Imagine you work in college admissions at the school you yourself hope to attend. You’re reading through a huge pile of applications, which are broken up into three groups. One small group is for those rare students whose scores and grades are so good that a mediocre essay wouldn’t be fatal (they’re in). Another group’s scores and grades are so bad that a great essay couldn’t help them (they’re out). The third group, by far the largest, is full of students whose scores and grades are good but not great. How would you tell who to accept and who to deny in that huge group? More than anything else, you’d read their essays! The essays would tell you who these students actually are and what they would bring to your campus. That’s the importance of college essays. For that reason, they can and will make or break your application.
OK, that sounds intimidating, but it also means that the college essay is a huge opportunity. It’s an opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd. After all, almost everything aside from your essay is impersonal; none of it says much about who you are. And colleges do want to know who you are. They don’t want to admit students who have good standardized test scores but wouldn’t contribute anything to life on campus. They want to admit students who would be a good addition to a community, and neither test scores nor grades show that at all.
So, that brings us to the different ways your essay can matter to your application:
Show what your effect on campus will be.
First of all, your essay can show what your impact will be on campus. If you already know that you’re going to develop a passion of yours in college, the essay is where you can make that clear. For school-specific essays, you might even be able to speak about a particular group on campus. If you’ve developed a love for journalism in high school, for instance, you can showcase your excitement about continuing to journalism in college.
Prove that you’re the real deal.
That’s the extracurricular that’s most important to you? Model UN, robotics, volunteering? Regardless, thousands of other students are sure to list similar extracurriculars. Many of your fellow applicants did that activity just because it looked good on their application. Your essay is your chance to show that your passion is real. It’s a way to show how you became the person who actually cares about what your application claims you care about.
Dive into something new.
You probably have lots of characteristics, stories, and interests that don’t fit in anywhere else in the rest of your application. If you love to cook elaborate breakfasts or read old English poetry, you can’t just list that kind of thing as an extracurricular activity. And it likely won’t show up in recommendation letters, either. But you can talk about those interests in your essay. You can reveal some of the things that define you in all your weird, delightful specificity. If you don’t know where to start, it’s not because you don’t have any weird and delightful character traits! It’s probably because you haven’t yet worked with a Mindfish tutor to help you find them and bring them to life on the page.
For help in identifying a terrific topic for your college application essays, or help in revising your existing draft, reach out to us at 720-204-1041 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.