The College Essay Experience


Every year there’s always at least two or three Talon articles written by seniors complaining about the college admissions process. And this year, unfortunately, it’s no different. This time, however, I will be focusing on the pros and cons of the admissions essay! Doesn’t matter where you are applying or what application you’re choosing to fill out, CommonApp, Coalition, UCAS, UC Applications, etc., they all require the essay. Usually, the essay word limits range from around 500-600 words, and are meant to add to your application.

Students are meant to demonstrate a high level of writing while at the same time talk about the activities they excel in, their passions, and transmit who they are in this essay, all while making it sound interesting. But how to fit all of that in 500 words? It’s nearly impossible. In English classes, essays that go through the entirety of a novel while discussing a literary element are at least 800-900 words. So how is it logical for students to write about their entire high school career and focus on all of the aspects that make them who they are, while making it sound interesting enough for the college admissions officers, in only 500 words?

On the other hand, the word limit works for the benefit of people who aren’t the most interested in, or skilled at, writing, and don’t feel comfortable writing any more than that. It is also a fantastic opportunity to bring into the spotlight any aspect about yourself that isn’t prevalent on the application but you think is important to include and could help you stand out. Therefore, the aspect that makes this essay so troublesome for so many students isn’t the word count at all, but everything that is meant to be put on the essay. Sometimes, with so many “essay requirements”, students who wanted to talk about a specific topic don’t have space to, as they run out of words with the rest of the topics they have to discuss in the essay. 

Overall, the essay could have been, and probably was at one point, a lovely asset that would add to your application and give colleges insight into every student’s individual voice. However, with the importance of the essay growing every year, students get counselors, parents, or even their siblings to write their essays for them. Moreover, many students get too stressed about fitting everything else into the essay while also trying to “approach the writing in a way it has never been approached before.” (Which is nearly impossible as there are close to 5 million, if not more, students applying to college every single year.) The essays never end up being the “voice of the student” colleges yearn to hear, but instead end up being another brag sheet designed for colleges to marvel over when they read it. So then, this begs the question: why are there essays at all if they never truly reflect who you are anymore? Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on the person) the essays are here to stay, and so it is still worthwhile to put in a great effort into the essay, as like I said before, its importance only grows every year. However, don’t overstress, or overdue it. It doesn’t need to be absolutely perfect, and chances are you won’t feel 100% satisfied with it by the last draft. As long as you think it reflects who you are and will “stand out” in the pile of essays college admissions officers have to read, then it’s great already. And look at that, even while explaining the essay itself right here, I went over by around 100 words…Typical.