tipper” factor for a borderline admit student to get accepted. On the other hand, a poorly written essay, with a bad choice of topic, can tip a students’ application into the reject pile. Essays will be more important for smaller schools that are committed to reading holistically. These smaller colleges want to ensure that the students that they accept would contribute positively to campus life both with their talents, leadership abilities and personal qualities. This should all be apparent in a good college essay.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Like -- Really Important

After your GPA, test scores and extracurriculars, your essay is next in importance! You've probably heard it MANY times before, but the essay is your chance to make your application come alive and to let admissions officers know that there is a living, breathing human being behind the numbers and litany of club memberships! Don't procrastinate when it comes to your essay -- start early and re-write often!

Ginger Fay
President Fay College Counseling, LLC

To you, very

While different admissions offices will place different weights on required essays and no one piece of paper in your application will ever be more important than your transcript, the essay is your once chance to speak directly to the admissions committee. Use that opportunity wisely.

Rebecca Joseph
Executive Director & Founder

Communicate your story: Write powerful college application essays

College application essays are the one thing high school seniors have complete control over senior year. They do not guarantee admissions to your top colleges, but they certainly help break ties and can tip you in. I just presented with an admissions officer from the University of Michigan, who said essays make students pop off the page and become 3-D for colleges. Essays are fourth in importance--behind grades, test scores, and rigor of your high school program--for many admissions offices. But so many kids squander this opportunity to focus on stories that reveal their leadership and initiative. Admissions officers get so bored reading many essays. Use this opportunity to sell yourself and tip yourself into many of your match colleges.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Essay Importance

While the essay may feel like an unnecessary evil, it is really quite useful when done well. The essay is a chance to put a face on your application. This is your chance to let the admissions committee see a side of you that they wouldn't otherwise. Please don't reiterate what is already included in the app. Instead, paint a picture that will be remembered long after your file is read. All things being equal among candidates, it may well come down to who made the readers laugh, cry or relate to their essay. Don't discount this chance to let your personality shine through.

Christine Peterman
College Advisor Prep 4 Admission

Sharing your "voice"

As part of the admissions decision, the essay is your chance to show the admissions committee who you are. The essay should truly be a personal statement. Your tone will give the committee an idea of your personality. This is your time to share your "voice." The key is to be yourself, and to choose a topic that says something about what's important to you. The committee wants to gain insight into you, they are also going to learn about you from the thoughtfulness and the quality of your writing.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

The college essay

It is more important to some colleges than others. For instance, if you are an automatic admit (in the top 10% of your graduating class) the essays need to be written but they aren't going to make the difference between getting in or being declined. For smaller colleges a great essay is a tip factor, meaning that it could tip a decision in your favor. You do not get in based solely upon your essay, but the more it stands out the better.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

express yourself and promote yourself

essay is the only way for you to express yourself without numbers and stamps from other people. you should consider this opportunity serioulsy to sell youself to the admissions office. there are many different ways of promoting yourself with honesty. Most Chinese students actually never write the essay themselves, they trust the agencies to do the job and they never see the submission afterwards.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Importance of the essay in the application review

This really depends on the college and how they consider each portion of the application. Each college has its own priorities. The essay usually plays a larger role in the application process at schools who can spend more time on each applicant's file. For instance, a large public university may not have the resources to devote to closely reading the essay portion of the application. The essay usually is in the top ten aspects taken under consideration in a holistic reading of an application.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

The essay is very important

It is important to you because it gives you a chance to show the college something about you that they are not seeing in the rest of your application. The essay gives you an opportunity to let your personality shine through. It is important to the college because they can learn about a different side of you, but also get a sense of your writing skills. Writing an essay quickly and sending it off will hurt you as a reader can tell when a piece was written hastily. You want to write it and set it aside and revisit it, get some input from your counselor or teacher (not friends). Revise it again. Make sure it is not superficial and it does not just reiterate what can already be learned from the rest of your application