I had some thoughts after hearing about this. My impressions were before reading what others said later on in the article.
The new college admissions essay: short as a tweet
I bet this is a backlash against hearing too many essays that didn't reveal much about the candidate beyond showing they can write. Surely there are enough decent writers that they all start to look the same. Thus the colleges don't want to hear the "right response" they want to hear an "honest response".
I bet colleges get too many canned answers of stuff that the applicants think is what the colleges want to hear, and they are sick of it. If I were an admissions officer I'd reject anyone who gave robotic canned answers.
I bet applicants are following expert's advice about what to write and how, and that it's been happening for more years than the colleges can stand. They probably are just dying to hear more about who the student really is as a real person and they hope the essay can help put a more human face to it than the other parts of the application do (the numbers and lists).
I know some applicants are using ghost writers they hire. Some have the gall to call themselves college admissions coaches when in fact they are just essay ghost writers. I bet colleges are onto this scam. Now that more people are aware of such a paid service and so many can afford it, they're using those services, and the colleges must hate that. It's kind of like scamming the admissions office. Is there anyone who likes knowing the wool is being pulled over their eyes?
By asking quirky questions of the applicants, they are able to see if the person is unique or boring, and if they are a creative thinker.
By limiting the number of words in the response to a low number they force the applicant to use creative thinking and to use brevity. It is not easy to get the most content out of a short word count.
Lastly, I think it saves time on processing the college applications! I heard that some colleges are not even spending five minutes reading an application!
What do you think?