How important is the essay?

Application Process

Our counselors answered:

How important is the essay?

Heather Tomasello
Writing Coach The EssayLady, LLC

How important is the essay?

More students are applying to more colleges. The result? It just keeps getting harder to get in, even to “back up” schools. Application essays also play a greater role in determining the strength or weakness of an application. Admissions officers and scholarship review committees understand that grades and scores are limiting, and cannot adequately show the complete picture of a student.Your essay is your opportunity to tell your story, to rise above the competition, and to convince admissions officers that their university is not only the perfect fit for you, but that you are the perfect fit for it.

Jessica Brondo
Founder and CEO The Edge in College Prep

How important is the essay?

The essay is a very important part of your application. This is one of the few chances that the college gets to see you as more than a number or a statistic. Up to this point you have only been able to list your grades, accomplishments, and activities, but you have not been able to show them your personality, or tell them why you are proud of those accomplishments, or love those activities. Make sure in your essay that a college will really be able to hear your voice through it. Colleges pick students they think will be a great fit for the school both in terms of academics and attitude. Your best chance of finding the right school is being true to your own personality- it's not worth getting into a great school if you hate it, so let them see you for you!

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

How important is the essay?

The "essay" has become increasing important and is now becoming the determining factor for admissions as well as merit aid money.

Brittany Maschal
Founder/Director B. Maschal Educational Consulting

How important is the essay?

Very important! A close runner-up to your academic record (this encompasses courses and grades in high school as well as test scores), the essay(s) you submit with your college application are an extremely important component of your total application package. The percentage of all colleges, public and private, for which the essay is a significant factor in selectivity, has increased from 14% in 1993 to 25% in 2012, according to the National Organization for College Admission Counseling in its latest annual report. Inevitably, the more selective private institutions with their growing pools of high-performing applicants tend to review applications more holistically and, therefore, place the most emphasis on non-quantitative elements such as the personal statement or essays.

Deborah Heller
Director of College Counseling Beacon School

How important is the essay?

It depends on the college. At most large state schools its not going to be as important as it is at a small liberal arts college where admissions officers will spend much more time reading each application and paying attention to details. At most large universities colleges will first separate the yes and no piles by scores and grades and then the "maybe" pile will be looked at more closely and the essay can then become a significant factor. Students should view the essay as key piece in the process, because for them at some schools, it could be one! There is no way to know so put your all into the essays and interviews. This way at least you know you did everything in your power!

Susan Knoppow

How important is the essay?

The essay is more important than most people think it is. It follows grades, level of difficulty and test scores in importance. As admissions become increasingly competitive, it is the one opportunity a student has to stand out in the crowd. It can make difference!

Andrew Belasco
CEO College Transitions LLC

How important is the essay?

An essay's importance in the admissions process depends on the student and the college to which he/she is applying. If the student is considered a "borderline" applicant, for example, the quality of his/her college essay may decide whether he/she ultimately receives an acceptance letter. This is especially so at smaller and more selective liberal arts schools, which often adopt a more holistic approach to applicant evaluation and which tend to assign more weight to college essays. However, it is important to realize that even the best essays can rarely compensate for less than adequate academic credentials--in most cases, a student is not likely to earn admission if his/her grades and/or test scores are far below those of the average incoming student, regardless of the strength of his/her essay. In contrast, a student with (relatively) superior grades and scores can usually overcome a less-than-average essay, so long as he/she does not make egregious grammatical errors, indicate disinterest, or convey a trait or attitude that causes concern among admissions staff.