Some applicants with high grades and SAT scores believe that the essays will play a lesser role in their overall admissions package. That is simply not true. While being top in your class is clearly going to give you an advantage, the fact is that over 20,000 valedictorians apply to colleges every year. Numbers and rankings will always be important. However, no matter how impressive they are, you still need to distinguish yourself from all the others who look just like you statistically. For this reason, you must have a strong essay.
Without the essay, the admissions committee would have to arbitrarily choose between two (or even two hundred) candidates with almost identical profiles. Unlike every other means of evaluation, the personal essay is not multiple-choice, it is not timed, and it does not require auditions or tryouts. An applicant can rewrite it hundreds of times and ask others to read it and improve it. Therefore, there is no excuse for submitting an essay that is not your best possible effort. Moreover, only with a good essay will a student be admitted to a college for which he or she has only an average or below-average GPA and SAT score.