How to Set Yourself Apart in the College Admissions Process

The True Value of the College Application Essay

            It’s no secret that school counselors are stretched thin. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) notes, “In 2014-2015, the average student caseload nationally was 482, with some states surpassing an average of 600 students per counselor.” This is a daunting ratio for our school counselors, who play a vital role in the college admissions process. To further complicate matters, school counselors are tasked with many other responsibilities, like personal counseling and test administration, on top of the ballooning caseload of students needing help with college planning and financial aid. This problematic situation not only hamstrings counselors but hurts you, the college-bound high school student. 

            The college application essay is one area of the college admissions process that suffers the most. As the college applicant pool grows increasingly competitive and some schools have gone either test-optional or test-blind admissions policies when it comes to standardized testing, admissions offices find themselves looking for ways to help them make the tough decision of who they choose to admit and who they don’t. The college application essay has become one of their most valuable tools. In an interview with College Xpress, Director of Recruitment at John Hopkins Calvin Wise said, “We need to dig deeper…That’s where the essay comes into play. That’s where we find out more about the student. We are looking for your story. Academically, we are glad you’ve done well. We want to know who you are. What did your experience mean to you? How did it shape you? I never run into a colleague’s office and say, ‘Look at this 4.0 GPA.’…I will run into an office with a good essay to share; that excites me.”

            With school counselors just barely keeping their heads above water, they often don’t have the time to help their students with this essential element of the college application process. So, as a college-bound student, what can you do? First, understand the significant role your writing plays in the college application and admissions process. Then, with that in mind, invest the necessary time, effort, and attention it takes to write insightful, polished pieces that will help you stand out from the rest of the applicant pool. Remember that admissions officers are experienced readers, reviewing countless essays each application season. They can quickly tell the difference between a thoughtful and carefully crafted essay and an essay thrown together the week before the application deadline. The essay is your chance to impress, to bring yourself to life beyond the qualifications listed on the application. It is your chance to let the admissions officer get to know you as a person, allowing them to root for you in the application process. Don’t miss this opportunity!

Now, you might ask:

“How do I write something that will help me in the admissions process?”

“What am I going to write about?”

“How should this essay look?”

            Start by finding allies. Depending on their bandwidth, seek the assistance of your English teacher. Reach out to your parents/family members for their guidance. Consider connecting with trusted peers who are in the same position as you. Build a workshop and share your work with your peers while offering helpful critiques of their work. Finally, consider seeking the help of a professional college application essay expert. Numerous online resources are available, depending on your needs, learning style, and budget. One such company is Gramma’s Jam ( We offer private coaching for students who prefer a personalized experience, monthly workshops for students who prefer the group setting, monthly workshops for parents or family members who want to be informed and involved, and scholarships for those who need some financial assistance in this process.

            A thoughtful, well-written college application essay can only help to move the needle in your favor in the college admissions process. So, make it your priority and tell your story.

            Happy writing!

Start Jamminā€™ On YourĀ College App Journey Now

Your junior and senior years are busy enough, so get to work on your college apps now! By starting early, you will avoid getting overwhelmed by everything else you have going on. Most importantly, you will be able to devote the time you need to reflect on what you genuinely want out of your college experience and to craft impactful and polished college apps that you are proud of!

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