How Important is My College Application Essay?

The college application essay is usually one step in the college application process. Colleges use this essay to get a feel for who you are and what you bring to the table. Schools will compare your essay to those written by other students to determine who is the best fit. Though you might not think that your essay is very important or as important as your GPA and test scores, it allows the school to know more about you and lets you present yourself to the admissions board in lieu of an interview.

Explain Possible Issues

One reason the essay is so important is because it lets you explain any possible issues on your record. You might have had some bad grades one semester because you lost a friend or a loved one. When writing your essay, you can explain your reason for those low grades. The essay also lets you explain why you did or did not do any volunteer work or why you decided to take some time off from a club or a recreational activity that you listed being a member of on your application.

Show Your Writing Skills

The number one reason why the college application essay is so important is because it lets you show your writing skills. Writing college term papers is significantly harder than writing high school essays. Schools look at factors like the way you formatted your essay and the words you used. Using a thesaurus to find large words when simple words would do just fine is a sign that you care more about looking smart than actually being smart. Colleges want to know that you can present your case or answer a question in a concise way.

Follow Instructions

Colleges also want to know that you can follow instructions, which is why many require that you write an essay. As you look over the application, you’ll find that you must write a response in a set number of words, which is usually between 250 and 500 words. Those who go over this word count show the school they either didn’t read or decided not to follow the instructions. While some schools provide a writing prompt, others will give multiple questions and ask you to choose just one to answer. Students may skip the instructions and write essays for each one, which shows they cannot follow directions.

Your Interests

Paige Carlotti, of USA Today College, recommends writing about your interests and what you want to talk about rather than trying to write what you think the college wants to see. Colleges want students who can think independently and do not need someone to stand by and hold their hands. The essay gives you the chance to express yourself and show the college what matters to you, whether it’s helping your peers, volunteering at an animal shelter or working on your art. Writing an essay lets you say everything you would say in an interview.

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When applying to colleges, you’ll usually find that you need to write a short essay of around 500 words or less. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it isn’t very important. The college application essay shows that you are capable of following instructions and that you can think for yourself.