The School Newspaper of John Carroll School

Adriana Guidi

Every year students write several different essays for college applications. With college applications due around this time, two staff members reflect on whether or not college admissions representatives should require essays.

Patriot Debate: College admission’s essays

November 4, 2016

Pro: College essays provide insight on students

You are on the cusp of reaching a certain GPA or standardized test scores for your dream school, but since you don’t meet these exact requirements, your chances of being accepted are low. You have an awesome essay that adds a positive quality to your application and suddenly, you have a decent chance of being admitted. Wouldn’t writing the essay be worth it to increase your chances of getting into your dream school?

While no student, myself included, enjoys writing a lot of different essays for colleges, they are essential in order to let colleges take a holistic approach in their admissions process, which ultimately benefits the students applying to colleges. A holistic approach, according to, is when “The school’s admissions officers consider the whole applicant, not just empirical data like a GPA or SAT scores.”

The holistic-approach schools require additional essays, and while this may be annoying, it can benefit the students if the essays are well-written. A well-written essay should not be terribly difficult to create as long as you have a good topic to write about and have a parent and/or teachers reviewing the essay. The essays should only benefit you, not hurt your chances. By being a smart student and making sure your essays will add only positives to your application, the essay will benefit you and help you get into colleges.

For students applying to schools that might be more selective in admissions and are considered reach schools, judgement purely off of their GPA and SAT scores is undesirable. By not having an essay to help add positives to your application, students are going to have a harder chance at getting into top schools that require high standardized test scores and high GPAs.

Most essays will give you the chance to talk about yourself, whether it be through an experience or failure that you have had or a passion that you have developed. It allows a college representative to see a student beyond the classroom. It allows them to catch a glimpse of a student’s personality, something that is important to consider before admitting a student to a college. The essay can show the school great qualities about a student, something GPA and standardized test scores cannot show.

According to, college essays can certainly make or break whether a student gets accepted or denied to a college. “If you are like most students where you are applying to competitive schools, then your essays will make a significant difference in the number and quality of acceptance offers that you receive.” according to

College essays, if written well, can only add positives to a student’s application. Writing the essays may be time-consuming and take tremendous effort to write, but it is worth it in the long run in order to increase a student’s chance of being accepted into the college of their choice.

Adriana Guidi is a Perspectives Editor for The Patriot and

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Con: College essays are a waste of time

Please do not ask me to write another essay. Do not ask me to reflect on how college is a “two-way street,” where I help you and you help me. Do not ask me to imagine what it will be like when I am at “your” college. Do not ask me to tell you about all of the “hardships” I have faced throughout my life because it is a waste of my time.

Writing college admissions essays is the most time-consuming part of the entire college application. While some prompts stretch your boundaries and lead to interesting and valuable essays, the vast majority of them are monotonous and repetitious (e.g. How do you plan on building upon your current interests at fill-in-the-blank university?).

College essays are some of the hardest essays to write for many reasons, but ultimately, it comes down to their catch-22 requirements.

You are supposed to impress the college representative, but also not come off as a try-hard. In other words, impressive diction, complicated syntax, and out-of-the-box writing skills are a big “no-no.” You are supposed to show how wonderful of a person you are, but not come across as boastful or haughty. You are supposed to tell them your life story, but you only have 400 words.

The requirements for a college essay conflict to such a degree that you are left in total confusion. Is all of this confusion and brain power really worth it for a 400-word essay? What really are colleges going to find out about us in 400 words?

Not only are the college essay requirements aggravating, but also, many of the prompts are downright preposterous. Whether they are too creative or overused, colleges really should consider what they are asking high schoolers to write about and ask if their requirements and prompts match up.

Take, for example, the “creative” essay topic, “What is your favorite word?” Now, there are over one million words in the English language, and out of all of them, this college expects you to write an entire essay on one word. You had better choose a word that you can describe for hours because you have a 400-word essay to fill.

This “creative” prompt and others like it also violate the true purpose behind a college essay: to showcase your personality. Even though this prompt is intriguing, some may find it difficult to explore one’s personality on the subject matter of a word.

While an overly creative essay violates the “personality rule” in one way, a dull prompt can act likewise. I don’t know about you, but when a prompt asks me what my passions/interests are, I want to curl up in a ball and cry. While you can definitely express your personality in this essay, this prompt is so generic and overused that it can make your personality seem mundane.

The amount of people who play sports, are well-spoken, or dance salsa number in the thousands, if not millions. A college representative will therefore say, “What makes you so special?” and throw you in the “waitlisted” pile.

Either way, we, the students, are stuck in a predicament that is only solved by the colleges themselves. By becoming more specific and thought-provoking and by asking something the college representative would want to read and write about, college application essays could become much more affluent.

Essay prompts and requirements need to be modified, otherwise college representatives will never truly know the value of their applicants. It is of paramount importance, colleges. Make the change.

Emily Stancliff is a Sports Editor for The Patriot and

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