College Acceptance Rates At an All Time Low

Why the personal essay is more important than ever

Applying to college and feeling a little stressed out? You’re not alone.

There is good reason to feel apprehensive about the likelihood of being accepted into one’s dream school this year.  In 2024, many elite institutions reported both a record number of applicants and the lowest acceptance rates in history for the class of 2028. For example, MIT reported a miniscule acceptance rate of 4.5% and Duke University accepted 5.1%. With over 50,000 applicants, Harvard’s rate was a mere 3.6%. High ranking public institutions such as UC-Berkeley also became even more competitive this year. Their admit rate in 2024 was 11%.

Amid such exceptional competition, how can a student distinguish themselves as an individual rather than a mere stat? Sure, you have to showcase stellar grades and rigorous coursework. You also need impressive SAT or ACT scores. And you must demonstrate commitment through notable extracurricular activities and community service. 

But there’s only one way an applicant can really stand-out among the thousands of other highly qualified applicants. And that’s through Common App essay (aka the personal essay) and the supplemental essays. Both are crucial for revealing a student’s unique personality and character. And as we’ve been saying for years, it’s your character that will make you stand out from all the other applicants.

At The Writing Center of Princeton, we specialize in guiding and supporting students as they discover their own voices and develop essays that arrest admissions officers’ attention.

We start by making sure that you know the purpose of the Common App essay (personal essay). College admissions officers are looking for reflection and authenticity, not self-promotion. At The Writing Center of Princeton, we collaborate closely with each student to identify experiences that reveal vulnerability and personal growth. We assist in articulating core beliefs with sincerity and celebrating unique challenges like learning disabilities (such as ADHD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia) and neurodivergence, illustrating how these experiences have shaped applicants’ lives, beliefs, and aspirations.

Effectively conveying all of this within the Common App’s limited word count is no small task. Supplemental essays can be even tougher with their stingy word counts (generally colleges ask for supplemental essays that range from 5-10 words to 500 or even 550). At The Writing Center of Princeton, we help applicants use concise yet expressive language that shows how they stand out from every other applicant applying to the same colleges.

Given plummeting admit numbers, the Common App essay (personal essay) is more important than ever. College counseling and college essay writing tutoring through The Writing Center of Princeton will provide invaluable guidance and encouragement for this consequential undertaking.

Let us know how we can help you beat the odds and earn those well-deserved bragging rights! Call us for your free, 20-minute consultation today and let’s strategize together how we can help turn your dreams into a reality.

Dr. Osborn works with students from all over the world via Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, phone, and Google docs to help them reach their independent, college, and graduate school goals. Through a personal, one-on-one approach, Dr. Osborn creates an individualized curriculum for each student based on the student’s strengths, passions, and college aspirations. Her holistic approach helps students perform well in school and win admission to the Ivy League and other competitive colleges.  

About The Author

Susan Osborn, Ph.D., has spent 30 years in higher education, in admissions at Vassar College, in the English department and Writing Program at Rutgers University, in the lab at The New Jersey Center for Research on Writing, and as a private tutor. Dr. Osborn is also an award-winning writer and scholar and she brings both her education smarts and her writing smarts to every student relationship.

Your approach was so comprehensive, well-structured and delivered so masterfully, that we’d never be able to fit all we loved about working with you in one email. The process of developing the story, voice, etc., for the Common App essay was just amazing and even therapeutic for Ari. Your knowledge, experience, sense of humor, personal attitude, charisma resulted in powerful essays, and with Ari feeling better about how he is as a student and a person. Thank you!

Eugene K., Irvington, NJ

 I cannot thank you enough for how well you supported and prepared Nathan. Despite his ADHD, he got in everywhere he applied and all the schools offered excellent merit aid. He’s also received another independent scholarship which he tells me involved remixes of the writing you did together and more are pending. Thank you! Please know I am happy to give you the best recommendation to other parents. Having you as part of our team through this process was priceless!

Carolyn B., Hopewell, NJ

Your approach was a breath of fresh air. Helping Vivek write his story with humor and empathy, and with lots of encouragement brought out the best from him; after working with you, he ended up being a more confident and positive person, and a proud member of Cornell’s Class of 2025! Thank you!

Suparna S., South Lake, TX

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