Should a Graded-Paper Submission Be an "A" Paper?


One of the colleges where I applied (Princeton) asked me to submit a graded paper. I sent them a paper I wrote that got an 80 but it is from a really rigorous class where the teacher is a hard grader and it was really well written. I mentioned it to my counselor and she was not happy. She said I should have sent them a paper that got an "A," even though it wasn't as well-written and the teacher was an easier grader. Should I submit this one now? Was I wrong?

Nope, you weren't wrong. "The Dean" can easily imagine those admission folks down in New Jersey staring at a stack of "A" essays with glazed eyes. However, a "really well-written" paper with a lower grade will provide a breath of fresh air for a jaded admission committee. It will also send them a message that suggests that you're not afraid of criticism from a teacher or of making a choice that isn't the obvious one that your counselor wanted you to make.

So this could reflect well on you, and I applaud your decision. I promise you that, if you don't get into Princeton (and the vast majority of qualified candidates will not), it won't be because you didn't send the right paper. Good luck!

About the Ask the Dean column: Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean, please send it along here.