Sometimes you’ll hear the admissions folks say that essays aren’t as important as applicants think or that you shouldn’t spend that much time on your essays — and EssaySnark says baloney.
First of all, if the essays aren’t that important, why do the schools have you write them?
Of course they’re important.
If they weren’t, the admissions directors would be the first to propose they be ditched.
Reading essays actually is a lot of WORK and we’re certain that admissions people were relieved when the number of essays required in an app started going down (a trend, like most, led by HBS; can you believe that all schools used to require four separate essays, and some schools required more?!? this was only a few years ago!!).
Those admissions directors who say that applicants spend too much time on essays have clearly been out of school a very long time. A good essay, regardless of the context or what its purpose is, requires significant time to think through, to make sure you know what you’re going to say and that the message is on track, and then another significant amount of time in revision, to make sure that what you thought you were saying, is actually what is written on the page.
So, yeah. Time.
Anyway, today we have PROOF that essays do matter in admissions, from Harvard directly.
EssaySnark often geeks out on admissionstrivia — in this case, a deep dive into the legal arguments being made in that lawsuit where Harvard University is being accused of discriminating against Asian-Americans.
Excellent overview of Asian American complaint against Harvard college admissions policies https://t.co/TP5R9B8Qh5
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) July 7, 2018
The tl;dr is the suit is (oddly) being brought by a bunch of white people. Why are white people suing schools for discrimination against minorities? Oh yeah, it’s because they’re against all forms of affirmative action for African-Americans and Hispanics, and so they’re hiding behind the alleged discrimination against Asian-Americans as a subterfuge. Confused? Yeah, it’s ridiculous.
Anyway #2…. There’s some fascinating sh!t in those legal docs!
That is, fascinating if you’re an uber geek on college admissions.
Here’s the nugget that got us so excited today, in wanting to help you understand that yes, there is value in sweating over those drafts you’re writing — this is from Harvard’s legal argument , where they’re critiquing the analysis of admissions data conducted by the plaintiff’s expert, which analysis purports to show that Harvard discriminates against Asian-Americans:
[Plaintiff’s expert] excluded an essential component of the Admissions Office’s process of reviewing applicants — the personal rating. That is a serious flaw, because evaluation of applicants’ personal characteristics is fundamental to the admissions process. The personal rating reflects the wide range of information in the application that bears on applicants’ personal qualities. For example, it captures information in the applicant’s personal essays and recommendation letters that may shed light on the applicant’s character — information that is not otherwise observable, since the essays and supplemental recommendation letters receive no scores and the other recommendation letters receive only a unitary score that assesses the overall strength of the letter on all dimensions. Harvard has long given great weight to applicants’ personal qualities, and those personal qualities can distinguish the few truly exceptional students who are admitted from the thousands of accomplished and talented students who apply but who cannot be offered admission.
What they’re saying is that there is a qualitative aspect to a person that cannot be captured in raw data, that cannot be scored, but which can come through in the essays and which can make them want to accept you.
Obviously this is college admissions, not MBA, but doesn’t matter; the truth is 100% the same. It’s universal.
A well-written essay that offers insight and meaning into the person who wrote the essay is what makes an admissions reader sit up and take notice.
The essay is what the adcom reviewer remembers.
They don’t remember that you scored a 780 or an 800 or that you earned a 4.0 from Princeton. They remember the essay. The essay is where you as a person can come through.
Over and over again, year after year, we see BSers with middling to average profiles who write a-ma-zing essays and they get in to top schools.
And over and over, applicants come to us with incredible core stats (GMAT/GRE/GPA) who rejected, and we see their essays, and we’re like, “Yup. That’s why.”
This is why we harp over and over on you to get started early!! and tell you that the essays will be more work than you expect!!
Because we know that the essays can play such an outsized role in admissions.
The schools don’t accept scores. They don’t accept your GMAT or your GPA. They accept you as a person.
The essay is where you get to shine through.