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Growing Number of Application Essays

I just read an article titled “College essays are getting ridiculous”.  The author goes on to give two college essay prompts that I instantly recognized, having helped some of my students this year decide how to approach them. She chose one question from the University of Maryland and one from the University of Chicago. Chicago has always been known for their quirky essay topics. Before their recent joining of the Common App, they referred to their application as the “Uncommon Application”. One of the hallmarks of that application was their essay topics. Now these quirky topics have found their way into their supplement to the Common App.

The author goes on to express her surprise at the number of supplemental essays her child had to write when she applied to college this year.  I noticed this several years ago and refer to it as “essay creep”.  The number of colleges that required essays and short answers on their supplements has been creeping upward, creating a lot more work for seniors.

The author of the article reminisces about how much easier it used to be to apply to college, Once upon a time, the college admissions process involved filling out a form or two, taking a standardized test and sending in a high school transcript.”

No question about that!  People in my generation had the luxury of waiting until senior year to make up our minds and apply to college. I actually do not recall writing an essay, although I know some colleges required them. If I wrote one, it was a non-event. Not today.  With the number of essays and short answers students are expected to write and the proliferation of early programs, students need to hit the ground running come senior year. As you can see from the types of questions colleges ask, the author notes this one “From the University of Richmond, “Tell us about an experience in which you left your comfort zone. How did this experience change you?” these essays and short answers are going to require thoughtful attention and writing and shouldn’t be rushed.

Students who begin senior year with a realistic list of colleges to apply to, can begin the writing process early and give themselves enough time to tackle all of the essays and short answers that will be required of them.

Janet Rosier

2 Responses

  1. Janet Rosier says:

    Thank you for your comment, Peter. I think some of these kids would trade a few more forms for fewer essays and short answers. You raise a good point about the colleges needing to differentiate students and I agree that is why they want more writing. They want to get to know these students better as individuals–how they think and what makes them tick.

  2. Peter Dabrowski says:

    It may be true that students have more essays to write now, but they also have fewer forms to fill out since the invention of the Common App. Fill it out once and send it to 15 schools. Colleges wouldn’t have to ask for all these essays if students weren’t applying to every school in the country causing the applicant pool to be way too big to differentiate them from each other with a simple transcript and scores. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps feeding itself.