Writing an Outstanding College Application Essay Is Not Enough

You need more than a sterling application essay to get into top-tier schools like Yale. – Courtesy photo

By Lucy Benton, Guest Contributor

Of course, your college application essay is not enough to get accepted. Just look at Harvard’s 2018 admission statistics: out of 39,506 applicants, only 2,000 got accepted.

Clearly, not only your application essay is at play here. College admission is a holistic process that involves a lot more than meets the eye.

While Pasadena students are waiting for feedback from colleges, as college admission deadlines vary from Aug. 18 to the middle of September, I would like to talk about the reasons why the college application essay is not enough, and what admission officers are looking for in college applicants.

Disclaimer: despite what you might think, admission officers do read all college application essays. They are required to do so, as they need to take notes, which later serve as an important factor in their final decision.

But apparently, reading an essay is not enough, and there are some additional aspects that can influence the final decision substantially. Let’s take a look at them.

  1. Meeting the Academic Threshold

Acceptance rates highly depend on which courses the student has taken during high school and other education-related activities. They show how well a student will perform at college. Anthony Ferguson Jr., admission counselor from Drake University says that students, who explore different classes, activities, and opportunities, immediately grab his attention.

Grades and academic performance are among the most important criteria for college admission officers. But before taking a final decision, admission officers also want to know that students have a strong foundation to cope with difficult college assignments and have the ability to handle difficult college courses.

Admission officers say that they seldom make a positive decision in favor of a student that isn’t ready to handle the academic workload at college. This factor, of course, depends on a college, but most higher education institutions want to see students capable of managing the academic threshold.

  1. Statements in the Essay May Not Reflect the Reality

You might have a very strong and persuasive college application essay. And college admission officers may be rooting for you until they find out that the statements in your essay do not correspond to the reality.

In an interview with Joanne Purge, a former admission officer at California Institute of Technology and an application essay specialist at A-Writer, she told us a very interesting story she had to deal with.

“Once I came across a very creative and persuasive college application, and all other criteria were in favor of the student. I was almost ready to make a decision in favor of the student when I found out that there was a decline in the grades over the last school year. The student failed to address this problem in the college paper, thus, the application god declined.”

For many admission officers, it’s a kind of a pet peeve when a student fails to admit some downfalls. From a student’s standpoint, these actions are quite understandable, as they fear that they’ll get rejected. But lying in your application essay is not a guarantee that the truth will not be unveiled. Moreover, if you’ve had a decline in your grades, you still could be accepted, if you admit the truth.

  1. Extracurricular Activities

High-profile colleges value the students who do a lot of extracurricular activities. Dr. Jennifer B. Bernstein in her blog told about the reasons why students often get rejected from Harvard and Penn: “A son of one of the faculty’s members got rejected from Penn, and the parent arranged the meeting with the admission board. They later found out that the student got rejected because of the insufficient description of his extracurricular activities.”

Many students know about this factor and try to take as many extracurricular activities during their last year at high school as possible. But high-profile colleges look for unusual activities, both academic and extracurricular. Admission officers expect that students will surprise them with unusual achievements, as they are looking for the ambitious and versatile personalities.

In a recent interview with the Harvard Gazette, William R. Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard College, claims that standardized test scores and outstanding college application essays don’t matter when admission officers have nearly 40,000 applicants and can accept only 2,000.

Admission officers have to pay attention to the students who show extraordinary commitment, drive, and passion. Extracurricular activities show how much a student is dedicated to contributing to a certain field. That is why, for some colleges, this is a very important factor for college admission officers.

Don’t Get Discouraged, Though

If you realized that you made some of the mistakes that were described in this article, it doesn’t mean that you failed. Although an outstanding college application essay is not enough, you still have all the chances to get into the college of your dreams.

The college admission essay is one of the best ways to show your personality, so if you’ve done it right, don’t worry – it gives you a really good chance to get accepted.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.