Not just humor, but the overall tone of your application essay is remarkably important. It's also difficult to get right. When you are asked to write about your accomplishments, those 750 words on how great you are can make you sound like a braggart. Be careful to balance your pride in your achievements with humility and generosity towards others. You also want to avoid sounding like a whiner -- use your essay to show off your skills, not to explain the injustices that lead to your low math score or failure to graduate #1 in your class.
Your test scores and grades may be good, but so are those of many other applicants. In fact, the average scores at many of the top institutions in the nation are remarkably high. Because of that, plus the fact that some colleges no longer even require standardized test scores, the admissions landscape has changed drastically for college applicants in the past decade. Today, college application essays have become the most influential component of the application process in many ways. Your college admissions essays are your best opportunity to communicate directly with the admissions officials, who look to college essays to find reasons to select one candidate over another. When you’re reviewing files from two candidates with equally impressive scores and grades, and you only have room for one, you have to use something to make your decision. That’s where essays come in.
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.