How Much do College Application Essays Matter?

College essays often throw students for a loop. Yet, they are the one place admission officers can learn about them and their circumstances. With most colleges receiving more applications than they have seats, the essay is your student’s chance to put a personal face to the grades and scores. An essay has the potential to sway an admissions committee when candidates are identical in every other respect, or even when your scores aren’t of the same caliber as others.
 
“If a friend of yours finds an essay in the corridor and reads it, he should be able to identify he’s reading about you,” says MIT admissions counselor, Holly Hinman. “That’s how the essay is supposed to read.”
 
According to University of Chicago, “Give careful thought to the questions asked, but don’t try to write the answers that you think we want to hear; give us the answers that tell us about you. Do not be formulaic.” 
 
As one UC Berkeley representative put it, “don’t repeat yourself. Use the essay to showcase a side of you that the other sections, including other essays, don’t.”
 
Finally, pay attention to the craft of writing. An essay that stands apart is one that’s authentic and brimming with the student’s  voice, and not that of a parent.