When scored through A.I., Harvard essays beat Yale essays 98 percent to 98 percent.
As many as two million college applicants nationwide will spend the winter polishing that most important and feared component: college application essays. Due to Covid-19, essays are more important this year than ever. Many applicants haven’t been able to sit for standardized tests like the SAT, which now places an even greater emphasis on grades and essays during this admissions cycle.
EssayMaster will erase this fear by helping students fine tune their college application essays. EssayMaster is a college and graduate school essay advising company operated by professionals with Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Stanford educated professionals. With their experienced consultants, advanced A.I. comparisons, Zoom brainstorming sessions, and affordable prices, EssayMaster is here to help you get into your dream college. They have edited tens of thousands of college essays over the last 23 years and look forward to helping with yours next!
Topher Williamson is an EssayMaster consultant who has been working in career planning, college admissions, test prep, and college consulting for over 30 years. Topher sees applicants as they are, then inspires and motivates them to step up and into their potential. His clients have enjoyed extraordinary success at institutions ranging from selective Ivies to renowned public universities. Read below to hear Topher’s analysis on how A.I. can benefit your essays, and how EssayMaster uses it along with their expertise to help you achieve your goals.
Given my budding interest in A.I. storytelling, I began exploring with a simple question: can A.I. improve college application essays?
The answer is a resounding YES, and the evidence for why you should heed this advice during the coming weeks is compelling — and I have the data to prove it.
More than 100 successful application essays found online were analyzed through Grammarly’s A.I. to compile usage statistics and identify commonalities. The dataset includes 55 successful Harvard application essays, 50 successful Yale admissions essays, and more than 30 “before” and 30 “after” publicly-available essays submitted by real applicants before editing or coaching and the same essay post-coaching. The questions included:
What differentiates successful Harvard and Yale admissions essays from essays by students at less prestigious institutions?
Do Harvard essays score better than Yale ones?
Can applicants glean any actionable insights to improve their essays?
Do paid essay coaches improve essay scores based on “before” and “after” comparisons?
While I have no affiliation with Grammarly, I selected that platform because it’s one of the leading consumer writing A.I.s on the market, and it’s mostly free. According to TechCrunch, Grammarly is valued at more than $1 billion and has invested at least $200 million in its technology, so it seemed an excellent place to begin. Additionally, EssayMaster was selected as the source of essays because they have many sample succesful admissions essays accepted by top institutions.
For the admissions essay and this article, all you need to know about deep-learning algorithms is why the computer composes one sentence and not another or says one thing is wrong but not another is completely incomprehensible to a human seeking to deconstruct the algorithm, even in theory. That’s simply the nature of machine-learning.
Furthermore, Wired Magazine has observed that the nature of the technology “produces outcomes based on so many different conditions being transformed by so many layers of neural networks that humans simply cannot comprehend the model the computer has built for itself.”
So now that you know you can’t understand it, how can A.I. improve an admissions essay?
Five Easy Steps to Improve College Application Essays with A.I.
Based on the data, you should do these five things to optimize your essays:
1. Score at least a 95 on Grammarly for “Overall score.”
Successful Harvard and Yale essays in the data set scored on average 97.4 with a median of 98. Meanwhile, the average “before” for an essay in the EssayMaster dataset is 88.1. While significantly different, no one would be surprised that Harvard and Yale admits write better than average; however, the data also indicates the gap can be closed. Interestingly, the average “after” score for an essay is 97.6, consistent with what’s expected for Harvard or Yale admission. Wise applicants should run their essays through Grammarly to determine their score then work to improve it. The basic service is free, so what’s the harm?
2. All college admissions essays should score “Very Engaging.”
Every single successful college admissions essay accepted by Harvard or Yale in the dataset was “very engaging” based on Grammarly’s score — it’s a relevant baseline. If your essays aren’t scoring “Very engaging,” you should consider why and determine how you can improve.
3. Get the delivery “Just Right”
About 87 percent of accepted Harvard and Yale essays had a delivery that scored “Just Right,” the rest was “Slightly Off.” Though less important than engagement, nailing the delivery and tonally is critical for success. The 13 percent of essays that were “slightly off” still got into Harvard and Yale. But not surprisingly, nearly one-third of the “before” essays were “slightly off.” To improve delivery, there are free resources, like EssayMaster’s admissions essay writing tips to learn how to improve an essay’s delivery yourself.
4. Use 50–55 percent unique words and around 33 percent rare words, but be mindful when using a thesaurus!
The percentage of unique words is how many total words are in the essay just once over the total number of words. The percentage of rare words are those that are less frequently used in English. An average of 54 percent of the words used in Harvard and Yale essays were unique compared to the other essays 48 percent The minimum number of unique words in Harvard and Yale essays was 40 percent versus 34 percent for the other essays. The percentage of rare words used in Harvard or Yale admissions essays was 33 percent versus 31 percent for the “before” essays.
The Thesaurus may sometimes be useful, but don’t just select the first synonym. Carefully review the usage for each meaning to choose the best words to convey your meaning. If the word doesn’t fit the writing context, you could commit the writing error that paves the admission denial path.
5. At least be “clear.”
66 percent of Harvard and Yale essays scored “very clear” on Grammarly’s clarity metric, while 11 percent were “mostly clear,” and 23 percent were “clear.” That said, while “clarity” was probably the least useful metric reported, a greater percentage of the “before” essays were “very clear.” So as long as you’re “clear” or better, you are in good company.
So, are Harvard essays better than Yale essays … and other urgent questions?
We began this journey with several urgent questions. Here are the answers:
Successful Harvard and Yale essays score better than other applicants’ essays by about 10 points using Grammarly. They use more unique and rare words, and they’re “just right” on delivery.
On the question of whether Harvard essays score better than Yale essays, Harvard beats Yale 98 to 98. The medians of both were 98. Yale has slightly more unique words, while Harvard had slightly more rare words.
Applicants can improve essays in a variety of fairly obvious ways. Most importantly, using Grammarly, applicants can achieve an overall score of at least 95 and aim for a “very engaging” score and a “just right” delivery score.
It was self-evident that paid essay coaches, like those at EssayMaster, improved essays, at least by the measure of Grammarly A.I. The before set scored an 88, while the after group scored a 98 for the dataset’s essays.
During the next several decades, the state-of-the-art in storytelling will probably consist of A.I.-assisted human editing. Between five to ten years, computers will reliably suggest sentences and topics for future paragraphs ending in the singularity of Deep Story A.I., where human-produced writing is clearly inferior to machine-produced creativity.
In a future where sophisticated machines are producing stellar admissions essays, then the only capable scorer will be other machines. At that point, the audience for machine writing will be machine scoring.
If the perception is that admissions committees operate in a star chamber today, wait until A.I. renders candidate decisions incomprehensible, even in theory. Perhaps that day has already arrived. EssayMaster combines technology with years of experience in the industry and will help you achieve the optimal essay.
The Crimson’s news and opinion teams—including writers, editors, photographers, and designers—were not involved in the production of this article.