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And it goes without saying that the essay must be well-written, with careful attention paid to flow and style.
(Admit See had 539 essays from Stanford and 393 from Harvard at the time of this interview, but more trickle in every day.) High-achieving high schoolers frequently apply to both schools—often with the very same essay—but there are stark differences between what their respective admissions departments seem to want.
One general insight is that students who take risks with the content and the structure of their college essays tend to be more successful across the board. One successful student wrote an essay tracking how his credit card was stolen, making each point of the credit card’s journey a separate section on the essay and analyzing what each transaction meant.
“The essays of admitted students are also a reflection of the community at these institutions,” Shyu says.
“It can provide insight into whether or not the school is a good fit for that student.”A final tip?
Students at Yale have plenty of time to explore their academic interests before committing to one or more major fields of study.
Many students either modify their original academic direction or change their minds entirely.For example, you might relate a few anecdotes that on the surface seem unrelated—drawing from different parts of your life—but that all support and illustrate how you are guided by a particular value.Or, to return to the example of personal liberty as a theme, you could show how you take control of your academic and professional paths, adhering steadfastly to your values and vision.But in this short time, Admit See has already gathered 15,000 college essays in their system.Many are from people who got into well-ranked colleges, since they targeted these students first.Ever the straight shooter, Bruce told us that the SOM would not be changing its application essay prompt for this season. In a Yale SOM blog post about the school’s essay prompt, Bruce noted that this “seemingly simple and straightforward question” was composed with assistance from one of the program’s organizational behavior professors.We likely should have just taken him at his word, but just to be sure, we waited to see whether Yale would indeed officially recommit to its single essay, and… The school has made no modifications to its prompt. Yale’s admissions committee clearly takes the application essay seriously and is being thoughtful about the types of behaviors it wants to see in the school’s students. We are not making value judgments about what that commitment is, but it is more about how you approach that commitment, how you have demonstrated that commitment, and what sorts of behaviors underlie that commitment.”You may initially think that this prompt is rather narrow in scope, allowing you space to share the story of just a single professional or community project and nothing more.Getting into an elite college has never been more cutthroat.Last year, Harvard’s admissions rate dipped to a record low, with only 5.3% of applicants getting an acceptance letter. These days, it takes more than impressive grades, a full roster of extracurriculars, and a deep commitment to community service to get into a well-ranked school.The most compelling essays are those that touch on surprising personal topics.”Of course, one caveat here is that taking a risk only makes sense if the essay is well-executed.Shyu says that the content and structure of the story must make a larger point about the applicant, otherwise it does not serve a purpose.