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College 101

Essay vs. the Rest of the Application
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

You have twelve different college applications to fill out. Each application requires a different essay. You scream, you cry, because it looks like you're going to spend the next few months of your life typing out mini-Great American Novels. Or maybe not?

The Rest Of The Application

A significant portion of the college application is made up of forms. Simple, easy-breezy forms. You write down your name, your address, blah blah blah. You also write down two sets of numbers: your GPA and your ACT or SAT scores.

Say your numbers are stellar. Like, you-are-one-of-the-smartest-people-in-the-world stellar. Well, chances are, those numbers are enough to get you into most, if not all, of the colleges you're applying to.

The problem is, while your GPA and test scores show that you're smart, they really don't tell an admissions committee much else. What are you passionate about? What global issue do you plan to spend the rest of your life fixing? James T. Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard?

The Essay

Your essay and letters of recommendation are the subjective portions of the application, and they exist to give a college a picture of you as a person...and to possibly save your butt.

For example, it's your junior year in high school, and your parents get divorced and your grandma dies and your dog dies and your house burns down. You're depressed, and your GPA suffers. It's not that you aren't smart; it's not that you aren't ambitious, with big dreams and plans. Your numbers just suck, because there's a lot more going on in your life than AP European History.

Time to deploy the essay.

This is your chance to show that not only are you a fabulous writer with interesting ideas, but that you are a person...a person who will benefit from an Ivy League education. A person who will make that Ivy League institution a cooler place for other students to go to school. A person who will graduate and go on to do incredible things that will reflect well on the university where you earned your degree.

While an amazing essay can’t make up for a dismal transcript, a well-written couple of pages filled with personality and insight can certainly sway admissions in your favor if your application is borderline.

Expending Time and Effort on a World-Class Essay

A great essay will even the odds on your getting accepted if you have a decent GPA and test scores....
A great essay will make you a shoo-in if you have an incredible GPA and test scores.Um, there aren't any.

The take-away is this: No matter how perfect your numbers are, you will always benefit from a well-written essay. And, now that we've convinced you of the importance of writing an application essay worthy of John Steinbeck, here's the nitty-gritty on how to get 'er done.

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