Orthodoxy runs deep. Last year I was traveling with a colleague from Yale. He had recently spent a week on a reservation helping Native American students navigate the college process, and he had been shocked by the degree to which the cliches and tropes of college essays had penetrated into their world. As he told me, the essays his students - who had lived vastly different lives than most mainstream applicants - were writing were indistinguishable from those written by applicants in southeastern Connecticut. They were composed of billowing clouds of "my global perspective" and "future potential as a leader" and "desire to leverage my education" to bllllllaurhfhasklafsafdghfalkasf.
Your test scores and grades may be good, but so are those of many other applicants. In fact, the average scores at many of the top institutions in the nation are remarkably high. Because of that, plus the fact that some colleges no longer even require standardized test scores, the admissions landscape has changed drastically for college applicants in the past decade. Today, college application essays have become the most influential component of the application process in many ways. Your college admissions essays are your best opportunity to communicate directly with the admissions officials, who look to college essays to find reasons to select one candidate over another. When you’re reviewing files from two candidates with equally impressive scores and grades, and you only have room for one, you have to use something to make your decision. That’s where essays come in.