Top-scoring students with well-rounded extracurriculars are a dime a dozen, but the essays are where you have a chance to stand out.
Essays are a crucial component of your application and can often be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful applicant. If you are a “borderline” candidate with good but less-competitive grades and test scores, then a strong essay could push you into the admitted pool.
Essay requirements vary dramatically between the US and the UK.
In the UK, the essay, also known as the personal statement, is your only opportunity to condense all the experiences that have motivated you to pursue your chosen course. It can be challenging to articulate the various skills that you have gained and display your passion for your chosen field in just 4000 characters (~750 words). Hence, you are required to be highly structured and concise when describing your experiences.
College essays for undergraduate admissions to the US are NOT personal statements. You will need to bring out your creative side and think outside the box to tell a compelling story. Your essays are your opportunity to share your voice, your unique experiences, and your perspective on life. To truly assess an applicant’s fit with the school, admissions officers use the essays to evaluate a student’s personality, writing skills, and aspirations. While the importance of essays varies between colleges, highly selective and top ranked colleges place more emphasis on essays. Applicants to these schools usually meet admissions requirements in terms of grades and SAT scores – which make the essays a distinguishing factor.
You will need to set aside a significant chunk of time for US essays. The main essay, the Common Application Essay, involves choosing one of seven prompts with a limit of 650 words. However, you may have to write anywhere from 15 to 30 essays in total as there are school-specific supplements – ranging from “Why X College?” to “A letter to your future Stanford Roommate” to “You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called?”