What are some things that students might be surprised to learn about how you read their essays?
Peter Osgood - Director of Admission - Harvey Mudd College and Former Associate Dean of Admission - Pomona College
I think students would be surprised to know that while we are required to evaluate them, we are truly interested in what experiences have affected their thoughts and values. I know that students sometimes think, “They can’t possibly know me, how dare they judge me." I can understand that, but at least through the essay we are giving students an opportunity to share something significant. We appreciate any student who makes the attempt to try to reveal to us something about them.
Gail Sweezey - Director of Admissions - Gettysburg College
I think students would be surprised by how interested we are in their story. We take all submissions very seriously and use them to get to know each applicant better.
William T. Conley - Dean of Undergraduate Admission - Case Western Reserve University
About 40 percent of our incoming class is engineers. For them to write a powerful and persuasive essay is more difficult than someone who’s going to major in English or history. While that is not an excuse, we do take into account that for some students the writing component will not be their strength and we will evaluate their essay in proportion to their other strengths. But it would be a grave mistake for these students to think that getting an 800 on their math SAT means that their essays don’t count. That is totally wrong. We still need to see effort. We want to see that they gave it their best shot.
Michael Thorp - Director of Admissions - Lawrence University
They might be surprised to learn that indeed good writing matters. Sometimes students think that there’s some kind of magic formula. If they can just find the most unique topic that exists they will have the perfect essay. But the truth is that it’s not the topic but the writing that matters.
Lloyd Peterson - Former Senior Associate Director of Admissions - Yale University and Director of Education - College Coach
I think some students are surprised to know how dangerous it is to second-guess what the admission officer would like to read. I have read about everything imaginable…secret marriages, kleptomania and pyromania. Each was trying to create shock value and it just didn’t work. Don’t second-guess us. Write about what you care about. You also hear that you should never write about the Two D’s…divorce and death. Poppycock. If your parents’ divorce has had an impact on you and you can write about it in an impassioned way, then write about it. And I have read a lot of grandmother essays in my time. But that should not stop you from writing about your grandmother since I haven’t read your grandmother essay.
Elizabeth Mosier - Acting Director of Admissions - Bryn Mawr College
I think students would be surprised to learn that we’re not looking for a particular Bryn Mawr prototype. We’re looking for someone to be a contributor. We really want to admit you and we look to your essay and application to give us a reason to do so. Admission officers like students. We wouldn’t be in this business unless we liked working with students. We’re hoping that you’ll make us forget that it’s an essay and just impress us with your unique talents and interests.