Admissions counselors read college essays, and they matter.
“It gives us a little window into their personalities,” said Hillary Teague, the assistant director of admissions for Kalamazoo College. “The essay is not as cut and dried as the transcript. It is a nice way for students to showcase themselves.”
While the essay is not a make it or break it admissions tool at Kalamazoo College and most other schools, it can make a difference in a yes or no decision, Teague said. This past year, she encouraged the dean of admissions to admit one student based on her letters of recommendation and her essay.
“She was a very smart student,” Teague said, adding it was not apparent from the transcripts alone. “The essay showed me who she was, and the letters of recommendation were outstanding. I thought she would do great here.”
What does Teague want to read?
“I want to read a story that makes me smile,” she said. “I want to know who you are.”
Jacob, a senior at Berkley High School in Berkley, MI, who worked privately with a Wow coach on his admissions essays, made someone smile at Kalamazoo College. In fact, he got a little unexpected praise about his essay in his acceptance letter.
“I enjoyed reading your essay, which demonstrated your problem-solving skills as well as your musical prowess; not many people could switch from the cello to the bass guitar, and adapt the music accordingly, in the midst of a performance,” wrote Eric Staab, the dean of admissions and financial aid.
The college doesn’t always mention the essay in the acceptance letter; it depends how much the essay influences the admissions personnel when reading it. Jacob’s story stood out, so the dean mentioned it in his personal admissions letter.
The bottom line: The college essay matters.