Writing and submitting an admission essay is possibly the most notorious step of the college application process. Students applying to schools spend months deciding what to write about, drafting, proofreading, and editing their admission essays. For international students, particularly those who speak English as a second language, writing an admission essay can be particularly daunting. Thankfully, there are a number of colleges and universities that don’t require an admission essay!
What is an Admission Essay?
Most US colleges and universities require applicants to write a short essay about themselves or a specific topic as part of the application process. These essays might be in response to a specific prompt, such as: “Who has been the most influential person in your life?” or “What event has most shaped the person you are today?” but most applications offer open-ended prompts that allow applicants to choose the topic they would like to write about.
Admission essays provide insight into your writing skills, but they also help admission boards get a sense of who you are as a person- something that test scores and GPA scores don’t allow. The essay gives you an opportunity to talk clearly about your goals, and can give admissions officers a better idea of how well you might fit in with the school.
However, these essays can be particularly difficult and stressful for international students, particularly students who speak English as a second language. The ability to write clearly and concisely about yourself in a foreign language is not an easy skill to achieve, and some international students may prefer to avoid the admission essay altogether. Luckily, there are a number of colleges and universities that don’t require an admission essay. This could be for a variety of reasons:
Why do some colleges not require an admission essay?
- Time and resources.
It takes an admissions officer a lot of time to read and evaluate college application essays. For small schools with less resources and large schools that receive hundreds, if not thousands, of applications, the resources required to read every essay from every applicant may outweigh the benefits of the extra information gained from the admission essay.
Many colleges choose to only require essays for the most competitive programs, such as honors programs, engineering, and nursing, or for scholarships, where additional information may be more instrumental in making decisions.
- Specific admissions cutoffs and criteria.
Some schools, particularly public schools, admit students based on a specific selection index, which is based on a combination of GPA, test scores, and/or class rank. If applicants meet the minimum index score cutoff, they are automatically admitted.
However, if you are a “borderline” candidate, meaning you don’t quite meet the minimum criteria, these schools often require or recommend that you write an admission essay. This will allow you the opportunity to provide additional information on why you feel you would be a good fit for the school in spite of not quite meeting the academic criteria.
- Making the application process simpler.
Some schools hope that by eliminating the application essay they can make the application process easier and attract a wider variety of applicants. They hope that by presenting their application process as an easier alternative to more intensive applications, more students will apply to their institution.
How to Make Your Application Stand Out Without an Essay
Because so much of your interests and personality come through in your essay, if you’re not submitting an essay you need to make sure the rest of your application really pops. There are a few different ways that you can do that:
- Focus on writing in high school.
Obviously, you want to do well in all of your classes, but literature courses in particular will be seen as placeholders for your essay-writing skills. When schools don’t require an application essay, they will likely look more closely at your grades in classes that are more writing-intensive, to make sure that your writing skills are up to par.
- Get great recommendations.
Make sure that your recommendations are coming from the best possible people for you. You’ll want to ask people who know you well and can speak about who you really are, as well as your accomplishments. Without an application essay, you may not have the space in your application to talk about your extracurricular activities, so you’ll want to find references who can discuss this aspect of your life.
- Polish your resume.
Many schools offer the option for students to submit a resume along with their applications. This is another chance for you to promote your extracurricular activities. Before you put together your resume, do some research and find a solid template. Make sure your resume is well balanced with academic and extracurricular accomplishments, is not longer than one page, and is free of typos and spelling errors
Colleges and Universities in the United States that Don’t Require an Admission Essay
If you want to know if a particular school requires an essay to apply, search “[name of school] international student admissions requirements” on Google. This should result in a list of guidelines for applying to that school. If you’re looking more generally for schools that don’t require essays, below is a list of a few US colleges and universities that don’t require an admission essay to apply:
- University of Alabama
- Alabama State University
- University of Alaska
- Arizona State
- Arkansas State University
- California State University
- University of Colorado - Denver
- University of South Florida
- Full Sail University
- University of Hawaii - Manoa
- University of Idaho
- Indiana Wesleyan University
- University of Southern Indiana
- Iowa State University
- University of Iowa
- Kansas State
- University of Kansas
- Kentucky State University
- Louisiana State University -Baton Rouge
- University of Louisiana - Lafayette
- Eastern Michigan University
- Western Michigan University
- University of Minnesota
- University of Mississippi
- Mississippi State University
- University of Southern Mississippi
- University of Missouri
- University of Montana
- University of Nevada - Reno
- Daniel Webster College
- University of New Mexico
- University of South Dakota
- Tennessee State University
- Utah State University
- West Virginia University
- University of Wyoming
If you’re interested in applying to colleges or universities that do require admission essays, check out our Essay Writing Center for tips and advice you can use to improve your essay writing skills.