c/o Zara Skolnik

c/o Zara Skolnik

Since starting the Opinion column “Argus Apps,” which is a column that publishes Wesleyan students’ Common App essays and reflections as a way to humanize the college admission process, I’ve given a lot of thought to the factors and implications involved in the college admission process. One of the major aspects to this process is the use of supplemental essays that tend to have prompts like “Why do you want to go here?” “What parts of our curriculum intrigue you the most?” or “What makes you a good fit for our school?” While I do see the inherent value in asking these questions, since they prompt critical introspection, overall, I think they hinder what should be the purpose of the college admission process: authenticity. 

First off, my primary issue with the supplemental essays is that they often are written in a way to please the admission officer on the other side, and they aren’t necessarily “from the heart.” For example, the question of “Why us?” is particularly subject to this notion of pleasing. With this type of question, applicants are most likely to answer in a way that flatters the school, and they less often direct the question toward themself or write a personal response. Furthermore, this question can be answered through a 10-minute perusal of the institution’s website by picking out its most salient features and writing about them. 

On the note of inauthenticity, I feel that this question, and questions similar, can be better answered in the form of an interview. In order to evaluate if someone is a good match for their institution, I firmly believe that how someone presents themself in writing may not be the best way to really understand who that person is. Through interviewing students about why they want to go to that school, emotion, personality, and values really shine through. Interviews also provide a different modality for applicants to excel in aside from their writing ability. It tests how well someone can articulate their thoughts while also providing insight into who they are as a person. Though interviews may not be for everyone, for some they are a vital way to demonstrate their fitness for a certain college or university.

Personally, I think the admissions process puts so much weight on one’s writing ability when there are other skills that need to be assessed in order to understand why the applicant wants to go to that particular school. We already have the Common App essay as part of the process, so I don’t necessarily see the need to have another writing task as part of the application. A singular essay, in addition to other mediums through which applicants can answer questions like interviews, artistic portfolios, or other creative ways of submitting work, may be better for us all.

All in all, I really admire the fact that Wesleyan doesn’t require any supplemental essays in its application. And no, this isn’t because it means less work; rather, it means putting a greater emphasis on the authentic personality and different modalities of expression of an applicant. High schoolers are complex and multifaceted. Therefore, the college admission process should reflect the three-dimensionality of these applicants, and the way to accomplish this is through providing other outlets of evaluation and expression. 


Zara Skolnik can be reached at zskolnik@wesleyan.edu.