By: Caroline Koppelman
As applicants, you know that a standardized test requires studying and preparation. Years of work lead up to a 3 hour and 50 minute exam that will supposedly tell a person everything they need to know about you. For some, the tests are where they shine; their strengths lie in succeeding under pressure and scoring high. However, many of us feel less comfortable with the idea of letting a test determine who we are.
Luckily, in 2015, there was an influx of change in the college application process, which resulted in many schools choosing to become “test optional.” A New York Times article mentioned that “46 percent of top-tier liberal arts colleges, and a good number of large research universities, no longer require the tests.” This change is a result of the popular belief that tests aren’t a true predictor of success. Through eliminating the test score portion of the application, acceptances are now no longer contingent on standardized testing.
Wesleyan University, one of the institutions that made this significant change, believes that “students should have the power to decide how best to present themselves to the admission committee.” Through placing more emphasis on the essay portion of the application, Wesleyan gives you the opportunity to let them hear your voice.
Becoming test optional redefined Wesleyan’s college application process. In an interview with their admissions department, we found that they are looking for applicants to maximize this opportunity by focusing on creating a unique personal essay. Since test scores are no longer a factor. The college essay is Wesleyan’s central focal point and will be the single component that sets you apart from the other applicants.
Wesleyan believes that the essay is their “one opportunity to see your voice, what you’re talking about, [and] what you’re interested in." They have found that “everyone going through the college process has very similar things to say,” which means that you should bring your passions to their attention by writing about them in your essay.
You are in total control of what your essay includes and how it embodies your character, which is what sets it apart from your recommendation letters and extracurriculars. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, you must spend time thinking about how to best convey yourself through your words. Applying to Wesleyan and other test optional schools is like being given the freedom to finally speak for yourself instead of letting your scores decipher who you are.
When it comes to crafting the personal essay, you want to be sure to create a personal narrative to communicate an aspect of your personality that is not shown in other parts of your application. It is important to remember that the essay is the most creative part of your application. Your application tells the admissions committee what you will bring to their institution, but the essay shows them how you will undoubtedly make that impact.
The essay is meant for you to spend as much time as needed, which is a relief from the standardized tests that must be completed within a specific time constraint. While writing, you might feel as if your first idea is your best idea, but in reality, sometimes our best ideas are created last minute. When it comes to the essay, don’t force yourself to follow what you think the admissions committee would like to hear. Instead, follow your own voice and let them know about a story or experience that you feel passionately about.