In all of our years working with students navigating the highly selective college admissions process, one takeaway we have is that college admissions essay writing is quite bad overall. It’s so bad in fact that several years go by between instances in which we read very good college essays that we had no hand in helping shape. That’s right — that college essay that you think is fantastic is probably closer to terrible than fantastic. This dearth of good college essays speaks to the fact that high school students in this country (and you should read the college essays from international students as those are, understandably, even worse) tend not to be able to write particularly well. In fact, to put it in the vernacular, their writing just plain sucks.
So if you think that your child is a good writer, know that statistically speaking, he probably isn’t. And just because he got a perfect score on the writing portion of his SAT, that doesn’t mean that he can craft powerful and moving college admissions essays either. Because he probably can’t. To accomplish this, a student needs to have a firm grasp of the English language and a unique writing style. Surprisingly, few do. And by few, we mean that every several years one outstanding high schooler’s essays just plain surprise us. But imagine how many college admissions essays we read in between those years! Thousands and thousands.
Students have the opportunity to showcase their unique voices to college admissions officers in their college admissions essays, but it’s the rare exception when they actually are able to accomplish this feat. If you’re a parent, chances are slim that your child is the exception to this rule. If you’re a student, we hate to break the news to you but unless you’re a major outlier, your writing probably isn’t as good as you think it is. Sorry to break this news to you.