How important is the essay?

Application Process

Our counselors answered:

How important is the essay?

Allen Regar

How important is the essay?

The college essay is not going to be as important as your grade point average, the rigor of your courses, or your standardized test scores (unless the college is test-optional), but it is nevertheless important. By the time you begin to write your college essay, most of your academic history is already set. You will have three years' worth of grades already completed, some if not all of your standardized test scores, and your extracurriculars. Although your teacher and guidance counselor might not have completed their letters of recommendation by the time you start your essay, you can't control what they will write. The personal statement is the last piece of your application (other than the application itself) that you have *total* control over. And it may be the one piece of information that helps the admissions committee decide the fate of your application, and if you get in, the financial aid you receive. One of our seniors last year won a large scholarship to a prestigious school in the Mid-Atlantic region due to the fact that his personal statement, according to the director of admissions at the college, was spectacular. Remember, you should consider every part of your application important, and the personal statement is no exception. Give it your best. Write, rewrite, and rewrite again. Have multiple people look over your essay, and listen openly to their thoughts about it. In the end, the essay may mean the difference between an acceptance or a rejection.

Martin Rogers

How important is the essay?

The essay is very important, in that it gives you two opportunities that might not otherwise appear on your application. Both of these opportunities involve presenting a more complete picture of yourself. The essay is foremost a way for students to synthesize their skills, achievements, and interests into a cohesive portrait for admissions counselors. So maybe you won an award for achievement in math coursework, and spent time volunteering at a community center, and organized a new athletic team at your high school; the essay is a way to demonstrate that all of those things are somehow connected, and that they are all demonstrations of your success at meeting challenges. You can also use the essay to demonstrate that what you have achieved in high school is really just one step on the way to your next achievement, and that you have chosen their institution specifically because it can play a role in helping you along your trajectory. The essay connects the dots, showing not only where you have been but where you are going, and if done correctly you are basically offering the institution a chance to be part of your story. The second reason why the application essay is so important is because writing is often considered to be the best predictor for college success. This is because writing a coherent and interesting application essay is truly a challenge of synthesis – that is, a well-written essay requires a comprehensive set of writing skills, general knowledge, confidence, and style. This is why writing is such a good predictor: because it requires a combination discipline, skill, and knowledge. So on paper you don’t look like a “well-rounded” student, or maybe you took challenging courses at the risk of a less-than-stellar GPA. The essay is not only a chance for you to explain these scenarios, but also a way to show off that you effectively communicate past these perceived weakness in your application and that you demonstrate a mastery over the kind skills that will determine your academic success. So do take time with your essay, and try to tailor each one to the specific colleges to which you apply. Always play to your strengths in your essay instead of trying to write something earth-shatteringly profound. And always use the essay to show how your target institution fits into your “big picture.”

Eileen Ed.D.
Associate Director Educational Directions, Inc.

How important is the essay?

The essay is an integral and important part of the application process. For some students, it can make the difference between getting in or being deferred, or even of being rejected. A good essay conveys not only who you are but how you express who you are! As such, the essay needs to be focused and well written. By that, I do not mean use your thesaurus! If you are honest and choose a topic close to your heart, you will be able to talk about it easily--so it will be easy to write! And if it is honest and easy to write, and you have had someone check for errors, it will convey who you are--often in a way that is better than any transcript can convey.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

How important is the essay?

It usually is very important, and some colleges attach extra importance, but some don't. No one really knows for sure, so write one that's superlative in both content & grammar!

Janet Elfers

How important is the essay?

The essay may be the most important piece. Why? Because that is the only way students have to "tell their story." The essay reveals a great deal about you as a student. It may show what is important to you, how you react to events in life, how you solve problems, how you relate to others, and it might reveal something about your personality. In addition, it gives the admission office a great writing sample. That's why you should spend a fair amount of time getting the essay right.

Kristina Dooley
Independent Educational Consultant Estrela Consulting

How important is the essay?

The essay plays an important part in your application process because, not only does it demonstrate your writing abilities to the admission committee, it often provides an opportunity for the reader(s) to learn more about you. The amount of weight placed on the essay will vary from school to school but a good rule of thumb is: if it's a requirement, then it's important!

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

How important is the essay?

The essay is extremely important to understand and evaluate students. Essays can often be the most critical part of the the application when students have similar academic records.

Lora Lewis
Educational Consultant Lora Lewis Consulting

How important is the essay?

Very. While grades still remain the most important factor most colleges consider in their decision-making process, the essay is almost always the only opportunity a college will have to "hear" your voice and learn about who you are. It also allows them to evaluate your writing and critical thinking abilities. Put a great deal of thought and effort into your essay. Don't write it at the last minute. Use those 500 words to share things about yourself that colleges can't learn from other parts of your application. Let your personality and voice shine through. You never know--it could be your essay that gets you in.

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

How important is the essay?

Depending on the college, the essay can be quite important. The most important component of any application are the student's grade and academic rigor. Assuming the student meets the academic criteria, the essay can set the student apart from others in the potential admit pile.

Zahir Robb
College Counselor The Right Fit College

How important is the essay?

While rated below GPA, Course Load, and Test scores for most universities, the essay still remains an important factor in admissions. The essay allows the candidate to express something that cannot be determined based on data alone. Make sure you spend plenty of time on this part of the application and that it represents the best you have to offer.