A while back, I was chatting with an admissions officer from a highly competitive university. We were discussing the importance of the essay in college applications. She told me that while the essay is almost always not a make-or-break factor in their final decisions, it can tip the scales in the positive direction for the applicant. I asked how an essay can be influential.
Her answer was, "First or lasting impressions." She went on to tell me how dreary the overwhelming majority of application essays are. Some, she said, are downright depressing. Most of the dreary ones, in her view, were just that: blah, drab, and paralyzingly mundane. So, I asked her what element or technique a senior could inject into his or her essay that would score on the lasting impression scale. Without flinching, she said, "Humor!"