Admission News

College Admission and the Personal Essay

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College admissions people will tell you the college application essay is essential! First, they say, admitting the right fit to their college is not all about numbers! In fact, colleges are actually seeking less numerical information: dropping SAT requirements, taking the emphasis off diversity like geography, race, and religion, and even disregarding grade point averages.

The essay, they also claim, shows a student’s skill in writing. A good writer is a good student and thinker. But does the present personal essay measure those qualities? First, most are adult edited before they hit admissions officers’ desks, and secondly applicants are not required to write succinct, persuasive, and well-organized essays on issues. Rather the present personal essay prompts usually ask for personal narratives that are creative. They are more about feeling than about thinking.

Naomi Shaefer Riley wrote earlier this year that there ought to be a change in college application essay requirements. These essays would prompt students to show they are aware of ideas, events, and issues in their world and demonstrate they can argue and draw conclusions. For example, Riley suggests writing about how the iPhone has changed the world for good or bad. Such a topic would evoke knowledge about the past and present and show an applicant’s capacity to evaluate as well as write persuasively.

Would an essay such as the one she suggested above tell admissions more about the possible success of a student in college than an essay written about how a big football game win changed a young man’s feeling about his ability to succeed or how watching the “The Voice” has inspired a young musician?

What do you think?