Yale University Admissions Director Shares Insight on College Essay

By Kim Lifton
President, Wow Writing Workshop

Yale University
Margit Dahl, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Yale University

Margit Dahl, Director of Undergraduate Admissions for Yale University, shared some great insight about the role of the college essay, and what she looks for, during last week’s Wow webinar, Get Ready! Get Set! Get In! Applying to the College of Your Dreams.

Dahl’s comments were powerful, and echoed advice we give to our Wow students, parents, independent educational consultants and high school counselors and teachers. After you read her advice, sign up for FREE to learn from the national experts at Wow how to write a college application essay that stands out!

“[The essay] is not about what admissions officers are looking for,” Dahl said. “You are the best judge of what to write about. You are in the driver’s seat for this part of the application, and you should not relinquish that control!”

Like most schools that require students to write application essays, Yale wants students’ stories to be “reflective, personal, and written about something that matters to the student.”

She added, “The topic is not important. It’s how you deal with it that matters.”

Dahl cited an example about visiting your grandparents in another country. You should not spend an entire essay writing about what you did on that trip. Instead, Dahl said, write about WHY you love visiting your grandparents.

“What I hope to hear while reading essays is the student’s voice,” Dahl said. “Authenticity is critical. Be personal, and use the word I.”

Dahl sees many great essays on ordinary topics and awful, boring essays on extraordinary experiences.

Dahl, who has been working in admissions at Yale for nearly 40 years, keeps a file with essays she likes.The essays, she said, help her to connect with the students and feel their passion.

“I’ve been doing this so long, but I can still get tears in my eyes from a deeply personal, well-written essay,” she said.

Missed the webinar? Watch Get Ready! Get Set! Get In! Applying to the College of Your Dreams and get tips about filing out the apps from Dahl and Universal College Application’s Head of Business Development Chris Warner when you sign up for a FREE Wow Writing Workshop membership. Join Wow today! Get our entire 10-step process, instructions to complete the essay on your own, with the $99 Platinum Membership package. Personal coaching and single essay reviews are also available to students throughout the world.