Why Colleges Ask You to Write Essays

What’s the big deal with college essays? Almost every school requires them and it’s no easy feat to perfect them. Today, Ryan Hickey explains why these essays are more crucial than you might think!

In our technological age, being asked to write a full essay can seem a little antiquated. Why do colleges even ask for these? Just to torture you? More importantly, does anyone actually read them?

Rest assured that admissions officers do, in fact, read your essays. Also, admissions officers view them as an important part of your application. No matter how qualified you are, you can kill your chances with a bad essay. On the other hand, if you are minimally qualified or even if something fall bellows the minimum, like your test scores, the essay can be your chance for redemption.

Still not convinced that your essays are important? Let’s look deeper into the four main reasons that colleges require essays as part of the application process to see why they’re worth your time and attention.


1. Writing Skills

You can’t make it in college if you can’t write. At any point in time during your college education, you’ll probably have one or more papers to write for your classes. Colleges would be irresponsible to offer you a place in their program if you do not have the basic skills needed to succeed. The admissions officers want to know that you have achieved a level of literacy such that you have a solid command of grammar, sufficient vocabulary, and the ability to organize your thoughts so that you can communicate them effectively to others.

2. Critical Thinking Skills

At the collegiate level, you’ll need to dive beneath the surface of an issue and be able to defend your ideas. Even if the prompt is about a personal experience, the admissions officers will still want you to reflect a level of awareness and understanding that goes beyond the obvious. They’ll want to know that you can reflect meaningfully and think critically about yourself and the world around you.

3. A Good Fit

Do you seem like someone who will fit in at the school? If you’re a renegade, then you probably won’t be happy at a more conservative campus. If you spend your essay writing about how much you love city life, you might not enjoy the slower pace of a college town. Especially if you are applying to a college that is far away from your home, the admissions officers want to see that you will be happy in both the academic environment and the location of the school.

4. Mature Mindset

From undergraduate through doctorate, succeeding in a college degree program requires independence, the ability to overcome obstacles, and the ability to work with others who come from backgrounds that are different from yours. Your essays are necessarily a reflection of your mind, and the admissions officers want to know that you have the “soft skills” to excel in their program.

By allowing you the freedom to express yourself through your writing, the admissions officers will be able to see a real human being in ways that can’t be seen through standardized test scores, CVs or even letters of recommendation. Ultimately, that is why they ask you to write essays: to get to know you better. Therefore, use your essays to the fullest by writing well, applying critical thinking, showing that you are a good match for the school, and reflecting maturity.



Author Bio: Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson’s EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.


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