How should the college essay tie into the rest of the application?

Application Process

Our counselors answered:

How should the college essay tie into the rest of the application?

Eric Furda
Dean of Admissions University of Pennsylvania

How should the college essay tie into the rest of the application?

Here is my video response to the question.

Roby Blust
Dean of Admissions & Enrollment Planning Marquette University

How should the college essay tie into the rest of the application?

Here is my video response to the question.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

Who Are You??

Your entire application should present a cohesive sense of who you are. There is the activities chart- which needs to be carefully thought out and filled in. Then you have the two essays - the 150 word extra-curricular essay and the personal statement. The longer essay should NOT be laundry list of your accomplishments, but present new information, that is not already on your application. Your topic should support “who” you are- the accomplished actor/artist/ or pre-med hopeful. It is your chance to give your application that ‘third” dimension and allow your “voice” and personality to come through.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

How should the college essay tie into the rest of the application?

For some students the essay is a great opportunity to explain a discrepancy or a negative in grades or test scores. Remember -- the admissions committee doesn't want to hear excuses for poor grades but they might appreciate some explanations. You don't need to write about a particular extracurricular activity or academic achievement unless you feel that it has some special relevance in your personal development. Remember -- the admissions committee already has your application so you don't need to rehash that information. While your essay needn't refer specifically to your application, it should "make sense" with your application. By that we mean that if you have poor grades in English or low test scores on the SAT verbal section, it might be a bit suspicious if you submit a spectacularly written and polished essay.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

How should the college essay tie into the rest of the application?

The extracurricular short answer should be related to one of your top activities. The main essay is usually flexible. If you are very passionate about a particular academic area then it would be a great idea to write about an important aspect or inspiration related to your enthusiasm for the subject. However, you can also use the essay to display another aspect of your interests or personality. The most important point is to use this chance to give vibrancy to that admission file filled with statistics--GPA, test scores and recitations of activities and academic achievements.

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

College Essay Related to the Rest of the Application

College essays should not be a mere repetition of what already appears in other parts of the application. In fact, that would be a waste of time, space, and opportunity. The essay should reveal other aspects of the student's personality and interests or go into more depth about particularly meaningful experiences that may or may not have been alluded to in other parts of the application. For instance, if an extracurricular activity, a job, a volunteer experience has been listed on the application form, and it has been a very important and pivotal experience in the student's development, it would be worthwhile to go into more detail within the essay about that activity, its value, and its impact on the student. It is important to consider how one can make oneself stand out in a positive way among the other many qualified applicants.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

The Essay's Role

The college essay is there to give you a chance to share something about yourself, that didn't have a place in the rest of the application. Thus, the essay doesn't have to tie in to everything else you've listed. Maybe you'll share how you like to decorate cookies at the holidays, or how your dog makes you smile. There is no "right" topic, only a better way to convey your thoughts. Do NOT worry if you haven't traveled to Africa to feed the starving or discovered a new strain of bacteria, that may be why you are going to college. Just be yourself and share a piece of you that demonstrates your human-ness.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Give Them A Complete Picture—Let Them Tie Things Together

Must the essay tie into the rest of the application? No. More important is that you take advantage of the opportunity the essay provides to present yourself in your words, in your way. Be sure to respond to the prompt, but do so in a way that gives the reader a greater understanding of who you are and what you will bring to the community they are seeking to create. Make it your story. The people in the admissions office are trying to learn about you and the essay is often the last chance you have to shape their impression and understanding of you. Making it do that is far more important that having it tie together what may be a wide ranging package—you.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

How should the college essay tie into the rest of the application?

It can tie in very closely or somewhat loosely, but it should make sense with the rest of your application. If you write about something that is contradictory to other parts of your application, that will raise concerns as to the veracity of your essay. That said, you do not want to reiterate what has already been said in other parts of your application because you are then wasting an opportunity to tell the admission committee something new and interesting about yourself.

Mollie Reznick
Associate Director The College Connection

Write about what you love

Your college essay should hopefully serve to further emphasize your passion or skills as represented on your application. For instance, if your application states that you have been actively involved in theatre during your four years in high school and that is what you love most, your essay should reflect that. Take the opportunity to delve even deeper into *why* you love what it is you do, what sparked that interest and how it developed, and perhaps how it drives your future goals. This will guide an admissions officer's perspective of you as someone who is passionate and motivated.