Admissions Counselors Read College Essays

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.

Picture of David Bersell

David Bersell

David Bersell is a Senior Writing Coach with Wow Writing Workshop. Patient, curious and kind, David loves guiding students through the Wow Method so they can share who they are through writing. David lives in Jonesboro, Arkansas; he is a voracious reader and writer, and in his spare time, he consumes large amounts of pop culture. Before joining Wow, David taught English at Leadership Prep Bedford Stuyvesant Middle Academy and creative writing with Nashville’s A Novel Idea and the University of Maine Farmington’s Longfellow Young Writer’s workshop. His stories and essays has appeared in many print and online publications, including The Rumpus, Hobart, and Carolina Quarterly. David also attended the Tin House Summer Workshop as a nonfiction scholar. He holds a BFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maine Farmington and an MFA in Writing from the University of New Hampshire.
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