What is the Purpose of the College Application Essay?

College essays allow applicants to showcase their personalities, backgrounds, values, and writing abilities. They provide a voice beyond just grades and test scores.

Essays help admissions officers learn about applicants as individuals. They look for the applicant’s unique perspective, experiences, and potential contributions to the school community.

A thoughtful, well-written essay can positively influence admissions decisions by bringing the student to life.

Who Reads Application Essays?

College essays are typically read by admissions officers and the application review committee. Their role is gaining a holistic understanding of applicants.

At more selective schools, the entire admissions committee may review essays to gain insights into prospective students.

Admissions consultants may also evaluate essays during the revision process to provide feedback.

What Topics Do Essays Cover?

Common college essay prompts ask students to write about:

  • Challenging experiences that shaped personal growth
  • Meaningful achievements, activities, or hobbies
  • Intellectual interests and future academic plans
  • Important influences like family, culture, or role models
  • Perspectives gained from backgrounds, identities, or values

The essay provides an opportunity to tell one’s own unique story.

How are Essays Evaluated?

Key criteria admissions officers look for include:

  • Unique insights into the student’s personality, values, and goals
  • Engaging writing style reflecting the applicant’s voice
  • Thoughtful reflection demonstrating maturity and self-awareness
  • Strong organization and logical flow of ideas
  • Minimal grammatical errors and clear writing
  • Adherence to essay prompt guidelines
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What Essay Formats Do Applications Require?

Common app essays come in several formats including:

  • Main personal statement essay
  • Short supplemental essays on given prompts
  • Response to quote prompts
  • Imaginative hypothetical scenario questions

Schools may also require creative submissions like videos.

How Long Should Application Essays Be?

Length requirements vary but are often around 500 words or 650-1000 words for the primary essay.

Supplemental essays may have tighter limits from just 50-300 words.

Following the provided guidelines shows an applicant’s attention to detail.

What are Some Tips for Writing a Strong Essay?

Strategic tips include:

  • Start early allowing time for multiple drafts
  • Brainstorm meaningful stories and messages to share
  • Maintain a conversational first-person voice
  • Ask others to proofread for errors
  • Only share comfortable details appropriate for evaluation
  • Relate experiences back to academic interests when possible
  • Remain positive focusing on strengths and lessons learned

What Resources Can Help With Essay Writing?

Helpful resources include:

  • School writing centers for feedback
  • English teachers and counselors
  • Admissions representative guidance
  • Family and friends for perspective
  • Online writing samples and tips


College application essays allow applicants to come to life as unique individuals with passions and potential. Taking the time to craft a thoughtful personal statement and supplemental essays provides important context during the admissions process. With planning, reflection, and revision, students can present their authentic stories and voices.