In short, essays are one of the top three application items Admissions officers use to assess an applicant.
1. First, Admissions representatives look at your curriculum and grades. Has the student challenged him/herself? What kind of grades did he/she get in Honors, AP, or IB classes? Did the student balance a full school schedule with robust extracurricular activities? In short, they are working to determine if you will be academically successful at their school.
Plus, most applicants aren’t thinking about college professors, but that’s one reason academic performance is an important consideration. College professors at each university must teach at a pace at which most students can keep up. If an applicant looks like he/she won’t be able to keep up and maintain strong academic performance, that is certainly considered a negative. The opposite can be inferred as well.
Unequivocally, grades and curriculum are most the most important part of an application. I often get asked about the importance of senior year grades. You should certainly maintain your grades senior year. If you get deferred, schools will request your 7th, and maybe 8th, semester grades and those grades can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. Do well in school, it’s cool!
2. Secondly, Admissions reps look at your standardized test scores. Yes, overall, standardized test scores are becoming somewhat ubiquitous, yet they are an important indicator of a student’s college readiness and a predictor of collegiate academic performance.
Standardized test scores are an important component of the college application, and the score can certainly help a student gain scholarship money, but they aren’t a final determinant of acceptance. In fact, last year, The University of Notre Dame turned down ⅓ of the applicants who had a perfect standardized test score. Why? Because test scores aren’t everything. The University saw something in the curriculum or essays that helped them decide whom with perfect scores to reject or accept.
3. The third factor is essays!
Essays are an extremely important part of the application and can certainly mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. Essays are an important to tell your story, market yourself, and showcase what static quantitative numbers and grades cannot. Your ability to reason, write, and think can be clearly showcased through essays.
Essays are a crucial way for applicants to differentiate themselves from other similarly qualified applicants. While essays likely cannot counteract a terrible GPA and weak courseload, they certainly can be used to strengthen any application. I have worked with students who have average test scores but literally write their way into school.
Use your essays to share why you’re a good fit for that college, who you are, and how you think.
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