2 Answers

Janice Kirn-Sottilaro Points0
The application essay is essential to your overall chances of being accepted. Although we know many schools will say to guidance counselors at private department meetings when they visit high schools that, the essay does not really have an impact well, they actually do.

I think what admissions reps. are trying to get across is that for the larger institutions, numbers are the first line of defense (GPA/test scores). But there comes a time when an admissions rep. must select one student out of let's say, 10. Of those 10 applicants, each one may look exactly the same in regard to the # of AP/Honors classes taken, GPA and test scores so how do they pick that 1 out of the 10: essay and letters of recommendation.

The essay is your one chance (short of a required or voluntary interview) to let the school know who you are and why they should take a chance on you. When I say "take a chance" remember they are seeking those students that will be successful on their campus. A large part of finding that success is not only one's affinity for academics but, how one's personality will match to a campus and the obstacles they may face. For instance, a student with a 4.3 GPA and great SAT/ACT scores needs to make sure that a school like Vassar, believes this particular person will deal with frustration well, will be able to grow through adversity, lead by example, reflect good choices be they social or academic, open to diversity, etc.

During my first year of being a guidance counselor, one of my students was accepted to Harvard University. I reached out to the admissions office at Harvard and asked why, why was he accepted. I needed to understand as a new counselor in order to correctly advise students down the road. The response was so simple. "James" had a 4.4 GPA and exceptionally high SAT scores although not perfect. His out of class activities were limited to 3 but heavy involvement in each still, he was not a captain nor president in any of them. But, the admissions rep. went on to say his essay, his interview, his recommendations all reflected to them, a young man of strong, solid character, with a love of learning and curiosity hard to match.

I never forgot that conversation. This particular student wrote an essay on how traveling to other countries over the years taught him that "human beings have needs, basic needs of love, food, shelter but how we meet those needs vary from nation to nation. " The essay explained how a young man of financial freedom offered by his parents as he grew, found a level of understanding, a commonality between cultures. That commonality changed how he interacted with others and the course he wanted to set for himself as an adult.

So the essay is, essential! Some will tell you no. Some colleges will say you do not have to submit one but I say, go for it. If you really want in, you really need to go the full road, inclusive of an essay.

Good Luck!

Janice Kirn-Sottlaro
Jon Semcer Points0
There are two types of essays: the one that is required and the other that is optional. Required essays can be of several types as well. The college may subscribe to the Common Application and also require that the student complete an additional page of information. including another essay. Required essay can be limited to words and topic. The 'free" essay allows the student to write on any topic they want. The first evaluation comes in the form of determining if the student followed directions in terms of word count " in the space provided"and topic. Please, do not becomes obsessed with the word count. If your essay is five words over its OK. " In the space provided" means exactly that -- no extra paper. These are fairly objective evaluations. The subjective part comes with the reader's impression of your work. Questions that are reviewed in the reader's mind are -- use of grammar, ability to communicate clearly, choice of topic ( did the candidate write on the topic?, for a free essay the reader will also decided how INTERESTING was the topic). Keep in mind the admission staff at schools that require an essay or essays may read up to 1,000 applications in two week period. After a while certain topics read over and over again( for a free essay ) can become boring. Some examples, "My summer trip to France", " Scoring the winning goal", "My favorite teacher", " Changing the environment", ' My summer at camp". Unless something really unusual happen at camp, during the game or in France or with a favorite teacher, try to avoid these topics So, what is the reader looking for in the essay.? The reader wants to learn about your character, your morals, what you stand for, what did you learn from the experience , how have you grown, what impact did this experience have on your life? The essay should reveal information about you that the application/ transcript does not reveal. The reader wants to get to know you by the essay. If you reveal very little about yourself -- what makes you tick, what drives you, what has influenced your life, then the reader only has numbers and letters of recommendations to go. with. Remember -- schools that require essays are looking to build a class that will fit in academically, bring energy and new ideas to the campus, they want students with different view points, with different experiences and students who will bring something to the campus besides smarts. In the list of factors that influence admit decisions you have ( in rank order)--- grades, courses selected, grade point average, strength of schedule, test scores, quality of the high school, letters of recommendation, school/ community activities ,interview, essays, demonstrated level of interest in the campus by the student. A good essay will not get you admitted if you are an academic risk and on the other hand a poorly written essay can raise serious questions about your motivation / desire to attend. Have a great senior year and all the best to you. Jon Semcer

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