Mid-September. Senior year. By now, hopefully, you’re settled into the school year and starting to think more practically about your college applications. While there are many pieces that go into preparing your application, the most commonly misunderstood of materials is the college essay. What should you write about? Who’s reading it? Is an actual person even reading it? And just how important is the essay?


First, yes, your college essay is important. Each school you apply to will vary in the weight your essay carries, but there will be real a human — oftentimes multiple real humans — who will have their eyes on your application. Why? We want to make sure you’re ready for the level of critical thinking and writing that will be expected of you in the classroom. Second, we want to get to know who you are as a person. What makes you tick? What questions do you need answers to? What do you want from your college experience?


There’s no right answer to any of these questions. Your college essay is an opportunity to share with the schools you’re applying to something important about yourself that we can’t know from looking at your academic record, resume, and letters of recommendation. Your essay should tell us a story from you life. A moment big or small that illustrates the type of person you are or who you want to be. It should be personal. Invite us into your life for a few minutes. Let us hear in your voice what’s important to you. Find a topic you truly care about. We’re not looking for perfect teenagers with no flaws. We’re looking for real people dealing with real things and being honest about what’s important in your life. 


The strongest essays come from students who have taken some time to really think about their experiences and write about them in a meaningful way. Your essay is a view into your personality. Your quirks and fears and ambitions. We can tell the difference between an essay written the night before and an essay that has gone through revisions and drafts. We also can tell when an adult — whether that’s a parent or teacher — has their ideas and writing in your essay. This essay needs to be written by you in your voice. Some feedback here and there is welcomed, but there’s a fine line between suggestions and having someone else write it for you.


At its core, your essay is a first impression and you want it to be a positive one. That doesn’t mean you need to somehow learn to master the English language by the time your application is due. All we ask is that you take some time to put forward an honest effort. A perfect essay won’t automatically get you admitted to your dream school. It’s one piece of a larger picture that helps us get to know who you are as a human.


Robbie Cusella, Assistant Director of Admissions