How Important is the College Admission Essay Right Now?

By Huntington Learning Center

As every parent of a college-bound high school student knows right now, the last 14 months have been filled with change—and the college admission process has certainly seen its share of impact. The SAT/ACT have been made optional by many colleges and universities. Many colleges have adjusted their deadlines and requirements. But what about the college admission essay? Is it still important?

Short answer: yes! The college admission essay remains one of the factors that colleges consider when evaluating applicants. The most recent (2019) edition of the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s State of College Admission report even says that while grades and academic achievement top of the list of factors that college admission teams consider when evaluating candidates, the next highest factor is the admission essay.

Lots of students use the Common Application (used by nearly 900 colleges and universities), which includes essay prompts. For the 2021-2022 application cycle, there are seven essay prompts to choose from, but the Common Application has also included an optional COVID-19 and natural disaster question in the “Additional Information” section where students can describe the impact of recent events on them, their families and their learning environment.

If your student is applying to a school that requires or strongly suggests an essay, encourage your student to treat the process seriously. This is their chance to share more about who they are, what they have overcome, their future goals and so much more.

With summer coming up, now is a good time for students applying to colleges in fall 2021 and spring 2022 to start thinking about their college admission essay. Teachers can review students’ drafts over the summer and students can come into Huntington Learning Center for help. As your student begins to work on the essay, here are a few tips to share:

  1. Aim for authentic. The essay is intended to share who your student is “off paper.” Your student should be themselves, not strive to sound like the perfect candidate or student. Sincerity goes a long way.
  2. Brainstorm appropriately. Your student has lived 18 (give or take) years and has many experiences that have shaped them. The essay should not be undertaken without proper planning and thought. Remind your student that this is their opportunity to discuss what has made them who they are and why.
  3. Remember that every word counts. Every school has different word count requirements for essays, but there are always guidelines to follow. In other words, your student does not have unlimited space to ramble and veer off topic. Your student needs to use their words wisely and make sure every single sentence is tight, coherent and important.
  4. Stick to best practices. As mentioned, planning is critical for creating a compelling essay! Remind your student to follow a detailed plan that looks something like this:
    • Build a timeline that includes first draft, teacher review, revision time, second draft, revision time, final draft, editing and proofing.
    • Treat the brainstorming process as part of the writing process. Your student shouldn’t “wing it” when choosing what to write about and diving into the writing.
    • When editing, make sure the essay addresses the prompt, is not generic, has no errors, leaves an impression, has a strong conclusion and paints the student in an accurate light.

Many students turn to Huntington over summer for help with their college admission essays and overall applications. If your student needs help editing or is struggling to get started, call us! We’ll work with your student to improve those writing skills so they can create a great college admission essay.