Importance of the Essay

Read what schools say about the importance of the essay in making their admission decisions.

“We want to hear your individual voice in your writing. Write essays that reflect who you are and write in a natural style. Begin work on these essays early, and feel free to ask your parents, teachers and friends to provide constructive feedback. Ask if the essay’s tone sounds like your voice. While asking for feedback is suggested, do not enlist hired assistance in the writing of your essays.”
— Stanford University
“The personal statement is a vital part of your application, and is often the most difficult to write.
It’s not a resume; you are not simply listing your achievements as evidence of your qualifications…..Rather, the personal statement provides a narrative of who you are, your interests and goals for the future….”
— Cornell College
“Your personal statement demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want our reviewers to know about you apart from courses, grades and test scores? Your personal statement is your chance to answer this question.”
— Colorado State University
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“Both the Common Application and the Coalition Application include a one-page personal essay. In addition, both include two short essay questions that are specific to Duke and that offer you the opportunity to share your unique interests and perspective. One of the short essay questions is required, and the other is optional—and yes, it is truly optional!”
— Duke University
“To sum up, we read your essay (and the short answer sections of your app) to see your writing skills at work and to learn more about you as an individual. Your essay can be one of the most memorable parts of our experience with you in the admissions process, and we look forward to seeing what you send our way this year!”
— Gonzaga University
“Your college essay will be one of nearly 50,000 that we’ll be reading in admissions – use this opportunity to your advantage. Your essay gives us insights into your personality; it helps us determine if your relationship with the school will be mutually beneficial.”
— University of Michigan
“Essays and letters of recommendation contribute greatly to our overall assessment of an applicant’s personal characteristics and their potential to contribute to our campus.”
— University of Denver
“As part of our holistic review, we refer to the essays you submit to understand more about you. What you choose to share gives us an idea of who you are and what you want to accomplish as part of our community.
Your essays might also be used for campus program and scholarship review. Tell us about you and your unique story to help us know you beyond your GPA and test scores.”
— University of Wisconsin
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“We carefully read each essay you submit, as they can help us get to know you much better than your transcripts and test scores. While essays are a good indication of how well you write, they are also windows into how you think, what you value, and how you see the world. Your numbers tell us what kind of student you are. Your essays tell us what sort of person you are—and provide a glimpse into the intangibles you might bring to our community.”
— University of Pennsylvania
“The UO is interested in learning more about you. Write an essay of 500 words or less that shares information that we cannot find elsewhere on your application. Any topic you choose is welcome. Some ideas you might consider include your future ambitions and goals, a special talent, extracurricular activity, or unusual interest that sets you apart from your peers, or a significant experience that influenced your life.”
— University of Oregon
“What’s a layer of your life not highlighted in your application that would add to Whitman’s community?”
— Whitman College