The role of the essay in the admission process
How important is my essay in the admission decision?
It depends. Except at the most selective schools, if your GPA and SAT scores are both remarkably high, then as long as you don’t write something patently stupid or offensive in your essays, your GPA and SAT scores will probably convince the admission committee at the school to admit you. On the other hand, if a particular school is a long-shot for you then even a great admission essay will probably not in itself persuade the admission committee to admit you. The fact is this: The closer you are to the borderline, the more significant a role your essay will play in the admission decision.
Can I be assured that someone at the college will read my essay(s)?
Most colleges will tell you essentially: “Assuming that you have submitted a complete application and have met our application deadline, your admission essay(s) will be read by at least one person in our office.” Generally speaking, this is true. However, smaller schools—especially private liberal arts colleges—with small applicant pools tend to pay greater attention than larger colleges and universities to applicants’ essays. Also, at some schools with large applicant pools, essays by applicants whose GPA and SAT scores fail to meet minimum or threshold requirements might go unread.
Who will read and evaluate my admission essay(s)?
Procedures vary among schools. Typically, however, one admission officer will read your essay(s) and write an evaluation. Admission officers are typically graduates, or alumni, of the school for which they work and are hired to evaluate applications; they do not, however, make final admission decisions. If you remain a viable candidate after the first “read,” your essay(s) will then be scrutinized more closely by another admission officer or perhaps by the admission director or assistant director. Some schools (particularly small liberal arts colleges) will subject your essays to further scrutiny by circulating your file among members of an admission committee comprised of perhaps five to seven people (admission officials, faculty members, and possibly students).
How do schools evaluate my admission essays?
Evaluation methods vary somewhat among schools. Some schools, particularly larger institutions that process many applications, use a multiple-scoring system in which each essay receives separate scores for content, style, and mechanics. Other schools take a more holistic approach, relying on written comments by evaluators as well as dialogue among members of the admission committee.
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