After all the grade point averages, SAT/ACT scores, and AP class final exams have been tallied, it sometimes seems that college admissions are whittled down to a set of numbers, unfeelingly used to measure an applicant’s potential. And while the importance of the college essay gets its share of attention during application season, the true power of admissions essays is often perilously overlooked. According to a feature story by The New York Times, college essays carry more weight than ever. As applying to colleges becomes more and more competitive, an essay provides a matchless window into an applicant’s authentic voice and self—offering a personal, human glimpse that no cumulative data can rival.
Trip Gabriel, of The New York Times, emphasized the supreme influence of the college essay, writing that, “among the most selective colleges — defined…as those accepting fewer than 50 percent — nearly half said the essay was of considerable importance. In fact, these colleges give more weight to the essay than grade-point average. Let me restate that: one writing assignment is more critical to a high school senior’s chances of getting into many top colleges than his or her average grades from four years of high school.”
Of course, all this is not to say that academic prowess—in the form of SAT/ACT results, GPA, participation in AP classes, and the like—isn’t important in its own right. In fact, academic ability is perhaps the foremost measurement by which elite universities and colleges determine what applicants are best suited for life at their respective institutions. But, in this day and age, it’s not uncommon for an applicant to boast a top tier GPA, an impressive roster of AP courses, and a sterling SAT/ACT score. Therefore, the value of the college admissions essay is that it offers an alternatively valuable take on well-performing applicants. College admissions officers look to the essay portion as a way of humanizing an applicant beyond their stats, in order to understand his or her specific journey, personality, and passions.
Barmak Nassirian, Associate Executive Director at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, further underscored the crucial role college essays play in the admissions process, saying, “Admissions officers are running out of calibration devices. All else being the same or similar, the essay suddenly becomes meaningful because it becomes a tie breaker.”
Now that the pivotal role of the college essay is better understood amongst college counselors and tutors, how can students capitalize on the essay portion of a college application for the distinctive opportunity that it is? That’s where a professional college counselor comes in. Barbara Farmer PhD has helped students get into this nation’s most elite schools.
From private, one-on-one tutors and small group classes, to summer intensives and more—we offer the best in college preparedness. We support students in building lasting writing skills, so that come college application season, students are equipped with guidance, resources, and tools to compellingly showcase who they are to admissions officers. When students build confidence in their writing ability, they are able to convey their truest selves, relay their personality, and best position themselves for success as a college applicant.