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College Essay Guidance

Develop Winning College Essays to Help You Stand Out from the Crowd​

We offer a range of essay-only packages to ensure you get exactly the type of help you need.

Great College Advice® makes it easier to write a winning college essay

The essays are a vital part of the college application. However, the number and complexity of essays vary greatly from university to university. Some colleges require five or more essays, while others require no essays at all!

To ensure you get exactly the type of essay help you need, Great College Advice offers essay packages based on the number of essays and the number of edited drafts we review. Choose from among three great options. (For current pricing, please contact us.)

How Important are Essays?

College essays are important and preparing them causes the greatest amount of consternation and worry in the entire college admissions process. Learn more ››

Premium Essay Package

  • Meet with your counselor to conceptualize, structure, and develop topics and create a plan for the entire application process. These meetings (approximately four one-hour meetings) will lead to the creation of an overarching strategy for completing all pieces of writing required by the schools on your list.
  • Comprehensive editing for your Common App essay with comments on topic, structure, tone, and mechanics.
  • Comprehensive editing for up to 5 different supplemental essays. Note that many supplements have overlapping topics, so many supplements can be repurposed for multiple applications.
  • Comprehensive editing for additional supplements is available for a small additional fee.

Elite Essay Package

  • Meet with your counselor to conceptualize, structure, and develop topics and create a plan for the entire application process. These meetings (approximately ten one-hour meetings, necessitated by the complexity of the student’s writing load) will lead to the creation of an overarching strategy for completing all pieces of writing required by the schools on your list.
  • Comprehensive editing for your Common App essay with comments on topic, structure, tone, and mechanics.
  • Comprehensive editing for up to 25 different supplemental essays.
  • Comprehensive editing for additional supplements is available for a small additional fee.
 
 

College Essays A La Carte

  • Students select topics and draft essays on their own, and then submit them for review by our team. Each essay receives 3 rounds of editing by a designated tutor. Each round includes comments and suggestions on how to improve the topic, structure, tone, and mechanics.
  • Common Application Essay
  • Common Application Supplement (up to 350 words)
  • Coalition Application Essay
  • U of California Personal Insight Questions
  • Other essays priced upon request

How Important are Essays?

College essays are important and preparing them causes the greatest amount of consternation and worry in the entire college admissions process.

Not all colleges give equal importance to the essay. The National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) surveys its members annually as to the relative importance of admissions criteria.  Here’s how the survey came out in 2018-2019.

Percentage of colleges that place importance on the essay or writing sample:

  • Considerable importance: 23%
  • Moderate importance: 33%
  • Limited importance: 24%
  • No importance: 20%

Colleges consider other factors to be of “considerable” importance. 

  • Grades in college prep courses: 73%
  • Strength of high school curriculum: 62%
  • Admissions test scores (SAT/ACT): 46%

 

The colleges and universities that generally place the greatest importance on the essays and writing samples are, predictably, the most selective ones.  Not only will they require students to write a primary personal statement to address one of the prompts on either the Common Application or Coalition Application, but many (but not all!) will require additional supplemental essays that address other prompts. 

Some of those prompts are unique (e.g., “Kermit the Frog sang the song, ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green.’  Discuss.”). Others are relatively common (e.g., “Why do you want to attend this college?”). Some colleges also ask a series of short-answer questions that require only a one or two-word answer, such as “what is your favorite book?” or “give three words your friends might use to describe you,” or “what historical figure would you like to take to lunch, and why?”

These are the most common supplemental topics (50-500 words each, depending on the college):

  • “Why do you want to attend this college?”
  • The intellectual interest essay, or “how have you chosen this major and how do you plan to pursue it in college?”
  • The extracurricular essay: “Please elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities.”
  • The “background” or community essay: “Describe a community to which you belong and explain why it is important to you.”

Others that pop up periodically include (50 to 350 words, depending on the college):

  • How did you spend the last two summers?
  • What do you hope to get out of your college education?
  • Recount a leadership experience
  • Submit a graded paper (not actually an essay at all!)

The University of California has its own application for which applicants must choose to respond to four of eight different prompts, each essay with a length of 350 words.   Even there, however, we find that topics overlap.  We find an “intellectual interest,” “extracurricular activity,” “community/background,” and “leadership” essays among those eight prompts.

The colleges and universities that generally place the greatest importance on the essays and writing samples are, predictably, the most selective ones.

TESTIMONIALS

How Many Essays Will You Write?

The point is that while students applying to the most selective schools may have dozens of essays to write, it does not necessarily follow that they will have to write essays on dozens of different topics. Depending on the mix of schools to which the student applies, the essays may address somewhere between four and eight overlapping topics. 

Thus, as you consider what sort of essay help you need during the application process, it’s helpful to know what schools you will be applying to, and to understand the writing burden associated with each application. The extreme variation in requirements is part of what makes the entire college planning and application process so frustrating.

A good essay process can help create a sense of self-direction that will help students not only in the process of applying to college, but in planning their college adventure and beyond. 

To illustrate the idea that not all colleges require supplemental essays, we have compiled a sample list of selective schools, some of which have no supplements and some of which have many.  The aim is to demonstrate how important it is to determine your final college list before you begin work with a consultant.  Each and every essay will take your time and attention, and you will want to make each final product a gem.  Determine how much help you will need and then purchase the service that will support your applications.

 

In 2020, how many supplemental essays were required at some top schools in the nation (not including short answer questions)?

  • Yale University: 4
  • Northeastern University: 0
  • Northwestern University: 1
  • Duke University: 1
  • University of Texas-Austin: 5
  • University of Colorado-Boulder: 1
  • Rutgers University: 1
  • New York University: 1
  • Georgetown University: 4
  • University of Southern California: 2
  • University of Virginia: 1
  • University of Washington: 2
  • Vanderbilt University: 1
  • Emory University: 2
  • Cornell University: 0
  • Dartmouth College: 2
  • University of Chicago: 2
  • Knox College: 0
  • Trinity University: 0
  • Davidson College: 2
  • Elon University: 1
  • Stanford University: 4
  • Princeton University: 4
  • Middlebury College: 0
  • Bowdoin College: 1
  • Harvard University: 2

When these essays are grouped by subject, how many are there really?

  • Why This College: 9
  • Describe an Activity: 5
  • Why Major?/Intellectual Interest: 4
  • Your Background/Community/Values: 10
  • Describe your Summer: 2
  • Personal Statement: 6
  • Submit a Graded Paper: 1
  • Other:  7

Great College Advice can help simplify the essay process to make it more successful, less stressful, and more fun. More often than not, our students tell us that writing the essays was actually the most interesting and pleasant part of the entire application process.

The essays provide an opportunity for young people to reflect on their own values, motivations, and priorities. 

 

Still have questions about how the best college admissions advice can help your family?

We’re happy to walk you through your options. Just complete the form (no obligation!) or give us a call at 720.279.7577

Unsure about which package to choose? Start with our introductory Roadmap Planning Session ››