There is a general opinion that "the better the college, the more crucial the essay." Admissions committees use the essay to give depth to a student in a way that can't be done with GPAs and test scores. Essays add a personal, human touch to an otherwise paper profile.
Unless the college requires a specific topic, the essay can be about anything. This may be your chance to explain an unsuccessful grading period or what you plan to do with the education you will earn from their institution.
The essay will show the admissions committee your command of the English language, how you organize your thoughts, and the care you give to a final product. As college courses require an ability to write clearly and effectively, your essay is an example of how you will perform in class.
The essay is the only part of the application process over which only you have control. This is your chance to let the college know the "special" you. Use it as an opportunity to show your uniqueness, your creativity, and your thoroughness.
Sample Letter to Colleges
your street address
Director of Admissions
I am a senior at _________ School in Lynchburg, Virginia and will be graduating in (month and year).
Please send me an application, catalog, and other descriptive material that might help me in planning my post-high school education. (Mention your career if you have one).
I would appreciate receiving information and appropriate forms for scholarships and other types of financial aid. (Use this sentence if you need help with college expenses)