Eliminating The College Essay: Another Attempt at Dumbing Down America


Tyler Martins/The Observer


Tyler Martins/The Observer
Tyler Martins/The Observer

Midterms are upon the students once again at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), which mean tests, projects and papers—a lot of papers. Most, if not all of us, dread writing a paper that is due among the myriad of tests and other assignments that professors give us during this time of the year; at least I know that I do.  Many students leave their paper until the last minute and not just because they’re swamped with so many other assignments and tasks—the college essay seems to be losing its importance among the student demographic, a group which seems to be prioritizing tests and exams over essays and research papers. So this incites the question: is it time to retire the college essay?

This is the question Rebecca Schuman addresses in her Slate magazine article “The End of the College Essay.” Schuman says that she feels the college essay is a waste of time for both the student and the professor, and that the college essay should be put to death: in her opinion, only the good students will put any effort into their papers and average students will do anything they can to get by, including plagiarize. Schuman believes that essays should be removed from required classes and be left up to the English majors. I, however, disagree with her.

The point of college is to expand our minds, and what better way to do this than through research papers? We’re not only learning about new concepts and topics—we’re also learning how to write effectively and express our thoughts in a mature and educated way. This is why it’s so great that Fordham has the Eloquentia Perfecta courses. These classes may occasionally prove burdensome, but through the numerous essays we’re assigned throughout the semester, we get to learn and improve on these exact skills. Not to mention, there is the fact that if students do not know how to write papers, they will have issues in the work world, where writing is often a required skill, such as in briefs and reports, as well as in presentations and conference calls.  Employers like Matt Lavery, the United Parcel Service (UPS) managing director of employees, have stated that workers must be able to write clearly and be able to “investigate, analyze and report their findings in a professional manner,” while others, like BAE systems, ask for a writing sample to “see if the candidate can write,” according to USA Today. Finally, a MetLife survey discovered that 97 percent of executives in companies rate strong writing skills as essential to the work environment.

The removal of the college essay from schools today would change the standards of universities entirely, not to mention leave students unprepared for the work force. Schuman states that it would be better to have more exams in order to force students to learn and absorb information for a short amount of time (the keyword being “short”), but the problem with exams is students only learn enough to spit out the information on the exam—and soon after they put down their pens and turn in their blue exam books, they forget all that material. With the removal of the college essay, colleges would essentially become overgrown high schools, thus defeating the purpose and depleting the prestige of colleges while bringing up the possibility that students would not be seriously considered for internships and jobs upon graduation.

Yes, there will always be students who attempt to plagiarize or take shortcuts in order to complete papers faster, but the alternative of having no papers at all presents a grim situation. And there will always be ‘grade-grubbers’, but these are just two groups out of many, and it’s unfair—and frankly, unprofessional—for Schuman to conclude that students fall into either one of these two categories, and that essentially, we have nothing valuable to contribute. The college essay is undoubtedly necessary for students to learn skills that are important in the workforce, but even if there’s disagreement on that, we have to disregard Schuman’s message if only for the fact that we know that we have important thoughts and opinions. Even if we’re not all “going to be president someday,” we each have something to say.

In the end, however, what is important here is that students learn important skills while they are in college, and as writing and speaking skills are integral in the workforce, we must continue to cultivate them through the dreaded—but helpful—college essay. The process that we have to go through in order to write a good essay may be agonizing and frustrating, but it comes to fruition in the end.  Writing research papers is one of the main ways of learning in college, despite the grumbling from students—and some professors.