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By Elizabeth LaScala

The Truth About The College Essay

Uploaded: Sep 27, 2012

In August the 2012-13 edition of the Common Application was released. At the same time or soon after, many schools released updated supplements, several of which request at least one additional essay (these supplemental essay requirements are in addition to the central essay and short response about an extracurricular activity required on the Common Application).

As college admissions becomes more competitive, and more students are applying to more schools, colleges are increasingly using a student's letters of recommendation, interviews, resume, and essays to get to know the applicant in a more personal way than just the numbers.

Colleges ask you to write essays because they want to get to know your background, interests, goals, triumphs, failures, likes, and aversions in your own voice. When reading an essay, an admissions officer will try to determine: Who are you? Will you make a valuable contribution to our campus community? What type of character traits do you possess? How have you shown your intellectual vitality?

In order to properly plan your time in the coming months, first read through each application that you plan to submit to determine the number and nature of the essays you'll have to write.
Let's take an average college list with 12 schools for an exceptionally high-achieving student who wants to study business:

? Four reach schools: University of California Berkeley (Haas), Cornell University (Dyson), Georgetown University (McDonough), New York University (Stern)
? Four target schools: University of Michigan, Babson College, Emory University, University of Southern California
? Three safe schools: American University (Kogod), Brandeis University, Bentley University

With this list, there are at least 18 distinct written responses! That's a large number of essays, and each requires a considerable amount of time, effort, and thought.

In addition, many schools want to know why a student is applying to that particular college. The "Why Our College?" essay is often the most important. It can be the dealmaker. There are seven such essays on the above list of 11 schools. Although there are many different versions of this question, the gist remains the same. Colleges look carefully at these responses because it is to their advantage to select applicants who have taken the time to understand their school. Students who are willing to invest the time necessary to learn more about the colleges they are applying to will be rewarded by finding it easier to write authentic and thoughtful responses to this important type of essay question.

Elizabeth LaScala Ph.D. guides college, transfer and graduate school applicants through the complex world of admissions. She develops best match college lists, offers personalized interview and essay coaching, and tools and strategies to help students tackle each step of the admissions process with confidence and success. Elizabeth helps students from all backgrounds to maximize merit and financial aid awards. Visit; Call (925) 891-4491 or email at [email protected]