by Brent Benner Director of Enrollment Management University of Tampa People often ask me about the value of the application essay. ” I assure you, at my university and in admissions offices across the country, we do.
I can tell a lot about a person from his or her application essay; it’s the most current snapshot of who you are as a person. I’m going to be completely honest with you: Your application essay cannot overshadow years of poor grades and test scores, and in this case, your essay may never find itself in front of the admissions committee. That’s exactly who your essay should be about: you. Now, keep in mind that creativity and a bit of humor are nice.
Think about it: Most of the items you submit to the colleges or universities you’re applying to showcase talents that you have developed over a long period of time. At the same time, you shouldn’t downplay the importance of the essay either. This is your chance to paint a picture of who you are. Professionals on admissions committees have the daunting task of reading thousands of application essays per year, and it can get a bit tedious after a while.
Your high school transcript contains at least three years of grades, showing evidence of hard work in a variety of subjects. Keep in mind essays are a major separating factor in sorting the mediocre students from those who have gone (and most likely will continue to go) above and beyond. I can’t even tell you how many wonderful application essays I’ve read about students’ mothers, fathers, brothers, grandmothers, neighbors, and even the ice cream truck driver being the most influential person in their lives. After reading them, I want to call the students up and encourage their grandmothers to apply! Don’t get me wrong, I love the essay prompts for many colleges, but some essay questions don’t exactly push for creativity or thinking outside of the box.
Your clubs, organizations, sports, community service, and other accomplishments reflect years of participation and dedication to fields outside the classroom. Let’s get started It’s time to pick your essay topic. But, after reading these enthralling stories about other people, I still know absolutely nothing about the student who wrote the essay. For example, “Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you ...” is the essay topic where I hear an awful lot about Grandma, and the “topic of your choice” prompt can go from interesting to ridiculous pretty quickly.
Even your good old SAT or ACT scores reflect the accumulation of vocabulary, mathematics, and reading comprehension talents acquired throughout your life. That being said, remember to choose an essay topic that helps keep the focus on you but is still flexible enough for you to incorporate your personality, your history, your individuality, and your impact on those around you.Whether or not it was intentional, this student started his essay in a way that certainly caught the attention of the admissions committee, and that’s what your first sentences absolutely need to do.While it is important to talk yourself up as the awesome student you truly are, you still have to remember that the application essay is not a résumé.You can certainly submit a résumé with your application, but your essay is not the place to do it.We want you to expand upon a few characteristics that make you great, not just give us a list with the thousand and one things that contribute to your greatness.Don’t rely on spell check alone to catch all of your mistakes, either.We had one applicant that said, “I speak tree languages.” (Really? ) As you can see, sometimes things are spelled correctly but just don’t make sense in the context of your application essay.You are not required to incriminate yourself in your application essay, nor should you.This might be your only chance to show the admissions committee that you are more than just a GPA, test scores, and a bunch of extracurricular activities, so it may be best not to ruin their first impression of you with your past criminal history.When there are only a few spots left in the class, you want to be the one they choose. I don’t recommend a friend who is afraid to correct your mistakes, or a parent, if you can help it.If your essay is forgettable, well, you might be too. A teacher or family friend would be a great choice.