“Each school has slightly different values and focuses on different attributes, so the words, attitudes and themes expressed in a student’s application and college essays do matter when it comes to their chances of admission at one college vs. “That’s why it is usually rare for a student to get accepted to every single Ivy League even if they have straight A’s, perfect SAT/ACT scores and 5’s across all their AP exams.” The second lesson: students should aim to make their essays reflect the culture of the school they are applying to.
"The essays of admitted students are also a reflection of the community at these institutions," Shyu told Fast Company.
Admit See cofounder Lydia Fayal said that these differences play out primarily in the SAT scores and grade point averages of legacy versus non-legacy candidates.
“Harvard gives more preferential treatment to legacy candidates than Stanford,” Fayal said in an email interview.
Upon further quantitative analysis, Admit See found the most common words used in Harvard and Stanford essays have similar themes but are nonetheless different.
For the Massachusetts-based Ivy, these words were “experience,” “society,” “world,” success” and opportunity.” For Stanford, they were “research,” “community,” “knowledge,” “future” and “skill.” College admissions counselor Katherine Cohen didn’t find the differences between the application essays written by students admitted to Harvard and those admitted to Stanford surprising.
A study conducted by Admit See, an undergraduate and graduate application-sharing platform created by University of Pennsylvania students, found students who used certain words, wrote about certain topics or even just wrote with a certain tone in their application essays were more likely to get accepted to one Ivy League school over another.
Upon analyzing its application archives, Admit See found students who referred to their parents as “mom and dad” in their application essays were more likely to get accepted to Stanford, while students who called them “mother and father” were more likely to receive a Harvard admission offer.
These findings, which were published by Fast Company, are based on essays — 539 of which were from students who were accepted to Stanford and 393 of which were from students who were accepted to Harvard — uploaded to the site at the time the study was conducted.
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