Longer essays may also contain an introductory page that defines words and phrases of the essay's topic. Most academic institutions require that all substantial facts, quotations, and other porting material in an essay be referenced in a bibliography or works cited page at the end of the text. This scholarly convention helps others (whether teachers or fellow scholars) to understand the basis of facts and quotations the author uses to support the essay's argument and helps readers evaluate to what extent the argument is supported by evidence, and to evaluate the quality of that evidence. The academic essay tests the student's ability to present their thoughts in an organized way and is designed to test their intellectual capabilities.
re: «Over these last several weeks of summer vacation, Nicole has been working, and working some more, on her common application essay. She’s gone back and forth between two ideas, trying to perfect both, hoping that the one she ultimately chooses will best reflect who she is.»
If Nicole can give herself “permission” to spot the deeper, unexpected, but always “there” connection between her two “separate” essays, she’ll see that she can meld them into one self-defining piece of writing of inestimable power and supremely serenity-eliciting satisfaction. You too, for that matter, with your own writing.
What are colleges looking for? People who don’t care what they’re looking for. That’s what the amazing process of writing a college essay is really all about.