How colleges weed out the uninteresting

As a freshman at the College of William and Mary, it seems like it was eons ago that I was desperately searching for the perfect topics for the nine different supplemental essays I had to write during the college application period. It was only one year ago, however, that I opened Microsoft Word, copied and pasted the essay questions for each school, stared blankly at the screen in front of me, and did a quick mental countdown to the application deadline.

“What do you pretend to love but actually hate?” “If you were an animal, what would you be?” “What movie has inspired you?” Then there was the dreaded, “Topic of your choice.”

For a college to really care about which animal I am seems incredibly strange, but these offbeat questions are a chance for students to separate themselves from the seemingly identical applications and for admissions teams to find the students that best fit their unique and diverse universities.

While these random questions may seem unnecessary and irrelevant, their presence on the application is unmatched by any of the other fields. SAT scores, GPA, high school courses, family background and a list of activities only reveal so much about an applicant.

As my high school literature teacher said, “If I read your college essay and have a desire to have lunch with you afterwards, then you did something right.” The assistant and associate deans of admission have read it all.

These unique questions seem like a tool of college admissions teams to weed out the normal. A college community strives for diversity, and diversity spans more than just race, gender, socioeconomic background and geographic location.

Attending a university with students who fully committed to a bizarre question is exactly why I love the College. We are all a little strange, but we are also full of interesting stories that led to our acceptances.

After students are accepted to the College, the Admissions Office dedicates an entire section of its webpage to discussing the uniqueness of the incoming class, usually referencing certain college essays.

Without the individuality that the College and similar schools pull from the essay portion of the application, schools would be taking a gamble regarding the fate of the incoming class. Numbers on an application can only tell so much; a high GPA and SAT score prove hard work, determination and intelligence, but a college atmosphere requires much more than intellectual ability.

Students who were able to make a group of admission deans like them through a 500-word essay simply impress me. That achievement is partially why we are all here. Sure, our numbers matched the standard for which this top university strives, but more importantly, we were the total package, and we nailed our essays.

The ability to test well does not nearly impact a four-year experience as much as a unique personality does. The colleges that also provided an interview option made the application process not only less stressful, but also more personable.

When students excel in sports and lead a team to victory, it is due to their personalities. When students start a new community service project or create a new club, it is due to their personalities. These are the things that impact the college experience of the other thousands of students.

The source of a college’s diversity stems from the personalities of the students, and the essay portion of college applications, no matter how strange the question may be, serves as the only way for the admissions committee to know whether a particular prospective student can find a home at the university.

Email Daria Grastara at

Previous articleWhen the leaves fall
Next articleA minor victory
Avatar photo
Daria Grastara '17 is an English and Government double major from Hillsborough, New Jersey. She was previously Opinions Editor. Follow @dariagrastara on Twitter.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here