Ad­mis­sions es­says don’t mat­ter.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

In 2014, Time mag­a­zine of­fered a star­tling no­tion to fraz­zled par­ents and anx­ious stu­dents wor­ried about their col­lege ad­mis­sions pack­ages: Those finely honed, painstak­ingly crafted es­says “might not make a dif­fer­ence for your col­lege ad­mis­sion chances.” After all, at some schools, the pool of ap­pli­cants is much too large for ev­ery es­say to be read — at the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, for in­stance, only 1 in 7 es­says is a fac­tor in an ad­mis­sion de­ci­sion, ac­cord­ing to the uni­ver­sity’s dean of ad­mis­sions.

But that doesn’t make them ir­rel­e­vant. In fact, es­says can be de­ci­sive when it comes to stu­dents whom ad­mis­sions coun­selors are on the fence about. A stu­dent with bor­der­line grades and test scores could se­cure a spot in the fresh­man class with an in­sight­ful, well­crafted es­say, or be re­jected be­cause of a lousy one — or when it’s clear to coun­selors that an adult, not a stu­dent, has writ­ten it. And a poorly con­structed es­say, or one marred by punc­tu­a­tion and gram­mat­i­cal er­rors, can sour even a great ap­pli­ca­tion.

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