The True Value of a College Essay

The True Value of a College Essay

If you’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with Signet’s very own Jasper Nighthawk, you know from experience that he’s an incredible academic coach and writing tutor.

Last year, Jasper presented a webinar on How to Write the Perfect College Essay. In the webinar, he provided tactical writing advice to attendees, with a focus on how to go from idea to final draft. If that information would be valuable for your student, we highly recommend watching the full webinar!

Today, we’ll explore some of Jasper’s insights about the college essay so you have a clear idea of what it is, why it matters, and what a good college essay can really do for students.

What Is the College Essay?

“The college essay” refers to the primary essay attached to a student’s college application. It’s different from the supplemental essays that may be required by individual schools. The college essay is received and read by all colleges where a student applies.

Even the word “essay” is a little bit of a misnomer. The college essay is different from just about any essay a student will write in the classroom, because this essay is about the student. The college essay is one of the few pieces, and in many cases the sole piece, of the application that gives students an opportunity to share their own unique voice.

Why Does the College Essay Really Matter?

We’ve found that it’s always easier to complete a challenging task when you understand the true meaning of it—or, why it really matters. So let’s take a look at why the college essay matters:

  • Helps students get into college. This reason is definitely the most obvious one, but it’s still worth exploring in a bit more detail. The college essay is unique in that it’s one of the key opportunities for students to really move the needle in terms of their college application materials. Students can’t go back and change the classes they took freshman year or retroactively receive better grades, but they can write a great college essay that will give them a leg up in the admissions process.
  • Encourages personal reflection. When was the last time you stopped to think about who you are and what got you to this point in your life? This type of self-reflection is extremely powerful, yet we don’t tend to do much of it in American culture. Writing a personal essay gives students a chance to understand themselves more deeply and to better contextualize their own story.
  • Points students toward their future. At Signet, we’ve seen again and again that by the time students have finished writing their college essays, they have a better idea of what they’re going to do and who they’re going to be when they get to college. A sense of direction and purpose helps students avoid the aimless drift that’s common during freshman year.

What Does a Good College Essay Do for Students?

Finally, let’s review what a good college essay can do for students:

  • Confirms that students aren’t robots. You know those CAPTCHA tests where you have to all images that contain a bicycle to prove that you aren’t a robot? We like to joke that the college essay plays a similar role! The college application process can feel so regimented that it’s easy to forget that college admissions officers want to admit an interesting and passionate person. They want to see that there’s more to students than their biggest achievements and to know that they’re admitting a devoted person who will contribute meaningfully to their institution.
  • Gives a well-rounded sense of who students are. A college essay is a great opportunity for students to demonstrate their personal values, their most winsome traits, and their sense of purpose. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box here. Maybe a student became really passionate about rugby and took the initiative to help establish a rugby team in their community. That kind of story shows real perseverance and grit—and it’s just plain interesting, too!
  • Demonstrates strength of mind. When college admissions officers read a good piece of writing, they can recognize that the person who wrote it is smart, that they think deeply, and that they possess emotional intelligence. A college essay is the ideal vehicle for students to convey their strength of mind and their moral judgment.

If you’re looking for additional resources to help your student with their college essay, reach out today to connect with an admissions consultant.

Picture of Jasper Henderson

Jasper Henderson

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