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    How Important is that College Application Essay? 

    Posted by Samantha Genzer

    When applying to college, the sheer number of requirements — standardized test scores, resumes, letters of recommendation, GPA, and the college application essay — can feel daunting. Each element plays a specific role in the admissions process, but the college application essay holds a unique position.

    While grades and test scores are quantifiable and straightforward but give little insight into what makes you tick as a person, the essay offers a critical opportunity to add depth to your application, allowing you to express your personality, aspirations, and views.

    What is its importance?

    The college essay is your big moment in the spotlight when it comes to snagging that spot at your dream school. Think of it as your personal solo on the stage of selective college admissions.

    Essays give admissions committees insight into applicants’ character, thinking patterns, and potential fit within the school culture — something you can’t intuit from numeric data.

    You have complete control over your essay. Take advantage of that opportunity to shape how the admissions committee perceives you. You’re more than a set of numbers — you’re a vibrant, three-dimensional person with unique contributions to make.

    In an applicant pool where many students may have similar academic credentials, a compelling, well-crafted essay can set you apart. In it, you can highlight:

    • Distinctive life experiences
    • Stories of personal resilience
    • Deep insights
    • Ambitious future aspirations

    Use the application essay as a platform to show how your interests align with a school's programs and community values and why you're an ideal fit for the institution.

    A successful essay convinces the admissions officers how you’ll help enhance the school’s community meaningfully — and not just prove your ability to succeed academically.

    You might be surprised by how much weight the admissions committee gives the essay. The top 250 schools count your essay as 25% of your overall application, followed by grades (20%), test scores (15%), and letters of recommendation (10%).

    The Role of Writing Skills and Authenticity in the College Essay

    Want to really wow the admissions officers? Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. Ask a trusted friend (or teacher) to give it a read. They shouldn’t change your voice and style, because the college pros reading it can tell when something’s authentic — or not. But you do want to present something that’s polished and memorable, in all the right ways.

    Effective writing skills are crucial in crafting your college essay, that’s true. And highlighting your writing prowess signals your readiness for the rigorous assignments waiting for you in college. But authenticity is important, too. Use your essay as a vehicle to communicate with the admissions officers, providing an honest, engaging glimpse into your life and values.

    Don’t be afraid to show your personality. Show who you are and how you see yourself contributing to the college community. Why? Because colleges want to enroll the movers and the shakers, those students who’ll embrace the campus experience by assuming leadership roles or participating in community service or extracurriculars.

    In other words, use your essay to show why the decision to admit you to that college or university will make the school a better place because you’re there.

    Advice for Writing a Compelling College Application Essay

    The countdown has begun. You’ve identified your dream (and safe) colleges, and now it’s time to fill out all the forms — and write those essays. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process (hopefully with as little stress as possible).

    • Begin early: Allot plenty of time for brainstorming, writing, and revising. A rushed essay rarely captures the depth and detail of a thoughtfully written one.
    • Maintain authenticity: Always write in your own voice. Let your personality and style shine through!
    • Solicit constructive feedback: Have someone you trust review your essay. Here’s the caveat: ask them to provide constructive feedback and help catch any grammatical errors. What they shouldn’t do? Rewrite it. Remember, it’s your story about your journey (or whatever question you’re answering) —- not theirs.
    • Revise extensively: Ensure that your essay is concise, coherent, and free of grammatical errors. Use programs like Grammarly, Paperpal, and EasyBib.
    • Use AI appropriately: Don’t use AI to write  your essay. Allow your own thoughts and tone to flow through the essay. You don’t want a stiff, robotic essay. Many articles discuss the ethical implications and results of using AI to write a college essay. Check out an article here: Can ChatGPT get into Harvard?

    To learn how to write the perfect college application essay, check out these TeenLife blogs:

    Don’t just brush off that college application essay as another box to tick. It’s a total game-changer, as it could seriously lift your chances of getting into your dream school, especially when the competition is fierce. It’s your shot to show off the unique you, bringing out all those great qualities that your grades and scores can’t tell the whole story about. So, pour your heart and soul into those 650 words — it’s not just an essay, it’s possibly the most impactful piece you’ll pen on your journey to college.

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    Samantha Genzer

    Samantha Genzer

    Samantha Genzer is a student at Boston University, where she is pursuing degrees in Journalism, Political Science, and Business Administration. As the City Section Editor of the university's newspaper, The Daily Free Press, she channels her passion for writing into exploring and reporting on urban issues. Samantha is also a sports broadcast journalist for GSMC Sports Network, working on a show titled "Hoops and Heels Women's Sports Podcast." Samantha has also participated in numerous plays, infusing her love for the stage into her creative expressions. Her dedication to both the arts and journalism defines her unique approach to storytelling.