Spark Admissions Blog

Applications, Essays, Where to Apply, Strategy, and More

A Quick Note about College Application Essays

April 12, 2013
Written by Rachel B. Rubin

Once your application is received, admissions offices generally read it and then put you in one of three piles: “reject,” “accept,” and “maybe.” The greatest likelihood that your essay will be read is if you are in the “maybe” pile. For that reason, your essay must be stellar, since it may very well determine whether you’ll be moving into the “reject” or “accept” pile. 

Eric J. Furda, Dean of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, recently stated that one in seven, or one in eight, essays played a role in admissions decisions. While that seems like a relatively small number, it means that student essays influenced the fate of approximately 13% of applicants. Student essays can also be a significant factor in admissions decisions when applicants haven’t been interviewed. 

In addition, there’s always the question about whether application essays are used to measure writing skills or to better understand an applicant. In my experience, it’s largely the latter. Assuming your essay isn’t written poorly (meaning with several punctuation or grammatical errors), essays are used to identify key applicant characteristics that weren’t found elsewhere, such as one’s values, ethics, and strength of character. 

So spend time thinking about what you’d like to write, draft and redraft your essays, have others read them for content and style, and discuss them with others. But always try to remember the goal: to show an authentic side of yourself that will help admissions committees get know you better and want you to attend their school.