The short answer: it depends.
The longer answer: If you don’t have the grades and the test scores a college expects from its applicants—in other words, if you aren’t academically prepared—it is extremely unlikely for your essay to push you over into the Accept pile. Even the most interesting, unique, or creative essay.
Penn’s dean of admissions said he guessed that the essay played a role in admissions decisions for one out of every seven applicants for the Class of 2016. Admissions officers at smaller schools often spend more time reading essays, particularly when SAT or ACT scores are not required. At larger universities, particularly state schools, admissions teams simply don’t have the time to give each essay a careful read.
So do essays make a difference at all? While a GREAT essay won’t make up for poor grades or test scores, if you have the goods, a GREAT essay can distinguish you from the pack of other qualified applicants.
And what about the BAD essay? Can it move you from the Accept to the Deny pile?
Stay tuned to find out.