Are College Essays Important?

Praise the amusing antiheroes of academia, for it’s that nerve-wracking time of the year when fledging saplings start to wither under their gaze and moppets develop heart-palpitations. It’s college admission time and squirts all around the nation are stockpiling Pepto; taking anxiety medicine and going through their own version of a panic-induced midlife crisis. Students going online and riffling through the net for hacks and tips on how to turn their essays into battering rams; Vikings storming the gates of their pie-in-the-sky university.

“Dear God, what have I done in with my time on this earth!”

And, yes, now these knaves and scoundrels holding court over your educational future are demanding that you make Hemingway and Fitzgerald blush with your narrative swashbuckling antics. Unless the Bard does a double-take perusing your College Essay you have less than a snowball’s chance in hell to make a go at life and not end up trading tricks for meth money beneath your town’s underpass… that is after all what the norm and what the societal dogma decrees that’s at stake; your very future.

The Cold Hard Verdict On Essays.

“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

First of all, I’m here to calm you down and give you the inside scoop and details on the whole turgid tussle:

“Breath and goal kick the anti-acid… Beat back the ulcers… flick off the horsemen of erudite doom and gloom… kick the naysayers in their dangly bits… Your future is not on the line on account of a college essay.”

The neat and gritty of the whole scrutiny process is that most colleges are well aware that you, and yes I’m talking about the collective generational YOU, are a spaz. Your breed, crop, contemporaries, and peers are nothing more than a gaggle of nincompoops with too much time on their hands, readily available recreational drugs and digital smorgasbord of porn that boggles the mind; it’s a miracle with your hormones that you have the will to crawl away from your laptop and get some Vitamin E. You are on the precipice of the age of Weaponize Stupidity. The machines did rise up, and after careful analysis decided that going the Terminator route was too much of a hassle: “Just give them Instagram, Terms of Agreement, and Google… We predict that in 15 years at the most we’ll have them at our mercy.”

But, hark and take notice, they’ve known this for years. Your parents, your grandparents and your forefathers suffered from the same malady… Our Presidents and role models suffered from this, and some still do. 

You’re 17, a dumb-ass and you really know nothing of the world… And this is coming from someone twice your age that STILL knows nothing. The person who will be carefully taking into consideration your essay is well aware of this decisive point. More to the point, the personality that will most likely judge your essay was once as clueless as you, only with a cocaine habit and flashbacks of the 80’s. They are not Gods… just pencil pushers with an eye for talent.

These very same arbitrators – possibly jaded worn out with the mundanity of maturity – have stacks of dissertations like yours, grandstanding and doing their level best to unearth some half-baked wisdom on the nature of reality, cluttering their desks. Yesterday’s hippies, bohemians and nonconformist – the dreamers – are today’s rabid pack of pit bulls in a dog eat dog world. 

What Really Goes On Backstage At An Admission’s Office.

I’ve worked, hand in hand, for the last 5 years with Ivy League admission programs; both inside the networks and powder box, as well as outside as a consultant. I’ve read thousands of essays, commented on each one and slapped my forehead after digesting a few. I’m going to lay out the cold hard truths and tell you what sort of rowdy behavior goes on at faculty meet and greet when admission time comes steamrolling in; we laugh our asses off and then shutter at the banality that’s about to strike us like a lightning bolt from a brain dead Zeus. It’s not that you have nothing to say, it’s that you’re making TOO much of an effort at saying it.

“Some essays are circuitous, going on and on about life and the nugget they’ve unearthed when in reality all they are doing is repeating self-help phrases and carefully worded fortune cookie wisdom. You can smell them a mile away… Students have to be themselves and recognize that they are still hanging on the vine, not mature enough, not ripe… To be honest none of us ever are.”

We don’t want to be impressed – those students that made us do double flips and left us flabbergasted with their achievements are already on the fast track to a cushy academic career – we simply want to be entertained and not be bored silly. Essays are like curriculums, most of them are shelved after the first sentence; we’ve regurgitated so many that we can practically envision a play by play of what’s about to assault us based on that initial literary onslaught…And yes, we’ve read your essays out loud as if they were comedy routines; the equivalent of Kevin Hart pontificating on the meaning of life. 

Heartwarming, the whole process, right?

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For lack of a better word the College Essay in many ways is the last bastion some students can cling to. It’s their Alamo. When all else fails, go for a noteworthy Essay.  Nonetheless, ease off the accelerator and cool down. Essays are NOT a Magic Ticket… You won’t get to that Yale Chocolate factory because your essay somehow sprung Charlie into life. Your essays only shows the admission’s office and all those dastardly jury members what they already know. 

Essays are in many ways a summary of all the good bits of your application… Few are the essays that really show potential academies something they missed.

In 2014, Time Magazine published a rather daring article called: “College Application Essays Don’t Matter as Much as You Think.”

“You know that beautifully crafted, deeply felt, highly unusual college application essay that you’ve been polishing? It might not make a difference for your college admission chances.”

A good essay, a Yale Admin Officer concluded: “can heal the sick but not raise the dead.”

Does the essay make or break you?

The simple answer is… It Depends.

They are holistic in the sense that they can make a mediocre application come to life; they make a dull academic career seem a bit more epic and noteworthy. A truly outstanding essay only serves to either highlight an already extraordinary entreaty or make a bureaucrat take a closer look at a humdrum petition.

In the end, a good essay only supports the whole admission’s packet the university is weighing. 

They are well aware that good prose and tongue-twisting compositions aren’t that common, and they are also aware that at the end of the day you’re still a teen trying to find their way in the wild… So, don’t overthink it, speak from the heart and do your level best.

Nonetheless, you’re going to get swamped with demands for essays… not just one but an armada of heavy hitters. Aircraft carriers made to storm the enemy enclave and help you plant your flag on erudite battlements. If you’re going to war, if you’re being asked to go kick some malcontent’s ass, you might as well do your level best and put some elbow grease into the endeavor.

Here’s a carefully curated list of heavy artillery to really make your essay land like an atomic bomb and bushwack the admission’s officer to re-examine your application. Yes, they might not matter as much as Brother Eye makes you think they do, but they still pack a punch if carefully delivered. 

 The general idea is to be yourself, be original, and tell a good story if possible. Entertain them. 

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