Admissions and Student Blog

powerful essay

The Purpose of an Admission Essay

For a lot of students, the biggest source of anxiety in the college application process is writing the essay. But we here in the Admissions office are here to help! We also like reading good application essays. So, to aid you in achieving both of these noble ends (if we may say so ourselves), here are some tips and information that we hope will demystify the college essay for you.

  • We really do read your essays. Our application review takes a holistic look at you as an applicant, and a crucial part of that review includes reading your essay carefully.
  • It helps us assess your writing skills. We don’t use the ACT Writing Test or the Writing score on the SAT in reviewing your application for admission and scholarships, so your essay and the other written parts of your application are the ways we gauge your writing skills. Treat your essay like something you’d turn in for a grade in an English class. Exhibit your best writing—free of errors, clear and concise prose, vivid word choices, and an engaging topic. The same goes for the other written short answer sections of the application. Put your strongest writing on display there too.
  • It makes the application more personal. Your essay helps us gain real insight about who you are, in your own words. It gives us insight to who you are beyond your activity list or your transcript.

  • Write about something that’s important to you. Maybe that’s a memorable life experience, an important figure in your life, an issue that stirs your passions, or a key value that animates how you live. The fact is, you have great freedom to choose a topic that suits you. But here’s an important caveat to that: make sure that you choose a topic that conveys something about you personally. Give us the story. Show us that passion through a narrative, rather than simply telling us about it.

Finally, some quick tips about what to do and what not to do when writing your essay:

  • Avoid clichés. Given the number of apps we read, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll encounter essays with similar topics. But your voice is uniquely yours, and you can make your essay stand out by using your own words and writing in your own voice.
  • Proofread, get feedback from others. Getting feedback from readers is really helpful for understanding what’s working and what’s not in your writing. One disclaimer, though: Your parents can be a great resource for proofreading help, but they shouldn’t be writing or rewriting your essay for you. There’s a difference between soliciting their feedback and outsourcing the actual work to them. The integrity of your application depends on you respecting that difference and submitting writing that is truly yours, not your parents’.

  • Have fun! Easier said than done, we know. But in our experience, students who seemed to have fun with their essays tend write ones that are fun for us to read.

To sum up, we read your essay (and the short answer sections of your app) to see your writing skills at work and to learn more about you as an individual. Your essay can be one of the most memorable parts of our experience with you in the admissions process, and we look forward to seeing what you send our way this year!