Is every college essay read? How many admissions officers read them?

Application Process

Our counselors answered:

Is every college essay read? How many admissions officers read them?

James Montoya
Vice President of Higher Education The College Board

Is every college essay read? How many admissions officers read them?

Here is my video response to the question.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

It Depends

As you might already have guessed, some colleges (large public universities) might not have the staff to read all of the essays. They might just read the essays of those who are "on the fence." Other colleges (mostly smaller schools) may try to read every single essay, and in some instances, there is more than one reader for each file, so your essay might receive multiple reads. However, to be on the safe side, work diligently and thoughtfully on your essay no matter what kinds of schools are on your list!

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

The Essay Component

It depends on the priorities of the school. Many schools have a strong commitment to a holistic review of each application and sometimes have two or three readers for each file. A really good essay can be a strong addition to the application file. Other schools might be so overwhelmed by the sheer number of applications that they make their admit decisions based strictly on statistical requirements. You can often find out how a file is reviewed by attending an information session at the schools on your college list.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Admissions officers and essays

You can be certain that you did not spend all that time crafting the perfect essay in vain. If a school asks for an essay, it is read. How much weight a college puts on that portion of the application may differ. Just how many readers digest your words can vary as well. Still, don't waste the opportunity to put another dimension on your application file.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures


Is every college essay read? I cannot make that claim, but I do believe that most of them are read. In smaller to mid size colleges they are certainly read, at least by two readers, and all Honors College essays are read.

็Ž‹ๆ–‡ๅ› June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

it is all about how much time you get as the applicant

when admissions season started, it is not easy to read hundreds of essay during a short period of time. you can loss your focus easily. in the mean time, between 5-10 min is actually reasonable for a good read. there are different stages for the admissions process. normally essay does not read more than one person unless the vote must proceed and admission counselors decided to work hard for the students they like the most.

Tyler Burton
President Burton College Tours

It depends on the school.

Many schools have holistic processes for evaluating applications. These schools may give applications up to three reads. Here are some of the ways that schools read essays: 1. Application gets a primary read and if the application is a straight admit then the student is in OR the application is passed on for a second read and then a decision is reached OR the application could then go to a committee. 2. Each application gets two reads. 3. Applications with test scores and GPAs in a certain range get read for admission. 4. International students should expect that their essays and their SAT writing portion will be read. Some schools do cut by the numbers. Most schools read and read and read. Admissions officers go home with up to 700 applications on a cart and spend hours drinking coffee in to the wee hours of the morning. Most schools employ a form of a rate card and the essay(s) are a component of the rate card.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

Is every college essay read? How many admissions officers read them?

Yes, every college essay is read if the college has asked for it (and often even if they did not ask for it). The number of readers depends on the college's review process. It will be anywhere from one reader to four readers.

Chip Law
Co-founder Managing Director Educational Avenues

If I were a betting man, I'd say...

If you were to take bets on the percentage of essays read by college admissions personnel, I'd guess that it would be in the high 90's. An essay is an important part of sharing who you are with a school. With increased competition for admission, the essay has become an important factor in consideration of your admissibility to a school. So if a school requires an essay it is VERY likely to be read. If a school has a writing section in their supplement to the Common Application you can rest assured that ALL of that writing is evaluated by admissions officers. So...take the essay seriously. Do your best and assume that it WILL be read and that it WILL have a bearing on your admission chances. There is no way to determine a typical scenario regarding a college's method for reviewing applications. In all cases at least one admissions officer will look at your essay. If a school uses an admissions committee the number could jump to three or more. In any case, what YOU can control is how well your essay describes who you are and gives the admissions person a chance to see things in you that will be an asset to the school.

Mollie Reznick
Associate Director The College Connection

It varies from school to school

This is a tough question to answer as there is no way to know for sure. At a smaller school, it is more likely that the admissions officers will have the time to look at each essay, whereas at huge universities it would seem less likely. In terms of how many officers read each essay, that also varies from school to school. Some read regionally which means that one officer reads all the applications from all the high schools in a certain geographic region. Often they are read in committee where several officers might look at one essay. If you want to know how you will be assessed at any given school, you should feel free to ask the admissions office.